Silang Series

Written as part of the course requirements for AS 270, Philippine Arts and Society, First Semester 2010-2011 by Phillip N.A.L.Medina, MA Art Studies Major in Museum Studies.
In our broad study of the Philippine Arts and Society, where topics can be interestingly diverse and boundless uncovering wonders about our national identity, I choose to present my paper on a micro-level to gain insights on local identity. I aim to come up with a series that shall serve as my preliminary studies for my MA thesis in uncovering the possibilities of coming up a community museum for my hometown which can be an effective learning institution of history and heritage. As a course requirement, these papers shall focus on issues and concerns regarding three periods in our cultural history: the indigenous or pre-colonial period, the Spanish or colonial period and the American or neo-colonial period.  On each, I have chosen topics related to arts and society which can be a useful material as I further explore the chronological narratives of my thesis or discuss the ways and processes of material collection for the proposed community museum.


THREE. American Legacies: Photographically captured in the 1920s-1930s

Americans are known for their contribution in education, health and sanitation. Largely their urban planning development revolved on these thrusts. Large-scale infrastructure program had been planned nation-wide. Schools and universities were rebuilt and formal schooling was reorganized using the American curriculum. Government buildings followed suit. Public offices and institutions inManilawere given a facelift if not an overhaul to fulfill the vision of City Beautiful.

Daniel Burnham and William Parsons schematically change the landscape of the capital and submits recommendation for rural development. Such is part of the grand civilizing scheme, Americans has to supplant existing cultural system through the establishment of new sociopolitical criteria under the persuasive theme of “benevolent assimiliation” (Lico, 2003:27). If in the time of the Spanish regime, society revolves around the space and activities of the church, Americans will create new centers of growth and development centered on government, commerce and recreation.

As early as 1905, Silang received a government project from the Bureau of Public Works (1905 Report; p.622) to build a school building. The school building designed was Parson’s most recognizable architectural legacy and had been an icon of American colonial education and its program of assimilation— the Gabaldon schoolhouse (Lico, 2003:32). He designed 15 prototype designs adopting the vernacular elements in style and architectural function.

Silang Central School Bureau of Public Works (1905 Report; p.622)

Silang Central School Bureau of Public Works (1905 Report; p.622)

From the 23rd Annual Report of the Bureau of Education released in 1922, a completed photo of theSilangElementary School building was published. Its first teacher is Guillermo Bayan appointed in June 12, 1905 who had been a licensed teacher in Silang in 1874. D.C. Fischer is the American teacher stationed in theSilangSchool since 1902.

The vernacular structure featured a raised foundation made from concrete steps and posts with wooden floor slabs. Structural walls were made of wood with large windows using capiz shells instead of glass to improve ventilation and maximize natural light. Roofs were of galvanized iron, slightly pitched with overhangs reaching the walls to protect the windows from direct sunlight and sudden gush of tropical rain.

Also in this period, urban development was fast. More roads were constructed in Silang to give way to new developments such as the school, the new market site and new residential areas. Calle Nueva or literally new street was constructed to open additional residential areas. Calle Cementerio on the other hands was built to give access to the new cemetery site, market and school. 

In matters of sanitation, cemeteries were transferred away from the center. In the Spanish period, the Silang cemetery was only 150 brazas (roughly 120 meters) away from the church (Lubang, 2007).  The Americans moved to a new site of about 700 meters away and with a third site of almost 2 kilometers away. The map on the right shows the new location of the cemetery as well the streets of the late 1920s.


Commerce flourished in the late 19th century with production of cash crops. In Silang, coffee and manila hemp were at boom. Local farmer grew in wealth and constructed and remodeled their houses in American style. Calle Annunciata nowMadlansacay street still shows a bungalow type house. New residential areas like Calle San Agustin now E. Gonzales has chalet-type houses with slightly raised foundations and glass panes. Old Spanish type houses were given a facelift with additions of multi-colored glass panes and art deco motifs. Local enterprise even flourished. With the rising abaca production comes abaca weaving which also gave rise to barangay names such as Bulihan and Lalaan. Known as the Tagal braid hats, Silang produced such item ready for commerce, and even export (Agri Review, 1922:plate 7). Consequently, as stated in the Bulletin Bureau of Public Works 1912-1913, roads linking Silang to Zapote and Silang to Dasmarinas started in 1912-13 to further improve trade and commerce.

Along with roads, bridges were constructed to strengthen existing infrastructure made from bamboo and wood.IbaBridgewas among the first to be constructed as captured in a private collection photo.   

Iba Bridge. Collection of Ricardo Mercado1920s Photo of Rizal Monument. Collection of Ricardo Mercado

In 1920, civic leaders gathered funds to build a monument in honor of Dr. Jose Rizal in the town plaza fronting the church. What used to be part of the church grounds, the land was publicly appropriated to be part of the public plaza.  Also note that in the 1920, the municipal building was not yet constructed.