Silliman Truth

Silliman Truth

The American Occupation of Oriental Negros as Revealed in the Pages of the Silliman Truth (1903-1920) 

By Dr. Earl Jude Paul L. Cleope
Dean, College of Education & Supervising Dean, School of Basic Education  


Why was Silliman Institute placed in a small backwater town in a beautiful but blighted rural province? Needless to say there had been no feasibility studies, no exhaustive explorations of other possible locations. Placing it in Dumaguete was pretty much due to the enthusiasm of one person, David Hibbard, a young, inexperienced missionary pastor who had been in the Philippines barely four months.[i]

The Silliman story began one day early in 1899 in New York City. A retired business executive, Horace B. Silliman showed up on the doorstep of the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions on Fifth Avenue with a strange proposal. He wanted to establish a trade and agricultural school for Filipino boys and was prepared to put up $10,000 to get the project started. Dr. Silliman took the Mission executives by surprise. The United States had only come into possession of the Philippine islands two months before and as yet the Presbyterians did not even have missionaries there. Thinking that establishing a school was decidedly premature, the board tried to advise Dr. Silliman to perhaps consider supporting a school in some other country. But the visitor persisted; it was in the Philippines or nothing.

In his 75th year, Horace Silliman had enjoyed a successful business career and had amassed a modest fortune. He was known as a  generous philanthropist, supporting a number of American schools and colleges, among other causes. Somehow the Philippines had captured his imagination upon the encouragement of his wife, and in a small way he wanted to have a part in America’s new colonial venture. Moreover, he had been impressed by the success of the Hampton Institute in Virginia in training rural black young people for skilled occupations, and in his mind’s eye he saw another Hampton Institute blossoming in the islands.

Actually in its eagerness to take advantage of the new opening in the Philippine islands to spread the evangelical faith, the Presbyterian Board lost no time in recruiting missionaries. Dr. and Mrs. James Rodgers were hurriedly transferred from Brazil, and a promising young couple, David and Laura Hibbard, was commissioned. The Rodgers arrived in April, 1899 and the Hibbards a month later. Dr. F. F. Ellinwood, senior secretary of the Presbyterian Board in a series of letters to the newly arrived recruits outlined possibilities for an industrial school to be funded by Silliman and directed them to seek a location on the islands south of Manila.

In October 1899 Hibbard set out on a voyage to the south. He had planned to visit Cebu, Zamboanga, and Iloilo. But in Cebu someone suggested that he take a side trip to Dumaguete, on the neighboring island of Negros. Taking an overnight steamer, he arrived on the shore of Dumaguete in early morning. Hibbard wrote that he was captivated by the “unsurpassed drama of a Dumaguete morning from the sea.”[ii] He was not only overwhelmed by the beauty of the place, but the warmth of the welcome he received. Captain Byrnes, the commander of the U.S. Army unit and the Chaplain, John Randolph, received him and introduced him to the “presidente” or Mayor Meliton Larena and to his brother, Don Demetrio Larena, the governor. It must be noted that Dr. Hibbard was indeed surprised because at this time the Filipinos where still at war with the Americans,[iii] and being warmly welcomed by local officials was a big factor in future things to come. Eventually, everyone expressed eagerness to have an English school in Dumaguete.

After making stopovers in the Visayas and Mindanao, Hibbard returned to Manila fully convinced that Dumaguete should be the location for a new mission station and a school. Actually, Dumaguete though considered remote from the major urban centers had a number of things going for it. It was in the geographical center of the Visayas Island region with a total population of close to 3 million; Negros Occidental and Panay to the west; and Cebu, Bohol, Leyte, and Samar to the east. Also, Dumaguete was on the major steamship lines route connecting Manila, Cebu, Iloilo, and Zamboanga thus making the place accessible if only a permanent port would be constructed.

The question arises – why was Dr. David Hibbard given such an exuberant welcome in Dumaguete? After all many Filipinos were incensed about the American invasion and a bloody battle was being waged between American and Filipino military forces on other islands. There was widespread resentment and anger that the United States was threatening the Filipinos’ chance for independence. In most places in the Philippines the idea of an American colonial guest would have been met with hostility

To begin with, Oriental   Negros had not been on the forefront of the Revolution against Spain. There was general support for the aims of the revolution but it was only in the final months of the war against Spain that General Aguinaldo commissioned Don Diego de la Viña to be Commander of the revolutionary army in Negros Oriental. By that time the Spanish military and government officials were making plans to depart with Admiral Dewey’s annihilation of the Spanish Armada in Manila Bay on May 1, 1898. Subsequently, when the expected Spanish reinforcements did not arrive, the Spaniards saw that their days in the Philippines were numbered.[iv]

Another reason why Hibbard was accorded such a friendly welcome was that he was not greeted by Roman Catholics. Larena and his family were members of the Philippine Independent Church – the church which had broken away from Catholics under the leadership of Gregorio Aglipay who was to become Supreme Bishop of the new church. With the departures of the Spanish friars from Negros Oriental,[v] the parish churches of the province which had never been spiritually robust were left without priests. The Aglipayans quickly moved to the leadership vacuum and eventually usurped the church leadership. Since the Independent church had become the church of the revolution, it is easy to understand why Larena and other political leaders decided to belong to the new Independent church.

After due deliberation back in New York and Manila, David Hibbard’s strong recommendation was approved and Dumaguete was chosen as the site of what was to be called Silliman Institute following the nomenclature used for Hampton Institute. Early in 1900, James Rodgers and a new medical missionary stationed in Iloilo, A. J. Hall, moved to purchase land for the new school. They paid 350.00 pesos ($128) for a 1.2 hectare waterfront lot in which Silliman Hall now stands.

The Hibbards arrived in Dumaguete on August 12, 1901. They were able to rent a beautiful Spanish style house facing the ocean which had been the former residence of the Spanish governors. The ground floor of the 2-storey building had thick walls made of coral. The second floor had a fine-looking hardwood floor. The Hibbards took residence on the second floor and the ground floor was converted to two classrooms.

The Hibbards did not lose any time opening the school. On august 28, 1901, 15 [vi] of what he described as “hatless, barefoot boys” – appeared for class. The ages of the boys ranged from 12 to 16. By the end of September the enrollment had reached 35 and the age range had stretched further from 7 to 24. There were no lesson guides so the Hibbards were thrown on their own ingenuity to devise a flexible curriculum that would meet the individual needs of such a disparate group.

Who were these students? From what kind of families did they come from? In reading the story of Silliman’s beginnings, many have assured that the shoeless lads were of the poorest of the poor. But this was not the case. Even though by Western standards they could be considered poor in terms of the Filipino class structure, they came from more privileged families. Valentino Sitoy in his excellent survey of Negros Oriental history, describes the prevailing three tier class structure: a tiny minority of wealthy landowners, the cultural oligarchy; a larger yet circumscribed class of small literate landowners; and the huge illiterate underclass of landless tenants, unskilled laborers, and fishermen – at least 90 per cent of the population. Obviously, the barefoot boys did not hail from the aristocracy, and it is equally clear that they were not part of the huge underclass. It is clear they came from the second tier of small farmers, civil servants and professionals who viewed the American occupation as an opportunity for economic and cultural advancement. They saw clearly that the learning of English was to be undisputed entry to a better life.

Furthermore it seems clear that few of the early Silliman students were the least bit interested in learning a trade. They were repelled by manual labor which they considered degrading. They had “higher” ambitions to become professionals and civil servants. The fact that the first Silliman Catalogues were printed in Spanish indicates who the missionaries were trying to teach. Incidentally, this is the same social class to which Protestant Evangelism was directed. They were the ones who would receive the Bible.

In those first years, the Hibbards created a homelike atmosphere. Despite her many responsibilities, Laura Hibbard took a personal interest in every student, knowing each of them by face, and visiting them in the homes where they lived in Dumaguete. President Hibbard soon became a fatherly disciplinarian. The Hibbards had grown up in the U.S. heartland where life is simple and rules are strict. They brought their social mores with them to Dumaguete where they instituted a rather rigid code of rules and regulations and exacted punishment for infractions which ranged from mere scolding to whippings. When a student missed the required group calisthenics in the early morning, he was sentenced to the Bingcong Squad – the Bingcong is a native term for sickle or hoe. The squad spent Saturday morning cutting weeds and clearing undergrowth. Hundreds of Alumni took great pride in having been members of the famous Bingcong squad.

Very early Silliman earned its reputation as a successful reformatory for wayward boys. Reluctantly Hibbard was thrust into the role of disciplinarian. There is evidence that though he became skillful at the job, he approached it with reluctance. It is said that he felt so badly at having to administer a whipping that he usually ended up by treating the whipping culprit to ice cream.

The ultimate success of Silliman Institute was largely due to the out going personality and positive human relation traits of the Hibbards. David Hibbard was a young man of 33 in 1901 and Laura Hibbard was in her twenties. Their physical chemistry and out going personalities enabled them to quickly become popular additions to Dumaguete society in which they fully participated. They were frequents guests in Dumaguete home. Through their efforts, Silliman Institute became an enthusiastic participant in community activities and celebrations. Until the first unit of Silliman Hall was completed in 1903, the Gonzales house[vii] which the Hibbards rented included the Hibbard living quarters, student dormitory, classroom, study room, and chapel.

Silliman Hall was a three storey structure constructed of coral blocks and lumber imported from the west coast of the United States. The structure took along time to build. Hibbard wrote that when the lumber arrived “ it was invariably the wrong size, the wrong length, and the wrong kind.” In the process, the cost more than doubled. At last in November 1903, the Silliman community was able to occupy its first academic building. The dedication service on November 30 which lasted for three hours was a major event for the whole community in fact the first in the whole of the Visayas.

In 1903 Hibbard purchased a small printing press then employed a few students to work on the publication of the Silliman Truth which came out in that year. The newspaper was the first newspaper in the province published in English, Spanish and Cebuano. It covered health, campus, and it served as the community newspaper as well. Specifically, the community news are found in the column entitled “General Items.”

At a glance, the periodical that was established by the American missionaries could be viewed as a tool that played a vital role in the American Colonization process. Nevertheless, a thorough reading of the pages of the periodical would also showcase the legacy and hard work of the early American missionaries and civil servants who came to Negros. In addition, the ample information and descriptions given in the periodical text would yield data on the historical development of Negros during the early years of the American Period.

Consequently, it is the modest aim of this paper to present the American period in Negros Oriental in a different way by looking into the pages of the Silliman Truth. With this perspective, the paper tries to delve into how the American occupation made an impact on the  social, economic, educational and cultural life of the Negrenses.

The American Colonization in the Pages of the Silliman Truth

Health Conditions

It can be gleaned from the pages of the periodical that most of the earlier issues dealt with health. It is hard to exaggerate the pestilence and devastation which the province endured during those years. There was a province wide scourge of reindeer pest – an acute infectious disease which killed thousands of carabaos. Then there was small pox, typhoid fever, TB, Malaria, and Cholera epidemic.  Clearly, the intention was to solve the problem of health and sanitation. In 1908 with an impending cholera outbreak in San Carlos, it was announced in the Silliman Truth that every ounce of precaution should be made to prevent the entry of the disease into the province. It further stressed that everyone should be on their guard by being careful of what they drink and eat. Moreover, it warned the inhabitants that “the worst sources of the diseases (sic) were the dirty and never cleaned tuba bamboo tube containers making the tuba drinkers easy victims.”[viii]

Interestingly, it must be noted that one of the principal aim of the Americans and the local authorities was to erase the practices and superstitious beliefs related to the knowledge of hygiene and sanitation. Hence, the reappearance of cholera in the province revived the old belief that certain persons were poisoning the wells.  For months all wells from Bacong to Sibulan were guarded at night and the continual blowing of the conch shells (budjong) by these guards had a weird effect and kept many people awake.[ix]

Similarly, deaths due to complications of pneumonia and bronchitis swept the province. Locally called trancaso, for instance in 1918 it had caused the temporary closure of 88 schools since  124 teachers and 8,611 pupils got sick. The provincial athletic meet that was scheduled to take place in Tanjay during the Thanksgiving holidays, last week of November, was postponed until December 18 on account of the trancaso epidemic.[x]

The issues of the periodical in its last two years of existence would yield news items that show an improved sanitary and health conditions. Clearly, the accomplishments in these areas were caused by the establishment of the Dumaguete Mission Hospital of Silliman Institute.


It is without doubt that the English language became the cultural ammunition being used by the Americans in their colonization efforts. As such news articles that would boost its usage were always in the front pages. As a community paper, it also prints major speeches of politicians about the need to study the language. Thus in 1907 it quoted Governor Larena saying “ the program made in the teaching of the English language is everyday greater,  I believe in a few years this language will be in general use.” Likewise in the same issue was featured a remark by Joseph L. Travis, a correspondent of Manila Daily Bulletin who visited Dumaguete in 1907 that the English language was more universally adopted by the people of Dumaguete than by the inhabitants of any other town in the archipelago.[xi]

The latter issues of the paper too would suggest that the policy of the public education system has resulted in the increase enrollment, construction of school buildings, and libraries. Thus, an issue in 1919 stressed that “nearly all the central schools in the Oriental Negros division had libraries.[xii]

It was during the American occupation too that the 1st secondary school in the province was opened in June 1902. Even if it was already beyond the scope of the periodical yet clearly this would prove that the Silliman Truth was indeed a community paper. In 1908 it banners a headline that a concert was to be held in the assembly room of the high school. The program consisted of an instrumental music, a quartette, and the Musical Instructor Mr. Osborn rendered an instrumental number using two pianos. Dumaguete was fortunate to have talented musicians who assisted in the concert.  Mrs. Ford, Mrs. Clark and Sra. Mercader and many others sang.  The admission was 50 and 30 centavos.  The receipts were used in purchasing musical instruments for the high school orchestra.[xiii]

Clearly, the availability of good teachers was the result of the establishment of Silliman Institute which was recognized by the government in 1910. Soon, most of the graduates of the institute would be employed in the public education system. The pages of the periodical would show that the close relationship between Silliman Institute and the Provincial High School fostered exchange programs and athletic meets.

Religious Conflict

The religious vacuum caused by the Philippine Revolution and the conflict between the Aglipayan Church, Roman Catholic Church, and the new Protestant Church was also covered in the issues of the Silliman Truth. As a paper of a protestant missionary educational institution, incidents of persecution against protestant workers abound.  In one instance, A concilor of Bacong, Felipe Enoperio, undertook to break up a Protestant religious meeting one Sunday by putting down two cocks to fight in front of the preacher.  Although remonstrated by the preacher, Restituto Malahay, this man Felipe Enoperio persisted and succeeded in his purpose and the religious meeting had to be stopped.[xiv] In another instance, a policeman offered a prisoner freedom if he would kiss the crucifix.[xv] Still another were articles dealing with the threats issued by priests to Catholics not to send their children to a protestant school for they commit mortal sin and risk excommunication.

It is on this note that Dumaguete City has an interesting history being the host of the oldest Private American School and the oldest St. Paul School in the Philippines. Indeed, in 1904, seven French Sisters of the order of St. Paul de Chartres arrived in Dumaguete upon the invitation by the bishop of Jaro to establish an academy for girls. Fascinatingly, the Paulinian school for girls was a counter measure for a Silliman protestant school for boys.

Economic Conditions

When the periodical had its maiden issue in 1903, it described the horrendous effects of the locusts attack in 1901, rinderpest epidemic in 1902, and the long drought in 1903. As such there was scarcity of corn, the staple crop for most of the Oriental Negrense and they had been forced to buy rice imported by Chinese merchants.  The subsequent years were difficult also because famine and an epidemic of smallpox spread all over the island. For the common folks, rice and corn had become luxuries and they consider themselves fortunate if they can afford them in their regular diet. Hence, they looked for cheap and available substitutes like ‘natok’ or starch of buri palm and ‘sacsac’ despite the difficulty in its preparation and they are not always easy to digest. Some green vegetables eaten along with buri and sacsac had been the usual food for months so the Camotes and other root crops had been exhausted. Due to this condition, many people from Siquijor and Negros migrated to northern Mindanao. [xvi]

 It is in this context that the periodical served as the purveyor of  the protestant values of hard work and simple living. In an article entitled “What shall We Do in this Crises of Food Supply? the article exhorted the people that the war in Europe was not to be blamed for the cause of famine. It stressed that people who are letting their land idle and celebrating too many local fiestas are the ones to be blamed. It aims to “discourage too many local festivities, which by the mere desire of the ignorant people to follow the old custom, involve countless lives of pigs and chickens (sic), and numerous sacks of rice and a waste of time in going around and dancing.” [xvii]

In terms of industries and manufacturing activities, most of the commodities were home made. Traditional weaving was carried out and mostly this was for family use only. By 1908 a soap factory was established in Bais and two Chinese merchants operated soap making ventures in Dumaguete. In 1910 a kapok cleaning mill that removed seeds from kapok and a machine used to manufacture bonot (coconut husk) was established by an American, Henry Fleischer.

Trading for hemp and copra was also carried out in Negros. The periodical mentioned that two Americans were major players in the business and in 1916 a former Governor of the Mountain Province and Palawan, Mr. Dietrich was hired to manage the coconut plantation in Tanjay. Eventually, his wife became an English teacher in the provincial high school.[xviii]

As for the sugar industry, the need to construct a sugar mill in the province got a boost during the American period when American capital was secured for its construction in 1916 which was eventually finished in 1919 known as the Central Azucarrera de Bais.

By 1904 there were 78 stores in the province owned by Chinese, three by Americans, two by Spaniards and half a dozen “unimportant stores[xix] kept by Filipinos. Three American stores and the two Spanish stores sold only groceries, beverages and stationeries. The American stores were owned by Clyde V. Powers and T. S. Dodd, a postmaster and druggist at the same time. The other American storeowner was W.M. Baugh from Tennessee, a volunteer in the Spanish-American war who also sold dry goods.[xx]

Subsequently, trade and commerce in the province during the American occupation was still controlled by the Chinese who were also responsible for the trading of large amounts of opium which even the natives have learned to patronize.[xxi] Trading was hampered because Dumaguete port was not a port of entry for foreign shipping. Yet, there were two steamers that had a weekly route from Iloilo and a daily trip to Cebu. A few came from Manila but these steamers had an irregular schedule that sometimes travel gap was for twenty days. In 1908 a newly built steamer, Germania, made Dumaguete one of her ports of call from Cebu to the south, and the steamer Mayon made weekly trips from Iloilo to Guihulngan and Dumaguete and then returned.  In one month fifteen steamers called on the Dumaguete port.[xxii]

Public Works

When the Americans came, the road condition in the province was such in a sorry state that they were described as foot-paths with mud holes with weeds growing on both sides that were impassable during rainy days and difficult to pass during the dry season.[xxiii] Soon American contractors were hired to do public work projects and by 1905 some sizable progress was made. An American Engineer W. C. Cole had built 8 miles of roads besides building 28 bridges and culverts. Other Americans like Mr. McVey and the contractor called Lambert and Company built bridges by reinforced concrete which solved the problem of wooden bridges that lasted only for a year. Similarly, roads were extended and in general the municipalities had greatly improved their roads and bridges.

One such example was recorded in the periodical that reported the construction of a new bridge that runs: “The Okoy bridge, a one-hundred-sixty feet steel truss on concrete abutments, was finished on December 31, 1914.  It was open to traffic on January 13, 1915.  The total cost was approximately P39,000.00.  It is interesting to note that the first to pass the bridge were the bull carts belonging to Luis Rotea of Tanjay and the second was the automobile of Henry Fleischer.”[xxiv]

Moreover, improvements contributed by teachers from Silliman Institute were interesting to note too as it was known that during the rainy season it was impossible to get around Dumaguete had it not been for its fine coral roads.  On Silliman Institute campus Mr. Hanlin was congratulated for his fine coral road connecting the new Science Building with Alfonso XIII street since it was no longer necessary to swim or use a baroto when it rained.[xxv]

As Silliman Institute became popular, many students from other islands came. To come to Dumaguete by boat, they had to be carried over the shoulders by porters from the boat to the shore to avoid being wet. It was common knowledge that even Pres. Hibbard helped in carrying some of these students. Hence the need to improve the port and the breakwater became an issue in the periodical in 1908. It reported that Dumaguete needed a new breakwater and to extend the port was an urgent need. As a result, the construction of a boulevard parallel to the seashore at Dumaguete started and work for the improvement and extension of the Dumaguete port commenced in 1926. Along with the improvement of the port was the construction of other ports and wharves in the other parts of the province

Other important projects that were featured in the periodical was the 1st use of acetylene gas as lighting for Silliman Institute in 1908 and the setting up of telephone poles in the province in the same year. By 1916 a company known as the “La Electrica” established an electric plant in Dumaguete which resulted to the setting up of an ice plant. In that same year, an American Charles W. Carson was granted a franchise to maintain and operate a telephone and telegraph system.

Life and Leisure

A cursory look at the issues of the Silliman Truth would reveal the kind of recreation and social activities the people had during the early American colonial rule. For the common people of the towns and barrios the popular forms of entertainment, especially during Sundays and holidays, were cockfighting and hantak (tossing coins instead of dice).  Almost every town had its own cockpit or galera.  In the barrios hantak could be done under coconut groves and big trees.  A common form of gambling done in the evening mostly by womenfolk in the barrios was a game of cards and dice called dejado or panguing-gue elsewhere.  Gambling was prohibited, but officials and police in the towns did nothing to curb the gambling which carried on regularly in certain houses.[xxvi]

In bigger towns, stage dramas became popular that the people would flock to the area as it was a kind of social status if a household could invite and pay for the performance. Public dances too locally known as bailes were held and the young men were expected to contribute for the music (rondalla) and snacks. Usually in these dances, popular American music were played like the waltz, one-step, two-step, fox-trot, Charleston, etc.[xxvii]

It is interesting to note that despite the periodical’s earlier criticisms against the fiesta celebration, the issue on December 1, 1916 runs:

The events commenced Friday afternoon with baseball and a band contest. In the latter, Dumaguete and Silliman tied for 1st place. Saturday morning the baka and carabao races around Quezon Park created no end of amusement. George Fleischer won the bicycle race, riding backward. The afternoon was given over the “Carrera de cintas.” There were over 20 entries, most of whom were Silliman Seniors, Candelario Gonzales won 1st place wining four ribbons. There was some daring riding and the horse of Jose Ferrer gave a special exhibition. After the church procession the streets were one mass of people. In the evening there was “plenty doing” and one could choose from a baile , a drama, a troupe of acrobats, and the Reyes Circo. The baroto race attracted a large crowd to the beach … All of the autos in the province were on the streets and the trucks did a thriving business.

On another plane the joyous festivities would sometimes result to stampede and accidents. In many cases a simple joke and prank would result to panic like the cases that happened in Tanjay and Dauin where scores of people were injured and killed.[xxviii]

Consequently, the last issue of the periodical before it was being replaced by a new name called the The Sillimanian , was the news about the establishment of the 1st cinema or movie spot in Dumaguete in 1920. This was a silent movie with pictures similar to the nickelodeons in the U.S. It was named “Cine Illusion” and had three shows a week.  The place was described as a remodeled cockpit with a dirt floor and a bamboo fence was used to separate the general admission from the 1st class.

Concluding Notes

At the outset, the Silliman Truth  was a publication that was designed to showcase the activities of the American missionaries and the activities of the institute. However, it is a fact too, that one can find in its pages the vivid description of the daily happenings in the area. It is also important to underscore that these articles were written by Filipino students albeit the adviser was an American. Nevertheless, the pages would offer a   fresh perspective on the American period as it tries to reason out why things happened the way they did.

The construction of roads, bridges,  school buildings, and public buildings resulted to more jobs and economic repercussions. The radical change from the ‘polo’ days of the Spanish regime to the paid labor system of the Americans resulted to a positive attitude of the Filipinos to the Americans. Moreover, the economic impact of the native pupils who later became teachers and were therefore paid created a tremendous moral booster for these people. More so, with the easy flow of goods due to the newly created road network.

On the cultural scene, Filipinos were now introduced to the American way of life. They now have to go to school because parents were required to send their children to school. Students had to speak English to be understood by their teachers in order to pass and ultimately to be a ‘paid civil servant’ or a professional someday. They now understand that their “nipa hut is very small; planting rice is never fun; and clean little hands are good to see.”

It is in these cultural aspects that the so-called ‘nationalists’ are very sentimental and vocal about their views. But sad to say — they fail to underscore the reality that this so called ‘indoctrination’ and cultural adulteration was only part of the effect. The massive establishment of schools would show the reaction of the Catholic Church to the establishment of public schools and some private Protestant schools. The dynamism of the establishment of schools in this period had its profound effect even today and notably most of these schools still continue as the purveyor of knowledge and values to the Filipinos.

Probably, the one being overlooked with regards to the study of the American period was the acts of the general public. What were the people doing at this time? Conversely, they were well aware of the goings on in society. New modes of living were introduced to them. Hygiene and sanitation was part of the public education. New trends in the mass media became available which was later blamed as the purveyor of ‘materialism and individualism’ which others labeled as the beginning of the destruction of the Filipino traditional values.

There was no doubt that at this time, the masses were reading the seditious articles as well as enjoying the seditious plays that were being staged. However what they saw around them also influenced the way they perceived their new colonizers and their society. Although they were still critical of the new order yet somehow their way of circumventing their anger towards the Americans was coursed through humor. In their stories, they always picture the Filipinos as the victor and the more superior notably those ‘green stories.’ Most of their folktales make lampoon of the authorities including the Filipino leaders. No wonder, this attitude is still operational as the Filipinos today found humor in things they found undignified.

Nevertheless, the common people’s reaction to the American laws and colonization was also that of subservience — or perhaps they were just so tired of fighting and bloodshed. As changes were rapidly taking place in almost all aspects of their lives, they soon realized that the new masters were giving them new and better living conditions than the previous one minus the American massacres and brutalities in other areas.

In essence, an amusing way of gauging how they felt at this time is to ask those living witnesses and at least my acquaintances told me that they were so thankful to the Americans — or perhaps I asked the wrong people? (Most of them are educated and nurtured in the old American-Silliman way).

Finally, a glowing quotation from the pages of the Silliman Truth is deemed appropriate to be the last part of this paper. This article was written by Eduardo Montenegro in 1906 when the Institute was celebrating its 5th foundation day on August 28 and this was a tribute to the founder who had never been able to visit Silliman University:

Dr. Silliman is the first American who has turned his attention to the Filipinos and for the welfare of the young men. We are proud to say Dr. Silliman has done most for the advancement of the Filipino people; for he has established this college not with the selfish desire of taking from these Islands what he can, but with earnest desire of doing good to the Filipinos.

 This college has been founded in order to introduce to these Islands a Christian education, to satisfy the intellectual necessities of this country and to teach the young men a more in corrupt idea of what Christianity really is, for be it known unto you, gentlemen, that this college has not been made to be a rendezvous of deserters from other churches and to fight them, but it has been founded with the most earnest desire of preparing young men for the future that lies before them.[xxix]



[i] This introductory text was adapted from the handwritten manuscript of the late Dr. Paul Lauby who was writing a book about the History of Silliman. As research consultant this text  was deciphered, encoded,  and edited by the author as part of the book about Silliman University  which is currently being done by. Dr. Proceso Udarbe.

[ii] Hibbard, David. The First Quarter. (Manila: Philippine Education Co., Inc. 1926)

[iii] Cleope, Earl Jude Paul L. Negros Oriental in the Context of the Philippine Revolution. Silliman Journal vol. 39 no. 1 (Silliman University, 1998)

[iv] Cleope, 1998.

[v] Except Fr. Pedro Bengoa who continued to become parish priest of  Dumaguete

[vi] There are conflicting figures as to the number of original students. The figure here was given by Hibbard himself.

[vii] The exact location is where the Bethel Guest House now stands.

[viii] Silliman Truth, Dumaguete, Oriental Negros, P.I., Vol. V, No. 24, November 15, 1908, p. 1.  Silliman Truth was the name of the school paper of Silliman Institute from 1903 to 1919. This is also cited in Rodriguez, Caridad. Negros Oriental: From American Rule to the Present: A History. Vol. II part l (Dumaguete City: Toyota Foundation, 1989) p.109.

[ix] Vol. XV, No. 17, September 1, 1916, p. 4.

[x] Vol. XVII, No. 24, December 15, 1918, p. 1.

[xi]  Vol. V, No. 20, October 15, 1907, p. 1.

[xii] Vol. XVIII, no. 19, October 1, 1919, p. 4.

[xiii] Vol. VI, No. 17, September 1, 1908, p. 1.

[xiv] Vol. VI, No. 12, June 15, 1908, p.4.

[xv] Vol. V, No. 10, May 15, 1907, p. 2.

[xvi] Vol. XVIII, No. 13, July 1, 1919, p. 2.

[xvii] Vol. XVIII, No. 15, 1919, p. 3.

[xviii] Vol. XV, No. 16, August 15, 1916, p. 1.

[xix] Emphasis mine

[xx] Vol. VI, No. 20, October 15, 1907, p. 1.

[xxi] VII, No. 16, August 15, 1908, p. 2.

[xxii] Vol. VII, No. 16, August 15, 1908, p. 2.

[xxiii] This was contained in the annual report of Gov. Demetrio Larena in the Philippine Commission Report, 1902, Vol. I Part 2, p.1 as cited in Rodriguez, p. 85.

[xxiv] Vol. XIV, No. 3, February 1, 1915, p. 1.

[xxv] Vol. XV, No. 24, December 15, 1916, p.2.

[xxvi] Vol. V, No. 21, November 1, 1907, p. 1.

[xxvii] Rodriguez, 146.

[xxviii] Vol. VI, No. 18, September 15, 1907, p. 1.

[xxix] Carson, Arthur L. Silliman University (New York: UBCHEA,1965) p. 52.