Save the Patria? You be the judge

By Jobers R. Bersales |December 05,2018 - 09:51 PM

As if the heavens are beckoning me (and I am not very religious), I suddenly felt the urge to check out the 1950s newspapers at the USC Cebuano Studies Center last week in my long-winded project of studying the American and early post-war commercial history of the Chinese in Cebu.

For some reason, I was drawn into pages after pages of the now-defunct “The Republic News” of 1953-57, which I would soon learn had chronicled the entire story behind the establishment of the Patria de Cebu in a series of first-page news reports that undoubtedly provides us with a glimpse of the excitement that must have followed this project from conception to completion.

Let us begin with the end point of the building project: the inauguration. Perhaps everyone has forgotten this but on March 16, 1957, some 20 or less hours before he would perish in a fiery plane crash, Pres. Ramon Magsaysay came to the Patria to inaugurate it with then-Msgr. (not yet a Cardinal) Julio Rosales leading the ceremony. This news finally connected me with a large photograph that Gerard Desquitado, former staff at the Archdiocesan Museum of Cebu, had me scan showing the tragically-fated president inside the Patria with Rosales and a bunch of Knights of Columbus officials in full regalia.

If this is not significant enough consider the following news items:
July 4, 1954: “Catholic Studes Ok Patria Plan” with the first line stating: “An ambitious plan to construct a huge patria-recreation center here was approved by the Student Catholic Action in a meeting held at the University of the Visayas yesterday.” The story further reports that the plan was submitted to the Papal Nuncio for approval and that the Patria de Cebu is one of three in the country, the other being in Baguio and Tuguegarao, even as it spells out all the recreation units that will be inside the planned structure. Two architects, Teodoro Trinidad and Jose Mercado are also mentioned as offering to design the building plan for free.

March 13, 1955: “SCA Hands Cement Blocks to the Patria” which reports that a record-breaking 1,023 hollow blocks were turned over by the SCA chapters of Malayan Academy, Cebu Institute of Technology and USC for the Marian Youth Center Project, smashing the record made the week before from hollow block makers of Southwestern College. The ultimate aim of this apparent friendly competition was to eventually provide 16,000 blocks.

Girls from the Colegio de la Inmaculada Concepcion meanwhile contributed by providing snacks and food to the SCA cement block makers as they toiled daily to reach their quota. Note this all-important line: “The blockmakers consecrate their work to the Blessed Mother through prayers on the blockmaking site, thus earning for the project the title “Hail Mary Block Movement.”

January 17, 1956, p. 3: with a photo of the Patria under construction, the extended caption reads: “This a portion of the Patria’s reality. The Patria is a recreation center aimed at providing the young and old alike with adequate recreational and dormitory facilities…The Patria is yours and yours alone.

A few weeks have just started since the beginning of its consutrction yet, 13,000 people have already manifested grave concern over its completion since they gave even P.20 (20 centavos) provided they could just give for the Patria. Imagine the Catholic spirit! And now…what about you?”

January 22, 1956: “Patria Fund Drive Gains Support Vow,” which starts with this line: “The success of the Patria Fund Drive appeared bright yesterday when a group of prominent citizens of this city promised to give its full support to the campaign in a meeting held by the fund drive’s committee at the resident of Gov. Jose Briones yesterday afternoon.” The news report mentions the following supporters: Don Gil Garcia, Don Mariano Gonzales, Francis Lim, Felipe Pareja, Mrs. Josefa Celdran, Mrs. Epifania Amancio, Lino Catillejo, Francisco Morelos, Loreto Victorino, Vice-Mayor Ramon Duterte, Engr. Joaquin Panis, and Mrs. Luisa Pido. The meeting was presided over by the governor’s wife, Mrs. Luna Briones.

January 25, 1956: “Patria Aims Bared in Creed” which begins with this line: “As the Patria community project gained public prominence its guiding policy was released in a 12-paragraph Patria creed embodying the following principle: “The Patrai aims at providing a Catholic atmosphere for the youth and the citizens during their leisure hours by impregnating their recreational, cultural, intellectual, and social activities with a Christian spirit.

January 26, 1956: “Don Gil Garcia Joins Patria Drive” with a prominent photo of the late Visayan Electric Company owner. The first line reads: “Don Gil Garia, one of Cebu’s leading philanthropists who recently made a name in the reconstruction project of the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, made another gesture of his civic consciousness when he accepted the chairmanship of the Large-Gifts division of the Patria Fund Drive recently in a meeting held at the Archbishop’s palace.

January 29, 1956: “Your Patria is now halfway to completion!” which shows the building under construction followed by this line: “ Yes, those shambles of wood and rocks you see above need but sixty thousand pesos more before they could be transformed into an imposing edifice designed to give Cebu its much needed Community Service Center.”
I wish I have much more space to mention all the other news reports about the progress of the Patria, including the arrival of the Puyat-made bowling alleys. But space does not allow. I certainly hope, nonetheless that you, dear readers, now have some inkling as to whether this old building or a part of it — some say it looks ugly — is indeed worth saving.

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