August 6, 2014

tag: pio andrade jr., thomasites, spanish philippines


The Thomasites were the American teachers who staffed Philippine public schools during the early American period. They were so-called because most of them came to the country in the U.S.S. Thomas, a transport ship. The Thomasites taught English to Filipino students in the public schools. What is not mentioned in history books is that the Thomasites had to learn Spanish for them to be effective teachers and for them to socialize with the local elite who were mainly Spanish-speaking. In fact, in the annual Teacher’s Assembly in Baguio City every summer, advanced and beginning Spanish lessons were given to American teachers.’

Here are four Thomasites and their brushes with the language of Cervantes:

Mrs. Eloise Gibbs, a Thomasite schoolmarm, taught young Pampaguenos in San Fernando , Pampanga in 1901-03. She wrote an article “Filipinos I Have Known” in THE FILIPINO STUDENTS MAGAZINE which mentioned her Spanish conversations with her cochero and ward.

One day, Mrs. Gibbs’ cochero, Flaviano, came to her crying. He told Mrs. Gibbs: “Senora, Senora, Senor A  habla me ladron.” (Madam, Mr. A  called me a thief.)

Mrs. Gibbs and her American co-teachers adopted a waif named Valentin. After an earthquake, Valentin said, “El diabio mucho trabajo,” (The devil works overtime.) by way of explaining to Mrs. Gibbs why the earth quaked.

William Freer taught in several provinces and he became superintendent of public schools in Nueva Ecija and Ambos Camarines. Before returning home. He wrote a book THE EXPERIENCES OF AN AMERICAN SCHOOL TEACHER on his teaching days in the Philippines. The book has a glossary of Spanish words for the readers to better understand his work in English.

Mary Fee wrote many articles and a book of her teaching experiences in the Philippines. Fee’s book IMPRESSIONS OF THE PHILIPPINES, like Freer’s, contains many Spanish words and expressions. Here is a paragraph from the book about her learning of transportation terms in the country at that time.

“We had picked up the vernacular of the street carromata in Manila. This is very simple. It consists of sigue, para, dereeho, mano and silla. For the benefit of such readers do not understand pidgin Spanish, it may be explained that these words signify, respectively, “go on,” “stop,” “straight ahead,” “to the right,” and “to the left.” The words wino and silla mean really “hand” and “saddle”; I have been told that they are linguistic survivals of the days when women rode on pillions and the fair incubus indicated that she wished to turn either to the side of her fight hand or to the skirt side.”

Charles Derbyshire is familiar to most Filipinos because of his English translations of Rizal’s NOLI and Fili, which are the official versions used in Philippine public schools. Unknown to most Filipinos, Derbyshire was a Thomasite and he taught in Negros Oriental, Zambales; and Manila. He studied Spanish in UST to be able to translate Rizal’s book into English. He left the Philippines in 1918.

Back in the United States, he taught in the University of West Virginia where he opened a Department of Spanish. In 1928, he met two Filipino college students travelling through West Virginia. Immediately, he talked to them in Spanish, thinking they were conversant in Spanish as many of the Filipinos he left behind. The two students, however, knew less Spanish than Derbyshire for they had been educated only in English in Philippine public schools.

From Pio Andrade Jr.’s unpublished book “Que Barbaridad”.

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MaricrisArnaldo ArnáizMaricris DizonVeritas et Mencii Recent comment authors
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Veritas et Mencii
Veritas et Mencii

You should be attacking the Spanish publications done during the time when the education of the natives was supposed to be a shining example.The American publications have nicer adjectives towards the Spanish administration of the natives’ education. There are many other reasons for criticizing the American colonization of the Philippines; never mind that the education system was worse or better. These publications written by the Spaniards who were in the Philippines painted an otherwise picture. These are just some of them. El gran problema de las reformas en Filipinas: planteado por el Español ..By Camilo Millan y Vellanueva,Consejero Ponente de… Read more »

Maricris Dizon
Maricris Dizon

Hello, do you still have any reports regarding with the Thomasites in San Fernando, Pampanga? We are currently writing thesis about them but we don’t have enough sources.. Thank you in advance ^^