COUNTLESS “mujeres” (women) in Silay contributed a lot in the making of the “pueblo” (town) as the “Paris of Negros” at the turn of the century. Some were in the fields of business, teaching, pharmacy, and agriculture. There were even Silaynon women who were secretly involved in “movimiento feminist” (women’s lib).
Among them, I have chosen one ... Rosario Montelibano Locsin (our Tita Charet), the niece of Sen. Jose Corteza Locsin of Silay. Senator Locsin initiated the “First Filipino Policy” that was adopted by President Carlos P. Garcia. When I was still the tourism officer of Silay, Tita Charet was our number one project supporter ... her prayers, inspiration, and humble food for our staff and volunteers.
Tita Charet was born on December 12, 1927. Her “papa” (father) was Enrique Corteza Locsin and her “mama” (mother) was Rosario Locsin Montelibano. She was number 11 out of 12 children ... the “junior” of her mother. There were three gentlemen in the family: Armando (First Farmers’ Milling), Teodoro Sr. (Phil. Free Press) and Joemarie (the popular JML of Silay).
The ladies were Encarnacion (innovative housewife), Ma. Luisa (Assumption Sister), Concepcion (managed Hda. San Vicente), Jesusa (entrepreneur and hacienda manager), Fe (died at an early age- after the Japanese Occupation), Emma (secretary of Dr. Manahan in Manila), Enriqueta (secretary of Vice-President Emmanuel Pelaez), Charet (sugar broker), and Teresita (Catholic social worker).
The family of Tita Charet belonged to the “hacendero” class. Some spoke Spanish, enjoyed opera and zarzuela at Silay Kahirup Theater, hosted banquets for national and foreign guests, and enjoyed imported commodities from Europe. In Silay, they were known as members of the “buena familia”.
The children of the “buena familias” were given the opportunity to study in Manila or abroad to become lawyers, doctors, priests and subversives. They were called “ilustrados”, the enlightened ones. The “ilustrados” were not accepting their “indio” status during the Spanish colonization.
In the early 20’s, Tita Charet attended public school at Mabini Elementary School in Bacolod City under an American Thomasite teacher, Merle Zane Bagley. Merle and her husband were fond of Tita Charet because they were childless.
The Bagleys would bring the young Charet home in their “kalesa” and would invite her for cookies (the best according to Tita Charet). Mr. Bagley was a sought-after baker in Bacolod. They considered Tita Charet as their own daughter. Even the parents of Charet, Ique and Charing, didn’t mind.
It was Bishop Lladoc (family friend of the Locsins) who advised that public elementary school education under protestant teacher is dangerous for their child. Charing, a “catolica cerrada” immediately sent Tita Charet to Sta. Theresita’s Academy (STA) in Silay. No one, even a Locsin, could say “no” to a bishop back then.
Mr. and Mrs. Bagley later on adopted a boy, whose family would eventually give them sanctuary during the Japanese Occupation. The Bagleys returned to the US after World War II... and that adopted son eventually became an American citizen. Merle Zane Bagley died in 1969.
Tita Charet belonged to the first graduate batch (after WWII). St. Theresita’s Academy during that time was an exclusive school for girls (most of them are daughters of ‘hacenderos’; some are working students). She remembered that the most awaited moment in school is the beauty and brain pageant, Search for Rose of Sta. Teresita (Oct. 3).
At times, there were folk dances. They had lot of masses and novenas for religious observations. At times, they were also required to join the town processions. That was the world of the young Charet. She grew up in a prayerful environment.
That was her memory of the ‘Paris of Negros’. Her simple life was not affected by other women who adored pieces of jewelry and made themselves “bestias cargadas de oro” (gold-bearing beasts). (To be continued)