100 Istoryang Albayano, Segment 6

By Abdon M. Balde Jr.


Immediately after the Philippines was ceded by Spain to America in the Treaty of Paris in 1898, US President William McKinley formed the First Philippine Commission on January 20, 1899 under Professor Jacob Schuman to investigate and make recommendations on what to do with the country.

As we all know, when the Americans set foot on our country, the Philippine-American War immediately broke out on February 4, 1899. The American occupation of Albay started with the Battle of Legazpi on January 23, 1900—which in a month’s time was practically over, except for some extended struggle like the one led by Simeon Ola which ended in 1903.

The Second Philippine Commission, headed by William Howard Taft was formed on March 16, 1900 to establish a democratic government in the country—which included the setting up of a judicial system, a legal code, civil service, the public educational system, etc.

On April 25, 1900 Taft presided a meeting with the officials of Albay headed by its President Balbino Belarmino along with the municipal council which included Saturnino Baldo, Tomas Esteves, Santiago Arispe, Pedro Morales, Aniceto Medel, etc. In the meeting, the establishment of the municipal code was discussed.


For a short period, there were debates on whether the provincial capitol should be transferred to Tabaco, the most populous and progressive town north of Legazpi City. However, after much deliberations it was finally decided to retain the seat of provincial government in Albay. A provincial building was erected fronting the Cathedral of San Gregorio Magno. The original structure was supplanted by the design of American Architect William E. Parsons, who also designed the Gabaldon type school buildings in 1907. The Philippine Commission, by its Act 1731 of October 1, 1907 combined the municipalities of Albay, Legazpi and Daraga into one municipality under Albay. In 1925 this same municipality of Albay was named Legazpi by act of Congress through Order no. 3247.

Although the demand for abaca started to weaken during first couple of decades of the new regime, the American saw it fit to continue to upgrade the port facilities as it remained to be the most important port of call in the region. Copra was still in demand, and equipment were needed for the building of infrastructures to support the still vibrant economic atmosphere.


One of the most effective means of encouraging the families to return to normal life was to encourage their children to return to school. By order of Capt Arlington Betts, on March 20, 1900 a building was commandeered and converted into a school, blackboards were painted, seats were ordered, and he picked from among his soldiers the professionals who could teach. In January 21, 1901 the Commission passed Act 71 ordering the establishment of the centralized public school system. By July of the same year, the transport Thomas sailed off from San Francisco and brought into the country over 500 teachers which would later be known as the Thomasites.

Responding to the impact of the public school system, the Catholic communities in Albay ordered the revival of the parochial schools offering religion and home-making projects. By 1912 Legazpi Parish Priest Juan Calleja sought the assistance of Nueva Caceres Bishop John B. McGinley—who in turn requested the Benedictine Sisters of Tutzing to establish the Catholic Academia de Santa Ines, which would later become the St. Agnes Academy.

Programs for public health and social welfare were given as much priorities as the educational system. The medical teams that went with the invading forces immediately attended to the victims of deadly diseases that plagued Albay, such as cholera, small pox, malaria, and tuberculosis. The army barracks hospital between old Albay District and Daraga was soon converted into the Albay Provincial Hospital. This was supported by two private hospitals: the Milwaukee Hospital (now the building occupied by Robinsons Legazpi) run by the Presbyterian Mission and the St. Theresa’s Hospital. The inmates of the leprosarium, which was first set up by the Franciscans in Naglagbong, Tiwi was transferred first to the military camp then to Lignon Hill.