Tuesday, April 24, 2007


This is the 1st part of my "History of the Legarda Family" blog feature. This article was originally written by my Tito Benito Legarda Y Fernandez. He wrote this article for the De La Paz reunion. I posted this into my blog since many of generation haven’t read the article that was written 20 years ago. Hopefully there will be more I can post about my family. The name Benito is very important to the Legardas. This article try to focus on the Benito’s of every generation.


The first one I have heard of is Benito Legarda y Lerma. As you and I know, his remains are in the ossary in the family mausoleum, and there are no dates on the marble marker. He was married to Cirila Tuason, and one of the few tracesI have found of him is in the Russel and Sturgis bankruptcy papers at the Harvard Business School Library. In those papers a certain Benito Lerma is recorded as having attended meetings of the bankrupt company creditors representing Cirila Tuason, and so I surmise that this was none other than the first Benito Legarda. The only trace I have found of him is in a book published in 1877 ( the year following the Russel and Sturgis bankruptcy) called Anuario Filipino para 1877, the last pages of which are printed on colored paper and which contain advertisements of various commercial firms. One of the ads is by a certain Bennito ( yes, double N) Legarda, a “consignatario de buques… for “ viajes a Emuy”. That’s all there is: a shipping agent for sailings to Amoy.
I don’t know who his father was or where he cam from. I told you about the woman who was written a book on the Creoles in the Philippines, and who visited my late father to get further information on the family. Apparently, she told him more than he could tell her about these distant ancestors. I recall vaguely his having mentioned that she told him that the first Legarda was Domingo Pablo. Who came from Spain, but if this was so I wonder why these Christian names did not come down through the generations. Where in Spain did he come from? Family tradition is that it was Navarre. On a 16th or 17th century map of Spain, I have seen a small village NNW of Pamplona named Legarda, so this seems to be some kind of confirmation. Also, I have seen a map of the diocese of Pamplona sent by the bishop to the second Benito; why, I don’t know as there is no covering letter, but this again reinforces the Navarre connection.
Benito II, Benidto Legarda y Tuason, is the man who in effect “made” the family. Since you say the marker in the family ossuary does not carry his dates either, to the best of my recollection they are 1853- 1915. Of him according to the late Don Salvador Araneta, it was said that he first married a woman old enough to be his mother ( Teresa de l a Paz) and then a woman young enough to be his daughter (Paquita del Rosario of Cavite, also known as Paquita Sabas after her father’s name).He must have been only 22 when he first married, because the eldest son Benito III or Don Bitong to call him by his nickname, was the best of my recollection born in 1876 (d. 1933 in Madrid). As you know the other two children were Consuelo and Rita. Teresa’s Children by her previous marriage to Tuason ( was it Gonzalo?) were as the Tuasons may have told you Teresa ( Tata) Maria Soterrana ( Mutti), Augusto ( Tio To), Demetrio ( Tio Queso), Juan ( Tintong) and Mariano ( Tio Nanoy)-not in any order of seniority. From a draft in an old notebook I gather that Teresa de la Paz died in 1890 or 1891. This was about the time that San Miguel Brewery was organized, and Benito II was one of the founders.
There is apparently much reference to him in the Taft Archives of the University of Michigan, and a much fuller account of his career, at least after the American conquest, can be written on the basis. Let me therefore just hit a few facts that come in mind readily. His marriage to the beautiful Paquita did not last long as she died at childbirth. By the time of the Spanish American War, he must have been a widower twice over. From a letter my father showed me during his ( my father’s) lifetime, addressed to his ( Benito II’s) son and daughter in law who had evacuated to either Paete or Pangasinan ( I don’t recall which, we are told that Aguinaldo had given him the post of Minister of Finance ( this must have been July of 1898—I am doing this all from memory, but I apparently he did not occupy it long as a few weeks later the history books tell us that somebody else was in the post. The books also tell us that he was the Vice President of the Malolos Consitutional Congress, and there are the photographs in contemporary American books showing him escorting Aguinlado during the latter’s inauguraln as President of the Republic in Malolos. With the outbreak of Filipino- American hostilities and the defeat of the Filipino forces, he returned to Manila, and helped organize local elections. He was one of the stalwarts of the Federalista Party, which advocated statehood for the Philippines. As such he was one of the first three Filipino members of the Philippine Comission. When the Philippine Assembly was formed he was sent to Washington as one of the first pair of Filipino Resident Commissioners ( the other one was Pablo Ocampo), and such was a member of the US house of representatives with a voice but no vote. This was in 1907. In 1909 Ocampo was replaced by Manuel Quezon, a Nacionalista who advocated independence. The Quezon family tell me that among themselves, the term “Don Benito” is a code phrasing for cooling it. Apparenlty, when Quzon first arrived in Washington he was still in the Spanish tradition of expressive and loud oratory even in ordinary conversation.which of course didn’t sit well in the more staid Anglo- Saxon environment, and Benito II used to have to tellhim, “ Baja lo voz,Manolo.” To this day, Nini Quezon Avancena tells me that when their family conversations get a litte heated, they just say “Don Benito”. He was in Washington until e was in Washington H1911. I have been unable to locate where he lived, and all of his correspondents was datelined Houseof Representatives. I know he was a member of the prestigious Metropolitan Club, which still stands a couple of blocks from my office at 17th and 11th Sts. N.W. Those who have examined the Taft archives say that he was on a friendly terms with William Howard Taft and family, to the point where Mrs. Taft ordered someof her jewelry from Paris through him and his business correspondents, Eugster, Labhart & Co. ( they must have been connected with the perfumery business; I remember my father telling me that they used to export ilang ilang essence, and this required some rudimentary chemical procedures this is undoubtedly the predecessor of the La Rosario Distillery, which was founded in 1910. Apparently the ilangilang business declined because the gatherers mixing leaves and twigs with the flowers. I suspect.
How well he knew another American President, Theodore Roosevelt, can only be answered adequately by one who studies the archival material in the Taft (if there are such things) T. Roosevelt papers. I would guess that he knew TR, but not on as friendly terms as he was with the Tafts. TR’s daughter, Alice Roosevelt Longworth, in her autobiographical book, Crowded Hours, describes how during a visit to Manila early in the century she was a house guest at the old house (on Sebastian, now on R. Hidalgo although she doesn’t mention street names), and she was given a room with a spiral staircase, through which little brown heads would bob up and down from time to time. Those who remember the old house can readily identify where this staircase was: in what where the Prieto quarters, (as we knew them) until they moved to Calle Aguado in the late ‘30s, which were located in the front portion of the house closet to the street and the right beside the ballroom at the time Alice R. was still single and was being courted by her husband-to-be, Speaker Nicolas Longworth, who was also a member of the official party. Part of the courtship took place at the rear azotea of the house located over the aljibe of water deposit ( which I last saw converted into an air raid shelter early in the 1945 when we all gathered at the house to bury Rita Legarda Valdes in the backyard). My father was too young to remember this, but he does recall the older ladies in the family being taken aback by American courtship customs. ( “Andaban besuqueandose en la azotea.”)
From a letter in the possession pf Mrs. Teresa Legarda Lyons (who has contact with the Prietos, and who is the daughter of Vicente Legarda by his first wife, and Englishwoman, although Mrs.Lyons nowlives in the US) we get the information that on one of his trips home, Benito II took the then shortest route, the tRans Siberian Railroad from Europe to Valdivostok, then by ship to Japan and on to Manila. The letter is written in very good English, an I also have the impression that he spoke in excellent French, since he had business correspondents there and he died in Evian in the shores of Lake Geneva in 1915. Apparently, the family was notified by another friend, Rafael Levy, of the Estrella Del Norte jewelry shop, who took care of the temporary funerary procedures until Benito III and his wife went there the following year to pick up the body. They sailed from Barcelona on the Fernando Po, which ran aground in the Sulu Sea at a place called the Black Rock and eventually sank, but not until passengers and cargo had been removed, including Benito II’s casket and some pedigree dogs for the Tuasons. The port of refuge was Iloilo.
In 1954, I visited crusty old William Cameron Forbes at his digits at the Hotel Vendome in Boston, and conversed with him about his Philippine years. He knew Benito II in his Boston Puritanical way said, “Your great grandfather he was all right. But the one who was no good was certain Dominador Gomez.” Now this is interesting. Benito II has gotten bad marks from nationalist historians for his Federalista opinions, while Gomez was a nationalist; yet Gomez was one of the three orators at his funeral at the Cementerio del Norte, when his honor guard consisted of American soldiers, and one of the other two speakers was Emilio Aguinaldo himself, President of the Revolutionary Republic. If I recall, the account of this funeral either is in El Renacimiento Filipino for some time in 1916 or in the Manila Times.
A few more marks about Benito II. My father used to tell me that Don Benito was the first Filipino lowlander to build a house in Baguio, and the old Legarda house was one of the first three summer residences built there at the time when the whole government used to flee there in the hot months, the other two houses belonging to Gov. Forbes and to Dean C. Worcester. There is a marker at the head of Session Road in Baguio showing the site where meetings of the Philippine Commission were held, his name is one of those mentioned. The Legarda property was I understand purchased from a well-to-do Igorot family named Carino, but the fact that as a lowlander he was one of the pioneers in making Baguio the resort city which was the origin of its existence.,
A hazy aspect in his relationship with other Legardas. Apparently there was a brother named Miguel, and he may have been the father of Vicente, the engineer who was already been mentioned and who studied in England. He (Vicente) had a sister, Lilay, whom I used to see at R.Hidalgo and who was married to a Zamora. If she is alive she can tell you more about that branch,which includes the piano turner and a baker. There are suggestions that Miguel was a hothead who raised his hand against his father and was thrown out of the paternal home, but this would have to be checked out with someone with more direct knowledge.
Of Benito III, Don Bitong, there is much less to be said. Apparently, he met his wife, who was over three years his senior, on shipboard returning from Spain and must have married quite young, since he must have been only 22 when my father, Benito IV or Ben, was born in 1898 (Oct 26).They were staying with Benito II at the latter’s house which is now the family office on R.Hidalgo ( then known as Calzada Sebastian), and on the early morning of May1,1898 they were roused by the old man who heard from the boom of Dewey’s guns and who told them that the Americans had come. Benito II because of the various role he played in the political and economic life of the country then, is mentioned in several books written about the Philippines by American authors during the change of regime. Don Bitong seems to have appeared only once, in Edith Moses’ Unofficial Letters of and Official Wife whwre she describes a reception at Malacanang attended by among others Benito II and III and the latter’swife, Fiolmena Roces “ Fat isn’the?”,to which the author adds”…and that was all.” As for Dona Menang she described as wearing the latest Parisian Hat, which perhaps is misleading because it makes her sound like a society fashion plate when in fact she was the very soul of simplicity and very frugal in her ways and lifestyle; she probably regarded these official receptions as unavoidable obligations. Don Bitong was fond of cooking and had a whole array of kitchen equipment, whereas Dona Menang hadno culinary inclinations,preferring needlework.
Benito Legarda IV or Ben was the eldest of the seven children of Don Bitong and Dona Menang. He studied chemistry, being the first graduate in chemical engineering at the University of the Philippines. After Graduation, he went in 1921 to Paris with his family and took piano lessons fro six months with Lucien Wurmser; so did his sister Rosario ( Bombona), only eleven months younger than he, who later married Basilio Valdes, half brother of the Valdes children of Rita Legarda. Aside from being a very good pianist and lover of classical music. Ben was also deeply interested in motor cars, quality tools, and plants. These were reflected in his civic affiliations. He was a staunch supporter of the Manila Symphony Society, a founder and until the end of his life the moving spirit behind the Manila Motor Association, and active member of the Garden Club of the Philippines and I think of the Philippine Orchid Society. He was also president of the Manila Rotary Club and later governor of his Rotary District. He was also active in promoting passage of the Chemistry Law Professionalizing the practice of chemistry in the Philippines, and was a member of the Philippine Safety Council.
In business, he tried to make use of his chemistry background and projected the setting of a chemical products firm. He wanted to make toothpaste locally under the brand name Kimik and got far as buying the tubes, but found out that the tubes alone cost more than the mass produced finished product which entered duty free from the US in those days. Becoming involved in helping his father manage the family properties, he studied law, at Santo Tomas. He also undertook and substantially accomplished the task of buying out the once respondent Tuason interest in La Rosario Distillery ( Tuason and Legarda Ltd.) , which made wines from imported raisins, the vintner was an old Spaniard named Zurronero who lived behind the office. Apparently he had reservations about the desirability of the alcoholic beverages business, because this seemed a fomenting vice, after the war he did not resume wine and liquor manufacturing, preferring to let the company properties develop to fishpond complexes.
Just before the war, he volunteered for the Philippine Army and was put in the chemical warfare section. Unfortunately, the Army’s chemical warfare capability at that time was almost nil, and when he was called to active duty in 1941 he was assigned to the Qaurtermaster Corps. He was given the rank of captain. On December 24, 1941. Manila was declared an open city, and he led the Philippine Army’s first convoy in Bataan driving his car, with his brother-in-law, the Maj. Patricio Fernandez of the Judge Advocate General Service, at his site and some enlisted men at the back seat. He remembered reached Balanga early on Christmas Day and hearing mass there. The a misfortune befell him which turned out to be a blessing in disguise; he slept out in the open on the ground, and the next day he woke up with a painful back ache, a recurrence of his sciatica. His enlisted men fashioned makeshift canes from tree branches, and in Mariveles he tried to get to a military hospital on Corregidor, but was somewhat brusquely turned away by the Americans in charge and advised them to return home. He did, again, driving his car, on December 28 and thus was pared the battle of Bataan and the Death Match, which he probably would not have survived.
During the Japanese occupation he made contact with the underground, furnishing supplies like short wave radio parts and even a pistol. His uniform and insignia were hidden by a niece-in-law who was an official at the Correctional Institute for Women in Mandaluyong. The Japanese Military caught up with him in December 1944 for resisting seizure of a car belonging to his sister, Mrs. Rosario Valdes, which he claimed he had brought from her, and he was imprisoned for a day; luckily his friend Rep. Pio Duran, who was in good races of the Japanese, got him out. After the liberation, it was his turn to put in a good word for Duran with the US military authorities who had jailed Duran for collaboration, and when Duran was released gave him a room at the family office on R. Hidalgo until Duran could get amore permanent quarters in the largely destroyed city of Manila.
All was not grimness during the war. During the lulls, in December 1943, the family decided to surprise Dona Menang on her birthday with a family concert. The piece chosen was Bach-Vivaldi concert for four pianos, with his youngest brother Jose playing first piano, himself second, myself (Benito V) third, and Rosario fourth. Dr. Herbert Zipper got together a small orchestra from among the members of his pre-war Manila Symphony Orchestra who could be reached. and on the afternoon of December 24 the performance was given for Dona Menang, with such success that the piece had to be repeated for the benefit of some late arriving guests.
For his generation, one thing must be mentioned: the Legarda and the Valdes were educated at the house of their aunt Tata, the matriarch of the clan. Partly this may have been because Dona Menang suffered from consumption. But mention has also been made in family conversations that Tata wanted to put the children of her half-brother and half-sisters on an educational par with her nephews and nieces by her brothers and sisters, who were materially much better off than the Legardas. The Prietos did not undergo this because their parents did not wish them to. It was a regime of study and discipline, early rising, frugality, no left overs on plates at meals, music practice etc. They were sent to watch the zarzuelas of that time, and were also instructed in the graces considered necessary for society like dancing. Since the Tuason uncles were great sportsmen, Benito IV was taken on hunting trips when he was still young. The cultural adviser to Tata was the family physician Dr. Ariston Bautista Lin, also called the Doctier) he has studied in France or at least lived there for some time, and he can be seen in a Luna painting of some Filipinos in that city at that period) and it was Doctier who advised Tata what paintings to buy, which zarzuelas to send the young people to, etc. It was alos Doctier who was the link to the Nakpil family, since he was married to one of them, Dona Petrona or Toineng of Barbosa St. in Quiapo. The older ones of that generation, Benito IV and Bombona regarded Tata with respect and appreciation, even when, as in the case of the former, there was a falling out with the old lady late in her life. The younger ones seem to have slightly different perspective; they retain a grudging respect, but also remember the lovelessness of the environment, the complete lack of even the slightest word of endearment or affection.
Benito IV came out of the army with the rank Lt. Colonel. Among his immediate post-war accomplishments was the revival of the Manila Times. The family thought he Roces connection had an interest in the pre war T-V-T publications (tribune-vanguardia-taliba), but these had been compromised from having been used by the Japanese as their propaganda organs during the occupation. Furthermore, the Japanese had seized then Roces stockholdings in the company. The US military therefore thought to classify the company as enemy property; but since the Legarda stocks had not been taken by the Japanese, Benito IV was able to prove that the company was not enemy property. Since the per-war names were in bad repute, the company chose to start again with the name of a paper which brought many years previously, the Manila Times. This was of course one of the victims of Martial Law in 1972, at which time Benito IV was Vice President of the company. He died at home in his own bed of congestive heart failure on July 7, 1973. Saying that no one went to sleep in coat and tie he had always said he wanted to be buried in pajamas, which he was. “A Character to the end,” according to a family friend Prof., Amadi Castro of UP.
Benito IV married my mother, Trinidad Frenandez of the small island of Cuyo in Palawan province on January 24, 1925 at Quiapo Church and I was born on August 6, 1926 in the old San Juan de Dios hospital in Intramuros. Grade school: Holy Ghost and Ateneo ( tothird year in 1941) and Centro Escolar ( one semester of 4th yr in 1945); college Georgetown University, Bachelor in Social Science, Magna Cum Laude, 1948; M.A and PhD in Economics in Harvard, 1950-1955. I trained in the summer of 1948 at the 34th St. Branch of National City Bank in NY. When I returned to Manila in 19520, I taught at the Far Eastern University, Ateneo Graduate School, and FEATI University. I also worked for what is now AID in the US Government until I finally joined the Central Bank of the Philippines in December 1951. My career there lasted, mostly in the Research Department but with a short stint in the Foreign Loans and Investments Department, until I opted for early retirement on May 31, 1980. For a year I was an Adviser in the Ministry of Finance, and then came to Washington DC as Alternate Director on the Board of Consultants. In the meantime, I had married Dr. Angelita Ganzon, a pediatrician on April 3, 1971. We also have a foster daughter, Mirriam Ganzon, who is now six.
My civic involvement included the Manila Jaycees; Manila Rotary; the Manila Symphony Society; Research Foundation in Philippine Anthropology and Archeology ,Inc; Philippine Motor Association; Philippine Statistical Society; Philippine Booklover’s Society; Philippine Numismatic and Antiquarian Society; American Numismatic Association; American Numismatic Society; Numismatic Literary Guild;Bibliographical Society of the Philippines; Philippine Geographical Society; Manila Theater Guild; member, Philippine Chapter, International Association of Historians of Asia; Bach Society of the Philippines; Philippine Choral Society; trustee; Notre Dame College of Jolo; trustee; Centro Escolar University Research and Development Center; Harvard Club of the Philippines (president, 1963-64); Filipiniana Book Guild; various social clubs like the Club Filipino, Casino Espanol de Manila, Wack Wack Golf and Country Club, Baguio Country Club, Valle Verde Country Club and Club Strata. Of all this social and Civic involvement, what remains is my membership in the St. Jane Frances de Chantal Parish Choir!
Scholarly and semi- scholarly articles have been published both in the Philippines and abroad. I have also attended numerous official or scholarly meetings internationally delivering papers at the Universities of Hong Kong and Madras, and being elected Chairman of a UN committee meeting in Geneva in July 1980 and Chairman of the Deputies of a financial group in Liberville ( Gabon) in May 1981. I have no brothers, but two sisters, Filomena or Fatotay, born 1928 who died of leukemia 10 days short of her third birthday and Carmen Milagros, or Carmita, born 1932. There is a Benito Legarda VI, Jose Legarda’s son Benito Legarda Y Lobregat, but you should get his biographical data from him.
This is as much as I can do for the present, and as I said earlier, I am operating almost entirely of memory since almost all of my books and papers are in storage in Manila; therefore I hope you will excuse any deficiencies arising from imperfect recollection. Good luck to you in your family project.

Benito Legarda Y Fernandez


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Maxine said...

I wasn't able to finish reading the whole post, but I shall make time to do so. I'm not sure how we're related, but I'm the granddaughter of Carmen Legarda Valdes-Nieto, the daughter of Rita de la Paz Legarda de Valdes. I'd love to know more about the family!

Kid Legarda Senatin said...

hello, i just read your blogged from the net while surfing for my own lineage of existence. My name is Cincinnati Kid Senatin y Legarda from Aklan but i'm already living here at Puerto Princesa City. My grandfather's name was CLARO LEGARDA y FLOR (deceased)and from Capiz. thank you.

Bing Rao Wang said...

Hi Mr. Legarda, it has been a great pleasure to read your post about the Legarda family, specifically information about Mr. Benito Tuason Legarda. I'm student who is doing research on Mr. Joseph E. Valdes (also known as Jose Eduardo Valdes) who worked for Mr. Benito Legarda as his secretary while latter worked as Philippine Resident Commissioner. I'm wondering if you happen to know anything about Mr. Valdes and his relationship to Mr. Benito Legarda or if you have any suggestion about where I may find more information about Mr. Jose E. Valdes. Thank you!

Elinor Lerma said...

Hello...may i know about on the Lerma side of your ancestirs. Thank you.