Gabaldon Schools of Ilocos Norte

(March 09, 2009 to May 20, 2009)

What is so important about the Gabaldon Building?

The Act of 1801 was sponsored by then Assemblyman Isauro Gabaldon, which explains why the law is more commonly known as the “Gabaldon Law”. Gabaldon Law’s main objective was to promote that education was for all, which explains why the “Gabaldon” type schools can be found all over the country.

gabaldon_laoagThe Gabaldon Law also included master designs to be followed for construction, an example of a blueprint would be a complex containing nine classrooms, a library, a property room, a principal’s office and an assembly hall large enough to hold four hundred people, with an architecture truly fitting for a tropical country like the Philippines. Laid out in a four-hectare property, its grounds were planted with trees, hedges and shrubbery.

In the rooms of the Gabaldon Buildings, the Filipinos enjoyed the freedom of denied them during the Spanish colonial times. As early as 1907 the Gabaldon Buildings had American educators until they ended their tenure sometime in 1935 when Filipino educators assumed the post.

Here in the province of Ilocos Norte alone, it has been documented to have at least 12 Gabaldon Schools. It is interesting to note that some of these educational complexes could have two Gabaldon type buildings in the same area.

Aside from being a heritage structure, these Gabaldon schools have been witnesses to local historical events of various significance. A school. A garrison. A hospital.

Locals should first look for a structure’s “Local Significance” before the National Significance” for how can something be important for the whole country when the ones who own it do not give due meaning to it? Perhaps it is harder to appreciate something that has been part of the locals’ everyday life, but the Laoagueños, true to form, have been very vigilant in protecting this “Bastion of Education.”

We should listen to the cry of the people. Is the argument based on old vs new, conservation vs development? The fact is that it does not really have to be one or the other…. Both can co-exist…. Why does a heritage structure like the Laoag Central Elementary School, have to be demolished to give way to a mall? Why does it have to be in that location and not in the supposed relocation area of the school?

If we are only truly looking for a solution for unemployment and the only solution right now is building a mall, then so be it…. But not at the expense of the future Ilocanos who will be deprived of their heritage.

And so now, we appeal to our dear leaders, give the future Ilocanos a chance to experience our rich cultural heritage. As Jose Rizal would say, “Ang di marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan di makararating sa paroroonan.”




gabaldon_laoag_centralWith a diploma in his hand, the graduate passes through the portals of his Alma Mater with hope in his heart to follow that young dream inspired by the ideals set forth by his school. He is now ready to follow a path to attain greater heights of educational achievement.

Whether it is made of sawali, wood or concrete, a school is more than just an architectural structure. It stands as a symbol of ideals that molds and shapes the young mind, preparing him for the challenges of the future. Whether public or private, both are extensions of the home, with the same goal – to prepare a child mentally, morally, spiritually, socially and emotionally for a better life.

Laoag Central Elementary School, in the heart of Laoag City, seems to have existed forever in the minds and hearts of every Laoagueño, not just an institution of learning but a historical and cultural heritage. Constructed in 1929 as part of the implementation of the Gabaldon Act 1801, Laoag Central Elementary School is an authentic building designed for tropical countries to provide basic education – literacy to all Filipinos. Established during the American colonial times, it typically has all the elements that make up a Gabaldon school – classrooms, home economics room and an industrial arts room. Like all Gabaldon buildings, it was set up to complement the elementary school training by the Thomasites, the American volunteer teachers on board USS Thomas, who came in 1901. History has it that the building was converted into a Japanese garrison during World War II and a hospital for wounded American soldiers during the Liberation.

“Homecoming” is such a sentimental word expressing the esteem that a former student has for his Alma Mater. It brings sweet memories of the “good old days” – his schoolmates and friends, teachers, even our childhood crushes. It is where he learned the 3R’s, his nursery rhymes, songs, dances, poems, sports and rigid discipline. The list is endless. Former students travel miles, across oceans just for a sentimental journey home to relive and reminisce schooldays.

Today Laoag Central Elementary School is the center of controversy. The town is divided. Conservationists who value heritage want to keep Laoag Central Elementary School as a heritage site opposing its demolition to make way for commercial growth.

The destiny of Laoag Central Elementary School is in the Laoagueños’ hands. To save or not to save – that is a decision everyone has to make. As a true Laoagueño, where do you stand?

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