Faded photographs rekindled memories of this city’s birth and early years when it was recovering from the ravages of war and those days when beautiful ladies whose faces were untouched by cosmetic surgeries, reigned as the city muses during fiestas.
The photo and memorabilla exhibit titled “It was 60 years ago today: A Glimpse of Dagupan” was put up at the City Hall lobby by the Dagupan City Heritage Commission as a part of the city’s 60th founding anniversary on June 20. Mayor Benjamin Lim opened the exhibit on June 20.
Dagupan was born on June 20, 1947 , barely two years after World War II had ended that left it in ruins. But it was one of the first towns to be rehabilitated and its conversion into a city was a part of its rehabilitation.
A panel at the exhibit shows a photo of President Manuel Roxas and a copy of Republic Act 170 declaring the town of Dagupan into a city on June 20, 1947 and pronouncing its inauguration on January 1, 1948 . The Republic Act was authored by Speaker Eugenio Perez, the last speaker of the Commonwealth and the first of the Republic.
The town mayor then was Alipio Fernandez who “fought back all overtures” to have the city renamed. Historians say that the city was supposed to include the neighbor town Calasiao but the residents of that town refused to join the new city .
The first mayor of Dagupan as a city was Angel Fernandez, a law graduate of the University of the Philippines , who was “appointed leader of rolling up sleeves to rebuild the city” laid in ruins by the war.
In another panel is a long shot of a parade during a city fiesta, with beauties riding in flower-decked, horse-drawn calesas. Photographs in sepia show the different years’ reigning beauties as they posed in their lovely gowns and charming smiles.
“They are really pretty. And to think that there are no cosmetic procedures that altered their natural beauty,” said Marivic Melecio, a Dagupeña.
Viewers try to locate landmarks that still exist these days. “This is the city plaza,” quipped one, pointing to an open area with a ferris wheel at the middle. The plaza, of course, looks very much different today, with the city museum, a large stage, and other structures inside.
The water tank is another landmark that still exists today. And so are the Archbishop’s Palace and the St. John’s Cathedral, albeit they have undergone reconstruction after they were reduced to rubble by the 1990 earthquake, through efforts of Archbishop Oscar Cruz.
“I remember this place,” Carmen Ulpindo, 58, said, pointing to a street beside the plaza. “We used to walk this road when we go to school ( West Central School ). We used to walk from Arellano Street (about two kms. Away) where we resided. But sometimes we would hang at the back of passing calesas. We would be sweaty when we get to school, but we did not mind.”
Then there’s the photo of the archbishop of the time, Maraino Madriaga, who designed the city seal which first appeared on the cover of the 1948 city fiesta and fair souvenir program.
The seal included a railroad and a highway “to emphasize the city’s geographic location, being the major crossroad in the north.”
Another group of photos showed the opening of the city public library in the afternoon of May 22, 1948 . One of the speakers were the late Ermin Garcia, the publisher of the Sunday Punch who was gunned down because of his exposes.
The musical piece of the hymn ‘Dagupan” composed by Freedie Gagasa with lyrics by Rex Catubig, is in another panel. The song is about the love for the city by the residents who may leave the place but will eventually return.
“Ah, Dagupan, agbalot nalingwanan. Ngaran moy magnayon, angad andi angaan. No bilang sika’y taynan Ag ombayag, pawilen ka lan lamang (We will never forget you, Dagupan./Your name will go on forever/ If we ever leave you/ it will not be for long/ We will soon return,” the first stanza of the song goes.
The photo exhibit, put up by committee chairs Carmen Prieto and Architect Alex Villaflor, “will be semi-permanent,” Michelle Lioanag, a member of the Heritage Commission, said.