Excerpts from Letters of a Murdered American Schoolteacher Describing her Stay in Batangas in 1905 - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore Excerpts from Letters of a Murdered American Schoolteacher Describing her Stay in Batangas in 1905 - Batangas History, Culture and Folklore

Excerpts from Letters of a Murdered American Schoolteacher Describing her Stay in Batangas in 1905

[In this article: Batangas Province, Batangas City, American colonial era, Thomasites, Batangas education, Anna Elizabeth Hahn]

From a memorial publication1 in honor of the American schoolteacher Anna Elizabeth Hahn, murdered in the then-town of Batangas in January of 1908, we get a descriptive picture of the town and the visit of what was likely the Taft Commission from letters written by the victim herself to her sister. Hahn was likely a Thomasite1 who according to an Ernest Bross “had gone in response to the (American) government’s call, in the hope and desire of teaching there (i.e. the Philippines)…” It was also Bross who stated that she was “murdered by the natives of Batangas Province2.

Details of her murder are not provided in the publication, albeit a letter from the Director of the Bureau of Education of the Philippine Islands wrote that “she was murdered at her home in Batangas on the evening of January 28, by parties unknown3.”

Our interest, however, is less on the details of the murder and more on how Hahn described her stay in Batangas Town in letters she wrote to her sister, the author of the publication. Below are excerpts from these letters, cited verbatim:

15 June 1905

“You see by the above that I have moved. I am in the town of Batangas, forty miles down the coast from Manila, and like it very much. Batangas is a much larger town than Cavite. It is the capital of Batangas Province. I am teaching in the high school here. He have a fine, large, new schoolhouse here, just finished. It cost 35,000 conant [The Philippine peso, early in the 20th century, was popularly known as the “conant” after Charles Conant, whose report led to the coinage of a Philippine peso distinct from the Mexican and Spanish-Philippine peso used during the Spanish colonial era in the country3.].” There are eight American teachers here and we have a good time. I have only been in this town one week and have had several lady callers. Much coffee is grown here, and many cocoanuts, bananas and mangoes. The volcano of Falt Taal is only twenty miles away. It has caused many earthquakes. I came down the coast on a native boat. I was the only white person on board; all the others were Filipinos and Chinese. I sat on deck in a chair all night as there was no bed or sleeping place on the ship. The other passengers sprawled around the floor. Most of them smoked and played cards all night, but they were very quiet and well-behaved.
old Batangas High School building
A school building in Batangas town early during the American colonial era.  Image from the public domain publication "A Tribute of Love to the Memory of Anna Elizabeth Hahn."
30 July 1905
“Taft [likely William Howard Taft of the Philippine Commission, who would also become the 27th President of the United States4.] and a large party, including Alice Roosevelt [Alice Roosevelt Longworth was the eldest daughter of American President Theodore Roosevelt5.] are to be here in Batangas August 28 and will be given a great welcome. The Insular Government has donated $750 in gold towards it and the civilian Americans here are to give as much more. The military here will also do a great deal to add to the festivities of the occasion, and the whole province will contribute. It is a provincial affair, but takes place in this town because this is the capital of the province. This is a United States Cavalry headquarters and a whole regiment of cavalry is quartered here all the time. Their station is called Camp McGarth [probably misspelled as the Camp’s name was McGrath, alternatively spelled as McGraw which is how the name is pronounced.] It is a beautiful place on a fine elevation of land just outside of the town. The ship bringing the Taft party will anchor in the bay near the town and the one hundred persons composing the party will all be taken to Camp McGarth for a grand midday luncheon. After this, there will be a great review of troops and various military maneuvers. The visiting party will be handed over to the town and it will show them a fine native exhibit that is being collected, also taken them for a horseback ride and carriage ride and for a raft ride on the Calumpang River near the town. The raft will be drawn up by the river by native carabaos and water buffaloes [as all readers ought to know, the carabao is a water buffalo.] They will be hitched to the raft and will swing along drawing the rafts after them. The rafts will be decorated with American flags and palm branches and native bands will play native music along the river bank. We have to teach school that day so the party can visit us and see how the natives are taught. In the evening, there will be a big banquet followed by a dance.”
* * * * * * * *
BatangueƱo students did not make life easy for American teachers early during the American colonial era. READ: “Batangas Students Make History as the 1st School Ordered Closed in the American Colonial Era
Notes and references:
1 Thomasites were “a group of 526 American teachers who travelled from the United States to the newly annexed territory of the Philippines on the transport ship USS Thomas.” “Thomasites,” Wikipedia.
2 “A Tribute of Love to the Memory of Anna Elizabeth Hahn,” by Mrs. M. J. Jackson, published 1910 in Nebraska, United States of America.
3 Jackson, ibid. p. 16.
3 “The Philippine Islands,” by John Foreman, published 1905.
4 “William Howard Taft,” Wikipedia.
5 “Alice Roosevelt Longworth,” Wikipedia.
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