(Message of Rep. Edcel C. Lagman on the unveiling of the Historical Marker at the Tabaco City Hall installed by the National Historical Commission on the Philippines
on 24 March 2023)
Presidencia is the Spanish term referring to the town hall or seat of local governance. La Presidencia formed part of the plaza complex during the Spanish colonial rule. The parish church, town hall, and plaza formed the plaza complex and these three structures or institutions are proximate to each other.
In fact, during the Spanish times, there was no separation of Church and State. In most cases, the Church encompassed the State or government.
The United States has an enduring tradition of separation of Church and State, but it was constrained to follow the plaza complex because it was more convenient to adopt the physical setting.
Tabaco City’s Presidencia is a Spanish description of an American structure.
When the United States of America was only an emerging world power, it purchased the Philippines from Spain in the amount of $20-M or P1.1-B at today’s exchange rate, which amount the Americans have recouped more than a trillion-fold. It wanted to transform its new colony – the Philippines Islands – into a showcase of American governance, cultural ascendancy, and lofty art.
The new colonizers, with a view to impress older world powers, employed the preeminent features of its brand of governance – bureaucracy, education, health services, and arts and architecture. With respect to architecture, the Americans launched the City Beautiful Movement in its building works. Tabaco was a beneficiary of this campaign, 94 years ago with the construction of the Tabaco Presidencia building in 1929.
Based on Neoclassical architecture and building innovations provided by prefabrication and reinforced concrete, the Presidencia took less than a year to build compared to Tabaco’s equally grand St. John the Baptist Church which took more than a decade. The Presidencia was the embodiment of American authority and modernity
Not only was the Presidencia visually beautiful, it also became the seat of functional governance long after the Americans left.
Under the highly capable and enviable leadership of Mayor Krisel Lagman, the Tabaco City Presidencia was restored to its former glory.
As we memorialize today the Presidencia as an enduring cultural and historical heritage, we must anchor on the Presidencia an independent and nationalistic self-governance, with due deference to our past but unfettered from colonial constraints.