D. Jakosalem Street sign in Cebu City where the late Cebu Governor is honored. (Courtesy of Pinterest)
October 4 marks the town of Dumanjug’s fiesta. It is, of course, celebrated quietly this year in deference to Covid-19. The sombreness of the celebration lends well to introspection and remembrance of one family closely identified with Dumanjug in the past.
Before WWII, the Jakosalem family was near synonymous with Dumanjug. One of its members, Dionisio Jakosalem y Abella, had served as Governor of Cebu, as provincial board member, and as the first Filipino cabinet member under the Americans. His brother, Miguel Jakosalem, also served as a Provincial Board member. And, another brother, Julio Jakosalem, became this writer’s great grandfather. He was a lawyer like Dionisio but finished his law degree at the Escuela de Derecho in Manila instead of Santo Tomas. He was Juez de Paz of Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur.
The political prominence, unprecedented in Dumanjug at the time, was made possible by the economic success of the siblings’ father, Alfonso Jakosalem y Leal also known as Tan Ponso. “Tan” stood for “Capitan” because Alfonso served Dumanjug as a Gobernadorcillo (equivalent to a mayor today) just like his father, Joanico, before him.
Capitan Don Joanico Jakosalem was a native of Barili – the town that Dumanjug used to be part of, especially, ecclesiastically. Don Joanico was a member of the colonial class of Principalia, thus his honorific title of Don. He was Dumanjug’s first Gobernadorcillo at about the same time it erected a separate parish from Barili, 1855 to be exact.
It was a long held fact – until the current trend of historical revisionism – among Dumanjug’s old families from the Poblacion, such as Cañete, Quirante, Zulueta, Pasculado, Lañojan, Nemil, Patlingrao, Albino, Zozobrado, Alpuerto, Melgar, Corro, and Vegas that the land of the town plaza was a donation of the Jakosalem family.
(Current confusion regarding land ownership may have sprung from the uneven transistion of land titling between Act by Notary Public under Spain and the Torrens system under the United States. Spanish land titles were abolished by President Ferdinand E. Marcos only in 1976).
The Jakosalem family fortune really took an upswing at the time of Don Alfonso when tobacco was king and Tabacalera built an office in Barili. Jakosalem lands ballooned to around 500 hectares, planted alternately to tobacco and corn.
When it came time for Don Alfonso’s son Dionisio (the governor) to marry the niece of Tabacalera agent, the wealthy Don Pedro Cui of Cebu city, Don Alfonso gave Dionisio 250 hectares as “Las Arras” so he can amply provide for the noble Generosa Teves y Cui. The “arras” was also designed to stave Jakosalem honor in face of marriage to one of Cebu’s richest heiresses.
The Jakosalems “were very social”, recalled Esperanza Velez Leyson when she was a teenager in 1950s Cebu City. By that time the Jakosalems were shifting their focus from agriculture in Dumanjug to real estate in the city.
Not another Jakosalem would become governor of Cebu, although a descendant – Salutario J. Fernandez – served as provincial board member and as vice-governor (1972-1975). Of Dionisio’s grandsons, Ferdinand T. Jakosalem served as provincial board member and Sylvan Jakosalem as councilor of Cebu City.
As the Jakosalems became absentee landlords, their political presence in Dumanjug beyond the barangay level also dimmed. Today when one speaks of Dumanjug, other names come up. Unlike the Duranos or even the Escarios who have maintained their bailiwicks, Danao and Bantayan, respectively, the Jakosalems have not. That is, for this writer, a sad lesson of history.
* SPECIAL THANKS TO DUMANJUG HISTORIAN MR. RONALDO S. TAN