The Philippine Columbian Association celebrated its 115th Founding Anniversary on December 12, 2022.
It was a time to reminisce its contributions to Philippine society that have spanned for more than 100 years and its role “in transforming our citizens into well-rounded [and] competitive individuals who… cast their lot in nation building” (President Benigno S. Aquino, Message to PCA on the 32nd Annual PCA Open, November 9, 2013, Official Gazette).
PCA was organized in 1907 by Filipinos who studied in the United States, otherwise known as “pensionados.”
The Pensionado Act or Act 854 of the Philippine Commission was passed to provide scholarship programs to the “best and brightest Filipino youth” for them to be able to study in the United States, and thereby give a favorable impression of the Philippines.
The prominent pensionados who became Presidents of PCA are Antonio de las Alas, Gen. Carlos P. Romulo, Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos, former pre-war University of the Philippines President Jorge Bocobo, and First Filipino Veterinarian, Victor Buencamino, among others.
These pensionados together with other PCA members played a vital role in the quest for Philippine independence and national sovereignty.
The construction of the first PCA clubhouse in Pasay was made from the P5,000 donation of philanthropist Don Teodoro Yangco.
It was used to fund the original clubhouse in 1907, which was made of sawali materials and woven bamboo strips.
In 1923, PCA constructed the 2nd PCA Clubhouse in a 3,000 square meter lot in Taft Avenue, Manila under the leadership of Don Antonio de las Alas.
Don Antonio was then Speaker of the House of Representatives and concurrently the President of PCA.
The acquisition of the property was done with the assistance of Jorge Vargas who was then the Director of the Bureau of Lands. Mr. Vargas would later become the club President and Mayor of Manila during the Japanese Occupation in 1941.
During the Battle of Manila in 1945, PCA’s second clubhouse was completely destroyed. In 1953, the clubhouse was rebuilt under the leadership of Ramon C. Ordoveza. In 1979, PCA inaugurated its new Complex in Plaza Dilao, Paco, Manila, through the initiatives of Ponciano Marquez and his team, which remains to be the club’s location today.
PCA’s role in shaping the democratic values of Filipinos was recognized by Philippine Presidents. President Ramon Magsaysay, speaking before PCA said “I welcome this opportunity because this club, the Philippine-Columbian, has always been renowned as a gathering place for those who believe in the principles of liberty and justice that typify our nation” (President Ramon Magsaysay, July 4, 1955, Official Gazette).
He further said “… I believe that this is a most fitting place—among the nationalists of this association—and certainly a most fitting time—the ninth anniversary of our glorious independence—for me to review a few basic principles for which I stand.” It is in PCA where he reiterated “[F]or this—the Philippines first—has always been and always will be the guiding principle of my administration.”
President Carlos P. Garcia during the 50th Anniversary of the PCA said “we find the Philippine Columbian Association… vigorous as ever, constructively active and progressive, and most important of all, keenly conscious of the challenge of change… [T]hat is why I feel highly honored to be a member of the Philippine Columbian Association, especially since my membership is linked with our Club’s Golden Jubilee” (President Carlos P. Garcia, January 29, 1958, Official Gazette).
“Tonight, with your permission, I would like to address you as a humble member, to consult with you in the same manner that President Quezon in his time utilized the Club as a sounding board for some of his ideas. I would like to discuss with you the challenge of our time, to seek counsel and strength in your company, and to draw inspiration from the great traditions of this great institution.”
Understanding the regional diversity of our country even at that time, President Garcia said that “the feeling of regionalism was rather prevalent and this [has] undermined the cohesion of our population. But [e]spousing the cause of equality among Filipinos in social, business and government circles, our Club greatly assisted in effecting the changes necessary to our oneness as a people.”
During the inauguration of PCA’s new complex in Plaza Dilao, Paco in 1979, President Ferdinand E. Marcos, Sr. had this to say in jest, “[Y]ou know, there is a rule of protocol as to the appointments of Presidents, especially with regard to the present administration, and that is, never to accept invitations to inaugurations of sports or athletic clubs” (President Ferdinand E. Marcos, Sr., December 14, 1979, Official Gazette).
He said that he, however, was reminded “that the Columbian Association was not just a sports club or an athletic organization, but that it was the spawning ground of nationalism and of the ideals of political independence which gave birth, first, to the Commonwealth and then to the Republic of the Philippines.”
President Marcos’s affinity to PCA was made evident when he said that “[T]he forum that is offered by the Philippine Columbian is certainly a most serious one, for I remember a cartoon, that is deeply embedded in my memory as a young man, of my father riding the Ilocos Express supposedly, with the Columbian Club in the background, and declaring, ‘I would rather sink to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean than see the Philippines subdivided among the American entrepreneurs…’”
During the 100th Anniversary of Philippine Columbian in December 2007, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) said “… the members of Philippine Columbian are leaders and prime movers of various sectors of Philippine society. And therefore, we can say that for 100 years now the members of Philippine Columbian have demonstrated [their] commitment to the nation’s peace, growth and pride in the Filipino” (President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, December 11, 2007, Official Gazette).
President GMA also said “I still remember when I was young, you had an old clubhouse. And I do remember when the new clubhouse was built and this complex has a marker that aptly conveys the legacy of Philippine Columbian as measured by Mr. Beltran, President Beltran [of PCA] as the ‘sanctuary of Filipino nationalism’.”
“I’m sure that those who will listen to my speech, will therefore be gratified to remember that the club became the center for the campaign for Philippine independence during the leadership of President Quezon.
“And that it served as the headquarters of Congress for the Philippine independence in 1934. And although World War II forced the club to hibernate… The club rebounded to become — robust, progressive and still committed to its advocacies.”
The testimonials of these Philippine Presidents about PCA is an affirmation of the National Historical Commission’s conferment in 1960 of a Historical Marker in PCA.
It is a fitting reminder of PCA’s role in cultivating among Filipinos the need to focus on our national identity, heritage, and culture for the advancement of Philippine sovereignty.
But PCA is not only a breeding ground of nationalists, it is also a haven of Filipino swimming and tennis champions. Olympians Raymond Anthony Papa (1992 Barcelona and 1996 Atlanta), Raphael Matthew Chua (2004 Athens), and Ryan Paolo Arabejo (2008 Beijing) were all members of the PCA Stingrays.
Tennis stars Manny Tolentino, Joseph Lizardo, and Johnny Arcilla all trained in PCA and won the coveted PCA Open Tennis Championship.
In 1995, the Philippine Davis Cup Team led by Joseph Lizardo together with other PCA Open Tennis Champions Camoy Palahang and Robert Angelo bested the Japanese Team led by Japan’s No. 1 tennis player Shuzo Matsuoka.
While PCA is proud of its glorious past, it is mindful of the challenges of the present, and hopeful of its future. PCA is not only for its members but for every freedom loving Filipino who wants to participate in nation building. Levity aside, allow me to say, “I am a Columbiano and I am proud of it.”