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Magsaysay Ancestral House, located at Castillejos, Zambales is the ancestral of the seventh Philippine President Ramon Magsaysay. It is open for public viewing. With traces of the past, the Magsaysay residence is was the former leader of the Philippines grew up. This structure houses some of the personal belongings of the late president, from his furniture, appliances, clothing, medallions, and books, to his 1945 Cadillac limousine, and a Willy’s Jeep said to be in good running condition.
Oddly enough, being at Ramon Magsaysay’s house for the first time brings a lot of fond memories of my childhood. Maybe because the house looks exactly like our home back in Manila, from its capiz windows, to the antique fixtures, even to its light green painted walls. Or perhaps because just like us, he enjoyed the company of people for an afternoon chat in the sala. Or maybe because, even as President, he had always been close to the people’s hearts, that’s why Filipinos’ have dubbed Ramon Magsaysay “The Champion of the Masses”.
My friend and I came to Zambales upon the invitation of a classmate back in college, whose family resides in San Antonio, Zambales, for a brief summer gateway. It was hard to say no to such a generous offer and Zambales is a jewel after all, so we decided to hit the road. Four hours later, we arrived in Zambales.
It was my sophomore encounter with the province, and just a year after my first visit, the Zambales landscape looked more beautiful and breathtaking than ever. Of course, there are the stretch of sand, enticing blue waters, and majesty mountain range, but knowing there is more to the province than its beautiful beaches, I decided explore its historic side this time. So I headed to Castillejos and visit Ramon Magsaysay Ancestral House.
Ramon Magsaysay Ancestral House is hard to miss when you’re in Zambales, since it stands on the main highway of Castillejos. Home to the late President Magsaysay, the third leader of the Philippine Republic, the two-storey house had been the witness to the making of this great leader. It was renovated and converted into museum in 1990. After it was damaged by the Pinatubo eruption in 1991, the national Historical Institute led to restoration in 1991.
The ancestral house present Ramon Magsaysay’s humble beginnings. He was born in Iba, Zambales on August 31, 1907, to Exequiel Magsaysay, a black smith, and Perfecta del Ferro, a schoolteacher. He was raised in Castillejos and finished elementary in Castillejos Elementary School and high school in Zambales Academy. Photos displayed at the first floor of the house show a young Magsaysay with his family and peers. Even at a young age, he had been seen mingling and chatting with the masses, an endearing trait that would win over the nation later in his life.
He entered the University of the Philippines in 1927 and worked as a chauffer to support himself as he studied engineering. Later, he transferred to the Institute of Commerce at Jose Rizal College, where he received a baccalaureate in commerce. He worked as automobile mechanic and later became shop superintendent at Try Tan Bus & Company. It was here where he met his future wife Luz Bazon. When World War II broke out and the government needed men and women to defend the country, Magsaysay signed up for the 31st Infantry Division Motor Pool.
The young and valiant Magsaysay was a handsome soldier. Towards the end of the war, before the joint Filipino-American forces surrendered in Bataan, he joined Lt. Col. Claude Thorpe and a handful of American Officers and organized the Western Luzon Guerilla Forces, where he served as captain and overall commander of Zambales Military District. In 1945, he was promoted to Military Governor of Zambales. Magsaysay’s revolver, war medals and ribbons are restored and exhibited next to the photo gallery. When the war ended, he left the military and entered politics to continue public service.
When he was elected solon in 1946, he worked to provide the basic services every Filipino deserves and enabled war veterans to reap the rewards of their service. Inside the house are photos of Ramon Magsaysay with late President Elpidio Quirino, who appointed him as defense secretary at a time when the Hukbalahap rebellion was at its peak. Magsaysay launched a successful anti-guerilla campaign using a combination of military, land and livelihood solutions that weakened and later disbanded the Husk. He is remembered as one who fought the insurgents, returned the public’s trust and respect to the army and restored peace, law and order in the country.
In 1953 came Magsaysay’s greatest success when he won the presidential elections. He was the first to sworn into office wearing the Barong Tagalog. Some of his Barong Tagalog’s are displayed next to custom-made silk shirts; those made by Liwanag, Fashion Tesoro’s Manila Arcadia, Inc. are enclosed in lit, glass cases to serve as a reminder of the President who proudly wore Barong Tagalog and Philippine-made shoes in official functions.
More photos of the late president show him dressed in a simple polo shirt or barong, eagerly chatting and eating with the locals. One photo that stands out is among his last, which show Magsaysay on his knees and praying after addressing graduates of three educational institutions in Cebu. Hours later, after boarding the presidential plane Mt. Pinatubo for Manila, the plane crashed on Mt. Manunggal. About two million mourned on Magsaysay’s burial. A man of integrity, character and service, Magsaysay’s death was a big loss to the country.
The man may be lost but his history and success remain intact inside the ancestral house. For those who want to visit, the first floor hosts an interesting photo gallery that chronicles his life. Upstairs are period furnishings from the 1950s, including his photographs and radios. Behind his house is a glass-walled garage that holds restored 1955 Cadillac and 1942 Willys Jeep which Magsaysay used to drive around visiting U.S. President Richard Nixon.
Visiting the Ramon Magsaysay ancestral house is a wonderful journey into the past. It feels great to explore the house of a late president; not only does it account the history of a man but also it takes part in giving pride to the Filipino nation that has produced such a great citizen and hero, worthy of the everyone’s respect and admiration. Ramon Magsaysay Ancestral House is open to the public from Tuesday to Saturday, 8:30 A.M. to 12 N.N. and 1 P.M. to 4:30 PM.
The President Ramon Magsaysay House in Castillejos, Zambales, is where former president grew up. It is a modest but charming two-story structure located on the town’s main street. Downstairs are showcases holding some of his personal belongings, including his military service revolver, canes, trademark barong tagalong and polo shirts. Upstairs are period furnishings from the 1950’s, including his photographs and radios. A picture gallery chronicles his life. Behind the house is a garage walled in glass holding his 1954 Cadillac limousine?
When one thinks of Zambales, the name of Ramon Magsaysay is never far behind. Born in Iba (the province’s capital) the former beloved Philippine president actually grew up in the town of Castillejos where his Ancestors originated and where the Magsaysay Ancestral House was built. The modest two-storey structure became witness to the early childhood years of the 7th President of the Philippines, where he learned the values of hard work, honesty and humility. Now, the ancestral house, located on the town’s main street, has transformed into a haven of memories of the People’s President – illustrating the life he led, from his personal belongings such as his trademark Barong Tagalog and polo shirts, 1950’s furnishing to the 1954 Cadillac Limousine he used during his presidency. Visiting the Magsaysay Ancestral House gives not only a feeling of nostalgia but also a sense of pride, knowing one of the most admired men in history had lived in this part of town. .   (***2007 Calendar)
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