“LAY down your arms and pick up the books.” This was already the call the Americans were making to themselves even before the smoke of war with the Filipinos had not yet settled. Wasn’t it their real mission to “Christianize” and “civilize” their little brown brothers here as our tutor (under tutelage)? And so, they started their quest to open education to a wider Filipino populace a few days after Dewey’s victory in May 1898. The first American teachers here were also the American volunteer-soldiers who taught 4,000 students in 39 schools.

In 1901, sincerely believing in the righteousness of their cause, American school teachers started coming to the Philippines. The first among them arrived in the boat called “Thomas,” hence, the “Thomasites.” Although the old Spanish colonial regime intended to make education more public, it was the Americans who were able to fully implement this policy. Every town was provided with bahay kubo-inspired school building designs, called the Gabaldon schoolhouses (named after the lawmaker who sponsored the law), set 3 kilometers apart in order that kids would not have to walk long to get to school. The Americans, knowing that there would be a need to pass the burden of teaching to the Filipinos themselves sooner or later, established the Philippine Normal School in 1906 and later, the University of the Philippines in 1908. Never before was formal instruction widely available to the people of the Philippines.

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