Monday, April 23, 2018


Perhaps the newspaper statement was melodramatic. It was a time of many earthquakes on Guam, but none as strong, it said, as the appointment of a "Filipino rebel" to one of the highest government positions of the American Naval government of Guam.

That "Filipino rebel" was Pancracio Rábago Palting and, in 1903, a man who, just a few years before, fought to end American rule in one place, was appointed by Americans to occupy a high government position in another place!

Palting was an insurrecto (insurgent) who rose up against Spanish and American control over the Philippines. Captured by the Americans, he was exiled to Guam in 1901, along with other Filipino nationalists, one of the more famous being Apolinario Mabini. These Filipino political exiles were camped at Asan Point, known as the Presidio in Spanish times.

But what was supposed to be punishment turned out to be a kind of reward! Palting was appointed by Guam's Naval Governor William Sewell in 1903 to serve as a judge of the Court of First Instance. Only the Governor himself was a higher authority than this court.

But, I suppose Sewell could have argued, he needed capable men to hear and judge cases and Palting was educated. He spoke excellent Spanish, still the normal language of the court in 1903. An American Naval officer served as judge at times, too, and so did several Chamorros who could read and write Spanish. Interpreters were available for witnesses who could only testify in English or Chamorro.

Meanwhile, Palting was improving his English as fast as he could and, in time, was able to speak decent, legalese English. One observer remarked that legal English was all he really ended up being able to speak. Casual, informal English was not his strong suit, according to this writer.

Palting had already served as clerk (escribano, in Spanish) of the court in 1902 after he was pardoned by US President Teddy Roosevelt. Nearly all of the Filipino prisoners on Guam returned to the Philippines, but Palting was among the few who decided to make Guam their home and Sewell thought he could use Palting's skills.

Palting when he was the clerk of the court in 1902

Still, some took exception to Palting's appointment because of his recent revolutionary past. But the newspaper article doesn't specify who didn't appreciate Palting's appointment. Was it a few Americans, who held it against Palting that he had fought against the US just a few years before? Was it a few Chamorro government officials, who thought that their loyalty to the US made them the justifiable choice for high jobs, as opposed to a rebel? Or could critics of Palting be found among both peoples?

Whatever outcry this newspaper article indicated, it didn't amount to much because Palting stayed in his job for a while. He married a Guam girl of Filipino ancestry, Soledad Gozum Dungca. After leaving the bench, Palting worked as an attorney on Guam. After the war, the Palting family became active residents of Tamuning. One of his sons, Paul, was elected to Guam Legislature. One of the streets in Tamuning is named after Pancracio, though the first name is misspelled.

Another street sign that needs correcting. His name was Pancracio.

* Palting was the son of Francisco Palting and Martina Rábago, both from the Philippines.

** Concepción, Palting's wife, was the daughter of two Filipinos who settled on Guam - Justo Bautista Dungca and Marcela Gozum, sometimes spelled Goson or Gozon. Marcela was from Apalit in Pampanga, the Philippines.

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