Bits of History – Thomasites in Sorsogon

The first public school teachers were the American soldiers; they taught English to the natives living in the Corregidor Islands. These soldiers were later replaced by the Thomasites. Answering to the call of U.S. President William McKinley to promote and improve the educational system in the Philippines, the appointed head of commission William Howard Taft passed Act. No. 34 on January 21, 1901 forming the Department of Public Instruction. This body was responsible for establishing the public school system in the country. The story of this group of American teachers or the so called Thomasites started on July 23, 1901 voyage to the Philippines. Five hundred and forty American teachers and some of their families boarded the U.S. Army Transport, Thomas, at Pier 12 in San Francisco’s wharf; they arrived in the country on August 21, 1901. Thomasite became the designation of all pioneer American teachers simply because the USS Thomas had the largest contingent of these American educators brought to the Philippines. Later batches of American

teachers were also dubbed as Thomasites¹.

The first time I encountered a name of a Thomasite was when I visited the Sorsogon Museum.

And just tonight, for some reason I typed, “thomasites in sorsogon” in Google search and found additional information. What excited me was the list of Thomasites assigned in the towns of Aroray (also known as Aroroy) and Cataingan of Masbate island. At first it didn’t ring a bell, so I asked my wife whose maternal lineage came from Masbate – Cataingan is indeed in Masbate. Then I checked again the PDF file, the list of Thomasites is between 1901 and 1906. As far as I know, Masbate island was part of the Sorsogon province during the American occupation.

And according to another pdf file, there was 13 slots in both Masbate and Sorsogon.

So I continued checking for additional information about this group of teachers. I found one site listing down the subjects being taught from 1902 to 1935 – English, agriculture, reading, grammar, geography, mathematics, general courses, trade courses, housekeeping and household arts (sewing, crocheting and cooking), manual trading, mechanical drawing, freehand drawing and athletics (baseball, track and field, tennis, indoor baseball and basketball).

Interesting find indeed…

Note: Fast forward, here’s an interesting story of Filipino teachers in America.


¹The Voyage of Thomasites, Mona Lisa H. Quizon, National Historical Commission of the Philippines

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3 Responses to Bits of History – Thomasites in Sorsogon

  1. josegenorga says:

    Mr. Swan and Mr. Carter were ThomAsites assigned in Bulusan, Sorsogon as principal and supervisor respectively in 1903. May we know please the real complete of these thomasites and their origin. They contributed a lot in the educational system in the town of Bulusan.

    • sorsogoncity says:

      Hi josegenorga,

      Thanks for the comment. I have limited information from the Thomasites (I did put my source at the bottom of the article). I found one article about the Governor General’s report, circa 1913 or so, but it’s only available for those who are accessing it from the US. Though some sections of it are available for non-US residents, Thomasites is not one of them.

      I am interested where you got the information that Mr. Swan and Mr. Carter were assigned in Bulusan.

      Sorsogon City

  2. josegenorga says:

    correction…real names please.

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