Bibliographic History of Sabas Gaerlan’s Memoir (born Dec. 5, 1854, Tagudin, Ilocos Sur)

The 2009 publication of the original Ilocano and English translation of the memoir of Sabas Mansano Gaerlan finally brings to light the writing(s) of a school teacher about 95 years after his name was first mentioned by historian James A. Robertson (yes, the same Robertson of the famous multi-volume, Blair & Robertson,  The Philippine Islands, 1493-1898).


In his 1914 article on the history of the Igorots of Lepanto, James A. Robertson, quoted and praised a manuscript about Cervantes that was written in 1908 by Sabas Gaerlan and sent to the Philippine library (unfortunately, a search of the online catalog of the Philippine National Library turns out negative for this material). Robertson said that “…his manuscript shows that he had received a fair education. The account is simple and charmingly well-written, and all of it deserves publication” (Robertson, James, 1914, The Igorots of Lepanto. The Philippine Journal of Science, Vol. 9, No. 6. p.513). James quoted extensively the description by Gaerlan of the “canao” tradition of the Igorot (click on images below to read full quotation). This manuscript seems to be another document written by Sabas and not of the memoir since the published version of the Gaerlan diary does not include the material quoted by Robertson.

Image: Sabas Gaerlan Description of Canao in Lepanto (Source:


Felix M. Keesing, in his book “Taming Philippine Headhunters: A Study of Government and Cultural Change in Northern Luzon” listed a manuscript titled “A Brief History of an Uprising in Bontoc, etc. 1881″ with a note that this typed manuscript was recorded and translated by a former governor, Juan Gaerlan, whose father was an official at that time” (1934, p. 282).  In this case, we can conclude that Sabas Gaerlan wrote a history on the Bontoc uprising of 1881 which his son, Juan Gaerlan, later had typewritten. Unfortunately, as of this time, this curator has had no luck in finding a copy of this manuscript.


Fr. Henry Geeroms, C.I.C.M., in his 1966 article on the history of the former Spanish missions in the Cordillera, wrote that  Fr. John Flameygh, C.I.C.M., parish priest of Cervantes, mentioned to him that Sabas Gaerlan had written a diary which, at that time, Fr. John has not yet been able to borrow (Geeroms, H., 1966, Former Spanish Missions in the Cordillera (N. Luzon), Saint Louis Quarterly, Vol 4. No. 3. p. 385).


Many, many years later, Fr. John’s patience seem to have been rewarded as he gained possession of a copy of the memoir as William Scott wrote of “…an unpublished autobiography of Tagudin schoolteacher Sabas Gaerlan in the possession of the Rev. Fr. John Flameygh, CICM” (Siliman Journal, 1981, p.112).


Image Courtesy of the National Archives of the Philippines

Image: Signature of Maestro Sabas Gaerlan, 1895.


William H. Scott, in his book “Ilocano Responses to American Aggression 1900-1901,” quoted Gaerlan’s memoir “He who disobeys his father and mother sins against God; may this punishment be enough so that you will not be punished in the life to come” (p.10) based on a translation by Father John Flameygh, CICIM.  As per Scott, Fr. John already had in his possession a copy of the memoir of Sabas Gaerlan, Cervantes, 1913 (p.211).


Jane G. Guerrero (or Jane G. Malkin), the great-granddaughter of Sabas Mansano Gaerlan, found out from her mother, Rosita Guerrero, about the existence of a manuscript written by Sabas Gaerlan. Jane later received a photocopy of the manuscript from her Aunt Blandina Bayquen. According to family oral history, the manuscript was first handed by Jane’s grandmother, Antonia Guerrero Gaerlan, to Vicente Guerrero, Jane’s father. Together with the help of her father, Jane started to translate the old Ilocano written in elaborate calligraphy. It seems that Sabas Gaerlan completed the bulk of the manuscript around 1914 as he wrote about his 2nd and 3rd marriage about …”Ten years after completing this book (May 1, 1924, is the date I’m writing this page” (p. 135).

Image Courtesy of: Jane G. Malkin

Image: Sabas Gaerlan Ilocano Calligraphy.


In 1991, Fr. John and Scott  published excerpts from said memoir with the title “From Tagudin to Cervantes” (Flameygh, J. & Scott, W., 1991, Ilocos Review, Vol 23, pp.96-135). Interesting enough, the version of the memoir they used was in Spanish, and not the original Ilocano.


Finally, after almost twenty (20) years of on and off translating work, Jane Malkin published “Casuratan Ti biagco, Sinurat ni Don Sabas Gaerlan” using the self-publishing service of Authorhouse. Jane relied on self-publishing after some publishers declined to publish her English translation without seeing the original memoir of Sabas Gaerlan which, at that time, was suppose to be in the hands of a family member from another branch of the Sabas Gaerlan clan.

Image: Cover of  Casuratan Ti biagco, Sinurat ni Don Sabas Gaerlan (published by Authorhouse, 2009).


Peter La. Julian, veteran Ilocano journalist & writer, reviewed “Casuratan Ti biagco, Sinurat ni Don Sabas Gaerlan” for the Ilocos Times and bylined his article “A Philippine Historical and Ilokano Literary Document” (online copy available at praising Jane’s grandfather as a “...fine poet, essayist, journalist” whose diary is “...a priceless addition to Literatura Iluko” (p.11).

Congratulations to Jane Malkin for bringing into light this important legacy of your great grandfather. When shall we get a 2nd edition (with complete translation of the other remaining untranslated portions, or maybe, even a critical annotated edition complete with footnotes and bibliographic references)?

Footnote: Ordering Your Copies:

Jane Malkin requests that those interested to order copies of the book use   Authorhouse’s online bookstore instead of the other  “A” bookstore (hint, name of big river in Brazil).  Authorhouse Bookstore (  Price (excludes shipping costs):Softbound = US$14.49, hardbound = US$24.99.


~ by Martin Gaerlan on December 24, 2011.

5 Responses to “Bibliographic History of Sabas Gaerlan’s Memoir (born Dec. 5, 1854, Tagudin, Ilocos Sur)”

  1. […] ni Don Sabas Gaerlan” translated in English by Jane G. Guerrero and published in 2009 (see…), the origins of the Gaerlan name can be traced backed to the Claveria […]


  3. […] Sabas Gaerlan (…) […]

  4. Thanks Martin for the nice narrative about the autobiography of our dear ancestor, Don Sabas Gaerlan. We are being all drawn together exchanging ideas, expounding our history and celebrating our families. To Erwin I learned and lot from your relentless research on our history, thank you.

  5. History of tagudin

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: