We hate it when books bombard us with all these ‘firsts’ and ‘lasts’ ever recorded in Philippine history. But commemorating the milestones in history doesn’t have to be a pain in the ass.
By and large, knowing more about our past is almost the same as discovering treasures that have long been shrouded in obscurity.
Listed down are some of the most fascinating “firsts” in the Philippines which remind us how rich and colorful our story has become.
10. The Rocky Fellers
First Filipino act to land a spot on the US Billboard Top 100 Chart
Long before YouTube made a pop star out of Charice, Filipino musicians were already knocking Americans off their feet. Enter the name “The Rocky Fellers”—one of the earliest all-Filipino boy bands whose heart-stopping hit, “Killer Joe,” snagged the 16th spot on the prestigious Billboard Hot 100 back in 1963.
It’s not until Charice’s Pyramid ranked 8th overall a few years back that this feat was outdone by any Filipino—solo or group.
The Rocky Fellers was comprised of Doroteo “Moro” Maligmat and his four sons: Antonio, Junior, Eddie, and Albert. After being discovered by Stanley Kahn, The Rocky Fellers started to take America by storm with their chart-topping singles like “Killer Joe,” “Like the Big Guys Do,” and Neil Diamond compositions such as “Santa, Santa” and “We Got Love.”
The group’s international career was only cut short when the Beatles and the rest of the “British Invasion” bands dominated the music scene.
In 2007, Antonio Maligmat passed away at the age of 62 while Albert and Eddie Maligmat, the two youngest brothers, now live and, as of this writing, continue to share their music in Hawaii. As a tribute to their music, a compilation CD entitled “Look at Killer Joe Go” was released in the UK last 2001. (Image source)
9. 1932 Sweepstakes
First, government-conducted sweepstakes draw in the Philippines
The year was 1932 and to bring in more funds for the Philippine Amateur Athletic Federation (PAAF), local authorities held the very first government-run sweepstakes draw in the Philippines. A newspaper even dubbed this lottery-cum-horse racing event as a “mammoth show” for all Filipino hopefuls to see.
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The event was a total success so the government decided to conduct another series of sweepstakes draws, but this time for the benefit of the Philippine Anti-Tuberculosis Society (now the Philippine Tuberculosis Society) and under the supervision of National Charity Sweepstakes.
8. Clarke’s Ice Cream Parlor
First ice cream store in the Philippines
Contrary to popular belief, it was Uncle Sam—not the Spaniards—who brought us the very first ice cream store in history.
Named after its owner, M.A. Clarke, the store was a candy shop, café, soda fountain, and ice cream parlor rolled into one. Built sometime in 1899, Clarke’s served a luscious, mouth-watering pink ice cream along Plaza Moraga on the south end of the Pasig River.
Clarke’s Ice Cream is described as one of the foremost symbols of America’s influence in the country. The American Occupation brought us a “Modern Manila” where sophisticated parks, buildings, thoroughfares, and promenades opened to Filipinos a Westernized society they never saw before.
Later, Clarke’s ice cream—mostly made from tinned milk—was gradually replaced by a more cost-efficient but equally satisfying dessert: an ice cream made from carabao’s milk popularly known today as sorbetes. (Image source)
7. Gregorio “Joy” Dionisio
First Filipino basketball player to score a basket in PBA history
The name ‘Joy Dionisio’ will be forever celebrated as the first ever player to make the first shot in PBA (Philippine Basketball Association) history. The historical milestone happened on April 9, 1975, when a total of 18,000 fans roared within the Araneta Coliseum to see the PBA’s first nine teams play in action.
American import Cisco Oliver—best remembered in the classic Alaska milk commercial—started the game with a stepping violation. Dionisio was able to score 10 points for Concepcion Carrier but Mariwasa Noritake ruled the roost with 101-98, in a double-header that also witnessed Toyota outsmarting U-Tex, 105-101.
Other notable teams which comprised Asia’s first professional basketball association include Seven Up, Tanduay, True-Orange (SMC), CFC-Corp. and Crispa—which, along with Toyota, later started one of the most unforgettable rivalries in PBA history. (Image source)
6. Ramon D. Bagatsing
First Manila mayor with disability and Indian-Filipino blood
Dubbed as “The Incorruptible,” former Manila Mayor Ramon D. Bagatsing was at the forefront of anti-graft and corruption during his term. He was the longest serving Mayor of the city, holding the position from 1971 until 1986 (15 years).
Born on August 16, 1916 to a Filipina mother and an Indian-Punjabi father, Bagatsing is the first and only Indian-Filipino and disabled person to serve Philippine’s capital. He lost his left leg after sustaining a serious injury from the 1971 Plaza Miranda bombing and began to use an artificial leg since then.
Related Article: 10 Unforgettable Pinoy Politicians We Wish Were Still Alive
A well-loved public figure, Mayor Bagatsing earned the public’s respect and a total of 500 awards to boot due to his unparalleled dedication for good and honest governance. He is also the founder of Ramon D. Bagatsing Scholarship Foundation, Inc. where almost 1,300 scholars have gained quality education since it was founded in 1958.
In 2006, Ramon D. Bagatsing died in his sleep due to heart attack and was survived by his children including former congressmen Ramon “Dondon’’ Bagatsing Jr. and Amado Bagatsing.
5. Shriver’s Skylark Biplane
First aircraft to fly in the Philippines
As part of the 1911 Manila Carnival celebration, an aerial troop composed of Tod Shriver, Thomas Scott Baldwin, and James “Bud” Mars arrived in the Philippines from Hawaii to perform one of a series of exhibition flights in the Pacific.
The said event was part of the group’s 30,000-mile world demonstration tour featuring two of the earliest aircraft to ever set foot in Philippine soil: Shriver’s Skylark and Red Devil biplane—both of which were designed by US aviation pioneer Glenn Hammond Curtiss.
Related Article: The Incredible True Story of The First Filipino Airplane Passenger
On February 21, 1911, Shriver’s Skylark was the first to be test flown—with pilot Bud Mars sealing the aircraft’s fate as the first ever to fly in the Philippines. Six days later, Thomas Baldwin made another historical event after making the first ever cross-country flight in Philippine aviation history, traveling 10 miles off Manila in a Red Devil biplane.
4. Asteroid 6282 “Edwelda.”
First asteroid named after a Filipino
Edwin L Aguirre and Imelda B. Joson made history in November 1995 when the prestigious International Astronomical Union (IAU) conferred to them the 6282 “Edwelda”—an asteroid named in their honor.
First discovered by American astronomer Carolyn Shoemaker in the early ’80s, asteroid 6282 takes 3.51 years to orbit around the sun.
IAU bestowed the asteroid name upon the two Filipinos after their notable achievements in the field of astronomy, including a book about Halley’s Comet published by National Research Council of the Philippines in 1985. (Image source)
3. Elizabeth Cooper
Recipient of the first on-screen kiss in Philippine film history
Elizabeth “Dimples” Cooper (born Isabel Rosario Cooper) is one of Philippines’ most controversial actresses to ever grace the screen. During the silent film era, Cooper was best remembered as the first Filipina actress to have an on-screen lips-to-lips kissing scene in local movie history.
Considered scandalous at that time, the kissing scene happened in the 1926 silent movie, “Ang Tatlong Hambug,” with actor/race car sportsman Luis Tuason as her partner.
But this feat was suddenly eclipsed by Dimples’ scandalous affair with General Douglas MacArthur. In his accounts, famed pop historian Ambeth Ocampo revealed that the relationship persisted even after MacArthur was recalled to the United States.
After her last movie, “Ikaw Pala” in 1941, Dimples literally disappeared from the public spotlight. Elizabeth Cooper died from an overdose of barbiturates in 1960. (Image source)
2. Wayda Cosme
First Aeta lawyer in Philippine history
At the age of 26, Cosme became the very first Aeta lawyer in Philippine history after acing the 2001 bar exams. But just like in any other success stories, Wayda had to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to get what she achieved.
As a young Aeta student, Cosme had to depend on scholarships and stipends to finish college and later a law degree at the Harvardian Colleges in San Fernando, Pampanga.
After her great feat, Wayda worked as a lawyer for Clark Development Corp. (CDC). Inspired by her life story, GMA’s “Magpakailanman” featured Wayda (played by Jolina Magdangal) in one of its episodes. Magdangal earned rave reviews and commendation in 2003 Asian Television Awards for her portrayal of the brave and smart Aeta lawyer.
1. President Elpidio Quirino
First Philippine president to travel across the Pacific through Philippine Airlines (PAL) and also the first Filipino to appear on television
On August 6, 1949, President Quirino flew to the US on board one of Philippine Airline’s DC-6s, making him the first Chief Executive of the Republic to travel by PAL across the Pacific.
Four years later, on October 23, 1953, President Quirino then earned the reputation of being the first Filipino to ever appear on television. At that time, TV broadcasting was on its earliest stages in the Philippines, with the president’s brother, the judge-turned-businessman Antonio Quirino, as one of the co-founders.
The event was made possible by Alto Broadcasting System (ABS) and held at the Quirino residence where a party was participated by some of Manila’s elite.
ABS was later purchased by Eugenio “Eñing” Lopez Sr. in 1957, with the media giant ABS-CBN entering the scene a few decades later.