New book documents American-era school buildings

Commonly referred to as the Gabaldon school buildings after Assemblyman Isauro Gabaldon, the man behind the construction of these educational edifices through a law he authored in 1907, these structures are now back in the limelight following the passage of the Gabaldon School Building Conservation Act in 2018 and the recent publication of a book that details the history and architecture of these structures found all over the Philippines.

The book, The American Colonial Public School Buildings in the Philippines: The Archival Materials was launched in an online event in December 2021 during the celebration of the National Architecture Week. The theme was “Future Forward NAW.”

Authored by Mary Kristine Segovia, Ana Luzzette Lareza, Joel Vivero Rico and Robert Benedict Hermoso, the book is a joint project of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts which provided funds for research in 2020 and the United Architects of the Philippines’ Del Pilar Bulacan Chapter.

NCCA and UAP publish a new book, ‘American Colonial Public School Buildings.


The project was conceptualized during the term of Benjamin Panganiban as head of UAP’s Sentro ng Arkitekturang Filipino in 2019 but was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The 264-page book is divided into eight chapters discussing the education system during the American colonial period and the schools built during that period, the Gabaldon Act 1801 and related laws, the Bureau of Public Works, methodology of construction, the different types of American-era school houses in the Philippines, the insular school buildings, school sites, and the conservation guide for these buildings.

An example of a Gabaldon-style school building, the Central Elementary School in Estancia, Iloilo.


Commendable are the authors’ efforts sifting through archival materials and documents from various sources such as the annual reports of the Bureau of Education, Bureau of Public Instructions, and Bureau of Public Works; the Bureau of Public Works Quarterly Bulletin; the Philippine Commission Report; Bureau of Education Bulletins; and the laws passed during the American period.

The book is replete with old photographs and images of archival materials both engrossing and pleasing to the eye.

Showing the structure of the Gabaldon buildings.


Almost every page engenders nostalgia. The authors aptly describe reading the book: “As one flips through these pages, one remembers the warmth of the wooden floors (and) would feel the breeze coming in through the large windows and the coolness of the shaded patches cast by acacia trees.”

A product of diligent research, the book should be in every architect, heritage advocate, or teacher’s collection as it “shares the architectural significance of these technical documents as a valuable resource for rebuilding and refurbishing these American colonial public schools.”

The authors also note that the book “speaks more of a layman’s language, but the technical details should not be left out” as the latter is very significant in the conservation of these buildings.

The UAP or the NCCA should continue doing and promoting this undertaking of producing quality researches and publications as it not only educates but instills Filipino pride and identity.

This valuable work deserves utmost praise and reading it is highly encouraged.

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