Chapter Three
2. The Belle of the Town

Gregoria de Jesus [click the picture to read a portion of her auto-biography]GREGORIA de Jesus was born [The exact spot of her birth is in a lot located in what is now P. Zamora St., adjacent to the Ospital ng Kalookan compound.] amidst turbulent times, on May 9, 1875, just a little over three years after the execution of Fathers Burgos, Gomez and Zamora.. She was a bright pupil in the parochial school of Kalookan when Rizal's novels were published. Although her father, Nicolas de Jesus, was at one time gobernadorcillo, and therefore of the establishment, she was related by blood to Mariano Alvarez of Kabite, her mother's uncle who was later to head the Magdiwang faction of the Katipunan in that province, and to Teodora Plata, her cousin who was one of the founders of the Katipunan.

Oriang blossomed into young womanhood at a time when Kalookan was just beginning to share in the general prosperity brought about by the opening of the Suez Canal a few decades earlier. Locomative driven street cars, operated by the Compaņa de los Tranvias de Filipinas, had been linking the town to Malabon and Tondo since 1880. In 1892, the Manila Dagupan Railway laid tracks and opened maintenance shops and offices a few hundred meters east of the Calle Real (now A. Mabini) and from her home in what is now P. Zamora St., Oriang must have awakened to train whistles and the grinding of iron wheels on the two parallel tracks that sandwiched the street where she lived.

But there were other sounds in the night around Oriang's home. Whispered conversations, mysterious rites and guarded talk of a movement that was enlisting the men of the town. Going out to the fields tilled by her father's tenants, she would chance upon groups of farmers huddled in the brush, and would snatch discreet references to a Supremo who was in town to oversee the progress of recruitment.

Still, on the surface, Kalookan was a small, uneventful town, undisturbed by visitors except on the feast of San Roque on August 16. In spite of the tramway, no crowds passed through except on August 23, when Malabon became the object of pilgrimage by bolo-bearing devotees of San Bartolome.

Local celebrations filled out the rest of Oriang's year. Beautiful and of the petty principalia, she was the town belle who graced religious festivals and was invariably chosen Santa Elena in the Maytime Santacruzan.