Jacinta Zaera de Cailles
Jacinta Zaera de Cailles (b. July 3, 1885- d. January 13,1949), "The Modern Tandang Sora", was born in Sta. Cruz, Laguna. Her parents were Irineo Zaera, a Spaniard, and Justina Vallejo, a Filipina. In her town, she is fondly called "Doña Intang" or "Señora, the kindhearted". She married General Juan Cailles when she was only fifteen and was blessed with one child, a girl who died at the age of eighteen in a motorboat accident. Her husband was a noted revolutionary leader during the Spanish and American regime. She had a stabilizing influence on his career as the chief executive of Laguna for over thirty years.
While Jacinta did not have formal education, she rose to be a great civic leader, an indefatigable social worker and one of the country's leading feminists. Her success is attributed to her humanitarian, nationalistic, and patriotic inclinations.
Doña Intang sponsored deserving students from poor families by paying for their tuition fees or all their school miscellaneous expenses. As a philanthropist, Doña Intang also supported the communities by giving rice and money to the least fortunate people not only during Christmas but the whole year round. She also gave donations to civic and charitable institutions. Having experienced poverty when her father died, she was filled with a desire to help the poor and the needy.
During the revolution, Doña Intang stood by her husband, by helping him prepare the war materials and many other things. She also assisted in preparation of food for his men and took care of the sick and wounded. After the surrender of General Emilio Aguinaldo and his men, her husband was designated military governor of Laguna and Tayabas (now Quezon) province. As the wife of the governor, she had civic activities and she counseled many people to go back to their farms and lead peaceful lives.
When the civil government was established in 1901, her husband was appointed civil governor of the province of Laguna. Doña Intang had even more opportunities to be of service to the people and she continued participating in civic affairs with more fervor and enthusiasm. She listened attentively to the problems of the people, brought their concerns to the attention of the appropriate person or office, and helped in seeking solutions to the problems. Her magnetic personality drew people close to her, thus making her a very good mediator. She could establish rapport with ease, so others came to her for guidance and counselling. She had successfully aided in creating a good image for her husband. When the first election for governor was held, General Juan Cailles was elected. He was re-elected many times, with a record of thirty years as the governor of Laguna, an unbeatable record for a public official.
Doña Intang as a devoted wife help a lot to her husband politically, socially, and economically. As years passed by, politics became a more expensive undertaking and the governor's salary proved inadequate to meet the huge expenditures of a politician. A great portion of his salary went to the Cailles Scholarship Fund which took care of the tuition fees of the students of poor parents. Being a resourceful woman, Doña Intang remedied this by operating lumber concessions and organizing small business enterprises. She supplemented their income and provided employment to many residents, especially those near the mountains.
This wonderful couple appeared to be destined for public service. When General Cailles retired from politics, he was designated member of the National Defense Board in 1936. Later in 1940, he became the President of the Board of Pension for Veterans of the Philippines Revolution. Hundreds of aging veterans came to the couple to claim their rights for pension. Many were poor that they had to be given transportation fare to get back home. Many wives of the veterans approached the "Señora" to intercede on their behalf.
During the Pacific war, when the Japanese took over the government, Doña Intang gave her full support to the guerrillas-financially, materially, and morally.
Up to the last moments of her life people came to her for help. When she died on January 13, 1949, many people cried and mourned. At the funeral procession, one could see a very long line of mourners coming from all walks of life-some elegantly dressed, others walking barefoot. She was a great loss to the people.
- de Guzman,Jovita V.,Vicente A. Santiago,Remedios T. de Leon and Teresita E. Erestain. Women Of Distinction; Biographical Essays on Outstanding Filipino Women of the Past and the Present. Philippines: Bukang Liwayway, 1967