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José Escaler, lawyer extraordinaire

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It’s a pity that nowadays, it’s almost impossible to find a principled lawyer made from genuine intellectuality such as José Escaler of Pampanga. What we have instead are unprincipled lawyers molded from genuine lies.

It’s also a shame that the glory brought by this illustrious Pampangueño to his fellow Cabalens would years later be tainted by the arrival of perhaps the most corrupt president this archipelago has ever known.

Today we commemorate his birth anniversary. Below is a brief biographical sketch of this lawyer extraordinaire from Apalit, Pampanga. It was written by Héctor K. Villaroel (from the 1965 book Eminent Filipinos which was published by the National Historical Commission, a precursor of today’s National Historical Institute).

JOSÉ ESCALER
(1885-1927)

José Escaler, intellectual, lawyer, industrialist, and businessman, was born in Apalit, Pampanga, on January 19, 1885, the eldest of six children of Manuel Escaler and Sabina Sioco.

He obtained his early education from private tutors; afterwards, he studied at San Juan de Letrán, where he finished his segunda enseñanza at the head of his class in 1897. His studies were briefly interrupted during the Revolution. When peace was restored, he studied at the Liceo de Manila, where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree with highest honors in 1903. In 1905, he earned his Bachelor of Laws from the Escuela de Derecho at the head of his class; after which he left for the United States and Europe and studied briefly at Yale and Oxford universities. In 1909, he returned to the Philippines and took and passed the bar examinations.

In recognition of his educational attainment, he was elected president of the Philippine Columbian Association for several terms and made vice-president of Club Filipino. Meanwhile, after a brief apprenticeship in the law office of William Kincaid, a noted American lawyer, he was made the latter’s junior law partner. Later, he established his own office in Intramuros, with Quintín Salas as his partner.

As a public servant, he started as clerk of the Philippine Assembly; then became attorney of the City of Manila; and, in 1916, was appointed first Assistant Director of Education. The following year, he was appointed Undersecretary of Justice; and, in 1918, acting President of the University of the Philippines, where he had served earlier as member of the Board of Regents and as professorial lecturer.

Escaler was one of the most active businessmen of his generation. He was at one time vice-president and director of several commercial enterprises. A firm believer in the country’s economic progress, he stressed that government intervention in the economic realm was inevitable, that technical know-how must be developed, and that research facilities and laboratories should be established.

Not being a person of very strong constitution, his health soon broke down. He left for Europe to rest and recuperate, but it was too late. He returned to Manila in January 1927, and died on February 17 of a heart ailment. Escaler married Aurea Ocampo on June 26, 1915, by whom he had seven children.

Oh where have all the gentlemen from the old school gone?

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