The Yan family has its roots in Pagsanjan, Laguna.
Pagsanjan, by any standard, is a small town — approximately 36,000 residents in 7,500 households in some 43 square kilometers. It sits along the Pagsanjan River, 101 kilometers south of Manila.
The name “Pagsanjan” is a short version of “pinagsangahan,” which was the original name of the barrio which sat where the Balanac and Bumbungan Rivers merged to become one. It is here where Japanese and Chinese traders founded the town in 1668, originally as a barrio of the neighboring town of Lumban. In December of that same year, the then-Governor of Laguna, General Manuel Dela Peña Bonifaz, issued a proclamation declaring the barrio as a town. (It was also then that the town was formally renamed to “Pagsanjan,” because the Spaniards could not pronounce the polysyllabic Pinagsangahan.) Twenty years later, in 1688, it replaced the town of Bay as the capital of Laguna. It remained such until 1858, during which it bloomed as the cultural and commercial center of the province.
According to family records which date back to 1719, the family’s patriarch is Don Antonio de la Resurecciόn, born on April 17, 1735. The last to use the de la Resurecciόn name was his great grandson, Graciano.
Graciano Cosme de la Resurecciόn was born on December 18, 1831 and his wife Maria Limcuando Fernandez on August 31, 1834. They were married on February 16, 1859. They had 10 children — Ambrosia (1859-1933), Tomasa (1830-1938), Guadalupe (1862-1916), Jose (1864-1924), Lucia (1866-1935), Mariano (1867-1929), Isabel (1869-1870), Carlos (1870-1903), Ramon (1872-1941) and Roque (1879-1960).
This generation of 10 children was the first to use the family name “Yan.”
My family comes from the “Mariano branch” — my grandfather was Mariano Fernandez Yan, born October 6, 1867 and died August 25, 1929. He was married to Dolores Gertrudes Salem.
My father was Mariano “Menito” Salem Yan, born August 28, 1917 and died March 13, 1987. He married my mother, Emerenciana “Dolly” Casado, on May 1, 1946. He had just ended his service in the Philippine Army in World War II.
They had three children — myself and my two siblings, Albert and Louie. Each of us has one child. Rica and I have Daniel James (DJ), TC and Albert have Kimberly Ann (Kimmie), and Debbie and Louie have Jordan. Chronologically, Kimmie came first, followed by Jordan. DJ is the youngest.
We all live in the US now, although Albert has made quite a few trips back to the Philippines, since his work takes him to China, Hongkong, and some other Asian countries.
All our children grew up in California, though the three of them have varying degrees of “Filipinization” — the most “Filipinized” being DJ, who still loves adobo, pongki-pongki, longganisa, tilapia and bangus, among other Filipino foods. Jordan spent his college freshman year in Ateneo, coaching the school’s soccer team, before he came back to finish his studies. Kimmie is working in the entertainment industry, intent on being a producer of a successful TV series.
Through the generations, a number of Pagsanjenos have risen to prominence in national circles.
In the military, there have been six generals and one commodore — more than any other town in the Philippines. The most recognized is Gen. Manuel T. Yan, who became Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. He subsequently became Ambassador to Thailand and the Court of St. James, but is best remembered for the many years of effort he put into resolving the age-old conflict between Filipinos and Filipino-Muslim dissidents in Mindanao. Other Pagsanjenos of general rank include Brigadier General Fidel Llamas, Brigadier General Elias Lavadia, Brigadier General Cipriano Ramiro, and Brigadier General Luis (Bobby) Rivera. The lone navy commodore from Pagsanjan is Commodore Remo Lavadia.
Mario Montenegro was born in Pagsanjan of a Filipino father and French mother. In his teen years as a member of the famed Hunters ROTC guerillas, he became an active fighter against the Japanese. In later years, he became a matinee idol, and was nominated thrice for Best Actor awards by FAMAS. His family home still stands in Pagsanjan. He died in 1988.
Two generations later came teenage idol Rico Yan (a grandson of Gen. Manuel Yan). He died at a young age but touched the hearts of millions of fans.
He had, before his death, formed a foundation called “Pinoy Yan!,” a non-profit organization that aims to make young people stay in school and value education. He died in 2002 of pancreatitis.
He graduated from La Salle, and his funeral was one of the largest in Philippine history, and millions lined the route to the cemetery.
Dr. Francisco Benitez was an eminent educator and first Dean of the U.P. College of Education. Dean Conrado Benitez, founder of the U.P. College of Business Administration was a great professor of economics. Helen Z. Benitez, (daughter of Dean Conrado Benitez) became President of the Philippine Women’s University; Don Vicente Fabella was founder of the Jose Rizal College. Professor Arturo Guerrero was president of the Trinity College (Quezon City).