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Pioneering Years

To be correct, the history of Scouting in the Philippines must go back to the beginning of the American occupation of the islands, which makes it one of the oldest in the world. This is supported by a wealth of information about the history of Scouting in the Philippines in a book written by Mr. Alfonso J. Aluit entitled "A Bequest of Hope" in 1973.

The movement reached the United States with the formal incorporation of the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. There are accounts that say that the Americans took steps to bring Scouting to the Philippines incident to the colonization of the country after 1910 and that, in fact, there were Boy Scout units in Manila by 1912.

These accounts are believable becuase the U.S. government in those times was engaged in a pacification campaign here in the aftermath of the bloody Philippine-American war. These accounts are contained in a book entitled "The Boy Scout Story," which is about the beginning of Scouting in America by Charles Oursler published in 1955.

The book recalls that at one meeting of the BSA Committee on Organization, a report was submitted stating that "Scoutmasters have been enrolled approximately 2,500 (from) 44 States in the Union and our two dependencies, Puerto Rico and the Philippine." Another reference to the Philippines in the book was about the first meeting of the BSA National Council in Washington in 1911. The book quoted the BSA Executive Secretary, Dr. James E. West, as announcing the formation of troops not only in continental United States "but also in Puerto Rico, Honolulu, and Manila." Dr. West ran the BSA for 32 years from 1911 to 1943.

These statements, while sketchy, were confirmed by disclosures across the Atlantic by Lord Robert Baden-Powell himself. He wrote an article in the July 27, 1912 issue of "The Scout," a publication of the British Scout Association, about a trip he made to the Philippines in the summer of that year.

Baden-Powell described the Philippines and Filipinos in detail in his article. At one point, he observed, "Filipinos are very fond of music, and almost every boy would (try to ) get our Musician's Badge." And when he came to describe the products of the Philippines like coconut, hemp, sugar, and tobacco, he added, "But there are also some still more important products in the Manila and other neighboring towns. I think I need scarcely tell you, these are Boy Scouts."

This 1912 article carried a sub-heading "Boy Scouts of the Philippines," full 24 years before the BSP came into being.

Mr. Aluit said what is established by Robert Baden-Powell's article is that by 1912 there was a (or were) Boy Scout troop(s) functioning in Manila. What is not known is whether they were Filipinos or Americans.

The First Filipino Troop

InvestitureThe earliest documention on Scouting in the Philippines was the formation of an all-Muslim troop in Zamboanga in 1914. The story is documented not only in pictures but also with the testimony of two surviving members of the troop in 1973.
It was the early years of the American occupation. The initiative came from Mrs. Caroline S. Spencer, an American who was in the Philippines to do works of charity with the natives of Sulu. Assigned to arrange for her transportation and to accompany her during her trips to various islands in the archipelago was 2nd Lt. Sherman L. Kiser.

In one of their trips, Mrs. Spencer noticed small boys wandering aimlessly and she wondered aloud about having someone to worry about providing direction to their lives. She suggested to the young 2nd Lt. to forma Boy Scout troop. It was natural for Mrs. Spencer to suggest this because her son, Lorillard Spencer Jr., was active in Scouting in the United States.

Community ProjectUnfortunately, Kiser was soon reassigned to Zamboanga and Mrs. Spencer herself had to return to the U.S. and so the plan to form a troop did not materialize in Sulu. However, Kiser decided to carry out the plan in Zamboanga, seeing the same situation with the local boys. He formed a troop of 26 boys, all Muslim, and the community responded enthusiastically. Kiser wrote later that when Mrs. Spencer heard about the good news, she sent enough money to buy uniforms and construct a headquarters for the boys.

The boys took Oath on November 15, 1914. The troop was called Lorillard Spencer Troop, after the son of Mrs. Spencer.

Other Troops

There are other accounts that mention the formation of other troops elsewhere, including in Corregidor where 2nd Lt. Kiser was assigned later, but there are no records of details of these. Another is the account of a troop that was formed in Boac, Marinduque by 16-year old Celso Mirafuente in 1922 on the basis of a BSA handbook and clippings of Boys Life magazine that came into his possession.

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