Sunteți pe pagina 1din 2



Outstanding Educator ad Historian

Born on December 21, 1892 in San Fernando, La Union, Nicolas Zafra was an outstanding educator, historian, writer, and Rizalist. His parents, both of prominent families, were Pia Alviar and Eugenio Zafra, whose manner of death, while in exile in Balabac in 1898, was never ascertained. He had one sister and two brothers. The Zafra family was quite active in local politics at the time.

He obtained his elementary and part of his secondary education in San Fernando. He then transferred to the prestigious Manila High School, where he graduated in 1912. For college, he attended the University of the Philippines, where he acquired three degrees: Bachelor of Arts in 1916; Bachelor of Education in 1918; and Master of Arts, major in history, in1920.

He received his master’s degree while he was also taking up a few subjects in law. Apparently, he was thinking of pursuing a law course at the time. Subsequently, however, he abandoned it in order to concentrate on his career as a teacher.

Zafra began his career in 1917, as assistant instructor in the department of history of the U.P. From 1939 to 1940, he pursued graduate studies in history at the University of Minnesota. Thereafter, his rise in the U.P. academic hierarchy was sure and steady. He became full professor and head of the history department in 1948, serving as such for a full ten years. A few years later, still head of the history department, he was appointed member of the Social Science Research Center (SSRC) upon its organization under its chairman Dean Tomas Fonacier of the U.P. College of Liberal Arts. His fellow members included Prof. Gabriel A. Bernardo, Dr. Cecilio Lopez, Dr. Ricardo R. Pascual, and Prof. Carmen P. Talavera.

From 1952 to 1953, he was a Fullbright research grantee. In 1955, he was invited by the America Academy of Asian Studies in San Francisco as its visiting professor.

Zafra did not confine himself to the academe. Believing that inculcating historical awareness among the people, especially the young, was a major responsibility of every historian, he took active part in the propagation of its study by joining historical ad other professional groups. He was a member of the Philippine Historical association, Philippine National Historical Society, National Research Council of the Philippines, and the International Association Historians of Asia. These prestigious institutions were all involved in local and international conferences and seminars on history. He also undertook investigations and researches into Philippine historical landmarks and personalities, both prominent and obscure, as well as prepared and wrote historical biographies, particularly of the members of the Malolos Congress, and the text of various historical markers.

His expert knowledge of Jose Rizal and his life eminently qualified him to head the committee formed to review The First Filipino, the outstanding biography of the national hero written by Leon Ma. Guerrero, against which a Rizal descendant had raised some pertinent points. Guided by his zealous scholarship ad strict adherence to accuracy, the committee painstakingly studied the parts in question during long-drawn out meetings before submitting its findings to the Rizal Centennial Committee which, in turn, undertook the finalization of the biography after the necessary corrections had been made.

In 1967, he was also asked by the Order of the Knights of Rizal to head a committee tasked to review various works on Rizal for any erroneous data, a task that affirmed what he had always maintained: that a historian’s work was to give an objective and accurate account.

His books on history include Historicity of Rizal’s Retraction (Bookmark,1961); A Short History of the Philippines (1966); Philippine History Through Selected Sources (1967); Oriental History (co-authored with Ganzon).

In 1963, the University of the Philippines conferred on him the rare title of professor emeritus of history. Capping the other honors he received – including the one he shared with his family in 1965, the Papal Award for being one of the “Outstanding Catholic Families of the Philippines”, was the Cultural Heritage Award, which the government presented to him in 1969.

Zafra was married to a fellow academician, Professor Luz Alzona. daughters: Sister Lourdes, a nun, and Felicidad. He died on January 7, 1979.


They had two














Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 1985.

Fancia, Nancy. “History Without Hesitation: The Birth Centennial of Historian Nicolas Zafra.” Philippine Panorama. December 20, 1992.

NHI Files (Biographies)

Picture: NHI Files (Biographies)