#CulturePH - #FindingNellie: Olongapo mystery solved by father-daughter team

A friend from elementary school gave Dr. Leo De Castro, a philosophy professor at the University of the Philippines, four birthday cakes on November 6, 2021. Nellie E. Brown Elementary School (NEBES), a public school in Olongapo City, is where they both attended.

Olongapo, which faces the West Philippine Sea and is connected to Subic Bay, is well-known for having been a US Naval Base from 1901 until 1959. Olongapo's placenames, which include foreign names for streets, schools, and enterprises, tell tales of this era. The majority of these names may be easily linked to American presidents, local government figures, and former navy personnel stationed there.

But who was Nellie E. Brown?

This is the question that Leo’s daughter, Ellie, kept asking. Her Dada, his brothers, and the people they grew up with apparently didn’t know.

There are many stories about who Nellie could have been: a teacher, a volunteer, or maybe even a business owner. But no one knows for certain as official documents about the school’s first days are missing. The official history of NEBES, as documented by the Department of Education, mentions that Nellie was a Peace Corps volunteer who helped build the school. However, the timing doesn’t match: the Peace Corps started only in 1961, while the school was founded in 1953.

Why was a school named after her? And why doesn’t anyone seem to know?

Finding Nellie

What Ellie thought would be a quick Google search turned out to be an adventure that has lasted more than two years.

Finding Nellie is a project that has made a team of National Geographic explorers (archaeologists, educators, and storytellers) scour through offline and online archives in the Philippines and abroad; inquire with libraries, cemeteries, historians, and even active and retired U.S. military personnel; get in touch with local politicians (even a Senator!); and message anyone who might remotely be related to a Nellie Brown on social media, via telephone, and even by knocking on their doors. On Instagram, the team shares every step of this journey through its colorful and interactive Field Notes.  

With the help of the National Geographic Society, Finding Nellie has allowed Ellie and her teammates to connect and reconnect with friends and family; foster an appreciation for community roots; and bring world history lessons a little closer to home – especially to the current students of Nellie E. Brown.

Two years and a few months later, the team is ready to announce: that Nellie has been found.

On April 11, 2024, Finding Nellie, led by Ellie De Castro, will announce the official identity of Nellie E. Brown. The event will be held at the grounds of Nellie E. Brown Elementary School, from 7:00-9:30 a.m., in front of the school’s current students, faculty, and the City of Olongapo’s active community participants.  It will be followed by an interactive exhibit that showcases the team’s journey of #FindingNellie. 

For more details, visit the project’s online spaces:

Instagram: @finding.nellie

TikTok: @finding.nellie

Website: https://www.elliedecastro.com/finding-nellie

Team Members’ Biographies

Ellie De Castro 

Ellie is a Filipina archaeologist whose work focuses on finding avenues to connect heritage and youth. She led the Handi Project from 2015-2020, where she organized field trips to bring students from the Ifugao indigenous group to their world-renowned heritage sites, which they previously didn’t have access to. For the Dewil Valley Museum in El Nido, Palawan, she produced educational materials, artwork, and activities for the youth of the valley to engage them with the archaeological sites in their neighborhood. These projects focused on creating opportunities to connect with heritage resources in communities. Ellie seeks to enable participants of her projects to appreciate their homes in a new light and see the wonders of the world in their immediate surroundings. 

She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Basic Medical Sciences degree from the University of the Philippines-Manila and a Master of Science degree in Archaeology from the University of the Philippines-Diliman

Peg Keiner

Peg is an educator in the USA with 17 years of experience, including 4 years as an elementary technology coach and 8 years leading an inquiry-based International Baccalaureate school as the Director of Innovation. She is an Apple Distinguished Educator, Google Earth Education Expert, a 2018 National Geographic Certified Educator, and United Nations Association-Chicago Global Goal Ambassador.  As a 2017 Grosvenor Teacher Fellow, she created immersive 360 content to transport students to Antarctica through inquiry science lessons. As a 2019 Nat Geo Education Fellow, she led the development of a week-long student workshop for GeoChallenge Participants and created the #31daysofcitizenscience video series to amplify the use of citizen science tools. 

She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education and a Master's degree in Instructional Technology and Design from Northern Illinois University.

Rachel Hansen

Rachel is an educator in the USA with 13 years of teaching experience, including 4 years of co-teaching experience with an English teacher, and 2 years spent working on an interdisciplinary team in a project-based program. She has much experience using participatory design and inquiry-based learning in her classroom. In 2021, Rachel was awarded the AP Human Geography Distinguished Teaching Award from the National Council for Geographic Education.

Rachel has endorsements in American History, World History, US Government, and Geography, with a B.A. from The University of Iowa in History. She is finishing her M.A. in Geography at the University of Northern Iowa, where her research focuses on tracking student learning progressions as they engage in map-making to tell stories of their communities.

You can follow me on TwitterInstagram, ThreadsTiktok  & Facebook!
Subscribe to my YouTube Channel.
Thank you!

DISCLAIMER: All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site. The pictures or videos posted here doesn't necessarily mean that it's the owner's property. The owner will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. The owner will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information. 


Popular Posts