Tuesday, February 21, 2017


A DILLER, A DOLLAR, A $500 SCHOLAR. Original batch of Filipino pensionados from 1903, taken in 1904, at Sta. Barbara, California. In this group are at least 3 Kapampangans who studied in U.S. universities as part of the government scholarship program initiated during the Taft administration.

At the end of the Spanish era, it has been estimated that less than one tenth of one percent of the population could be considered educated (roughly a thousand per a million people). Thus, an idea was conceived in 1901, broached first by the Taft Commission, to educate Filipino students in America so they could “acquire a thorough knowledge of the western civilization”.

Mr. William Alexander Sutherland, secretary to Gov. William H. Taft, is credited with planting the seed of the idea, which aimed to bring about closer relations and a better understanding between America and its new wards. Thus, on 26 August 1903, the Philippine Commission passed Act No. 854  that authorized the sending of the first 100 Filipino students to the United States for four years of study in American colleges and universities.

The collective name for these scholars was “pensionados”, which was actually a misnomer, as it is the Spanish equivalent of “pensioner”, a retired person who receives a pension or stipend from a private or government body. Even so, the American administrators stuck to the name, in 1903, and it proved to be the most successful scholarship project ever instituted in the Philippines.

The recipients, carefully selected from all the provinces went on to become the cream of Philippine civil service, academic, professional and entrepreneurial ranks. Mr. Sutherland, who would be named superintendent of the program,  determined that 75 of the first 100 would be culled from the public schools. The rest would be chosen by a committee composed of a Philippine Commission member, the Executive Secretary and Mr. Sutherland,, based on the population and importance of the different provinces.

The pensionado program had three phases that spanned from the Taft governorship to the Commonwealth period, extending to the years before the war.  The most well-known pensionados would be the original batches that would number about 200 scholars.

The scholars were shipped in batches to the United States, the first on 9 October 1903 numbered 104. The “Pensionado Leaving Day” was reported in 22 newspapers, and the send-off was marked with music, oratories and free San Miguel Beer refreshments. Also present was Gov. Taft who advised the boys to keep their feet dry, desist from eating too much candy, and reminded them that they were missionaries of their islands to America.

Thus, armed with their $500 allowance ($5 was allotted for personal expenses), the students began their 30-day journey across the Pacific to chase their dreams in their new mother country. Pampanga was proudly represented by 2 Kapampangans in this pioneering batch. In the succeeding years, a few more would qualify for the pensionado program, and would return back to the Philippines to achieve so much more—as accomplished builders of progress, educators, esteemed doctors, engineers, professionals and as heroes.

ABAD SANTOS, JOSE. (1904, San Fernando)
University of Illinois and George Washington University)
(b. 1886/d,1942)  Abad Santos joined the 2nd batch of pensioandos in 1904 and went to the University of Illinois and George Washington University to take up Law. Fifth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines. Served briefly as the Acting President of the Commonwealth of the Philippines and Acting-Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines during World War II, in behalf of President Quezon after the government went in exile to the United States. Killed by the Japanese forces for refusing to cooperate during their occupation of the country.

BALUYUT, SOTERO (1904, San Fernando)
(b. 1889/ d.  1975). Studied at the Santa Ana Central and High School, California, University Summer Schools of Illinois; and University of Iowa, where he obtainhis Civil Engineering degree. Worked with the Bureau of Public Works on his return to the Philippines, as assistant engineer of Pampanga and Cavite in 1911. Elected governor of Pampanga in 1925, 1928 and 1937-1938 and  served as senator for the Third Senatorial District. Became Secretary of Public Works and Communications in President Quirino’s cabinet.

DATU, MAURO M. (1905, San Fernando)
Studied at Purdue University, Lafayette, Indiana, graduating in 1908. Upon his return, he became a teacher, and then principal of a school in Baliuag, Bulacan. In 1918, he was appointed as an enumerador for Baliuag, for the Philippine census project.

DE LA PAZ, FABIAN (1904, Macabebe)
(b.1889/d.1946 ) De La Paz went to Macomb College in Illinois (now University of Western Illinois) where he earned his education degree. Back in the Philippines, the teacher was appointed Principal of Tondo High School in Manila. He took night classes at the newly opened University of the Philippines in Manila where he finished law. Congressman from 1928-31 (8th Philippine Legislature) and 1931-34 (9th Philippine Legislature).

ESPIRITU, JOSE (1903, Apalit)
 Studied at the State Normal School, Trenton, New Jersey and graduated with a degree in Education.

GOMEZ, LIBORIO (1903, Sto. Tomas)
(b. 1887/d. 1958) Complete his doctoral studies at the University of Chicago in 1908 . Bacteriologist, pathologist,medical educator, scientist. On his return to the Philippines, he served as pathologist at the University of the Philippines, San Juan de Dios Hospital, and Far Eastern University. Served as bacteriologist at the Bureau of Science until 1923 when he was appointed as Professor of Pathology and Bacteriology at the University of the Philippines, College of Medicine.

GUTIERREZ, PERPETUO (1905, Floridablanca)
Went to the College of Physicians and Surgeons and became a specialist in dermatology and venereal diseases, doing graduate work at Columbia and Johns Hopkins Universities. Dr. Gutierrez would later become head of the Department of Medicine at the Institute of Medicine of Far Eastern University.

LICUP, ROMAN  (1905)
Studied at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana and  Armour Institute, Chicago. Joined the government service upon his return and became an assistant manager of the Manila Railroad Company in 1909. He stayed on for over 42 years, but was separated from the company due to internal reorganization. He sued the government, but lost, and died a pauper.

Studied at the Agricultural Collge in Ames, Iowa.

Attended State Normal University in Normal, Illinois.  In Sutherland’s list, he is identified as a Pampanga student, but the records of FANHS (Filipino American National Historical Society) lists him as coming from Manila.

Attended the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Chicago, Illinois. His roommate was Jose Abad Santos. Became an assistant professor of surgery upon his return to the Philippines .Was a charter fellow of the Philippine College of Surgeons. He was one of Pres. Quezon’s trusted physicians. His daughter is the operatic singer, TV, movie and theater personality, Fides Asencio-Cuyugan.

Nothing is known about him, not even his school he attended is known.

http://www.orosa.org/The%20Philippine%20Pensionado%20Story3.pdf  The Pensionado Story

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

*422. San Fernando's LOURDES S. SINJIAN, Dama de Honor, Manila Carnival 1924

OUR LADY OF LOURDES. The statuesque Unding was a princess in the Manila Carnival court of Queen Trinidad Fernandez. She was a grandchild of former San Fernando gobernadorcillo (1844-1875), Don Bernardino Singian de Miranda.Author's Collection.

The earliest known Kapampangan participant in the Manila Carnival of which there is pictorial documentation is Lourdes Sinjian (Filipinized into Singian) of San Fernando. There was another Kapampangan entrant by the name of Benita S. Reyes who topped the preliminary voting in Pampanga, but apparently, her candidacy did not prosper and virtually nothing is known about her.

On the other hand, Lourdes did much better, joining the court of the 1924 Manila Carnival Queen, Trinidad Fernandez, as one of the 6 lovely “damas”. Lourdes, nicknamed “Unding”, (b. 23 October 1903) was the grandchild of Don Bernardino Singian de Miranda (former gobernadorcillo of San Fernando where he served several terms between 1844-1875) with second wife Clemencia Gotiangco of San Fernando. Her parents were Anselmo Singian and Paz Soler.

A statuesque “mestiza Española”, she spoke flawless Spanish, Kapampangan, Pilipino and Cantonese, in a voice that was strong and vibrant. Her patrician manners only served to complement her elegant bearing. At the coronation of the Queen, she was escorted by another mestizo, Ito Kahn. 

A niece, Gabriela D’Aquino recalls that during the Japanese Occupation, Unding’s imposing height and no-nonsense demeanor served her family in good stead. Japanese officers who had come to invite her young cousins to parties were often intimidated by Unding and left the house alone.

 After the war, Lourdes and her mother went to Hong Kong, to follow her sister Maria Paz (Nenita) who had left the Philippines to marry a Hong Kong native, Gaston D’Aquino. Choosing to reside in the British Colony, Lourdes was never at a loss for company. Vicente Singian, for example, was the Philippine consul in Hong Kong in the 1950s. The famed surgeon Dr. Gregorio Singian, together with his wife, made frequent travels there as well. Both were her cousins. 

 Relatives would recall that Lourdes made a perfect tour guide whenever family members came a-visiting. In one such shopping spree at a Hong Kong store, she would pretend to be a stranger, but when she would sense a dishonest deal, she would berate the shop owner in eloquent Cantonese! 

With her relatives though, Lourdes spoke in Kapampangan, often reminiscing about her days in Pampanga and Manila. Lourdes did not leave Hong Kong until her mother, Paz, fell ill and had to be flown back to Manila for treatment at Clinica Singian. After her mother’s death, she remained in the Philippines only to return to Hong Kong in the 1960s to care for her ailing sister Nenita.

 Upon the death of her sister, Lourdes took over the household and continued raising her sister’s children Gaby, Gaston Jr. and Gerardo, running a household with discipline and efficiency. Known for being nimble and spritely even in her old age, Lourdes remained unmarried until her death in Hong Kong on 4 July 1993. Her remains were brought back and interred at the Mount Carmel Church in Manila.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

421. FRAY BALDOMERO ABADIA: Martyr of O’Donnell

SACRIFICE IN O'DONNELL. The saintly Recoleto, Fr. Baldomero Abadia, who was a friend to two holy men--St. Ezekiel Moreno and Bl. Vicente Pinillo,  met his martyrdom in O'Donnell, Tarlac, a casualty of the Philippine Revolution.

That Kapampangans' reverence and love for their Augustinian friars could be gleaned from the many letters of praises written by town leaders and local folks, kept in the archdiocesan archives of Manila and in Spain. Many of these include requests for extension of the friars' terms, due to their good deeds and selfless service. Indeed,  the 18th-century chronicler Fray Gaspar de San Agustin described the faithful of Pampanga as being “ very good Christians, most respectful of their ministers.”

This kindly and accommodating attitude, however, was severely put to a test during the Philippine Revolution against the repression of Spain. The revolutionists’ growing animosity towards their colonial master spilled over to the Catholic church and its leaders, with fatal consequences.

One such tragic victim of circumstance was the saintly Fray Baldomero Abadia. Abadia was born in Jarque del Moncayo in 1871. His father Marcos had this idea of naming his sons after Queen Isabel’s generals—and so this son was named after the Prince of Vergara, Don Baldomero Espartero. His older brother had earlier been named Leopoldo, after the first Duke of Tetuan, Don Leopoldo O’Donnell.

Baldomero entered the Recoletos community of Monteagudo, Navarre province, where, on 4 October 1887,  he professed his vows.  During his stay at the rectory, he became acquainted with two future holy men—St. Ezekiel Moreno, who, in 1885 had just returned from the Philippines to be chaplain at the Augustinian Rectory at Monteagudo. The saint corresponded with  Baldomero before he embarked for Colombia in 1888.

With Blessed Vicente Ibanez Pinilla, Fray Abadia formed a lasting friendship.  They were after all, from the same province of Zaragoza (Pinilla was from Calatayud town), and knew each other’s families. Their friendship would even deepen when they had their 5-year philosophical and theological formation in the convents of San Millán de la Cogolla (La Rioja) and Marcilla (Navarra). The two missionary priests would make a trip to Philippines together, arriving in Manila on 18 September 1892.

Initially, both were assigned in Manila, but Fr. Pinilla was shuttled from Mindoro to Manila and back to Mindoro where revolutionists held him captive in Bongabong. His superiors thus recalled him from the Philippines and shipped him to Brazil. He would be martyred in Motril, Granada in 1936, along with seven others, during the Spanish Civil War. He and his companions were beatified by Pope John Paul II on 7 March 1999.

Meanwhile, Fr. Abadia’s assignment took him to Alaminos. Sometime in January 1896, he was made parish priest of a newly created O’Donnell town in Tarlac, a canny coincidence as the town—like the friar’s brother, Leopoldo O’Donnell—had been named after the same Spanish general. There, Fr. Abadia worked with tirelsslsy, unmindful of the dangers of a brewing revolution.  Historiologist Fray Francisco Sadaba noted of his work inn Tarlac:  "There he fulfilled the functions of his sacred ministry, for he was a young man of angelic customs and a truly apostolic spirit."

But at the end of August 1896, the Philippine revolution had exploded, spreading  quickly from Manila to the border provinces. Several Recoletos were murdered, and Fray Baldomero found himself in the danger zone. In his last letter to his family dated Oct. 27, he calmly reassured them that, for his safety, he was sleeping in the soldiers' barracks.

But he was not safe at all—Fr. Abadia  could not trust even his own parishioners. On October 31, Filipino insurgent troops entered O'Donnell and, as Sadaba described his cruel passing, the revolucionarios  "inhumanly sacrificed him in hatred of Religion and Spain." Fray Baldomero Abadia was not even 27 years old.

Romanillos, Emmanuel Luis A. The Augustinian Recollects in the Philippines, Hagiography and History., Recoletos Communications Inc. 2001.

Sunday, January 22, 2017


DAY OF ALL DAYS. The town motorcade is one of the highlights of the pre-war High School Day celebrations of Holy Angel Academy, with thematic floats created by different classes taking centerstage on Angeles roads.1940s.Personal collection.

The stirrings of an imminent global war were already being felt in Europe in 1941, as Germany’s assaults continued all over Europe and in Africa. London had been bombed, and the U.S. had also been girding for war in the Pacific with the appointment of Admiral Husband Kimmel as Commander of the US Navy. News of the impending spread of the escalating war made the front-page of newspapers every day.

But to students of Holy Angel Academy in Angeles, the war--in 1941--seemed far, far away. Since its founding in 1934, Holy Angel Academy had grown to become a premiere school in the province, with a reputation for accessible, quality education, known for a perfect balance of academics and activities. At least, for now, the war was no cause for worry,

That year’s edition of Holy Angel’s High School Days was truly special, as a new high school building had just been completed in the sprawling campus. The week-long event from 18-23 February was packed with many activities that would be hailed and talked about by local papers for days.

The kick-off event began on February 18, Tuesday, with an English operetta, “The Magic Ruby”, staged for the public by students. The stage décor, the costumes, and the performance of the actors earned rave reviews, but the highly-anticipated Wednesday parade got even more enthusiastic media responses. Each high school class fielded a carroza (float) that visualized a relevant theme.

A reporter from Pamitic, a local paper, gushes: “ Ding carroza mipapatlu la casanting…Quing iquit cu queting parade, aburi queng dili ing macabansag “POWER”, uling masanting yang tutu sasabian. Queting carru, lerawan de ding qñg cuartu añu, ing TRES CAIDA na ning Apung Guinu. Qñg lugal ning Apung Guinu, binili reng mamusan qñg cruz ning Democracia. Iting tragedia ning Democracia tatañgalan nang Juan de la Cruz at Uncle Sam cabang ding bansang-upaya macapadirit la qñg Democraciang misubsub. Ila ding Judios?” (The floats are beautiful…In what I have seen in the parade, the one that I like most was the one that had for its theme-“POWER. The float was made by seniors  in the manner of the “Third Fall of Christ”. In place of his cross,  Christ is made to hold the Cross of Democracy.  Juan de la Cruz and Uncle Sam stare at this tragic scene, while powerful countries surround the “fall of democracy. Do they represent the Jews?)

Also joining the parade of floats was Miss Holy Angel Academy, Maria Narciso, who was met with resounding applause from people who lined up the road to watch the colorful proceedings. “Cabud iquit me,  aguiang emu uculan, macapacpac ca. Ing jinjin na bague na ning cayang lagu!”.  (Once you see her, you will instinctively clap. Her demure manner fit her beauty!)

Day 3 ( 20 Feb.) was Field Day, in which calisthenics demonstrations, folk dances and games were held on the school grounds. Notable was the “Bailes de Ayer”, choreographed by Miss Aranda and danced by the high school seniors, which included the reigning Miss HAA, Maria Narciso and Miss 4th Year, Clara Setzer. “Iting terac da, e ca marine”, the same reporter noted,  “apaquilimpu mu qñg masanting diling folk dance king America at Europa” (You'll be proud of their dance;  it can stand alongside the best folk dances of America and Europe) .  As for the games, ”Spot the Spot” drew the most participation and enjoyment.

On Friday, 21 February, different high schools from Pampanga vied for the governor’s tropy—Copa Baluyut—in the military exercise competitions. Adding excitement to the contest was the presence of the Philippine Army Band which thrilled the audience with various march music. Five officials from Camp Del Pilar and Camp Olivas judged the drill contest that was hotly contested by Guagua Institute and Stotsenburg Institute. In the end, the cadets from Guagua Institute won the coveted Sotero Baluyut Trophy. The host contingent from Holy Angel did not win, but their bevy of corps sponsors were adjudged the most beautiful.

Saturday saw the return of HAA alumni in a grand homecoming, and the re-staging of “The Magic Ruby” in the evening that was open to the general public. The High School Days drew to a close with an exciting basketball tournament highlight. The  school was jampacked with students and Angeleños who watched  the nationally-ranked U.S.T. college team play against an elite MICAA (Manila Industrial and Commercial Athletic Association) selection.

In just 10 months, the Japanese would attack Pearl Harbor, and then invadethe Philippines on 8 December.  World War II would take away much from Pampanga, but not the memories of that year’s Holy Angel’s High School Day—six special days that are still fondly remembered by oldtimers and alumni who witnessed these and all—“ding mangasanting nang pepalto ning Holy Angel..”.

Ing Pamitic, local weekly Kapampangan newspaper, February 1941 issues.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

419. REV. FR. SIXTO M. MANALOTO: A Story of a Generous Soul

THE BENEVOLENT REVEREND. Rev. Fr. Sixto M. Manaloto, long-time cura parocco of San Bartolome Parish, Magalang, Pampanga. Signed photo given to Fr. Maximino Manuguid of Mabalacat. 1915.

The big-hearted Kapampangan religious with a reputation for his boundless generosity and his enduring passion to serve God and people was born Sixto Malino Manaloto on  6 July 1891 in Capas, Tarlac. Though Tarlac-born, Fr. Manaloto would make a lasting impression on Magaleños, serving their parish for an unprecedented period of nearly 30 years.

The young Sixto found God’s calling early in life, and at the age of 14, entered the Seminario de San Francisco Javier (the name given by the Jesuits, upon their return to the Philippines, to Colegio de San José) in 1905. In the beginning of the school year 1911-1912, Manaloto, along with seminarians Pedro Guevara, Felix Martin, Emilio de la Cruz and  Santiago Talavera, were admitted to San Carlos Seminary on Arzobispado Street beside the San Ignacio Church.

Hardly had he settled for a month in San Carlos when he and his fellow Carlistas were ordered to move back to San Francisco Javier as the Jesuit administration of San Carlos lapsed on 17 August 1911.  San Carlos would later be merged with San Francisco Javier Seminary on Padre Faura St., until the latter’s closure in 1913.

That same year, San Carlos Seminary was transferred by Manila Archbishop Jeremiah James Harty to a building in Mandaluyong, and would be put in the charge of the Paules (Vincentians) . It was here that Manaloto finished his studies in Sacred Theology and Philosophy. On 8 December 1915, feast of the Immaculate Conception, Sixto Manaloto was ordained into priesthood by Archbishop Harty himself.

Fresh from his ordination, the young prelate was sent off to Pangasinan to undertake his first assignments in the municipalities of Agno and Bani. Then , he hied off to his home province to minister in Victoria, Tarlac, and then secured assignments in Pampanga—first in Sta. Ana, and then, in 1923, in Magalang, succeeding Fr. Felipe Romero. There,  he would remain until his death.

As cura parocco of the San Bartolome Parish, Fr. Manaloto, he is known for his major restoration works on the ancient church, including the replacement of the supporting wooden columns of the lateral aisles with sturdier concrete cement posts.

He also opened a parochial school that served the youths of Magalang. Likewise, the good father sent poor, but deserving students to Manila, many of whom eventually returned as professionals and became leaders of the community. Fr. Manaloto also took  to raising foster children, a few of whom were his own nephews.  He lived to celebrate his sacerdotal silver jubilee of his ordination, with a big “boda de plata” party held in Magalang on 18 December 1940.

He died on 30 March 1952 at age 61, after serving his beloved adopted town for 29 years and 7 days. A commemorative plaque can be found in the church, which pays tribute to this magnanimous man of God and his selfless contribution to the spiritual upliftment of Magalang and its people.

Monday, January 2, 2017


TWO CROWNING GLORIES: Sisters Yvonne Berenguer-de los Reyes (Miss Philippines 1955) and  Simonette (Bb. Pilipinas 1970) both carried the country's flag at the Miss Universe Beauty Pageant, fifteen years apart. Their mother, Marietta, comes from the prominent Reyes-Berenguer-Linares family of Arayat.

In the history of Philippine beauty pageantry,  no feat is as unprecedented as what two sisters of Kapampangan lineage accomplished in 1955 and 1970 respectively.  They were both crowned as Miss Philippines, chosen to represent the country in the premiere global contest of feminine pulchritude: the Miss Universe Beauty Pageant. Thus, Yvonne and Simonette Berenguer-de los Reyes, achieved what many thought was impossible—of winning the same crown, the same title, and competing in the same international pageant—fifteen years apart!

The sisters were the daughters of Crisanto de los Reyes y Mendoza, and Marietta Berenguer y Linares of Arayat, Pampanga.  Their mother’s parents, Jose Flores Berenguer  and Simona Reyes Linares,  came from prominent families of the mountain town (Note: Renowned interior designer-decorator, Mercedes “Ched” Berenguer-Topacio  is a cousin). From their father’s side, Yvonne and Simonette count several beauties as relatives: 1929 Miss Philippine Carnival Pacita delos Reyes, 1954 Miss Philippines Blesilda Ocampo and Tingting de los Reyes.

The sisters’ impeccable  pedigree would serve them well in their quest for a beauty crown. 1955 was just the third year of the Philippine participation to the annual Miss Universe. The year before, Blesilda Mueller Ocampo,  did well in Long Beach, California, by placing in the semifinals. 

The pageant,  founded in 1952 by clothing company Pacific Mills, is considered to be the most prestigious, and most important of all beauty concourses, then, as now. Winners came home to their country to tumultuous welcome, honored as heroes, treated as royalties, and showered with privileges from their governments, like being given tax exemptions for life and immortalized in postage stamps. 

Gamin-faced Yvonne was one of the candidates who converged at the Miss Philippines finals on 12 March 1955 at the Cavalcade Hall Auditorium of United Nations Plaza. That year, Audrey Hepburn was the toast of showbiz, and Yvonne’s delicate elfin Hepburn look was not lost on the judges.  She was named Miss Philippines 1955, crowned  by her own own cousin, Bessie, with whom she shares the same paternal great-grandparents (Crisanto Mendoza de los Reyes and Dorotea Silverio).

 Yvonne’s court included Lucy del Prado (Miss Luzon),  Annie Gonzales (Miss Visayas) and Annie Corrales (Miss Mindanao). She flew to Long Beach to participate in the first-ever televised Miss Universe edition. Sweden’s  Hillevi Rombin won the title.

Right after her reign, Yvonne got married, raised a family (children Juancho, Marietta, Marco)  and established a successful ballet dancewear, shoes and accessories business --“Yvonne’s” in 1967. It grew to five specialty stores and currently, her “Yvonne’s” shops in Makati and Greenhills are still going strong.

Simonette’s own journey to the crown had a different route. She was discovered by designer Pitoy Moreno who egged her to join the 1970 Bb. Pilipinas pageant, televised for the first time that year. Frontliner candidate Aurora Pijuan could have taken it all,  but when Simonette delivered her speech in fluent Pilipino—the only candidate to do so—the tides were turned in her favor. 

In her speech (written for her by poetess Virgie Moreno, Pitoy’s sister)  she made an analogy about  the judges’ task and that of  St. Peter’s, in deciding the fates of the candidates, who were liken to seekers of a place in heaven.  With that, Simonette was crowned Binibining Pilipinas, while Aurora Pijuan won the other title of Miss Philippines (she would triumph as 1970 Miss International in Osaka).

Simonette went to Miami Beach under tremendous pressure as the reigning Miss Universe was Gloria Diaz. So, she just went ahead and enjoyed the experience.  Her roommate, Puerto Rico’s Marisol Malaret, became the eventual winner. After her reign, she continued her commerce studies at Assumption. In 1972, she became the first Baron Travel Girl , and traveled extensively around the world.

In 1977, she married football ace Butch Ferraren, had children, lived for years abroad and pursued a successful baked goods business when she returned to the Philippines. She honed her craft as a baker and sold lemon squares, ensaimadas, and cakes. Today she operates California Funnel Cakes Café in Pasay City. Monette still regularly visits Pampanga, her mother’s hometown Arayat and the Caryana Monastery in Magalang for her spiritual retreats.

Two siblings with national titles are a rarity. Almost an impossibility is having two of them win the most sought after Miss Philippines title, then vie for the same Miss Universe crown. But the delos Reyes sisters did just that in 1955 and 1970. 

It would take awhile to duplicate that feat, but in recent years, the lovely Manalo sisters of Bacolor scored a similarly impressive coup--Katherine Ann Manalo, Bianca Manalo and Nichole became the winningest family by bagging three different Binibining Pilipinas titles (World 2002, Universe 2009, Globe 2016). But that’s  another (beautiful) story!

Thursday, December 22, 2016


PARUL MASTER. Jesus Maglalang of San Fernando, poses with his award-winning parul creation, his trade since 1946. Photo taken by Pete Reyes , People Magazine. 1979.

The world-renowned Giant Lantern Festival is inextricably linked with the history of San Fernando. Ever year, come December, tens of thousands of visitors flock to the capital city to witness the annual of “Ligligan Parul”, the culminating contest to determine the year’s best lantern from a field of entries entered by all the barangays.

For hours, every one will watch transfixed, as the lanterns twinkle, dance, blink, morph into myriads of shapes in a kaleidoscope of colors, in perfect synch with a musical piece. And, every one will be certain to come away in awe at the enthralling lantern performance never seen in any part of the world, except San Fernando, dubbed as “The Christmas Capital of the Philippines”.

The “Ligligan Parul” of yore were held non-stop from morning to evening—and the lantern that remained lit after so many hours would be declared the winner. The popularity of the parul thus jumpstarted a lantern-making industry in San Fernando  in the 60s that flourishes to this day.

The full support of Fernandinos and the City Government through its local tourism office assures the continuation of this honored lantern tradition that has added much value and verve to Pampanga’s culture of festivals.

Some of these important personalities associated with “Ligligan Parul” include whole families: David and Quiwa Families (Brgy. Sta. Lucia), Garcia and Paras Families (Brgy. Dolores), Maglalang and Santos Families (Brgy. San Jose),and  Dizon, Datu, Policarpio, Limzon Families (Brgy. Del Pilar).

It is interesting to note that the Davids from Sta. Lucia, were crafting ‘paruls’ as early as the 1930s. The patriarch, the late Rodolfo Davis, is credited with inventing the rotor, which revolutionized the design and lighting mechanisms of paruls, allowing for countless color combinations and animations. David’s son-in-law, Severino, devised the first battery-powered giant lanterns in the early 1940s.

By 1958, David had perfected a new lantern design, papered with papel de japon, and now known as ‘parul sampernandu’. The flat, circular lanterns are designed with individual compartments housing a lightbulbs that light and ‘dance’ using the ingenious rotor technology devised locally.

Beginning in 1946, Jesus “Mang Suseng” Maglalang started crafting lanterns that became very popular with people outside of San Fernando. His client list included Pres. Ferdinand Marcos, Juan Ponce Enrile, Baltazar Aquino and Fernando Poe Jr.  A perennial winner in the lantern festival, Mang Suseng starts working as early as February just making his designs. Amazing, but no 2 paruls are alike, as he gets inspirations from church motifs, chandeliers, and even psychedelic art.

The Quiwas, on the other hand, pioneered the use of plastic in lanterns. Quiman Lanterns,the family business, is now led by Ernesto Quiwa, an Outstanding Fernandino Awardee in 2009, and his fifth generation parul maker sons, Arvin Francis and Eric Quiwa.

At the forefront of preserving our parul tradition is Rolando Quiambao (b. 2 Sep. 1955), a business graduate. A variety of unfulfilling jobs led him to his nephew’s parul workshop where he quickly learned the trade. Soon, he was manning his own shop, set up through a loan from DSWD’s Self-Employment Assistance-Kabuhayan Program. His business slowly, but surely took off.

Nothing could faze Quiambao who carried on with his business despite the Pinatubo aftermath and rising productions costs. He gave work to his neighbors at a time they needed it most and is recognized today for sustaining interest in the parul tradition, often with much personal sacrifice.

His painstaking efforts have been richly rewarded: his parul creations became the stars of several editions of “Ligligan Parul”, winning in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2006.  As a result, Quiambao was named Outstanding Fernandino in the field of culture and arts in 2004, topped by a 2005 Most Outstanding Kapampangan Award for the same category.

The tradition of lantern-making is alive and well the whole year-round in the capital city. We salute these  pioneering starmakers, who have made it their mission to ensure that our Christmases will remain dazzling and bright, and that our hopes will never dim—thanks to their inimitable “stars of wonder, stars of light”—the San Fernando Parul.