Sunday, April 13, 2014


 APOSTLE'S CREED. Ceremony of the Apostles' Washing of the Feet. ca. 1955. Pampanga.

Every year, during Holy Week, Pampanga’s devouts are not only treated to a spectacle of saintly characters during the traditional processions, but they are also introduced to a host of biblical personalities—the angels of the Resurrection, Roman centurions, and perhaps the most visible and busiest—the twelve apostles of Christ, personified by select male members of the community.

To be chosen as one of the disciples of Christ was an affirmation of one’s respectability and standing in local society. Once chose, an apostol has to fulfill a vow or panata of carrying out whatever responsibilities and duties are assigned to him during the entire Lenten season. First comes the assumption of the identity of a particular apostle’s name. No fast rules are observed in the naming of the chosen apostoles—although the title of San Pedro often goes to the most senior member and San Juan, to the youngest.

The members of Christ’s court are then given white sutanas to wear, with sashes of different colors that often have their written names on them for proper identification—not unlike pageant sashes that proclaim one’s beauty title: Miss Universe, Miss International, Mutya ning Kapampangan and so forth.

Nowadays, like in my city of Mabalacat, Pampanga parishes garb their apostoles with robes that adhere strictly to the liturgical colors assigned to every apostle saint: deep yellow and green for San Pedro, red and green for San Juan.

On Palm Sunday (Domingo de Ramos) , the apostoles make their first major appearance: they accompany the parish priest in the re-enactment of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem as he enters the church to a throng of palaspas-bearing churchgoers.

Once inside, the apostoles enjoy preferred seating in the church, occupying the front pews or chairs in the altar area. It will also be the first time for the parishioners to scrutinize up close the chosen twelve, often with a touch of amusement, as it’s not every day that one sees a neighborhood grocer dressed up like San Andres or Santo Tomas. Hushed arguments would be heard in the church as to aptness of the role assigned to this person who is deem either“ too short.. too fat..or has no hair”, and so on and so forth.

 On Maundy Thursday, the apostoles are in full force again as they participate in the “Dakit Cordero”. Held in mid- afternoon, the apostles lead the way in fetching the holy lamb of God , shaped from flour, kamote or potato, from the house of a designated hermano. They accompany the cordero, conveyed on a tray by the hermano, to the church, where it is blessed.

The afternoon event culminates with the celebration of the Mass of the Last Supper, that features the procession of the Blessed Sacrament and its enshrinement at the monumento or Altar of Repose . Here, the apostoles are put on spotlight with the traditional washing of their feet by the priest, in imitation of Christ’s act of humble service.

The apostoles, smartly dressed in robes and sporting newly-shined shoes, fresh socks and professional pedicure take to the altar for this sacred re-enactment, attended by a gawking audience and a flurry of camera flashes. Must-join too, are the processions for both Miercoles Santo and Viernes Santo.

At the latter, the apostoles escort the most important figure of the prusisyun, the Santo Entierro or Apung Mamacalulu, the carved figure of the dead Christ encased in a gilded and flower-bedecked calandra. It simulates a real funeral procession, winding along the town’s main street and ending in the church. Easter Sunday will find the apostoles busy too, as they participate in the ritual of Salubong, in a show of solidarity with their Master and of course, the people.

For an apostol, there’s not an idle moment during the season of Lent. Though just a temporary role lasting no more than a week, it is a role that he embraces and takes seriously, a special privilege to serve God and humanity in a way that emulates and imitates Christ. Lucky indeed is he, for as Christ himself proclaimed, many are called, but few are chosen.

Sunday, March 23, 2014


(In January of 2009, my mother, Estrella del Rosario Castro or simply, "Imang Ecteng" to many people, was diagnosed with a terminal illness. After learning of her sickness, her first-born grandchild, Charisse Diane Hamada wrote this letter to her Lola Ester. Charisse had grown up under her watch in Mabalacat, while waiting to be reunited with her U.S-based parents. Before Ima expired in June, she had the pleasure of seeing her first great-children-Mia and Ethan-twins of Charisse, who flew them home in March 2009 to see their 'Lola Easter' for the first--and the last time. The picture accompanying this article shows my young Ima with daughter, Celine, mother of Charisse, in 1952)

January 29, 2009
10:14 PM

 My Dear Lola,

As I put Mia and Ethan to bed this evening, we said a prayer for you. We prayed that your illness will not cause you unbearable pain. We are saddened that you are going through this Lola, but we know that you are a very strong person and can face what's to come.

I often wondered how you managed your life with 8 children! Edgar and I have 2 and already we are saying "no more". Reflecting back on the years we lived with you, I want to tell you how forever grateful we are for your love and support (and Lolo's, too).

 I know you made a lot of sacrifices for my family. I remember that you had to build an extension to Sta. Ines to house our family of 6! I remember you helped us out financially, tirelessly tried to help us get visas to come to the States, raised Charmaine and I while Mom/Pa were in the States. That must have been so taxing on you. You never complained about the responsibility. I also remember giving you so much heartache growing up.

So Lola, I want to take this opportunity to say how sorry I am for ever hurting you. Who I am now is a reflection of how well you and Mom/Pa raised us and I am proud to be your oldest apo. As an adult - a mother like you - it's all very clear to me where my independence, resourcefulness, perseverance, drive and loyalty comes from - it's from you, Lola.

You have set a role model for your children and your apos. I will remember you always as being generous of yourself - so selfless and devoted to your family, always putting your family first before yourself.

You love and you give unconditionally, Lola and this is how I strive to live my own life and hope my children do the same.

Lola, I am honoring you by bringing Ethan and Mia to meet you and know you even for a short time. You are not a stranger to them as you might think. They give me and Edgar laughter and love and that is what I'm hoping they would bring to you during our short visit.

When God calls you, remember those you are leaving behind as we remember and cherish you. Know that WE will be alright. Know that it is okay to let go and be at peace. You will no longer have to feel pain or worry as you've done all your life.

We will all be OK, we have each other no matter the distance. Lola, we love you - we always have and we always will. Thank you for everything you've done for us, from the bottom of our hearts. Give our love to Lolo and Tito Eric and to all our family who have gone before us. May God Bless You and watch over you.

Your apo, Charisse

P.S. Lola, how could I forget to mention? Your cooking! You've shown us love through the food you've fed all us these years. We will never forget you... I just wished I learned (even a little) how to cook like you...

Sunday, March 2, 2014

*364. MSGR. DIOSDADO G. VICTORIO, Lubao's Man of Letters, Man of Light

REV. FR. DIOSDADO G. VICTORIO, as a young  J.C.L. Classical Studies graduate of the University of Sto. Tomas in 1939.

The town of Lubao counts not just presidents and acting families as its native children, but also accomplished men of the cloth like Rev. Frs. Francisco Cancio, Pedro Punu and Fidel Dabu.

One other Lubeño religious who stands out for his brilliant intellect was Rev. Fr. Diosdado Victorio y Galang.

The young Diosdado entered the San Carlos Seminary, which had a large population of Kapampangan seminarians in 1928. He graduated in 1932 with a degree in Philosophy, but stayed on to earned another major in Theology, completed in 1934. After which, he took up Canon Law from 1934-1938.

In 1938, he entered the University of Santo Tomas to earn a Licentiate in Canon Law (Juris Canonici Licentia)-Classical Studies. That same year, he was ordained as a deacon on 21 December 1938. He gained his licentiate in 1939.

As a student at the pontifical university, he was member of the Lambda-Sigma, and was a Librarian on the side. Rev. Fr. Victorio was assigned to Lubao after his studies, and quickly played an important part in the Catholic education of the youth. When the Lubao Central High School was founded on 28 October 1950, it was under his direction that the administration of the school flourished. The school, started in the large house of Felicidad Manuel, would eventually be known as the Holy Rosary Academy of Lubao.

In February 1952, when Bishop Cesar Guerrero conceived of organizing the Crusade of Penance, Charity and Goodwill revolving around the veneration of Virgen de Los Remedios (Patroness of Pampanga), he named Fr. Victorio as its Spiritual Director. He was then serving as the cura of the Sta. Lucia Church, in Sasmuan. The cruzada was launched and it successfully ward off the polarizing effects of Socialism which was on the rise in the province.

From 1969 to 1973, now a Monsignor, the very reverend father was assigned at the Archdiocese of San Fernando, succeeding his kabalen, Msgr. Pedro Puno. His next stop was in Angeles, where he served at the Most Holy Rosary Parish until 1980. The good father from Lubao finished his earthly mission when he passed away in 1982,

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


CAPAMPANGAN CONCORDIANS. Kapampangan internas of La Concordia College, most from well-known families of the province, are shown in this 1928 photo at the school grounds.

 In the 20s and 30s, class pictures were taken and classified not just by grade levels or sections, but also by the provinces from where the students came from. This custom of regional classification arose at the same time as school clubs were being formed based on one’s provenance. In the early days of the U.P. , there were officially-recognized clubs such as the Pampanga High School Club, which counted as its exclusive members, only PHS alumni.

 I have seen many group pictures bearing captions as “Seminaristas de la Pampanga”, “Pampango-Speaking Students at Philippine Normal School”, and most recently, this snapshot of a bevy of young Kapampangan ladies, identified as “Pampangueñas at Concordia”. This picture, which dates from 1928, not only identified the La Concordia students by number, but also the towns from which they originated.

 Colegio de la Inmaculada Concepcion de la Concordia was a school founded by Dña. Margarita Roxas de Ayala in 1868, built on her estate located on Pedro Gil in Paco. She donated this land for the erection of a girl’s school which was run by the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. The school, with its initial staff of “imported”teachers, attracted students like Rizal’s sisters—Olimpia, Saturnina and Soledad, and other children of prominent families, from nearby provinces, Pampanga included.

 This photo shows young Kapampangan “internas” (student boarders) whose surnames reveal their privileged background. Detached from the comforts of their homes and familiarity of families, these girls were sent to Manila, with their board and lodging paid for monthly by their parents, with the goal of giving them proper education, befitting young women of their generation.

 So, whatever happened to these La Concordia Girls of 1928. I tried my best to find out what happened after their school years in one of Manila’s elite girls’ schools, guided by the names written on the back of the photo.

Fil-Am Barbara Setzer (1) and her younger sister Estela (15) were both from Angeles. Their parents were George Seltzer, and American, and Maria Dolores Lumanlan, who were married sometime in 1912. All 6 children (including Mercedes, Frank, John and Clara) were born in Angeles. Barbara was their second eldest, born on 4 December 1912. She died in San Francisco, California. Benita Estela Seltzer or Estela (born 21 March 1918) was just 10 years old when this picture was taken; she too, moved to the U.S. when she came of age.

 Catalina Madrid (2) is listed as having Macabebe as her hometown while Girl #3 is unidentified. Another Macabebe lass is Gregoria Alfonso (10); Alfonso descendants continue to reside in the town to this day.

 Araceli Berenguer (4) comes from the prominent Berenguer family of Arayat; she has three other kabalens in this photo, Maria Tinio (16), Flora Kabigting (6) with a familiar surname now associated with the halo-halo that made the town famous, and Rosario Dizon (13), who grew up to be a national Philippine Free Press Beauty of 1929.

 Little is known of Salud Canivel (5) who is from Candaba as well as Girl No. 14, identified only as Natividad R. Margarita Coronel (7) comes from the well-known Coronel family of Betis, Guagua. After La Concordia, she went to the University of Santo Tomas, where she excelled in Botany. A rare angiosperm she collected in Betis in 1934 is included today at the UST Herbarium. 

Loreto Feliciano (8) and her younger sister, Luz (17) are natives of Bamban, Tarlac. Loreto is better known as the wife of the late Robert ”Uncle Bob” Stewart, the pioneer TV broadcaster who founded DZBB Channel 7, and host of the long-running TV show, “Uncle Bob Lucky 7 Club ”. 

The Nepomucenos of Angeles are represented by cousins Pilar (9) and Imelda (12). Feliza Adoracion Imelda Nepomuceno (b. 29 Nov. 1912) was the daughter of Jose Fermin Nepomuceno with Paula Villanueva. She married Dr. Jose Guzman Galura later in life. 

Her first cousin Pilar, (Maria Agustina Pilar Nepomuceno, b. 13 October 1911) was the daughter of Geronimo Mariano (Jose Fermin’s older brother) and Gertrudes Ayson. As Miss Angeles 1933, Pilar represented the town in the search for Miss Pampanga at the 1933 Pampanga Carnival and Exposition. She later married Dr. Conrado T. Manankil and a daughter, Marietta, also became Miss Angeles 1955.

 What we know of their later lives as adult women suggests that they did fairly well, making good accounts of themselves as mostly successful mothers and homemakers. But in 1928, they were just a bunch of young Kapampangan La Concordia interns, bound together by a common tongue and culture—sweet and giggly as all other typical girls of their age---with the prospects of the future still far, far away.

Monday, February 10, 2014

*362. MUSICUS: The Sound of Our Fiestas!

MAJOR, MAJOR, MAJORETTES. Lovely Kapampangan majorettes pose for a shot before joining the local 'musicus' in their rounds around the town, lending a festive air to Pampanga fiestas. ca. 1950s.

It’s our Mabalacat city fiesta as I write this article---and it’s a pity that I am not there to enjoy the festivities, not to mention the colorful sights, smells and sounds that accompany the yearly February 2 proceedings. You just know it’s fiesta season when blue and white buntings start lining the streets and tiangge stalls begin popping up along the church perimeter, offering all sorts of goods, from the useful to the bizarre.

 But nothing says “fiesta” more than the presence of music-making bands—“musicus”—staples of every fiesta, in every town and barrio of the Philippines. With their gleaming brass horns, cymbals, lyres, trumpets, drums and bugles, uniformed band members--preceded by a bevy of pretty, baton-twirling majorettes—are always a striking sight when they take to the streets, making stirring melodies as they march, with a bit of choreography on the side.

 Evolved from the roving “musikung bumbung” (bamboo bands), today’s bands drew early inspirations from the acclaim gained by the Philippine Scouts Band at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904. The band was the largest at the fair, and it had a large repertoire of 80 pieces, against Fredric Sousa’s 65. “They were good and had temperament which the other bands lacked”, wrote one visitor.

 Needless to say, they took the world’s fair by storm, often performing in drills with “Little Macs”—young Macabebe veterans who enlisted for service to fight for the Americans in the Philippine-American War. Certainly, the incredible feat of that Philippine band helped fuel interest back in the islands for organized bands.

Just 4 years after that U.S. triumph, the Philippines had its own national fair—the Manila Carnival—and in 1909, the band from Angeles outplayed its rivals to clinch first place in the musical band competition. It was during town fiestas, however, that local bands gave rein to their musical creativity.

In the Betis fiesta of 1959, a local band—Banda 46—was tasked to march around the town starting on the fiesta eve, from 3 a.m. to 5 a.m.— to rouse people from their sleep—for a period of nine days! The day was capped with musical duel between bands---Serenata ning Musicus—in which Banda Sexmoan 12 played against Banda Sexmoan 31 at the church patio in a test of musical endurance and bravado.

 On 29 December, an exhibition was staged by a bevy of band majorettes, displaying their dancing and baton-twirling skills while band members in their gala uniforms played their best. On the fiesta day itself, 12 bands paraded along the streets, with some, invited from different provinces: Banda Baliwag, Banda Cabiao 96, Banda San Leonardo, Banda Bocaue, Banda Sexmoan 31, Banda Sexmoan 12, Banda Pulilan, Banda Candaba, Banda Duat Bacolor, Banda San Antonio Bacolor, Banda 48 Betis, Banda 26 Betis and the 600 Clark Field Air Force Band thru the courtesy of Mr. Salvador Pangilinan.

The bands then converged to escort the carrozas of the town patrons for the grand procession. The 1939 Lubao town fiesta from 4-5 May, was also made exciting with the presence of 3 “musicus”: Banda Lubao, Banda Sinfonica (Malabon) and Banda Buenaventura (Baliwag). The 3 bands were gathered at the municipio before they set out for the Poblacion, treating Lubeños to a musical extravaganza never before seen in the town.

 A 1946 fiesta souvenir program from Sta. Rita detailed also the arrival of 3 bands that played on the eve of the fiesta, the first one held after the Liberation: Banda Sta. Rita, Banda 31 from Sexmoan and Banda San Basilio. The next day, May 22, they gave it their all at the Serenata ding Banda de Musica. Even a small barrio could very well afford to pay a local “musicus” to lend gaiety to its fiesta.

In 1957, Valdes, a barrio of mostly agricultural families in Floridablanca, had two bands performing for their May 19 fiesta: the popular Banda 31 of Sexmoan which delighted residents in Gasac and Talang, and Banda Juan dela Cruz which came all the way from Cabiao, Nueva Ecija, to play at Looban and Mabical. On May 18, Saturday, a free concert was mounted featuring the two bands, highlighted by a military drill.

 I just can’t imagine a fiesta without a “musicus”. Bands just don’t set the stage and the mood for a celebration. But long after the food, the drinks, the rides, the sideshows and the baratilyos are gone, it is the voice of the band that will live on—inspiring, rousing, uplifting airs, that may as well be the theme music of our joyous lives!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

*361. MANUEL ABAD SANTOS: The Fighting Mayor of Angeles

GO FIGHT! The fighting-est mayor of Angeles, Manuel Abad Santos, known for his mettle,  unflinching conviction and his will to serve, this despite a physical handicap. 1965 photo.

 Dubbed as Angeles’s fightingest mayor from the day he was elected in 1951, Manuel Abad Santos is best remembered as a town leader who stood firmly on one leg and a crutch, sticking firmly to his principle of standing up for the common good of his people.

 That, however, is no wonder for this selfless and fearless town executive, descended from illustrious Kapampangan patriots and leaders. Born on 26 March 1907 to parents Irineo Abad Santos of San Fernando and Teofila Dizon of Angeles, Manuel counts the late martyr-jurist Jose Abad Santos and the great people’s leader, Pedro Abad Santos as uncles.

 He grew up in comfortable surroundings—his family were operators of the first moviehouse in Pampanga. His primary education began at the local Angeles Elementary School, then enrolled at Pampanga High School in San Fernando for his first three years of high school. Manuel then transferred to Ateneo de Manila for his senior year. But an unfortunate incident in 1926 would leave him physically maimed for the rest of his life. While in a San Fernando entertainment place, he was caught in a gunfire started by a PC trooper who suddenly went on a shooting rampage. He lost his left leg in that carnage.

 Once recovered from his wounds, however, he went back to Ateneo and earned a pre-law degree, an Associate in Arts which he finished in 1927. Manuel, however, opted to work right after college, joining his parents in expanding their burgeoning moviehouse business by adding on two more: Cine Eden and Marte, which became well-known centers of showbiz entertainment in 50s Angeles.

 He married Leonarda Atienza of Capas, Tarlac, and their union was blessed with a large brood of 8 children: Manuel Jr., Hollanda, Immaculada, Irineo, Manolita, Antonio, Pedro and Filipinas. In later years, two of their children (Hollanda and Irineo) would be connected with the management and operation of the Angeles Telephone Co.; two boys took up medical studies (Manuel Jr. and Pedro), while another son, Antonio finished Law.

 He was already in his mid 40s when, in 1951, he joined the political fray. Running as a minority candidate, he won the mayorship of Angeles by a landslide, signalling the beginning of a long and fruitful career.

 In 1955, he replicated his monumental victory at the polls, winning a second mayoral term. This time, however,, his term was marked with bitter and contentious moments with Clark Field and local socio-civic groups.

 In 1956, the Clark commander, Col. Karl Barthelmess declared Angeles ”off limits” to military personnel, owing to intimidations allegedly made on servicemen by the local police. Accusations flew back and forth, but even with the ban hurting the local economy, the mayor could not be cowed. “Sovereignty”, he said, “could not be had for a couple of greenbacks”.

 In another separate incident, the local Jaycees took offense to a billboard put up by the Mayor which proclaimed his accomplishments. This cause a rift between the mayor and Jaycee members who also happened to be important businessmen—movers and shakers of the town’s economy.

Indeed, this mayor proved once again his pluck and mettle as “the only one-legged mayor of the Philippines and the one with the most kick inspite of his handicap”. He would continue running the affairs of the town with nationalist zeal, and for him, no other accomplishment can be greater than protecting the rights of the people to the best of his ability. “The greatest good for the greatest number”, was the principle he lived by, maintaining that the welfare of his people is above the law. Manuel Abad Santos was succeeded by his nephew Rafael del Rosario after he finished hi term in 1959.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


ARO, KATIMYAS NA NITANG LALAKE! A man from Sta. Ana, curiously dressed in women's clothes and with a head covering to match, strikes a pose between two ladies. Ca. 1930s.

A few years back, I was leafing over my Apung Tiri’s old expense ledgers dating back from the 1940s. Apung Tiri was my grandmother from my father’s side whom I have never met (she died in 1952, before I was born), and she was known for being fastidious about household expenses, writing down every money spent, every debt paid, and every cash advanced.

 Several entries in her journal piqued my interest especially those parts that mentioned her payments to “Juan Bacla”, apparently a tailor who made pants and shirts for Apung Tiri’s boys, sons Manuel, Mateo and Gerardo, my late father. Descriptive labels appended to people’s names were commonplace in the old days, and I remember people in the neighbourhood called Inggong Taba, Tsoglung Intsik and Rey Duling.

I was not prepared to see a “Juan Bacla” in my Apu’s old ledger, for I thought people then were not as open with their sexual orientations, making me wonder if “Juan Bacla” was already as swishy and as flamboyant back in the ‘30s as today’s Vice Ganda.

 As early as the 19th century, however, gayness was known and observed in the Philippines; a Spanish photographer, Felix Laureano, even shot a photo of a gay lavandera in the company of 3 washerwomen, He writes of the photo: mentioned “Three dalagas and a tao, sitting on the green grass beside the river and washing clothes, their minute feet being lapped by the crystal clear current. The tao, who can be identified by his manners, is binabayi, agui, and has the balutan of dirty clothes near him.”

 “Binabayi” was a general term to describe effeminate people—and at one point, even our national hero, Jose Rizal was labelled as one. “Bakla”is another appellation, but its deeper meaning is “to weaken”, hence a line in a Pasyon describes “si Kristo ay nababakla..”.

 In Minalin, there is a quaint festival involving cross-dressing—the Aguman Sanduk (Fellowship of the Ladle) . Started in 1934 by a group of drunken Minalin revelers who thought of a way to brighten up the New Year. The macho men dared each other to dress up in women’s clothes and parade on the main street. The culminating activity was the election of the Aguman muse—the ugliest of the cross-dressers. The honor of becoming the first queen went to husky Hilarion Serrano, who oldtimers remembered as “pekamatsura, maragul atyan, and delanan ane lupa” (the ugliest, pot-bellied, termite-ridden face).

 The celebration was capped with cultural activities “crissotan”competitions, and partaking of “lelut manuk”(chicken porridge). It is remarkable that the participants are all hot-blooded, heterosexual males. In the ensuing years, the Aguman Sanduk has grown even wilder and more daring: men and boys go on a beautifying frenzy: unabashedly donning blonde wigs, putting on fake lashes and mascaras and wearing brassieres in preparation for the New Year’s Day parade.

 On that much awaited day, the men in their micro-minis, sequinned evening gowns and outlandish costumes turn on their coquettish charms as they take to the streets—walking, dancing, sashaying in a spectacle in transvestism that would put any Miss Universe contestant to shame. On the sidestreets, the women cheer their men, husbands, sons and fathers as the freaky procession of pulchritude wends its way around town.

 Kapampangans have embraced this unique festival to this day, an original cultural tradition that pays tribute by poking fun at the ideals of machismo and beauty melded together in one celebration—two qualities that are valued by Kapampangans like no other. But Aguman Sanduk may also be looked at as a festival of liberation from gender discrimination and repression, expressed in gay abandon for all the world to see and eventually, accept, the way Kapampangans have.