Friday, August 7, 2015

*386. Bale-Matua: THE ARRASTIA HOUSE, Lubao

TO A MANOR BORN. Home of Pampanga sugar planter of Don Valentin Arrastia, Luba, Pampanga. 1925.

 In Lubao, in front of the municipal hall, once stood the palatial house of one of the town’s most affluent Spanish-Filipino family—the Arrastias. The patriarch, Valentin Roncal Arrastia, was a Basque who had come all the way from Allo, Navarra, Spain, to find his fortune in colonial Philippines. He, not only found the wealth he was seeking, but also a Kapampangan wife—Francisca Serrano Salgado of Lubao.

 The couple’s consolidated wealth included their vast hacienda planted with sugar and rice, as well as flourishing fish ponds. Befitting their stature, the Arrastias built a magnificent residence sometime the first two decades of the 1900s, where they raised their 9 children: Carmen (Mameng), Jose (Pepe, father of Ambassador Mercedes Tuason, and Ruby aka Neile Adams, wife of actor Steve McQueen), Justo (founder of Lubao Institute), Benito (died at 19), Crispula (died in infancy), Juanita (Miss Pampanga 1926), Esteban (Teban, father of actress Letty Alonso, married to actor Mario Montenegro), Francisco (died at 12), Enrique (died during the liberation of Manila) and Sebastian (Bastian, whose daughter, Sylvia is married to former senator and radio personality, Eddie Ilarde).

 The Arrastia House, designed by the patriarch no less, was typical of the architecture of the period—a transitional style featuring elements of the ‘bahay na bato” and modern American influences. The ground floor--which includes the receiving room, is made of concrete, its windows protected with wrought-iron grills. The lower floor could be accessed from upstairs through a secret passage that led to one of the storage rooms. The second storey features high frosted glass-paned windows and a wrap-around eave to shade the residents from the harsh Pampanga sun.

Ventanillas protected by ornamental grills had sliding windows to let air in and an enclosed balconaje (balcony) decorated with fretwork could be found on the upper landing. The roof itself, is made from thick American G.I. sheets. The house was fenced with simple metal grills and surrounded with bushes, shrubs and other greeneries. Accenting the garden is stately water fountain, ornamented with classical statues, while a pool is located at the back.

Lavish parties were regularly hosted by Don Valentin for his friends—mostly rich hacenderos and fellow-sugar planters. One such talk-of-the-town affair was the luncheon thrown by the Arrastias in honor of Mr. R. Renton Hind, a high-ranking American official of the country’s sugar industry. The guest list included Pampanga’s well-known sugar barons, mostly from the Del Carmen district which Mr. Hind used to manage: Dons Carlos Layug, Francisco Reinares, Martin Gonzalez, Alfredo Infante, Braulio Mendiola, Carlos Gil, Joaquin Varela, Quiterio Araneta and Leonard Moore.
After felicitations were exchanged, the guest of honor was presented with a handsome desk set, and a case containing a solid gold pen and pencil.

 When Valentin and Francisca passed away, the house was bequeathed to the Arrastia children. Daughter Juanita felt most passionate about the house and the memories it held, so her husband, the famed doctor Wenceslao Beltran Vitug, bought out the shares of her siblings; in this way, the ancestral house was passed on to the Vitugs. Seven children were born to Juanita and Apung Beses, and they too, spent their growing up years in the house.

As such, the house teemed with househelps, mostly wives, sons and daughters of sharecroppers who worked on the Arrastia farmlands. A Japanese driver was also employed. When World War II broke out and Japanese forces overrun Pampanga, their officials took over the house and used it as their garrison. Thanks to their Japanese driver who couched for the Vitugs’character, the grand Arrastia mansion was spared from the ravages of war.

Also associated with the Arrastia house and its residents was the late president Diosdado P. Macapagal. It was said that the poor but bright Lubeño boy would pass by the house everyday. Catching the attention of the Arrastias, they would eventually learn of his plight and decided to help him with his school needs. Macapagal graduated valedictorian of his elementary class and finished his high school on 1929 with flying colors. He would eventually take up Law, enter politics and become president-elect in 1963. 

 A succession of Vitug descendants acted as caretakers of the house after the death of Apung Beses (+1986) and Juanita (+1994). The family finally decided to sell their ancestral home in 2007 to Architect Jose L. Acuzar. It was dismantled, transported and reconstructed in Bagac, Bataan as a heritage house of Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

*385. The Fiery Pen of Flauxgalier: FELIX N. GALURA

POETRY MAN. The newly-put up monument of Felix Galura y Napao, prominent literary figure from Bacolor, who rebelled against Spanish. literary styles and forms. ca. 1920s.

 One of the most prominent and versatile writers at the turn of 20th century Pampanga was the Bacolor native, Felix Galura y Napao. The multi-facetted literary giant did not only wield his pen as a poet, translator ( he translated Rizal’s “Noli” into Kapampangan ), playwright ( “Ing Mora”/The Moor Maiden), editor, religious writer (he composed original Kapampangan prayers and a Pasyon), grammarian (he authored “Gramatica Castellana” and “Sanayan A Malagwang Pipagaralan King Amanung Kastila”) and newspaper man, but he was also a passionate Revolutionist, a military man ( Lt. Colonel under Gen. Tomas Mascardo) and a political leader (Bacolor’s municipal presidente for 9 years).

 Born on 21 Feb. 1866 to Manuel Galura and Carlota Napao, the young Felix was educated in local schools, but circumstances did not allow him to get a college education. But even so, he was a quick learner, with the uncanny ability to absorb knowledge so easily. His close association with the brilliant lawyer, Don Roman Valdes, for example, enabled him to become an expert on law and jurisprudence.

 But writing was Galura’s first love. He assumed the pseudonym “Flauxgalier” (an acronym of his name), and became a regular contributor to the bi-lingual newspaper “E Mangabiran/ El Imparcial” which began publication in 1905. Exposed to Spanish works at an early age, he set about translating prayers, plays and literary pieces into Kapampangan. Galura turned Spanish plays into Kapampangan adaptations like “O, Kasiran” and “Azucena”.

 With Juan Crisostomo Sotto, he wrote the zarzuela “Ing Singsing A Bacal” (The Ring of Steel) which was based on a Spanish play. Galura was led to conclude that the Spanish literary forms available in the country were the main cause of the backwardness of Filipinos. After all, these “comedias” were full of incredible tales of magic, enchantment and nonsensical scenes.

 His response was the opus ”Ing Cabiguan”(The Misfortune”), a verse narrative published in 1915, which would become his best-known work. It recounts the ill-fated love of Jaime and Momay, whose planned elopement was thwarted by Rosa, Momay’s mother. This resulted in the imprisonment of Jaime for 8 months. Hoping to reunite with Momay after his release, he finds out that she had died while he was languishing in jail.

 Though his work had a romantic plot, “Ing Cabiguan” was full of jabs against Spanish works. The work was prefaced with a reader’s warning to not expect improbable scenarios (like a duel between a princess vs. a lion) and unrealistic characters (e.g. talking animals) that are staples in Spanish-inspired comedias and curirus. It was Galura’s direct exhortation to readers to break away from these whimsical writing tradition that are insulting to one’s senses, and instead, embrace more realistic forms.

 The first printing of ”Ing Cabiguan” totalling to 500 copies was quickly sold out, and a second edition of 1,000 more had to be rushed on 10 November 2015 to accommodate the demand. Apparently, Galura’s work still had the cloying romanticism that was also the characteristic of the curiru, the same literary forms that he had wanted to replace.

 Certainly, though, it paved the way for Juan Crisostomo Soto to depart fully and truly from the favored Spanish-influenced style. His masterpiece “Lidia”, proved to be very contemporary in every respect, from the use of prose to the modern plot, providing a clear distinction from the metrical romances of old.

 Even as he was writing, Galura continued to run the affairs of Bacolor as the town head from 1909 to 1918. A year after his term, he was hospitalized for pneumonia, an illness from which he would no recover. He passed away on 21 July 1919, at age 53. For his departed friend, the poet Don Monico R. Mercado wrote the elegy ”Ing Bie Na Ning Tau” The Life of a Man) .

 On 24 December 1924, a monument was put up in front of the Bacolor Elementary School by Aguman 33, a band of grateful citizens and friends, dedicated to the memory of a beloved son of Bacolor--“Caluguran Nang Anac Ning Baculud”—Felix Napao Galura.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

*384. A Story Interrupted: AGNES DE GUZMAN, Writer

IN HER OWN WRITE. Agnes De Guzman of Mabalacat, as a Commerce graduate of UST. She pursued a creative a career and became a successful TV ans film screen and story writer, actress, champion of Kapampangan films.

 There was never a quiet moment when you were with Agnes De Guzman—my sister Susan’s best friend since high school. It was easy to be taken by this vivacious girl, who always had a ready story to tell—the latest town gossip, school anecdotes, her opinionated movie reviews and political commentaries. We lived in the same barangay, shared rides as students in Angeles, and our mothers were acquaintances, so Agnes was always a welcome presence in our house.

 I didn’t know Agnes had ambitions of becoming a writer, until I got a call from her one day. It started as a usual “kumustahan”call—she was already working at PLDT in Manila, fresh from earning a College degree from the U.S.T. I, in the meanwhile, had been working for years in Makati and had become an advertising creative director writing advertising copy and dabbling in comedy writing on the side. She wanted me to know that she was planning a career shift; she had been taking writing classes under Nestor Torre and Ricky Lo, and she felt she was ready to take a plunge into the world of show business as a writer.

I remember telling her to follow her heart, while cautioning her on how fickle the industry can be for creative people---unlike a corporate job that guarantees a steady flow of income. Agnes, however, told me she had saved enough from her PLDT years, enough to allow her to make this “experimental detour” in her career. So, pushing 40, Agnes gave up her telecom job to pursue her other dream of becoming a writer for films.

 And did she chase that dream with a passion! Next time I heard from her, she told me to watch out for the film thriller “Ika-13 Kapitulo” starring Christopher De Leon and Zsa-Zsa Padilla, where she was credited for the screenplay. The comedy “Mana-Mana, Tiba-Tiba” (2000) was next, and this time, it was she who wrote the story. Agnes was definitely on her way,gaining writing experience and at the same time making important connections with showbiz stalwarts as Marichu Vera-Perez, director Adolf Alix Jr., Gina Tagasa, among others.

 Channel 2 took her in and her storytelling skills were honed by the many TV shows, movies and screenplays she wrote: “Baliktaran: Si Ace at Si Daisy”, “Mga Kwento Ni Lola Basyang”, “Angels”(2007). She also earned credits as an actress, making appearances in films like “”Imoral”, “Saan Nagtatago Ang Happiness”(2006) and “Nars” (2007). In 2008, she joined Cinemalaya film competition and her original story with a Kapampangan theme, Ätin Cu Pung Parul”, made it to the semi-finals.

The next year, she wrote the movie, “A Journey Home”. In 2010, her output included the movie “Presa” (for which she won a 34th Gawad Urian nomination) and the TV series “Inday Wanda” that ran through 2011. Her most successful assignment as head writer was for the intriguing, “Nasaan Ka, Elisa?”, which was slated to have 90 episodes to run from 2011 and 2010.

She had also started work on another series, “Hiyas”, also on Channel 2 when fate intervened: she was stricken with an illness that turned out to be cancer. The feisty Agnes carried on with her work even with her condition; she shunned traditional medicine in favor of alternative healing.

In August 2011, she decided to tick off an item on her bucket list—to go on a Parisian adventure. Her friends, ignorant of her condition—including me, followed her journey through her regular postings on facebook---today she’s at the Eiffel Tower, the next she’s at the Louvre. Her photos showed her zest and animated spirit—smiling, enjoying, relishing every minute of her amazing journey, highlighted by a visit to the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes.

 Less than three months after her return to the Philippines, Agnes took leave of this mortal world. She lies in a private cemetery in her beloved Mabalacat, with simple slab of stone to mark her grave. The gravestone bears both her name and her title that she was so proud to wear: Agnes P. De Guzman, Writer. (January 6, 1962- November 6, 2011).

 Cinekabalen, Pampanga’s leading film festival organization, honored her along with film critic Alexis Tioseco (+) in 2015, for her legacy of writing that found full expression on TV and the Silver Screen, assuring Agnes De Guzman, Kapampangan storyteller, of immortality.

 (4 June 2015)

Thursday, June 18, 2015


LA DOLCE MINDA. Minda Feliciano had a reputation for living the life fantastic--traipsing the world and hobnobbing with the rich, the famous and the powerful--befitting her celebrity status. Photo from 1968.

Certainly, for many society girls in the heady 60s, Minda Feliciano’s life was an enviable one. At a young age, she travelled the world in search of adventure, and in so doing, found many of her dreams fulfilled---to get an acting break on a hit U.S. TV series, to rub elbows with the rich, the royalty and the famous, and best of all, to find the greatest loves of her life in two continents!

But in a special way, Minda was destined for this kind of life, early on. She was the daughter of Manuel Valdez Feliciano, a district engineer, and Amparo Santana of Batanes. Born as Arminda Feliciano on June 1, 1931, her town of origin is sometimes listed as either Angeles or Guagua. That may be due to the peripatetic career of her father, who was assigned in different provinces like Bataan, Nueva Ecija and Surigao.

But what was sure was that Minda went to high school at the Holy Angel Academy (now University) in Angeles. In her 20s, the charming Minda went on to try her luck at modeling and acting. This paved the way for her to travel the world to search for better career opportunities.

In the U.S., she started auditioning for acting roles and, in 1959, won a regular slot (she played the hula-dancing receptionist, Evelyn) in the popular TV series,”Hawaiian Eye”, produced by Warner Brothers. In 1962, her partnership with Russ Hemenway resulted in the birth of her only child, Brent, but they would split shortly.

Minda never ran out of admirers though, and one who squired her ardently was the prominent publisher and author, Leo Guild, 20 years her senior. It was with Guild that she eventually chose to settle down in 1967. The glamorous Minda held court at her posh Beverly Hills residence, which was even outfitted with a heated swimming pool. However, the marriage ended in a divorce in 1970.

Minda went back to her socializing and hobnobbing with fellow celebrities that led to her meeting with British actor Michael Caine. Caine would become her one great love. He had already starred in a few well-received movies ("Alfie", "Gambit") when Minda swept him off his feet. She became her travelling companion when he filmed on locations worldwide. The two were soon engaged, but somehow, things didn’t fall into place and the couple parted ways. Michael would marry the exotic beauty, Shakira Baksh in 1973 , win 2 Oscars and be knighted in 2002.

 Briefly in the early 1990s, Minda was linked to debonair crooner, Tony Bennett, who made a hit out of the song, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”. She would fly and join him in his intermational concerts that took him from Las Vegas to Tokyo and London. But at that time, Bennett was more focused on resurrecting his career so Minda quietly slipped out of his life.

A few years later, Minda would form a more lasting relationship with Norman John McClintock Lonsdale, a true English blue blood descended from the Duke of Wellington, the nemesis of Bonaparte at the famous Battle of Waterloo. He had been a favorite escort of Princess Margaret. Lonsdale eschewed the life of a royal and pursued a successful TV career. He was already a widower with 3 children when Minda came into his life. Romance bloomed and they were wed in 1997.

In the Lonsdales’ sprawling Oxfordshire estate,the couple entertained film star friends like Joan Collins, Peter Sellers, Britt Ekland and Roger Moore. Minda and Norman would be together for 12 happy years; he would die in 2009, of cancer. All throughout his illness, Minda stood by to nurse and care for his man, until the end.

Today, Minda has made United Kingdom her home, spending her time tending to the lush rose gardens of her ivy-covered house along the scenic Thames River. Her high-flying days have given way to a quieter, more sedate life, but Minda Feliciano’s joie de vivre has not waned a bit. And that’s so…Kapampangan!

Sunday, June 7, 2015


THE RACE IS ON! An inter-scholastic meet hosted by the Pampanga High School features running sprints participated in  by would-be Olympic tracksters from different Central Luzon schools. ca. mid 1920s. Personal Collection.

 The 28th Southeast Asian Games currently going on in Singapore recalls to mind the great feats of many Kapampangans who helped carry the Philippine colors on the world sports arena. Ever since a Negrito named Basilio won the pole-climbing event at the 1904 Anthropology Days Competition—an athletic competition affiliated with the 1904 Summer Olympic Games held in St. Louis, there has been no stopping to Kapampangans’ quest for  victory in the world’s premiere sports competition.

 The country’s official participation in the modern day Olympics began in 1924, when the Philippines sent a token representative, track athlete David Nepomuceno. It was only in 1928 that the country made its presence felt  when Ilocano Teofilo Yldefonso, medalled in breast stroke swimming. 

The first known Kapampangan to participate in the Olympics was Fortunato Yambao (b.16 Oct. 1912/d.23 Jun. 1970), of Sta. Lucia, Masantol, a member of the Philippine basketball team at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Adolph Hitler had used this event to prove the superiority of the Aryan race, only to be silenced by stunning victories of black American track star, Jesse Owens. Asia too, had reason to celebrate, for that year, Yambao and his squad lifted the Philippines to 5th place, the highest placement ever achieved by our national basketball team, with a record of 4 wins, 1 loss—against the Americans.

 At the 1960 Rome Olympics, two Kapampangan basketeers were part of the national team: Carlos Velasco Badion of Lubao and Edgardo Luciano Ocampo of Magalang. Carlos or “Charlie” Badion (b. 16 Aug. 1935 /d. 20 Jun. 2002) had actually represented the country at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, with the team finishing strong in 7th place. His teammates included the basketball legend Caloy Loyzaga and Kurt Bachman.

Badion also grabbed Gold at the 1958 Asian Games and took part in the 1959 FIBA World Cup, where the Philippines finished 8th. In his heyday, he originated the so-called “bicycle drive”and “jack-knife lay-up” , basketball moves that young athletes emulated. Badion was named “Mr. Basketball”, appeared in a movie and was crowned as the Most Valuable Player by the Asian Basketball Conference (ABC).

 Equally illustrious was the basketball career of Edgardo “Ed” Ocampo (b. 5 Oct. 1938)/d. 1999), who represented the Philippines in a record 3 Olympics—1960 (Rome), 1968 (Mexico) and 1972 (Munich). The versatile Ocampo was originally a member of the Philippine football team when basketball beckoned. Ocampo was hailed as Asia’s Best Guard, and, like Badion, was voted as “Mr. Basketball” by the Philippine Sports Association.

 While Ocampo was playing his basketball matches in Munich, a young Holy Angel student was gunning for a medal at the skeet-shooting match. Melchor Yap didn’t win any, but made Pampanga proud for his barrier-breaking feat--joining the ranks of the world’s best hotshots.

On the distaff side, the first Winter Olympics was held in 1924, in Chamonix, France. At two editions---Nagano (1994) and Lillehammer (1998), a skater with Kapampangan blood represented the United States in Ice Dancing. Elizabeth Punsalan (b. 9 Jan. 1971) was the daughter of Dr. Ernesto Punsalan of Lubao and who had come to America as a medical student. Together with partner, Jerrod Swallow, Punsalan qualified for the 1994 Winter Olympics after placing first at the U.S. Nationals. Two weeks before she was set to go to Nagano, her mentally-troubled brother, Ricardo, stabbed their father dead. This affected her performance, and the couple placed 15th overall. Punsalan bounced back in the next Olympics, finishing in a creditable 7th place.

 Another Kapampangan athlete who made it to the Olympics as part of Team America was the badminton ace, Erika Von Heiland (b. 24 Dec. 1965). Born in Angeles City, Erika’s father was Theodore Pamintuan Von Heiland, the son of Paz Sandico Pamintuan with second husband Frank Von Heiland. Her great grandfather was Don Florentino Torres Pamintuan, an affluent citizen of the town and builder of the still-extant Pamintuan mansion. At age 27, Erika qualified in two Olympics in Barcelona (1992) and Atlanta (1996), playing in both singles and the doubles events.

 In the next Olympics in Sydney (2000), another Angeleño marched proud as our country’s bet in the sports of taekwondo. Welterweight Donald Geisler (b. 6 Oct. 1978), of German-American-Filipino descent, had previously won a silver medal at the 1996 Asian Games; he was just 18. After the Olympiad, Geisler continued his winning streak, garnering medals at the regional Southeast Asian Games—a Silver in 2001, and a Gold in 2003. This paved the way for his return to the 2004 Athens Olympics where he reached the quarterfinals. The next year, he struck gold again at the 2005 SEA Games.

 As sportsmen, these select Kapampangan Olympians have lived their ultimate dream of competing for medals against the best athletes of the world. But in their quest for medals, they have come to learn that it not just the winning that matters, but in finding out the best within themselves, a rewarding experience that feels every bit golden.

(7 June 2015)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


My parents’ little wedding cake was baked and decorated by an unknown bakeshop, but it was pretty enough to be featured in a cooking section of a 1949 magazine. Our love affair with sweet treats spans everything from local kakanins to European and American-style cakes and pastries, that Kapampangan bakers have also come to master. 

 When my father and mother got married in 1949, their reception featured a nicely baked and decorated wedding cake. It was all white and trimmed with sprays of sugared flowers, topped with toy figures of the bride and groom. Though just a modest-size cake, it looked so exquisite, worthy enough to be featured in a lifestyle section of a newspaper. My mother clipped that article and pasted it on her wedding album, alongside their cake-eating photos. We had that album for years, until it fell into tatters—including the magazine clipping.

Thank God, I still have the cake photos to remember that “sweetest”day of my parents’ lives. Kapampangans have always had a taste for sweets—thanks to our robust sugar industry. From our clay ovens and open hearths, our lolos and lolas cooked “kakanins’ that were all-sugar based—kalame, tibuk-tibuk, mochi, pastillas, bibingka. Later,”hurnos”or ovens of clay or bricks were introduced, that enabled Filipinos to do some baking—pan de sals, panecitos, araro (arrowroot) cookies, saniculas.

 During the American Period, especially in the 20s and 30s, well-off Kapampangan families sent their daughters abroad to learn new skills in fashion,couture, and of course, culinary arts. The era also introduced her to new contraptions for the kitchen—the modern oven—which further helped her to create an assortment of confection: soft mamons, fluffy ensaimadas, and cakes of all kinds, following American and European recipes. With their baking wizardry, many of these women even became entrepreneurial.

 One such grand dame was widow Salud Dayrit Santos (b. 7 Feb. 1883/d.1970), who became an expert in whipping up international dishes under the tutelage of Paris-educated Rosario Hizon-Ocampo. But “”Imang Salud” took most pride in her pastries made to perfection: Petit Fours, Empanaditas, Nougatine, Mazapan de Pili.

 But it was her ‘’ensaimadas’’ that were to die for. She baked them with care, slathered with Brun butter, and dusted with grated queso de bola. Her rich-tasting creations were soon snapped up by friends and neighbors. Today, Imang Salud’s granddaughter, Meliza Santos, is carrying on the tradition, baking ensaymadas using her apu’s heirloom recipe. Branded with her name, Imang Salud Ensaimadas are today, sold in select places like the Legazpi Weekend Market.

 Ocampo-Lansang Delicacies in Sta. Rita, is another homegrown business—modest by standards—but very popular in the Kapampangan region, all because of its two products—turrones de casuy and sans rival. It was started in 1920 by Felisa Lansang, who learn to make the sweet treat from a recipe learned from Spanish Dominican nuns.

 At least two Hizons are credited for building successful business based on their baking know-how. The Hizon’s Cakes & Pastries on Bocobo Street in Ermita, Manila was founded by Inocencia Hizon, a widowed single mother who worked as a department store clerk at Aguinaldo’s, Escolta.

 Family lore has it that the now-famous ensaymada recipe was given to her by an anonymous woman. Inocencia baked dozens of ensaymadas using the recipe, and engaged the help of her sister to peddle the pastries in offices, which, to her surprise, were all sold-out. This encouraged her to put up a bakeshop which she named simply as “Hizon’s”, on Raon St.

 Today, Hizon’s has branches in Pasay, Greenhills and Makati, run by daughter Milagros Ramos Roasa. The shop is also famous for its taisans, apple pies and ube cakes, but the ensaymada remains a sentimental favorite.

 Amalia Hizon of Mexico, together with husband Renato Mercado, put up a little cake shop called Red Ribbon that drew praises for its cakes and pastries. They put up the first shop in 1978 along Timog Ave. in Quezon City. In a matter of years, the cake shop gained a substantial following, and in 1984, it opened a U.S. outlet. It was no wonder then that Jollibee Food Corp. acquired the business in 2005. 

Another name to reckon with in the field of baking and pastry arts is Emelita Basilio Wong-Galang. The exigencies of an early marriage prompted her to study cooking, taking lessons from her mother-in-law and heeding the kitchen wisdom of her Chinese-born father, Jose Wong (Ho Keng Gip), who worked as a cook in Pampanga hotels and restaurants--including Orchid's canteen-- before setting up his much-patronized Royal Bakery in Angeles City.

 In 1980, Galang put up the first culinary school in Northern Luzon—the Emelita W. Galang Culinary Arts Studio Inc., which today, offers such courses as cake decorating, chocolate artistry and other confectionary arts.

Of course, Kapampangan cookery is also part of her school’s curriculum. Whether you are craving for a puto or petit fours, mochi or meringue, sanikulas or sans rival, pan de sal or pound cake-- the versatile Kapampangan woman of the house can make them all, to your heart’s delight. With her deep and extensive kitchen background…even baking is a piece of cake!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


MERYENDA TAMU. A short stop at Apung Gari Bakery promises to be a "filling" experience, what with its array of breads, pies and shirt order dishes like pancit luglug, arroz caldo and Magnolia ice cream, all at affordable prices. ca. 1955.

San Fernando’s favorite bakeshop at the Assumpta Building, along the busy Abad Santos St., barrio St. Rosario, was put up by an enterprising couple, Jesusa “Susing” Quiambao and husband Jose “Pitong” Valencia, in 1955. The two named it after Susing’s mother, Margarita Quiambao. “Apung Gari”, who had a reputation as a good cook, had managed San Fernando’s most popular bakery during the post-Liberation—“La Satisfacion”. When she reached her 50s, her daughter and son-in-law decided to take over the reins of the business and relaunched it as “Apung Gari Bakery and Kiosk”.

 One cannot miss the spacious and spanking new bread and snack house, as the store name --“Apung Gari Bakery and Kiosk”—was emblazoned atop the building, visible at a distance. Hanging signboards outside indicated the name of the establishment and the proprietor—“Jesusa Q. Valencia—General Merchant, Importer””. “Apung Gari” sported the prevalent midcentury look, with large glass cabinets encasing their tempting hot pan de sal, biscocho, cheese bread, monay, pandecito and puto seco. There were also glass jars full of candies, tira-tira being a favorite of school children.

Fixed stools upholstered with vinyl lined a sleek, curved island where one could sit and enjoy some snack, diner style. Shelves neatly displayed rows and rows of canned pineapple juice, evaporated milk, bottled catsup, which could be pulled out anytime there is an order.

 For fifty centavos, the 1955 menu offered Pancit Luglug (a best-seller), Arroz con Caldo, Chicken Mami, Magnolia Ice Cream and Ice Cream Sundae. Halo-halo, Lumpiang Prito, Magnolia Milk and assorted cakes and cookies could be had for forty centavos. Lumpiang fresca (fresh lumpia) was the cheapest on the list at thirty centavos.

Other options include different sandwiches and pies. Students from Assumption and nearby schools, government workers and store employees frequented “Apung Gari” for over six decades. To cater to varied tastes, the menu was expanded to include sotanghon (dry or with soup), pancit guisado and goto. It even extended its services to include oven-cooking (“pa-ornu”) of lechon and liempo.

 When the Valencia couple passed away, members of the family continued the business, which thrived, thanks to its strong, loyal customers. It was sold to the Santiago family by the Valencia family around 2007, but the new owners retained the name owing to the pulling power of its name, that evokes simple, but tasty food and good times. The name recently was changed to FBS Bakeshop and Kiosk, and time will tell if the same affinity for the one and only “Apung Gari” will rub off on the newly-named bakeshop.