Thursday, October 27, 2016


YOU BY MY SIDE, THAT'S HOW I SEE US. Dr. Jesus Eusebio, noted opthalmologist from San Fernando, and wife Josefina Buyson of Bacolor, at their fabulous wedding in 1936.

If one wants to see an occasion that best shows the Kapampangan spirit and his all-out lust for life, then one has to go to milestone celebrations of family members—debuts, birthdays, graduations, funerals, and weddings. 

In the glory days of the 1920s and 30s, thanks to the booming sugar industry that made millionaires out of sugar planters and agricultural land owners, Kapampangans could very well hold events that were also virtual displays of affluence, power, social status, pomp and splendor, with a bit of braggadocio and ostentation thrown in.

Such was what characterized the legendary wedding that united the accomplished Dr. Jesus Eusebio of San Fernando and the beautiful Josefina Buyson of Bacolor in 1936, both children of two well-landed Pampanga families.

Dr. Jesus Eusebio was the eldest son of Don Andres Eusebio,  a prominent sugar planter and businessman. The older Eusebio also sat on the board of directors of Pampanga Sugar Development Co. (PASUDECO) and San Fernando Electric Light and Power Co. (SFELAPCO). Married to Asuncion Santos, his other sons included Eugenio, Amando, and Alfonso. Jesus, who finished his Associate in Arts at Ateneo,  was already a practicing ophthalmologist when he proposed to his lovely fiancee, Josefina Buyson.

Pitang, as she was called,  was one of the children of Mariano Buyson y Lampa of Bacolor, with his wife Dña. Maria de la Paz Miranda Angeles.  She and her sisters (Carmen, Luz, Emiliana, Asuncion and Pilar) were considered socialites of the town, and they grew up all accomplished—Carmen became an ambassador while Emiliana, a lawyer. But Pitang was the star, especially during the Mancomunidad Pampangueña balls, where her elegant fashion style came to fore—she was always dressed by high society couturier, Ramon Valera.

On April 12, 1936, at the ancient San Guillermo Church of Bacolor,  Jesus and Josefina were united in matrimony by the parish priest, Padre Andres Bituin. The church was decorated with flowers especially brought in a day before by Manila’s foremost florist, Mr. Francisco Hilario.

The bride was resplendent in a wedding gown made by Pacita Longos, the most famous couturier of the era who dressed up Manila’s crème de la crème and Philippine Carnival beauties.

Her  retinue included her sister, Carmen, as her Maid of Honor. Pitang’s close friends,  Rosario Puno, Ester Lazatin, Aurora Hizon, Gloria Dizon and Maria Joven Ramirez, were her Bridesmaids.
Jesus, smartly dressed in a black tailcoat, was attended by his groomsmen, brithers Eugenio, Amando, Alfonso,  brother-in-law Antonino Buyson, and Rodolfo Hizon, future San Fernando mayor.

Standing as principal sponsors were Dña. Mercedes Paras, Dña. Bartola S. de Dizon, along with the bride’s father. Completing the entourage was Master Tomas Dizon, the ring bearer, and Corona Eusebio, flower girl.

Reception followed at the expansive residence of the Buysons in Bacolor, which was dressed up for the occasion. Music and food overflowed, with entertainment provided by Serafin Payawal and Tirso Cruz, Manila’s best big bands.

After their wedding, the couple left on the liner President  Hoover, to honeymoon  in Europe and the U.S. For days, the en grande wedding was the talk of the town, with their wedding pictures splashed on the pages of national magazines. There would be other weddings after that, involving scions and daughters of other rich Kapampangan families, but none was raved and talked about in the same breadth as the Buyson-Eusebio nuptials, held at the height of Pampanga’s age of prosperity and plenty.

Sunday, October 16, 2016


THE NATION'S FINEST. The San Fernando Police Force,provincial winner in 1965, and national champions in 1970, "Best Municipal Police Force of the Year". 

The reputation of the Philippine police force today has been tarnished with front-page news of their alleged participations in extra-judicial killings, drug deals, police brutality, extortion and corruption—the same crimes which they were supposedly sworn to fight.

Of late, even Central Luzon policemen have been revealed to be involved in shady operations. The sacking of the Pampanga CIDG head in March 2014-- for re-selling seized shabu from legitimate raids-- is proof of how serious and entrenched the problem is, happening within the ranks of our so-called protectors and defenders.

There was a time when our Kapampangan policemen were dubbed as “the nation’s finest”, with a spotless reputation for their excellence in upholding law and order in the province. Leading the way is the San Fernando Police Force, which has been winning top awards under police chief Amando R. Cruz since its recognition in 1965 as Pampanga’s best.

 In 1970, now known as the San Fernando Police Department, it first copped Best Police Force in the entire first PC Zone, which qualified them to compete for the national finals. In formal rites at Camp Crame, the San Fernando Police Dept. won the nation’s highest award for police organizations—the Municipal Police Force of the Year—garnering 93 out of 100 points.

Just as successful was the 173rd Philippine Constabulary (PC) of Angeles City, which was adjudged as the Best PC Company of the Year, thus sealing a double victory for Pampanga’s proud men in uniform.

The “fightingest police force" from San Fernando, led by Chief of Police Pablo Mañago, were cited for having no single administrative case against them; they also have the highest percentage of crimes solved. They also received merits for their military discipline and courtesy.

 On the other hand, the 173rd PC of Angeles scored an amazing 914 points out of the 1000 perfect score. This is the first award for a PC contingent coming from Pampanga, considering the questionable image of the Philippine Constabulary in the region’s NPA hotbed. The company maintained its record of discipline and courtesy, with no reports of abuses and no court-martial charges against its members.

Under Maj. Teotimo Tangonan, the 173rd Company commander, the scope of their duties cover Angeles, Mabalacat, Porac and Magalang—which are considered Pampanga’s “hotspots”, prone to Huk attacks and violence. Back then, to see how efficient Pampanga’s police organizations were in keeping law and order, people just have to go to the capital town to watch the patrolmen in action—manning traffic and keeping things under control.

It is a different story for our police force now, who are getting a beating by the bad press they get every day. It will take more than feeble image-building efforts like “Gwapulis” and police pageant and talent winners to put the sheen back on the tarnished badges of our men in uniform. “Change is coming ”, the new administration promised, so let change come from within, starting with our young police cadets. Then perhaps, we will get our “nation’s finest” back. .

Monday, October 3, 2016


BIRDS OF THE SAME FEATHER. A Kapampangan girl holds a fake dove ("pati pati"), a painted flock of which are shown flying or resting on the steps as part of the studio scenography. Our feathered friends have always been an important part of our culture, traditional beliefs, everyday livelihood and folklore. ca. 1917.

They have always been a source of jokes for my Tagalog-speaking friends—these soundalike words “ayup-hayop” and “ibon-ebon” that hold different, but related meanings. “Ibon” is the Tagalog term for “bird”, but its near-homophone –“ebun”—is but an egg in Kapampangan. Similarly, that which Tagalogs call “hayop” (animal), is a mere ‘bird’ (ayup) in Kapampangan.

 In the days of yore, however, the secondary definition of “ayop”, as noted in Bergaño’s compilation of Kapampangan words, included brute animals such as cows and carabaos, amphibians, reptiles and insects. Today, “ayup” is a word solely used for our fine-feathered friends.

 The wetlands of Candaba are famed for being bird sanctuaries, where migratory birds from other lands leave their original habitat temporarily to escape harsh weather conditions and seek food in the environs of our marshlands.

Birdwatchers from all over the Philippines and around the world have started to discover Candaba’s bird sanctuary, which is being developed as a tourist destination. A collateral event—the Ibon-Ebun (Bird-Egg) Festival is celebrated annually, from Feb. 1-2, to honor not only the town patron, the pugo (quail)-carrying San Nicolas, but also to promote eco-tourism using its varied species of birds as attraction.

 Aside from Candaba, there was a time in the 1950s when the sleepy town of San Luis came alive with birdhunters coming in droves to hunt for jack snipes, locally known as “pasdan”. The season for snipes begin in September, when the chill of the northern countries send these birds southbound, with millions finding refuge in Pampanga and Tarlac.

“Pasdans” are prized for their tasty meat, so they are avidly hunted by locals as well as hobbysts from nearby Clark Air Base. The birds often perched on trees that fringed the vast rice paddies and marshes of Pampanga; in fact, they could be found all the way to Concepcion, Tarlac. The small birds are easy to spot by their sheer number. A bigger and more colorful variety—the “pakubo”—is rarer and more elusive. In 1955, the gaming limit for “pasdan” was limited to 50 birds per person.

“Pasdans” are either grilled or cooked adobo-style, a delicacy seldom seen on Pampanga tables today. Our province was once blessed with an abundance of birds of the most bewildering assortment—we even had local names for them.

We had eagles, falcons, hawks (agila, alibasbas, balawe), parrot varieties (katala loru, abukai or Philippine cockatoo, kilakil or white parrot, kulasisi), doves and pigeons ( pati-pati, batubato, the white-eared alimukun ), sparrows (denas paking, denas costa, denas bale, maya) and swallows (layang-layang, sibad, timpapalis). There were marsh birds ( patirik-tirik, uis, dumara), pelicans (kasili, pagala), long-legged herons and egrets (tagak, tikling, kandungangu, bako).

Then, there were birds noted for their colorful and unusual plumage (kuliawan or oriole, luklak or yellow vented bulbul, kansusuit or lyre bird, pabo real or peacock, silingsilingan or pied fantail) and for the cacophony of sounds they create (pipit, siabukut or Philippine coucal, tarat, martinis).

Much of our natural environment have changed irrevocably—caused by years of thoughtless land developments and conversions, illegal logging and deforestation, and of course, global warming. The devastating effects of the Pinatubo eruption also had far-reaching effects on our bird habitats, such that these creatures are no longer familiar to today’s generations, for they are rarely heard or sighted.

Their important roles in our culture and folklore are remembered in myths of old, as in the case of that sacred blue kingfisher from the marshlands of Pampanga, whose appearance foreshadowed events of profound significance--either gainful or grim—to humankind. This revered bird was called “batala”, who gave his name to the mightiest of ancient gods—Bathala.

Friday, September 23, 2016

*408. Comedy Through Word of Mouth: APENG DALDAL, San Luis, Pampanga

PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS. Apeng Daldal (real name: Serafin Gabriel), left us in stitches with his distinctive oral features--and his gift of non-stop gabbing. Fan photo, 1967.

In the days of black and white TV, “Pinilakang Tabing” was a must-watch program every afternoon, for it afforded me to watch 50s’ and fairly-recent 60s movies without going to a theater.

I’ve always been partial to fantasy films, and I remember enjoying “Silveria”, “Anak ng Bulkan”, “The Magnificent Bakya” and Pomposa, Ang Kabayong Tsismosa”. 

 But the one that left the most impression was “Magic Bilao”, an improbable story about a “bilao” that functioned pretty much like a magic carpet, taking anyone who stands on the woven winnowing basket, on an unexpected, marvelous joyride.

 With Apeng Daldal as its reluctant high-flying passenger, the magic bilao helped solve a barrio crime, and saved the day for lovebirds, Dindo Fernando and Rosemarie.

To me, it was Apeng Daldal who stole the show, playing Rosemarie’s brother, Tonio—who, with his thin, gangly frame and mile-long teeth sticking out from his wide mouth, turned out to be the hero of the story. The comedian earned his screen name from his funny oral/dental features, which he used to the hilt by being a motormouth with a high-pitched voice.

 He was born as Serafin Gabriel in the town of San Luis, Pampanga on 12 October 1928. At an early age, he moved to Manila, and despite his skeletal built, found work as a Divisoria kargador. Of course, he didn’t last long, so he tried his hand at working in the bod-a-bil, from the 40s-50s. He had a comedy group called “Top Three” (along with Mar Lopez and Bebing Santos) which drew crowds at the Manila Opera House.

His stage success paved the way for a TV career, starting with the 1961 noontime show “The Big Show”, supporting Cris de Vera, Sylvia La Torre and Oscar Obligacion. Apeng Daldal’s gift of non-stop gabbing and witty ad-libbing had audiences laughing for more, and soon, he was being cast in movies.

His debut was in the Susan Roces starrer, “Libis ng Baryo” (1964), that was followed by appearances in "Bandong Pugante" and "Babaing Kidlat". Sampaguita Pictures gave him his break, third-billed in 1964 production “Magic Bilao” after Rosemarie and Dindo Fernando. The comedy-romance-fantasy formula was perfect for Apeng and the movie was the takilya buster for 1965. The same concept was used in his next flick,”Walis ni Tenteng”, that practically retained the previous stars with Blanca Gomez and Bert Leroy Jr. thrown in. Again, the movie about a skinny sweeper and his magic broom was another monster hit for Apeng.

 Apeng Daldal—now regarded in the same breadth as A-lister funnymen Chiquito and Dolphy, was rewarded with a lead role in “Maskulado”, (also in 1965), pitting his physique against the buffed leading man, Arnold Mendoza. He worked almost nonstop, completing film projects like “Tatlong Mabilis” (1965), “Mistiko Meets Mamaw” (1966), “The Pogi Dozen”(1967), ”The Son of Dyango Meets Dorango Kid” (1967) and another comedy-fantasy film, “Baticobra at Flying Salakot”(1974).

The final decades of his life were spent working in different capacities for TV, radio and films. The creative Apeng wrote scripts for various TV comedy shows like “Ayos Lang, Pare Ko” (1972) and penned the story for the film “Dobol Dribol” (1979). He was heard on radio singing novelty songs ( "Pandanggo ng Aswang", "Hoy Mamang Kaminero") , while headlining 70s-80s gag shows like “Super Laff-In”, “Trio Los Bobos” and “Cafeteria Aroma”. His last film was the Eddie Romero-directed action-fantasy, “Kamakalawa”with Christopher de Leon and Tetchie Agbayani, released in 1981.

Afflicted for years with emphysema, he passed away on 9 February 1992. He was survived by his wife Elma Modesto and 8 children. Watching Apeng Daldal’s old movies on youtube today, you can say this Kapampangan was born with a funny bone in his mouth.

My Idol Comedian, Apeng Daldal:
Apeng Daldal,

Friday, September 16, 2016


FISH BE WITH YOU. A belle and her bangus, on the way home from the pampang. Fisheries remain to be an important industry for Kapampangans living in the delta region, c.1915.

Being in the central plains of Luzon, people are sometimes surprised to know that Pampanga, too, has a fishing trade, an industry  associated with coastal places like Navotas, Malabon, and the Visayan islands.

Actually, Pampanga has an area that is heavily watered by the great Pampanga River and its tributaries. In the delta towns of Guagua, Lubao and Sasmuan, as well as in the low-lying towns of Masantol, Macabebe, San Luis and Candaba, fisheries is a source of livelihood.

Fisherfolks catch fish either by the traditional method of setting traps in the water or by building fish ponds, which are a common sight in Macabebe and Masantol, where they are diked and seeded with fingerlings.

Upon maturity, the fish are harvested by letting the waters spill out. Large fishponds also served as swimming holes and picnic sites in the 20s-30s, as they not only had picturesque locations but they also provided an unlimited number of fish for food. Unfortunately, ponds have also become contributors to the worsening of the flood situations in these areas after the silting of major estuaries caused by the Pinatubo eruption. Fishponds have also been blamed for the disappearance of mangroves since their proliferation beginning in the 1970s.

In Candaba,  depending on the season, the swamp serves a dual function. During summer, it is used as an agricultural field to plant rice, vegetables and grow watermelons. But when the wet season arrives and rainwater fill the swamp, it turns into a lake teeming with bangus (milkfish), tilapia, paro (shrimp), ema (crab) and bulig (mudfish). (Tip: the Friday Candaba Market in Clark is the go-to place for the freshest catch of fish, shrimps, crabs, eels and other crustaceans).

 “Asan” is the Kapampangan term for “fish”, but today, when people ask “Nanung asan yu?”, they also mean “What’s your food?”—whether your “ulam” (viand) be made of meat or vegetable. “Masan” is a verb meaning “to eat”, it is specific to eating cooked fish or meat, thus, “masan asan” is “eat cooked fish”. There is hardly a difference between “asan” and “ulam”, as used today, which underlines the importance of fish in the life of the Kapampangan.

 While today’s Kapampangan is familiar with fish like itu (catfish), kanduli (salmon catfish) , sapsap (ponyfish) and talangka (small crabs), our old folks knew other kinds of fish with fascinating names that may sound alien to our ears today. A goldfish was called “talangtalang”, while a “pacut” is a small crab. Another name for kanduli is “tabangongo”, a “talunasan”, an edible eel. A “palimanoc” is a ray fish, a “tag-agan”—a swordfish, and its small look-alike is called “balulungi”, 

Our contribution to the culinary world include fish-based treats that include “burung asan” (using bulig),”balo-balo” (using tilapia, gurami and shrimp), and “taba ning talangka”. We also have our delectable versions of sisig bangus, pesang bulig and rellenong bangus. During Lent, we prepare sarsiado, escabeche, suam a tulya, and seafood bringhi. In our fiestas and holidays, we serve fancy fish dishes like Pescado el Gratin, Chuletas (fish fillet), and Pescado con Mayonesa. For many Kapampangans, there’s never a day without fish on the table.

 “Nanung asan yu?”

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


TOGETHER IN ELECTRIC DREAMS. The Mabalacat Hydro-Electric Plant in Sitio Bana, Dolores Mabalacat, harnessed the power of Mascup River to generate electricity. It was founded by former municipal presidente, Marcelo Tiglao. Late 1920s. Picture courtesy of Lord Francis Musni.

On the way to my elementary school, I would pass by a white building which,  I was told was where our town electricity and ice came from. Every day, “Mabalacat Hydro-Electric Plant” would sound off its siren to mark the start, the middle, and end of day, scheduling our lives, signaling us Mabalaqueños when to go to work, take a lunch break and when to go home.

Such was the power of that hydro-electric plant, and that power would become more apparent when I got home. Even if we had only about 5 kinds of appliances that used electricity—a 10 year-old black and white TV, a 2nd hand ref, a jetmatic water pump, 3 stand fans and my father’s Victrola radio phono—we used them a lot, day in and day out. At a flick of a switch, we could turn day into night, be refreshed, amused by comedy shows, and entertained by music and news.

It’s hard to believe that generations long before us have lived without the convenience of electricity and have survived. I often wonder what that “aha” moment felt, when electricity finally came to light up their world, literally.

 It was the capital city of Manila that first saw electric light in 1878, when Ateneo student Anacleto del Rosario paraded an electric lamp during the inauguration of the Carriedo waterworks. In 1890, Thomas Houston Electric Co. installed Manila’s first electric street lights in Escolta. It was in 1892 that the very first electric company—La Electricista—was set up along Calle San Sebastian (now Hidalgo St.) and started providing electricity three years later. Meralco (Manila Electric Railroad and Light Company) would follow in 1903.

Despite its proximity to Manila, it would take two decades before Pampanga could have its own power plants that could generate electricity from such sources as coal, natural gas, oil and later, renewable energy.

 On 10 July 1923, enterprising couple Don Juan and Dña. Nena Nepomuceno opened their Angeles Light and Power Plant, a year after their ice plant venture. It cost Php 72,000 to put up, a big amount at that time, but the couple carried on with their ambitious project. It is said that when the plant engineer turned the switch on, the city was flooded with bright lights that was met with great rejoicing. The roosters crowed and the church bells pealed as children came out to play in the streets.

The plant survived the trying wartime years when electricity had to be rationed off, as well as a fire which decimated the offices in 1945 and of course, the eruption of Pinatubo in 1991. Now known as Angeles Electric Corporation after its incorporation in 1959, it is the third largest electric company in Luzon. Some portions of Mabalacat, Bacolor, and Porac are supplied by AEC.

Not long after, the San Fernando Light and Power Company was established in 1927. It partnered with AboitizPower in 2009 enabling it to supply renewable energy to its residential, commercial and industrial customers. Aside from providing services to the city of San Fernando, SFELAPCO has consumers in Floridablanca, Bacolor, Guagua, Lubao and Sto. Tomas.

Mabalacat used to have its own electric plant owned by the Tiglaos that used the run-of-the-river hydroelectric technology to generate power. In this case, the source of water flow is Mascup River which the Tiglao family owns, located in sitio Bana, Dolores. Incidentally, the family also owned a popular river resort there. Later, it was known as “Hijos de Marcelo.Tiglao Hydro-electric Plant” and it continued to operate until the Pinatubo volcanic eruption buried the river completely in 1991. In 2006, a coal-powered plant was put up in the same town, known as the APEC (Asia-Pacific Energy Corp.) Station.

Today, most of Pampanga’s electric power is distributed to towns through the Pampanga Electric Cooperative distribution centers (PELCO I, II, III).

 Technology has grown by leaps and bound in ways that we can imagine, giving us countless gadgets and gizmos like microwave ovens, computers, tablets, cellphones, electric ranges and cars, electric this-and-that. It is almost impossible now to live unplugged. Only brownouts and long power outages serve to remind us that people once lived without or had limited access to electricity. Just like in the old days, we take out our candles, draw water from hand pumps, and tune in to Ingkung’s scratchy-sounding battery-run transistor radio to find out when power will be restored!

Monday, September 5, 2016

*405. LILIA DIZON: Kapampangan Bathaluman

BOMBSHELL BATHALUMAN. Lilia Dizon , who originated  'strong Filipino women roles' on the silver screen is of Kapampangan-American descent.

Today, Lilia Dizon is known as the mother of actors Christopher, Pinky and Lara Melissa de Leon. But she, too, had her time in the spotlight; she was also an actress of note, known for portraying strong bombshell beauties on the silver screen, a sharp departure from the 'pa-sweet' and demure Filipinas whose presence predominated local movies.

She was born in 1931 as Claire Strauss, the only child of German-Jew Abraham Strauss with Kapampangan Regina Dizon. Her father left the family for the U.S. in 1940, but then the war broke, preventing him from coming back. Claire was left with her mother in the Philippines to fend for themselves in Baguio.

At the height of the Liberation, she and her mother escaped the carnage of Baguio by walking all the way to La Union. From there, they proceeded to Manila to start life anew.  At age 15, Claire started performing at the Lotus Theater as a singer. The next year, she was discovered for the movies by writer-director Susana de Guzman--and became known to a legion of movie fans as Lilia Dizon.

Her first lead role was in the 1948 film, “Kaaway ng Babae,” where she had to act like a man in a very physical role that required a lot of running, At 17, she married director and actor Gil de Leon, sixteen years her senior. She made her mark portraying strong women roles in movies like “Sandra Wong,” “Kandilerong Pilak” (Asia’s Best Actress award in 1954), and "Bathaluman” with Mario Montenegro, a role that showed her Juno-esque figure at its most beautiful.

After her 18 year-marriage ended, Lilia left for the U.S. in 1966 to join her father in California and acquired her American citizenship. She made amends with Gil before he died, and after his demise, Lilia married Antonio Abad, a match that produced 2 more children, Antoinette and Corrie.

She would resurface in 1974 to appear with son Christopher in the award-winning Brocka film, “Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang” which would catapult her son to fame. She could not re-establish her career though, as her two young children left behind in the U.S. needed her care. Now divorced, the tough Kapampangan bombshell of the 50s is back to being Claire Strauss and is a doting grandma to fifteen grandchildren.