Wednesday, March 28, 2007


THE PEDRO MORALES RESIDENCE, designed by the esteemed Kapampangan architect Fernando Ocampo y Hizon, one of the pioneers of Philippine modern architecture. The art deco house was once an imposing presence in Mabiga, Mabalacat and merited a write-up in the Pampanga Social Register of 1936.

Talk about being a Kapampangan “sosyal” in the prosperous pre-war 1930s.The “Pampanga Social Register”, a slim book published in 1936, documented all the names of the province’s leaders in business, in the professions and in the society, a veritable list of Pampanga’s who’s who, all members of the upper crust: sugar barons, politicos, lawyers, doctors, judges, industrialists, even gorgeous debutantes and affluent bachelor eligibles. The pages included portraits, photos of weddings en grande, brief biographical entries and even mansions of the rich and famous.

To my surprise, the list included the names of 2 of our direct relatives: Rafael Morales and Pedro Morales, accomplished brothers of my paternal grandmother Patricia Morales. Both of my granduncles were lawyers, and Rafael or Ingkung Paeng, had his spacious house constructed right next to ours in Sta. Ines after his marriage to Belen Lansangan. The San Rafael Parish in Mabiga, built on land donated by the his 2 philanthropist-daughters, is dedicated to the memory of Ingkung Paeng.

But it was the entry of my other little-known granduncle that stirred my greater interest. Other than the short profile about his person, the book also included a picture of his grand house which once dominated Mabiga’s landscape!

Pedro Morales, born 22 February 1886, was the eldest son of Quintin Morales y Tuason and Paula Guzman y Cosme, members of the town principalia. Quintin was a former teniente mayor of Poblacion and a cabeza of Sta. Ines (Note: Ever since, the Moraleses were a very political family; Quintin’s brother Valentin was a teniente mayor of Sapang Biabas. Their nephew, Dr. Miguel Morales was the 1st elected mayor of Mabalacat after the Liberation, and whose grandson, MarinoBoking” Morales, is the current mayor) . Ingkung Pedro’s other siblings included sisters Clotilde, Maria and Patricia.

As was the custom in the old days, the boys were sent off by their parents to fine schools while the girls stayed at home. Pedro and Rafael studied law at the famous Escuela de Derecho, a non-sectarian school founded by Filipino revolutionists whose vision was to give education that would produce not only lawyers but “true Filipinos”. After graduation, he practiced his profession in Mabalacat where he worked as a Notary Public. But he was also an astute businessman, becoming a successful sugar planter like his father before him. He became a stockholder of the National Life Insurance Company and Provident Insurance Company. Married to Elena Hizon of Porac, Ingkung Pedro raised 4 children: Remedios, Eliseo, Felicidad and Quintin. The couple settled in rustic Mabalacat and when it was time to build their house, they solicited the help of a relative, famed architect Fernando Ocampo, Elena’s first cousin.

Arch. Fernando Ocampo y Hizon was one of the country’s pioneers of modern architecture. His contemporaries included Juan Nakpil and Andres Luna de San Pedro (Juan Luna’s son). After earning a degree in Civil Engineering at the University of Sto. Tomas, he took up and finished architecture at the University of Pennsylvania. He further pursued advanced studies at the American Academy in Rome, then joined the firm of Ballinger and Perrot in Philadelphia in 1922.

The next year though, he returned to the Philippines and was employed in the Architecture Division of the Bureau of Public Works. In partnership with Tomas Arguelles, Ocampo formed his own archictectural firm in 1928. In 1930, he founded the U.S.T. School of Architecture and was a member of the Board Exams from 1929-1930. His contributions to Philippine architecture were honored with a Gold Medal of Merit from the Philippine Institute of Architects in 1953. In his prime, Arch. Ocampo had a list of high profile projects. His best known work is the reconstruction of the Manila Cathedral in the 1950s. He likewise restored the Cathedral of San Fernando after it was destroyed by fire in 1939. Among his commercial projects, the Arguelles Bldg. along Rizal Avenue, Cu-unjieng Bldg. in Escolta and Angela Apartments along Roxas Blvd. Stand out for their sleek art deco design.

For his cousins, Arch. Fernando Ocampo designed for a two-storey house, a sort of a modernized bahay na bato”, with the trademark art deco feel the architect favored, and which was the vogue at that time. The large, well-ventilated house itself had a frontal veranda and high French windows with frosted glass panes and sliding ventanillas underneath. The mansion was fenced in with iron grills that incorporated the couple’s initials, “M” and “H”. The landscaped garden was lush with flowering shrubs and ornamentals.

Just like his brother, Rafael, Pedro furnished his house with the latest furniture from renown House of Puyat, owned and operated by Gonzalo Puyat and sons, with offices at Rodriguez Arias St. and with a branch in Avenida, Rizal. The paint job was contracted to A.B. Villanueva and Sons. With its imposing presence, the house was a Mabalacat landmark, until the dark days of the 2nd World War. In the last stages of the war, the Japanese started bombing the Ermita district where the Morales family took refuge. While some family members evacuated to Dimasalang, Ingkung Pedro chose to remain in Indiana St., where he met his fate, a victim of the enemy’s rampage, his body never to be recovered.

In the ‘70s, the Morales house was moved by the heirs, piece by piece, to Magalang, where it was unfortunately gutted by fire and reduced to ashes. The only extant picture of the Morales house, which once stood on a Mabiga lot now occupied by the Church of the Latter Day Saints, is reproduced in the Pampanga Social Register book, a pictorial reminder of the glory days when affluent Kapampangans knew how to live it to the hilt by building houses as grand as their dreams.
(5 October 2002)


Ace-to-Isip said...

I remember seeing this mansion in Mabiga. When was it transfered to Magalang?

alex r. castro said...

In the late '70s, I believe. Sayang, ano?