Wednesday, December 19, 2007

64. Murder Most Foul: THE CURSE OF P. GREGORIO BUENO

CURSE & CONSEQUENCE: Is this Mabalacat’s Fr. Bueno? This faded portrait, obtained from an antique dealer, shows a portly friar in Recoleto habit. At back is scrawled in pencil, “P. Gregorio Bueno.” Circa 1890.

The history of Mabalacat town has always been associated with the popular account of how a friar, before being killed in cold blood by a band of hoodlums on orders from a head of a prominent Mabalacat family, uttered a curse, saying that Mabalacat will never prosper and thrive.

The priest in question was Padre Gregorio Bueno de la Virgen del Rosario, born in Tarazona, in the province of Aragon, Spain. As a Recollect missionary, he was first assigned in Zambales, serving the towns of Iba and Masinloc, then was moved to the convent of the Recoletos in Manila. He was then appointed as the parish priest of Mabalacat, on November 30, 1875. Mabalacat by then, was a primary “mission viva” of Upper Pampanga, an active center of mission work from which the needs of nearby visitas in Tarlac where administered. By 1897, during Fr. Bueno’s tenure, Mabalacat had a population of around 9,705 souls, a substantial figure at that period, a further affirmation of the town’s primal role in converting heathens and spreading the word of God.

Fr. Bueno was the last Recollect to serve Mabalacat, and his term of 23 years was the longest. His controversial murder on July 10, 1898 triggered much speculations and unanswered questions to this day. Over the years too, the circumstance behind his death has taken on mythic proportions, resulting in fanciful versions that range from romantic to the improbable.

It is a known but a hush-hush knowledge that the family implicated in Fr. Bueno’s death were the Tiglaos. Recently, a direct descendant of the Tiglaos—Sigfried Ranada (or Isagani Ibarra)—currently Mabalacat’s head of culture and arts, shed some light on this tale of lust, mayhem and revenge.

The common version had these spicy details: a female member of the Tiglao family went to see the parish priest to have some religious articles blest. Instead, the priest supposedly made overtures unbecoming of his habit. Insulted, the woman fled home and reported the incident to patriarch Don Marcelo Tiglao, who exacted revenge by ordering his killing. Thus began the curse—that not only affected the town’s march to progress, but also the fortunes of the Tiglaos (not to mention the rained-out graduation rites of the town’s high schools!).

Mr. Ranada pointed out that his great grandfather Marcelo, who was a municipal presidente, could not have possibly perpetrated the crime because he was scheduled to meet with Aguinaldo’s revolutionary forces at that same hour. Friends loyal to Marcelo Tiglao purportedly carried out the plot.

Over the years, the story took on several versions, one quite lurid, with enough characters to populate another Jose Rizal novel! This version had a beautiful Tiglao girl engaging in a “dangerous liaison” with the priest, a willing “dagis pisamban” (church rat) who eventually became pregnant. The girl’s family had the priest kidnapped by hoodlooms who beheaded him in nearby Capas, Tarlac. The girl supposedly delivered a baby girl who grew up into adulthood and was adopted by a local Chinese family. Still another account centered on the motive of the Tiglaos for the said murder. It was said that fr. Bueno kept a hoard of gold somewhere within the church premises which the patriarch was eyeing!

Even the curse of the padre underwent several romantic permutations. The curse uttered by the Fr. Bueno was not really meant for the town—but for the family who instigated his death. Versions had the priest cursing the patriarch either with death from an incurable disease (cancer) and/or loss of family fortune. To undo the curse, it was said, Mabalacat had to produce its own fourteen native priests!

Prof. Lino Dizon’s book, “East of Pinatubo”, includes an account of the Bueno murder, based on the historical writings of Fr. Licinio Ruiz, an Augustinian Recollect. It was reported that by 1897, the fervor of the Philippine revolution reached Pampanga and Tarlac, which resulted in the closing of some Recollect missions. Anti-Spanish sentiment was very strong at that time and even priests were not spared from reprisals: Fr. Baldomero Abadia, of nearby O’Donnell mission for one, was killed by revolutionaries.

When Filipino revolutionaries succeeded in taking Tarlac from the Spaniards, word reached Mabalacat about Spains’ surrender at the Makabulos Headquarters in San Miguel. A horde of angry, impassioned Mabalaqueño revolutionaries—incited by a prominent family of the town-- stormed the parish and dragged Fr. Bueno outside where he was humiliated in public before being charged with espionage and shot to death by a firing squad. At the time of his death, Fr. Bueno was almost 66 years old.

The late revolutionary Lt. Emilio Dominguez, a Mabalacat resident, claimed to have been given a gruesome account of Fr. Bueno’s final moments by an unnamed witness, recounted to historian Mr. Daniel Henson Dizon of Angeles. Through his window that was slightly ajar, this witness saw Fr. Bueno on a horse-drawn cart flanked by two guards. Hours later, word of his execution reached him. It was said that Fr. Bueno was forced to stand in a pit that was to be his grave, and, before being boloed to death, uttered his curse in Kapampangan.

Dramatic though the turn of events may have been, it is inconclusive if the padre’s curse has indeed come true. Mabalacat today is a designated special economic zone of Clark and there are unmistakable signs of progress: the vital linking of the town to the North Expressway via Sta. Ines, the booming of Dau, the burgeoning of prime real estate. But then again, there are horror stories to tell: the continuing plagues from Clark’s toxic waste, the devastation of the northern part of the town by Mount Pinatubo, and many more. Whether Mabalaqueños like it or not, the stigma of the curse will continue to be inextricably linked with its popular history.
( 6 September 2003)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

63. PORMANG KAPAMPANGAN

KASANTING DA RENG BAINTAU! Well-to-do Kapampangans during the American rule dressed in the de riguer daywear: stiff collar, tie, vest and a white Americana suit with matching white baston pants. Even the subject of this photo signed off with an Americanized name: Frank Ocampo. Dated 1924.
Our taste for fashion defines not just our individuality but also our collective cultural identity as one nation. Today, it is the unkempt , metrosexual, long-hair look that’s the hit of the season, no doubt promoted by the Taiwanese übergroup F4 and TV pre-Superman’s Tom Welling. Out on the streets, under the sweltering sun, you will meet male teens in bleached jeans, elephant pants, loose long sleeved shirts matched with a knitted bonnet or skullcap, bowling shoes and messenger bags.

Apparently, after all these years, nothing has changed in so far as assimilating fashion trends is concerned. Then, as now, youngsters looked to the West to inspire and build the contents of their wardrobe. At the height of our Hispanization, young men—especially of the mestizo and ilustrado stock—displayed their unabashed loyalty to Spain by donning European fashions that were oftentimes incompatible with the tropical heat. In the 1890s, they had opted to trade the wide Chinese-looking pants in favor of a pantalon de fina lana. On their head sat a more comfortable Bowler hat (Rizal wore one to his execution). They now also wore imported shirts which they tucked into their pants and strutted around like a peacock in their pointed leather shoes while brandishing a silver-tipped baston (swagger stick). Under the heat of the sun, they slicked their moustache to a curl with pomade and parted their hair in the middle, a trademark Cachupoy look the comedian popularized many years later.

But such fashions were to change dramatically with the coming of our new colonial masters, the Americans, who brought a whole cabinet of stylistic influences that would hasten the Americanization of our Philippine dressing tradition.

“Sajonista” was a term for Americanized Filipinos who took to the new ways like the proverbial duck to water. Initial hatred and fear of the damned Yanquis slowly changed to fond affection, especially when the policy of “benevolent assimilation” , which sounded so sincere to many Filipinos, was introduced. Youngsters didn’t just infect their speech with American twang but also adapted the fashions of “Modern Youth” and the “Young Generation”.

For the first 3 decades of American rule, the educated Kapampangan elite wore white baston pants, white shirts and a long tie with the new white Americana that had open, thin lapels (as opposed to the closed americana cerrada). For Manila school boys, only primera clase (first class) suiting materials bought from Paris Manila would do. Young Kapampangan boys, however, trooped to local tailoring shops in San Fernando to have their suits made, the popular choices being the shop of C. Hugo, the “Gentlemen’s Tailor Modernist and P.G. Tuazon Gentleman’s Tailor (“Fit and Elegance Characterize our Work”). In nearby Angeles, one could go to Cunanan’s Tailoring managed by master cutter Aproniano Cunanan, Angeles Fashion and A.D. Fajardo’s Tailoring (“Espesyalista ya qng Pamanabas at Pamiayus qng Imalan. Migcamit yang Diploma qng Sartorial Academy of the Philippines” ).

For the latest in sharp-pointed shoes, the places to visit were El 96 in Angeles, Zapateria de la Moda y Bazar of Alejo T. Roque (“Matibe, Mura at Masanting”), Zapateria Popular, Zapateria Miranda and Zapateria Moderna in San Fernando, established in 1907. Accessories like hats were sourced from Bazar L. Magat which sold varias clases sombrero del pais y extranjero (various kinds of local and imported hats).

By the 1930s, the Aguinaldo crew cut was a thing of the past. Instead, young men opted for the well-groomed Valentino look with hair parted in the middle (or left or right.), plastered with Tarzan, Tres Flores or Verbena pomade.At the start of a new decade, Kapampangans emulated the Jazz Era look popular in U.S. campuses: super -wide bell-bottomed pants worn with flannel scarves. Favorite khakis continued to be worn in the 1940s but for formal events, young men shifted to double-breasted American suits made of sharkskin, a look our glamor stars like Rogelio de la Rosa frequently sported.

Today, traditional Philippine costumes like the barong are worn only on special occasions like weddings, funerals, or during cultural shows. But it seems that our vain Kapampangan menfolk, whether attired in an Americana, a camisa chino, tie-dyed T-shirt, an Armani suit, a punky leather jacket, Banlon polyesters or even in a Bench underwear —can carry it all with confidence and aplomb, proof that when it comes to all-time porma, the Kapampangan is second to none.

Monday, December 10, 2007

62.ROGELIO DE LA ROSA: Golden Boy of Philippine Cinema

ROGELIO’s RISING STAR. Lubao’s native son rose to become the brightest male star in the Golden Age of the Philippine Cinema (1940s-50s), best known for his team-up with Carmen Rosales. After retiring from the movies, he entered politics, got elected as a Senator, ran for Presidency and became an ambassador to Sri Lanka, Cambodia and The Hague, Netherlands. He is shown in this extremely rare, autographed picture at the peak of his career, ca. late 1940s-early 1950s.

Whenever I hear the strains of the song “Maalaala Mo Kaya?” on TV resurrected as a theme song for a hit serial, I feel myself transported to the days of black and white cinema, when the most popular scenes involved young swains and provincial lassies in some idyllic barrio setting, cavorting behind trees and flirting from haystack to haystack. More often than not, these movies featured the most recognized love team of the 40s and 50s, Carmen Rosales and a handsome actor from Lubao, Rogelio de la Rosa. His star would remain on top of the showbiz firmament for over 3 decades, peaking at a period in the 1950s that has come to be known as the Golden Age of Philippine Cinema.

Rogelio was born as Regidor de la Rosa on 12 November 1916 to Feliciano de la Rosa and Rosario Lim. His siblings took quite an interest in the performing arts as younger brother Jaime (real name: Tomas) and sisters Africa and Purita were all involved in the movies in different capacities. Purita eventually became the 1st wife of Pres. Diosdado P. Macapagal, while Jaime made a name for himself as another matinee idol of note.

But it was Rogelio who undoubtedly reaped the most success in a career that spanned the years of silent films and the talkies. It was a kabalen, Gregorio Fernandez, the noted director, who introduced the strapping 6-footer to film mogul Don Jose Nepomuceno in 1929. His launch movie in 1932 was with a Filipina-European mestiza, Rosa del Rosario (the 1st high-flying Darna) , entitled Ligaw na Bulaklak. Other early works included Diwata ng Karagatan for Parlatone Hispano Family (1936) and Bituing Marikit, Sampaguita Pictures (1937).

Over the years, Rogelio worked with the most renown directors of Philippine movies—from Vicente Salumbides, Lamberto Avellana, Gregorio Fernandez, to Carlos Vander Tolosa and Susana de Guzman. The handsome actor was paired with the most beautiful leading ladies of the silver screen: Elsa Oria, Mila del Sol, (mother of Jeanne Young), Lilia Dizon (mother of Christopher de Leon), Tessie Quintana, Corazon Noble, Emma Alegre, Cecilia Lopez, Norma Blancaflor (“the girl with a perfect face”) and his most famous on-screen love interest—the reclusive Carmen Rosales. He would star with her in blockbuster films like Señorita, Colegiala and Lambingan. In real life however, Rogelio chose a fellow Kapampangan to be his wife—Lota Delgado of Angeles.

In 1939, he put up his own RDR Productions, a co-venture with Placido Mapa and J. Amado Araneta. Its initial offering was Ang Maestra, with Rosa del Rosario. The next year, he did Anong Ganda Mo with Norma Blancaflor and Caballero, with Miss Luzon of 1936, Amparo Karagdag. The war years did not stop his rising star, and, in 1949, he starred in Kampanang Ginto, a reunion movie with Carmen Rosales. Post-war, he assumed sole ownership of the production outfit and came up with Irisan, where he teamed up with his wife, Lota Delgado.

Just like today’s movies, Rogelio’s films spawned memorable theme songs that millions of star-struck fans hummed and sang along with: Sarung Banggi, Ang Tangi Kong Pag-Ibig, Katakataka, Bituing Marikit, Tayo Na Sa Antipolo and of course, Maalaala Mo Kaya?.
His most acclaimed role yet was in the 1955 movie Higit sa Lahat, directed by Gregorio Fernandez. He not only earned a Famas Best Actor Award for his role, but also won the 1956 Asian Film Fest Best Actor Award in Hong Kong. True to his roots, he starred in a Pampanga-themed movie, “Pampanggenya”, with Linda Estrella in 1956.

It was also in 1955 that he entered politics and won a seat as a Senator. He could have been our first movie star president had he continued his run for Presidency in 1961. Rogelio withdrew his candidacy to give way to his brother-in-law, Diosdado, who subsequently was elected to the highest office of the land. Nevertheless, he was rewarded with an ambassadorial position in Sri Lanka and Cambodia. His last assignment was in The Hague, Netherlands, a post he held until his death on 10 November 1986. The loss of the Philippines’ most admired and most important male star was clearly Heaven’s gain.

FILMS: Dalawang Daigdig, Garrison 13, Tagumpay (1946), Sarung Banggi (1947), Hampas ng Langit, Sword of the Avenger (filmed in Hollywood with Duncan Renaldo, released locally as Ang Vengador), 1,000 Kagandahan (1948), Kidlat sa Silangan, Kampanang Ginto (1949), 48 Oras, Tigang na Lupa, Sohrab at Rustum, Doble Cara, Prinsipe Amante (1950), Prinsipe Amante sa Rubitanya (1951), Sa Paanana ng Bundok (1953), Ikaw ang Buhay Ko , May Bukas Pang Lumipas (1954), Tangi Kong Pag-ibig, Iyong-iyo, Sonny Boy, Pandanggo ni Neneng (1955), Lydia, Pampanggenya, Apat na Kasaysayang Ginto (1956).
(23 August 2003)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

61. Pampanga's Churches: STA. RITA DE CASIA

GENERAL COMMUNION OF THE PUBLIC SCHOOL CHILDREN. Sta. Rita Church, Sta. Rita, Pampanga. The Sta. Rita Institute General High School is housed in the next building. Fr. Felipe Diaz could be the parish priest shown in this picture with the first communicants, as this picture is dated 15 March 1947, still within his term.

The town of Santa Rita brings to mind images of delicious confections and pastries like sans rival and turrones de casuy—favorite pasalubong ideas for relatives and friends abroad. For all its reputation as the town that offers “sinfully sweet” indulgences, Sta. Rita is also a town noted for its devout spirituality, and, much like Betis, is known for producing a large number of religious priests and nuns.

The future town of Sta. Rita actually started as a clearing in a place called “Gasac”, which is now Barrio San Isidro. It was known early as Sta. Rita Baculud or Sta. Rita de Lele, in reference to its proximity to Bacolor, where townsfolk did their daily marketing via barrio Sta. Barbara. Its history is also closely linked with Porac for Sta. Rita was near the Esterillo Viejo, or Sapang Matua, a creek that originated from the Porac mountains. For a while, one priest—Fr. Pedro de San Nicolas—was assigned to serve the spiritual needs of both Porac and Sta. Rita. It was only in 1770 when Sta. Rita secured its political/spiritual independence from Porac, due largely to the efforts of Fr. Don Vicente Eustaquio Polina, a secular native priest. 1770, thus, is regarded as the town’s founding year, also coinciding with the assumption of office of Juan Balatbat, Sta. Rita’s 1st gobernadorcillo.

For its titular patroness, the town chose Santa Rita de Casia, a 15th century Augustinian saint invoked by desperate people beset with seemingly hopeless problems like troubled marriages and domestic violence. Sta. Rita was married to an ill-tempered husband who was subsequently murdered. Her two children vowed revenge, but Sta. Rita, through her intense prayers, averted her children’s criminal plot. The two fell sick and died before they could carry out their vengeance. Thus without a family, Rita joined the Augustinians but only after several unsuccessful attempts. She led a life of mortification and, in a moment of fervent prayer, received the stigmata of the Lord on her forehead.

The actual construction of the church was deferred until the late 19th century. An 1835 document asserts that a certain Don Alejandro Rodriguez, member of the town principalia, was accepted as a brother of the Augustinian Order for having been a benefactor of the church. It may be that Don Alejandro donated either land or money to initiate the building of the church.

Credit for the construction of the church of Sta. Rita as we know it today goes to the town prior, Fr. Francisco Royo who started the masonry in 1839. It was completed by Fr. Juan Merino in 1869 (one of the church’s 5 bells is inscribed with his name). Both priests were also responsible for opening roads linking Sta. Rita with Guagua and Porac.

The last Augustinian priest was Fr. Celestino Garcia who figured in the Revolution of 1898. At the height of the unrest, he was hidden by his loyal parishioners. Later, he was captured by Gen. Maximino Hizon in Bacolor. Taken prisoner, he was spirited away to Lepanto. He managed to elude his security however, and fled back south where the prominent Asingan family of Pangasinan gave him refuge. The 1st native priest was Fr. Braulio Pineda. Others who served the parish include Frs. Nicanor Banzali, Tomas Dimacali, Pablo Camilo and Genaro Sazon.

The original church measured 55 meters long by 13 meters wide. Its height was around 10 meters. The church has marked baroque influences as seen from its triangular windows, despite its solidity. Notable features include a large transept , a spacious portico and a short but squat 4-storey bell tower. Its pediment showcases a small retablo flanked by small bell towers. The Church of Sta. Rita is another fine example of the Catholic Church’s material heritage and any one who enters its portals will be glad to know that this pisamban and its walls still reverberate with the sweet memories of a proud Kapampangan town.
(16 August 2003)