Tuesday, December 16, 2008

*120. Pampanga's Cities: ANGELES CITY

WHO'S MINDING THE MUNICIPIO? Angeles officials in front of the historic town hall which has now been converted into a museum. Dated 13 Dec. 1956.

The premiere city of Angeles owes its beginnings to an illustrious San Fernando couple who had the will, the foresight and an adventurous spirit to develop a large expanse of neighboring wild, untamed land called Culiat, named after a vine that grew densely in the area. Thus, in 1796, Don Angel Pantaleon de Miranda and wife Dña. Rosalia de Jesus, together with their partner farmers, armed only with a few farm tools and an image of the Virgen del Rosario, ventured forth to claim and clear the new frontier.

The land prospered under their guidance, and in 1810, the couple built a Santuario for the celebration of a Holy Mass. A chaplain, P. Juan Zablan of Minalin, was appointed by church authorities in 1812, but the administration still depended on San Fernando. Culiat progressed as its population increased, and the founding couple thus sought to establish a town detached from San Fernando. Their efforts bore fruit on 8 December 1829 with the official recognition of Culiat as a new town of Pampanga.

A new name was bestowed upon the town—Angeles—in honor of the Los Angeles Custodios, protectors of the patroness, our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary. But the name also pays tribute to the founder, Don Angel, a former gobernadorcillo, now the acknowledged father of a new town. Ciriaco succeeded his father, serving as the 1st ever gobernadorcillo in 1830.

There was no stopping the growth of Angeles thereafter. A more spacious church replaced the old Santuario in 1833, and in the same year, the Casa Tribunal was erected. The town’s territorial boundaries—which initially included the barrios of Sto. Rosario, San Jose, Amsic, Santol, Cutcut and Pampang—expanded to include 7 barrios of San Fernando: Cacutud, Capaya, Mining, Pandan, Pulungbulu, Sapa Libutad and Tabun. Three barrios were ceded by Mabalacat to Angeles: Balibago, Malabañas and Pulung Maragul. Mexico gave up Cutud. Population increase necessitated the creation of more barrios: Sto Domingo, Anunas, Sto. Cristo and San Nicolas. With the relocation of the market, Tacondo, Sapangbato and Talimunduc started to be populated.

During the Philippine Revolution, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo transferred the seat of government to Angeles, and it was here that the 1st anniversary of the Philippine independence was celebrated. The town fell to the American forces on 5 November 1899, after a drawn-out battle. The U.S. Army set up their post in Talimundoc, but relocated to Sapang Bato, a place that had better sawgrass for their horses. This expansive place would later be transformed into Fort Stotsenburg, and later, Clark Air Base in 1908.

During the 2nd World War, Stosenburg was carpet-bombed, totally destroying America’s air might. Angeles fell to the Japanese on New Year’s Day in 1942, and Angeleños were witnesses to the Death March of over 50,000 prisoners who passed their town. The liberation of the Philippines signaled a new ear to Angeles, rising from the ashes of the war to become Central Luzon’s premiere city on 1 January 1964, under Republic Act No. 3700.

From thereon, Angeles grew at an exponential rate, thanks in part to the presence of Clark Air Base which provided employment to many Kapampangans, but also spawned businesses of every conceivable variety to cater to the needs of thousands of Americans living in the city. Foremost among this was the entertainment industry, and for years, Angeles was associated with honky-tonk bars, prostitution dens, strip clubs and sleazy joints, and this image as a sort of a wild cowboy town persisted till the '90s.

But in 1991, the Senate vetoed the extension of U.S. military presence in the Philippines, but it was the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo that hastened the closure of Clark. Two years after the cataclysmic disaster, Clark re-emerged as a special economic zone, and once again, Angeleños worked hard to put the city back on its feet and its progress back on track.

Present-day Angeles, with its 33 barangays, lives up to its name as a premiere city-- home to many burgeoning industries and export businesses like furniture, metal crafts, houseware, garments and handicrafts. The Clark Freeport Zone is the site of the city’s emerging technology industry, with multinational call-centers establishing their bases here. An international airport now serves as a major transport hub for the country. Spanking modern malls, commercial infrastructures and efficient expressways now dot the Angeles landscape, and a cultural renaissance is happening right in the heart of the city. Which leads many an Angeleño to believe-- that the holy guardians of their beloved city never sleep.

(*NOTE: Feature titles with asterisks represent other writings of the author that appeared in other publications and are not included in the original book, "Views from the Pampang & Other Scenes")

Monday, December 15, 2008


FEAR THIS FISH! Drowning deaths of people were often attributed to the sirens of the deep, who seduce swimmers to their watery doom. Mermaids also inspired this photo studio to offer fantasy pictures such as this, through the clever use of painted scenography. 1920s.

The most effective way to silence crying, bickering and unruly Kapampangan children was for parents to warn them of creatures coming to take them away if they don’t hush up. “Eka mainge…migising ya ing kapri! Kunan naka!” (Don’t be noisy, you’ll rouse the ‘kapre’ and he’ll spirit you away!) was the usual warning needed for kids to behave and toe the line.

The Kapampangan underworld is replete with mythical denizens conjured hundreds of years ago by our anito-worshipping ancestors. Pagans believed in the concept of enchantment and magic—"manuple", was a term given to those who bewitched people. A more specific term is ‘uclub’—a witch or a sorcerer. A variant is an ‘ustuang’, an enchanter who works his magic at night. Someone under a witch’s spell is ‘megaue’, while a baby can also be a victim of ‘asug’, stricken with colic caused by someone taking fancy on a child.

“Eme atuan”, is also a warning given to kibitzers who stare at people without reason, lest they are afflicted by the evil eye. “Meyatu” is a term for anito possession, so a person taken over by a spirit is often zombie-like and lifeless. It is best to let him be, or else, his condition may worsen.

A person who believed in such diabolical elements is a “magmantala” and from his superstitious beliefs came such creatures of the night like imps (duendi), fairies (diuata), goblins (patianak), elementals (laman labuad) and a cigar-smoking giant sprite who resides in mango trees called ‘kapre’ (derived from the Arabic word ‘kaffir’, a non-believer of Islam, to which the dark-skinned Dravidians belong).

A "kularyut", on the other hand, is an ancient dwarf that haunts forested places; one such kularyut was supposed to inhabit the bamboo groves on both sides of Sapang Balen in Mabalacat. Sightings of this wrinkled, long-haired dwarf have been reported since the 1960s. It was last seen reportedly by a group of squatters who fled the place in fear. Good-humored town people observed that it took a kularyut, and not an act of law, to finally eject the illegal squatters.

Old folks also believed in people endowed with supernatural powers like the "mangkukulam" (a spellbinder), "manananggal" ( a winged creature characterized by a long tongue and detachable torso) and a "mambabarang" ( a person who wields power over insects). To ward off the threats of these beings, one can forestall the impending evil they are about to cast. “Sungal” is foreshadowing evil, hence, a form of counterforce. By firmly addressing witches with the words –“Sungal da ca!”, the spell is rendered useless.

Instrumental to our persistent belief in supernatural creatures is our over-imaginative entertainment media, which, over the years, has created more fantasy creatures both good and evil--from Dyesebel, the mermaid with a human heart, the human arachnid Gagambino to snakeman Zuma--these beings continue to reinforce our belief in the existence of higher powers, the better to scare us, delight us and indulge our innate curiosity for the odd, the strange and the frighteningly bizarre.

(*NOTE: Feature titles with asterisks represent other writings of the author that appeared in other publications and are not included in the original book, "Views from the Pampang & Other Scenes". The author wishes to thank Singsing Magazine for most of the information needed for this article)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

*118. Bale Matua: THE MORALES MANSION, Mabalacat

GRAND DESIGN. The Morales Ancestral Mansion, built by the Atty. Rafael Morales of Mabalacat, for his bride, Belen Lansangan of Sta. Ana in 1924, utilized the artistry of Betis craftsmen and master carpenters.

Along Vicente de la Cruz St., (formerly, Sampaguita St.) parallel to the busy Sta. Ines exit of the North Expressway, lies an imposing mansion that dominates the quiet, provincial air of this narrow barrio road. This is the 2 –storey Morales ancestral house, an 84 year-old stone and wood structure with an architectural style that harkens back to the days of bahay na bato, yet infused with geometric, floral and art deco elements considered “moderne” in those times.

The fleur-de-lis accented wrought iron grilles fencing the house bear the initials of the owner, Don Rafael Morales y Guzman, the youngest son of the town’s principalia, Don Quentin Morales and Dña Paula Guzman. Actually, it was Don Quentin who built the house, commissioning Betis carpenters and carvers under the supervision of Felix Guiao, who himself, was a self-taught woodworker. Upon finishing his advanced law studies at Georgetown University, Don Rafael married Belen Lansangan of Sta. Ana, and settled in this house fit for a king on a sprawling 2,000 square meter property.

From the outside, the pastel green and white Morales house has a linear, simple grandeur—from its straight, solid façade to the tin cutwork that lines the roof’s edge. The geometric feel is broken only by sparse classic elements like the pierced vents in the eaves done in floral patterns. The high windows are notable for their rare frosted white and cobalt blue glass panes, which were fully closed with persianas or louvres when sunlight becomes too harsh. During Mabalacat’s sizzling summers, the ventanillas underneath are slid open to let in more air.

The floor plan follows an inverted F-shape, long and linear, but full of open space. A concrete stairway lads you to the upper floor where the Moraleses took residence. The date of the house’s construction—1924—is part of the wooden cutwork above the double doors fitted with amethyst-colored glass knobs. The Morales fortune was built on agricultural lands and this important aspect of the family history is immortalized in the ornate arch in the ante-sala. The arch carries exquisite carvings of farming icons—a plow, bundles of rice stalks, harrow—arranged almost like parts of a family crest. To the right are the living room quarters including the high-ceiling bedrooms, topped with transomes or air vents to circulate air from room to room.

The expansive dining room features an old-fashioned banggera, where table ware and glasses are left to air-dry. This area of the house figured prominently in the 1972 shooting of the Vilma Santos-Dante Rivero-Charito Solis war-themed movie, “Mga Tigre ng Sierra Cruz”. A utility wing is conjoined with the dining area. A small veranda and the white-tiled bathroom are found here, complete with claw foot porcelain tubs and modern plumbing. Space flows from one room to another leading you to the kitchen and semi-enclosed azotea with stairs that you down almost down the Sapang Balen bank.

In its prime, the Morales mansion was furnished with the latest furniture from the House of Puyat: 6-footer book shelves to hold Don Rafael’s legal tomes, tryptich tocador, plateras and a hat and cane stand. In the ante-sala, the portraits of the family forebears, Apung Palu and Apung Quintin, cast their steady gaze on arriving visitors. A life-size wedding picture of Don Rafael and Dña Belen was the focal point of the living room. A large mirror with elaborate etched designs also was hung there.

The well-tended gardens were lush with rosals, palms, San Francisco, agave and other succulents. Kamias, mango and acacia trees provided fruits and shady canopies all year-round. As late as the 1970s, reunion parties, soirees and basketball games were held in the courtyard and the wide cemented grounds.

When the only two daughters of Don Rafael relocated in Manila, the house was left in the care of relatives and a succession of caretakers. The Castros, first cousins of the Moraleses, resided in the house at various times in the 1950ws, 1970s throught the 1980s.

Sadly today, the Morales mansion is in a state of disrepair, further aggravated by the Pinatubo eruption, the ravages of time and the occasional neighborhood thievery. Whatever was left of the heirloom pieces, the heirs have spirited away to Manila. Even the carved arches have also been dismantled for keeping as architectural relics.

The subdued opulence of the Morales ancestral house and its attendant history may now be a thing of the past, but for the many who still live in this quiet Sta. Ines neighborhood and walk its narrow street, it still exists, albeit dimly, a landmark symbol of wealth and refinement from a genteel era now long gone.

POSTSCRIPT: In late October 2008, the heirs allowed a number of missionaries from a religious order to use the old mansion as their residential headquarters. The house, heavily vandalized by former squatter tenants, is now undergoing restoration--to make it more liveable.

(*NOTE: Feature titles with asterisks represent other writings of the author that appeared in other publications and are not included in the original book, "Views from the Pampang & Other Scenes")

Monday, December 8, 2008

*117. MOST REV. ALEJANDRO OLALIA D.D., 1st Archbishop of Lipa

BISHOP FROM BACOLOR. Most. Rev. Alejandro Olalia, Kapampangan. Bishop of Tuguegarao and the 1st Archbishop of Lipa, Batangas.

The Catholic Church hierarchy in the Philippines is peopled with many Kapampangan religious leaders who are noted for their pioneering spirit and missionary zeal. The first names that come to mind are Cardinal Rufino Santos of Guagua, the 1st Filipino prince of the Church and Archbishop Pedro Santos of Porac. But equally outstanding was the life of another Kapampangan priest who also rose to become an archbishop of note: Most Rev. Alejandro Olalia.

The future church leader was born on 26 February 1913 in the town of Bacolor. He studied at the Bacolor Public School and attended San Carlos Seminary (1930-36), from where he finished his priestly studies. Sent to the Gregorian University, he was ordained a priest at age 27 on 23 March 1940 at the Pio Latino American College. Two years later, he obtained a Licentiate in Canon Law. He then hied off to the United States as an exchange priest, where he served in a Georgian parish. On 18 May 1944, he earned a Doctorate in Canon Law from the Catholic University of America.

Upon his return to the Philippines on 4 February 1946, he was assigned to be the Assistant Parish Priest of Tondo. In September of 1947, Fr. Olalia was named as the private secretary of the Archbishop of Manila. His leadership qualities earned him an appointment as Coadjutor Bishop of Tuguegarao and Titular Bishop of Zela on 2 June 1949 at the age of 36. A scant two months after, he was ordained as bishop on 25 July 1949. The next year, he succeeded the Dutch-born Bishop Constancio Jurgens C.I.C.M., who served Tuguegarao for 22 long years.

From Tuguegarao, the bishop was assigned to Lipa in Batangas in 1953, replacing then Bishop Rufino J. Santos, who was elected as Archbishop of Manila. The reverend was noted for being a good manager of the church, often conducting business even in full Prelate regalia. He was also noted for being an open-minded religious, “who accepted all good things that came to the Philippines, including the Cursillo”. He was the first to support the SOS Children’s Village in Lipa, a haven for abandoned and orphaned children—a revolutionary concept at that time, established in Lipa in 1967.

It was during his term that the Diocese of Lipa became the tenth Archdiocese and Ecclesiastical Province as decreed by Pope Paul VI on 20 June 1972. He was likewise elevated to the rank of an Archbishop. Archbishop Olalia would stay at the diocese for 20 years, until his death on 2 Jan. 1973, not quite 60 years old.

(*NOTE: Feature titles with asterisks represent other writings of the author that appeared in other publications and are not included in the original book, "Views from the Pampang & Other Scenes")


SHINING, SHIMMERING, SPLENDID. Maitinis in Mabalacat. A lantern and religious float competition highlight the Christmas celebration of this Pampanga town. 2006.

The holidays are once again upon us, and as always, the Pampanga landscape is alit with its most brilliant contribution to the festivities of the season: the Christmas parul or lantern. And the place that started it all—San Fernando-- has not just become the province’s premiere city, but has also rightfully earned the title of “The Christmas Capital of the Philippines”, what with its long tradition of creating the most colorful, most dazzling and largest paruls in the country.

The lantern, of course, represents the Star of Bethlehem that lit the night when Jesus was born. They have always been part of ancient history, used both for rites and everyday use. The Chinese caught fireflies and put them in transparent paper container to help light their way. The Japanese had their own crinkled paper versions while the Indians made star-shaped lanterns to celebrate the Diwali Festival. But nowhere in the world can one find holiday lanterns of the most mesmerizing variety than in Pampanga, giving rise to a renown industry that has produced that distinctive ‘parul sampernandu’.

It is said that the Pampanga lantern tradition originated in Bacolor during the La Naval festivities. Cross-shaped, candle-lit lanterns often accompanied images in processions of old. The tradition may have spilled over to neighboring San Fernando in 1904, to where the capital was transferred from Bacolor. According to local historian Mariano Henson, Angeles residents were already processing their La Naval image accompanied by white papel de japon lanterns as early as the 1800s. Lanterns from Angeles, however, remained small. There were even unusual fish lanterns with movable fins and tails, perhaps a way of impressing lubenas (procession) audiences.

The traditional Pampanga lantern is small; it was only in the 1960s that the proportions grew larger in San Fernando, perhaps to signal a barangay’s growing prosperity and attract more crowds. Kalburo (calcium carbide) replace candles as a lighting medium, and later, car batteries. The simple 5-pointed, bamboo-framed lantern evolved in the hands of skilled and inventive Kapampangan parul makers. Mario Datu of Del Pilar is credited with using an iron wire framework for the lantern body. A certain Mr. Linson popularized the use of layered cardboards to give a lantern a 2-dimensional carved look—“dinukit a parul”.

A rotor system also replaced the more primitive “kalakati” method (where an iron rod was run against a row of nails) of making the lights dance and twinkle, an innovation introduced by Crising Valencia. Here, a rotating tin cylinder covered with tape is manually turned to create the characteristic kaleidoscope play of lights. Today, in the annual Ligligan Parul (Lantern Contest), big generators are used to turn lanterns into psychedelic supernovas that light up to the beat of music.

The main parts of a typical San Fernando lantern include the lantern center, called tambor. From this center radiate the siku-siku, or right-angled designs that define the star shape of the lantern, the puntetas or rays, while the palimbun—circular trims—line the outer rim. Enlarging these parts create the giant parul, which may attain dimensions from 20-40 feet, and which need from 3,000 to 5,000 bulbs to light. But in December 2002, 100 craftsmen created the world’s largest lantern in San Fernando—a Christmas parul with a diameter of 26.8 meters (almost a hundred feet) built at a cost P5 million, sponsored in part by Walt Disney TV.

Our holidays in Pampanga may never be “white”, but with our local paruls illuminating our nights, all our Christmasses are sure to be merry and bright.


(*NOTE: Many thanks to Joel Pabustan Mallari for much of the research information needed for this article. Feature titles with asterisks represent other writings of the author that appeared in other publications and are not included in the original book, "Views from the Pampang & Other Scenes")

Sunday, December 7, 2008


GRASSHOPPERS, ANYONE? A market vendor sells grasshoppers by the basket. These edible insects could be cooked adobo-style, or even made into fancy chocolate-dipped desserts. Kapampangans took a liking to insects like durun, salagubang and kamaru, and were regularly included in their meals. Ca. 1915-20.

What’s cooking in a Kapampangan kitchen?
Chances are, the lady of the house is whipping up a feast of Kapampangan haute cuisine fit for royalty. For the perfect pagtuan (lunch) fare, it could be oxtail kari-kari, a peanut-based stew of meat, assorted vegetables with nutty sauce thickened with ground rice. Or it could very well be kilayin, mostly chopped liver and meat dish seasoned with oil and soy sauce. Laga was the classic chicken and beef soup dish, boiled in its own broth, and generously crammed with potatoes, repolyo (cabbage leaves) , sayote (chayote) and whole onions.

If it was fiesta, she could be preparing adobo, menudo, asado and bringhi—our pungent version of paella—and the ubiquitous pancit in its many forms—palabuk, luglug, bihun. Then she would have ended the festive menu with delicately sweet desserts with French and Spanish sounding names—turrones de casuy, sans rival and marzipan.

The other side of Kapampangan cooking features the exotic and the unique—from the noxious-looking buro ( a dipping sauce made from fermented rice that has often been likened to a cat’s vomit), spicy sisig to the betute (stuffed frogs) and kamaru (mole crickets). This contradiction is the result of a cycle of feast and famine in Pampanga. Though naturally rich, the province’s history has had painful episodes of hunger and destruction, caused by revolts, conscriptions, floods and volcanic eruptions.

The inventive Kapampangan cook therefore created dishes with whatever was available to him—even if it came from the unlikeliest sources and the ugliest of creatures. The leafy maligoso (bitter weed) that grows practically everywhere, can be made into a hearty soup with kamote (sweet potato) and tinapa (smoked fish) thrown in. It had to be savored sip by sip as the soup has a characteristic bitter taste that you’ll either love or hate. Young bamboo shoots, the heart of a banana plant, the stalks of apung-apung plant—all readily available for the picking in the backyard or on the roadside--can easily be transformed into delicious lagat (chopped veggies) dishes.

The insect world for instance has contributed a lot of dishes for the Kapampangan table. Salaguinto, salagubang (Japanese beetles) and lipaktung (field crickets)—like the more famous kamaru—are cooked adobo-style, with soy sauce, oil and chopped tomatos, sans their wings and carapaces. I remember, as a kid, I used to fill up softdrink bottles with these beetles that densely populated our relative’s tall sampalok trees from across our house. All we had to do was shake the trunk or the branches, and the insects would come falling down. A morning’s catch is more than enough for a fine insect lunch. Durun (grasshoppers) were prepared the same way, but for very rare occasions, the dried, elongated bodies were dipped in thick, gooey chocolate until they hardened, and then preserved in jars as exotic desserts.

Frogs or tugak are another source of Kapampangan delectation. Skinned, with their heads and stomachs removed, they make excellent recados for soups. Or, one can stuff these amphibians with ground meat and deep-fry them as “betute", a more popular mode of preparation. Today, one would still occasionally find frogs for sale at the local market, sold by the dozen--they are sold with their webbed feet impaled in barbecue sticks. But with rivers drying, frog fishing is slowly becoming a lost art.

Dog meat has always been associated with the Kapampangan menu, but this is not accurate. This may have been due to the ”dugong aso” attribution to Kapampangans to describe their so-called treachery when Macabebe soldiers gave up Aguinaldo to the Americans. The Igorots have long taken to dog meat and at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904, they were required to kill dogs for show—and eat them. Long before them, however, the Chinese have been feasting on man’s best friend for many centuries.

Kapampangan farmers at one point, were also into field mice, fattened by their daily palay meals and sugarcane. With this kind of diet, daguis pale were considered clean and fit to be grilled, fried or cooked adobo-style. And yes, eating field mice was thought to be effective against galis (scabies).

The best way to a man’s heart, they say, is through food—and it doesn’t take much to please a Kapampangan’s. If a Kapampangan were to compete in the TV extreme series “Fear Factor”, I am sure he will win the eating challenge hands down. Crawling, slithering, croaking, wiggling, chirping, barking—no matter what the source of the meal is—as long as it’s tasty, flavorful and filling—the dauntless, adventurous Kapampangan will eat it all!

(*NOTE: Feature titles with asterisks represent other writings of the author that appeared in other publications and are not included in the original book, "Views from the Pampang & Other Scenes")

Sunday, November 23, 2008


STAR-CROSSED LOVERS. A happy ending to Erlinda Bautista and Silvestre Lansangan's tempestuous romance. Their love story captivated a whole town for its sheer drama, so much so that the lovestruck duo were known as Mabalacat's "Romeo and Juliet". 1949.

(The story of star-crossed lovers Erlinda Castro Bautista and Silvestre Malit Lansangan is one for the books; in fact, it’s the stuff TV telenovelas are made of. So much so that the story was used for a "Ms. D." episode aired on 12 August 1998, over GMA Channel 7, from a letter sent by daughter Lily. This account was directly taken from the Golden Wedding anniversary invitation sent to us by the family, who are direct relatives. The great grandfather of Erlinda, Isidoro Castro is the elder brother of Gerardo Castro Sr., my paternal grandfather. )

Erlinda (Linda) and Silvestre (Beting) first met in May 1949, during a town santacruzan where Linda was the Reyna Elena. Silvestre was quickly smitten by the young queen and Erlinda, too, succumbed to her feelings. So, on June 14, 1950, on her 14th birthday, Erlinda went to hear mass and never came back home, having eloped with Beting.

Apung Coring (Linda’s mother) was against Bet, because her daughter was too young to get married. Her parents tried to convince their daughter to come home with them and forget about Beting, but being head over heels in love with him, she refused. Her parents were very disappointed such that they decided to send her to jail for disobedience. There, the Chief of Police, an uncle, took her under police custody but gave her special treatment, apparently because she was not a criminal. She stayed there for 21 days.

At the back of the Municipal Jail, there was window to Linda's cell. Beting secretly saw his beloved Linda by climbing the back wall and peering through this small window. To this day, Beting often wonders how he could have climbed the prison wall that was so high and forbidding.

Their love story made them popular in Mabalacat, so much so that the people made this line for Linda: "Tadtaran daku man mapinu, ing mitalamsik a daya kang Bet ya pa murin." (Even I were finely chopped, my blood that spatters will still be for Bet).

Eventually, her parents had her released from jail and she was sent to Marikina where her paternal relatives resided. There, Linda was enrolled at Cubao Elementary School. Beting, who was so much in love with her, didn’t stop looking for her, a search that lasted for a month. It was at Cubao Elementary School that Beting finally saw Linda, as she was getting ready for the flag ceremony. Linda skipped her class and sat down with Beting to discuss their relationship and their plans.

It came to a point that one day, Linda stuffed her school bag with clothes, a suspicious act that was not lost on her Lolo Pedro, who had been keeping an eagle eye on her. She told her Lolo, a former Katipunero, that she was going to school. In fact, she was again, plotting to elope with Beting. The couple were already on a bus when Lolo Pedro appeared at the station, brandishing a bolo, and demanding that the two alight from the bus. Their plan was once again, thwarted.

Her Lolo Pedro reported this to her parents. But this time, realizing the depth and sincerity of their love, Linda’s parents gave their blessings to the couple. Linda and Beting were married in San Juan Church and were blessed with 4 children: Joel, Rod, Elvis and Lily, all married with children. The Lansangans now all reside in the United States.

Monday, November 17, 2008


DAMULAG POWER. Perhaps, the cheapest- but not necessarily the fastest--way to go around Fort Stotsenburg in the 1st decade of the 20th century was to take a carabao cart ride, like these what these two adventurous Americans did in 1915.

Caroline S. Shunk was the wife of army officer Col. Shunk stationed at Camp Stosenburg from 1909-1910. In 1914, she published her memoirs (“An Army Woman in the Philippines”) based on letters that described her personal experiences in the country, with some interesting references to Dau, her life in the camp and its environs. Excerpts from her book are as follows:

On the train ride from Manila to Dau:
“The small porters gathered up our packages (for in this hot country, we do not carry anything) and we entered the train, which looked exactly like a child’s toy—an absurd little affair….After dark, we had to change cars at a small town. The low, one-story station was covered with vines and flowers, and small Filipino boys, clothed only in thin shirts, climbed nimbly to the car windows, offering tan-san water for sale….The road is rough, ad we were knocked about, my precious Paris hat getting a new shape with every bump. After two hours, Lieutenant R_____ pointed to a dim light near the sky-line, which marked the station where we would take a wagon for Camp Stotsenburg”.

On Negritos:
“The Negritos are said to be the first inhabitants of the islands, and a great number of them live right at our back doors, in the grim-looking mountains behind the post…These savages bring the beautiful air-plants into camp, tied with bamboo and slung from their shoulders to sell to the Army people. These plants, of the orchid variety, are found in tall trees, and one sees them hanging from the roofs of almost all the porches—a graceful fringe of green”.

On her household helps:
“House-boy No. 1 is a treasure. At 7 o’clock, our dinner hour, he comes softly to the porch corner from which we watch the sunset and announces something which menas, “Señora, dinner is served”. He looks like a hired mourner at a funeral, dressed in crisp, white clothing…He serves quietly and well. The light from a Chinese lantern swaying from an arch of woven bamboo makes fitful shadows on the bare rafters. Lizards run down the wall to catch the insects attracted by the lights, great June-bugs buzz noisily about, and, coming too near the table, are deftly caught by the “boy” who takes them out to carry home later for “chow”…

Rickety train rides? Balugas peddling plants and other stuff? Efficient base workers? Bug-eating Kapampangans? Somehow, these things Mrs. Shunk wrote about still sound oh-so very current and familiar.After nearly a century, nothing has changed, indeed!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

*112. DR. BASILIO J. VALDES: Fortune Helps the Brave

GAMES OF THE GENERAL. Basilio Valdes was a doctor first, but also earned recognition as a military man, business man, medical instructor and a government executive. This picture of him was taken during the Manila Carnival of 1921.

Physician, Professor, General, Chief of Staff, Businessman, Cabinet Secretary. These are but a few of the many roles Dr. Basilio J. Valdes would play in his checkered life. The good doctor would make a name for himself as one of the most accomplished personalities ever to emerge from the Commonwealth years, dedicating his life to government, military and civic service with uncommon drive and distinction.

While Basilio was born in San Miguel, Manila on 10 July 1892 to Benito Salvador Valdes and Filomena Pica, the Valdeses have deep roots in Floridablanca, Pampanga. His father, a classmate of Rizal in Madrid was also a physician. The Valdeses led peripatetic lives, which explains why young Basilio spent a number of years in different schools here and abroad. He started his primary grade in La Salle, Barcelona then continued this in San Beda from 1901-1903. He then went to La Salle Hong Kong, the Ameircan School in Manila, Pagsanjan High School and Manila High School—all in a span of 8 years.

Largely influenced by his father, he enrolled in Medicine at the University of Santo Tomas and graduated with honors in 1916. Immediately, he plunged headlong into medical service,treating all his patients with respect and fairness, and adapting a personal motto—“Audaces Fortuna Juvat”—Fortune helps the brave. While in practice, he also became a professor of Physiology at his alma mater and published medical papers.

Driven to serve beyond his country, he joined the French Army as a medical volunteer, then the U.S. Army as a surgeon from 1917-1919. He labored in Europe as part of the American Red Cross mission during the war years, while studying health conditions in Czechoslovakia and Lithuania. Later, he would apply this new knowledge when he organized foundations devoted to the care and treatment of infantile paralysis patients.

Thus began his second career in military service. When he came back to the Philippines, he became a medical inspector for the Philippine Constabulary for 8 long years (1926-1934). He was also the Chairman of the Board of Medical Examiners from 1928-1932. In 1932, he was named acting Commissioner of Health and Welfare.

President Manuel L. Quezon appointed him as Chief of Staff of the Philippine Constabulary and Philippine Army in 1939, elevating his rank to a general (he would rise to become a Brigadier General). Two years later, Basilio was appointed as Secretary of National Defense—the country’s third. To expand his military education, he attended the Command and General Staff School in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, graduating there in 1943.

During the Japanese period, he served under Pres. Jose P. Laurel as Secretary of Public Works. Basilio was even busier when the war years ended, becoming a president many times over for various medical associations, war veteran groups, health societies and civic clubs like the Manila Lions. In the 1950s, he was also the President of Hacienda del Carmen of Floridablanca, Pampanga. From his community of tenant-farmers, barrio Valdes was formed.

The good doctor married Rosario ‘Bombona’ Legarda whom he met during the 1921 Manila Carnival. She had been a princess in the court of the Carnival Queen, Carmen Prieto, whom Basilio escorted. The couple was childless, but had an adoptive daughter. Dr. Basilio J. Valdes died on 26 January 1970 after a long and fruitful career, and a life favored no doubt, by fortune.

(*NOTE: Feature titles with asterisks represent other writings of the author that appeared in other publications and are not included in the original book, "Views from the Pampang & Other Scenes")

Monday, November 10, 2008


KAMIKAZE PILOT. As seen on Dec. 1944 at the South Airfield I of Clark Air Base, by artist-historian Daniel Henson Dizon. Original pencil illustration, Alex R. Castro Collection.

As World War II drew to a close with imminent American victory, Japan's military planned its ultimate mission even as American forces were landing in Leyte. On October 19, 1944, Japanese Vice Admiral Takajiro Ohnisi arrived in Mabalacat and, meeting in the house of Marcos Santos, enjoined the naval air force soldiers of the 201st Air Group to sacrifice their lives for the glory of Japan through suicide attack units composed of "Zero aircraft fighters" and 250 kilogram bombs.

The way it was planned, the aircraft with the pilot on board was to crash-dive into an American carrier.Thus was born, in San Francisco, the "Kamikaze" (Divine Wind) suicide missions which took the lives of 1,228 brave young Japanese pilots by the end of the war. Colacirfa Hill (Dona Africa's Hill) in Tabun was turned into a Kamikaze command post .

The very first Kamikaze unit organized was known as Ohimpo, and to this unit belonged Japanese Lt. Yukio Seki. In the book The original choice had actually been Naval Academy graduate Naoshi Kanno, but he was away from Mabalacat. In his stead, Seki was nominated and after hearing his mission, he remained silent then said "You must let me do it".

The first kamikaze planes took off on 21 October 1944 from the Mabalacat West Airfield ( located in a place called Babangdapu, Tubigan.) Hampered by thick clouds, the planes returned only to regroup again on a lonely, dusty sugarcane field in Barangay Cacutud. Here, Lt. Seki, along with others, took off and headed for Leyte Gulf on October 25, 1944 at 7:25 a.m. for what was to be his last flight.

In an hour, Lt. Seki was dead, having crashed his plane on the American aircraft carrier , Saint Lo during the battle of Samos. He thus became the first Japanese kamikaze pilot to give up his life for his motherland. Before he made that fateful trip, he wrote: "Fall, my pupils, my cherry blossoms, just as I will fall in this service of our land".

American liberators assumed that the suicide planes were flying from Northern Luzon, but postwar interrogations of Japanese pilots revealed that they had, in fact, flown from Clark Field, thus making it appear they were attacking from the north. In all, kamikaze pilots sank 34 and damaged 288 warships, causing the loss of 5,000 American lives.

The Kamikaze Marker was erected in Barangay Cacutud in 1975 through the initiative of local historian-writer-painter Daniel H. Dizon. Partially buried in lahar in 1991, it was replaced with a new peace memorial, inaugurated in October 2001. In 1998, Mabalacat was declared a “City of World Peace” by the Great Buddhist Bishop, His Eminence, Ekan Ikeguchi in an effort to promote peace and goodwill between Japan and the Philippines. A 12-foot Buddha was donated by the Japanese people, and in return, a “Goddess of Peace Shrine” was established by the Mabalacat Tourism Office at the Lily Hill in Clark Field.

On October 24, 2004, a life-size fiberglass gold statue of an unnamed Kamikaze pilot was unveiled at the Japanese War Memorial, eliciting cries of outrage and disgust that saw print on national dailies. Local tourism official Guy Hilbero, the proponent of the controversial project, maintains that the statue “is not a memorial glorifying the Kamikaze pilots” but its aim is to promote peace “using the lessons of war”.

Concerned individuals think otherwise. Col. Rafael Estrada, 87, founder of the veterans group Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor says, “The site is where the Kamikazes were born. That is a historical fact. I have no problem with that, but to mark it with a full size statue of a Kamikaze pilot, is in my opinion, not right”.

Dr. Benito Legarda Jr., of the NHI said the denial of glorifying the pilots were hollow. “The purpose of the Kamikaze was precisely to prolong the war, our country’s occupation by a brutal and still unrepentant invader”. Legarda calls it a “monument to servility”. However, despite such misgivings and howls of disgust, there has been no organized protest against the statue. Hilbero maintains that the statue should be seen as a symbol…”a symbol for all that is wrong with the war. The point being that no one wins”.

(*NOTE: Feature titles with asterisks represent other writings of the author that appeared in other publications and are not included in the original book, "Views from the Pampang & Other Scenes")

Thursday, November 6, 2008

*110. MOURNING MORTALITY, Kapampangan Style

LAST LOOK. A prominent Kapampangan is laid to rest in Guagua amidst grieving relatives and loved ones. Black was the traditional mourning color, and a black streamer was placed in the front of a house to signify death in the family. Children were carried across the coffin to prevent the dead from haunting them. Dated 1938.

All Saints’ Day (Todos Los Santos on Nov. 1) and All Souls Day (Nov. 2) used to be 2 distinct observances until somehow, they merged as one. When campo santos (cemeteries) began being built outside of the town, folks found it convenient to divide their pious duties: Nov. 1 was devoted to grave visits while Nov. 2 was reserved for church rites.

Death came early for Filipinos in the 19th century; life expectancy was just about 35 years. Life, was indeed precious, which was why, death was considered major rite of passage, with ceremonies and post-mortem practices created around the inevitable.

· A funeral has to take place within 244 hours of a person’s death.
· As soon as a person dies, his body is bathed, dressed and laid on a bed decorated with black

(if dead is an adult) or white (if a child) hangings.
· Friends and relatives prepare gown for burial, including the wreaths. The immediate family does not participate.
· Young men and women watch over the dead at night, entertaining themselves with card games and bugtungan or bulaklakan.
· Burial is escorted by a band, but not always.
· After the burial, praying continues during the 3rd (atluan), 9th (siaman) and 1st year anniversary (lukasan).
· A person who is fond of wearing perfume will decay faster in the grave.

· Pieces of red cloth hung around the house will ward off the spirit of the dead.
· Mirrors should be covered, lest the spirit of the dead reappears.
· A rosary held in the hand of the departed should be broken, to symbolize the breaking of the circle of life.
· The souls of children who die before they are baptized will drift in the skies forever.
· The soul of a dead wife will appear on the wedding night of the widowers’s next marriage.
· On the 3rd day after the burial, a seat is reserved at the dining table in which ash covered with caracaricucha leaves is served. On the 9th evening after burial, instead of ash, relatives must now put food on the plate of the deceased and pray for the repose of his soul.
· A person who is fond of wearing perfume will decay faster in the grave.
· The bed of someone who has died should be taken out of the house, through the window, to discourage the souls from coming back.

· A dream in which one loses a tooth.
· Howling of a dog in the vicinity of a sick person.
· A crowing hen at night. To prevent death, the hen must be killed.
· Appearance of a black moth
· Hooting owls means the death of a pregnant woman.
· Newlyweds should pass the threshold at the same time; otherwise, the one who comes in ahead will die.
· Children singing in the street pre-figures a funeral procession.
· Putting 3 lamps on the dining table.
· Mound of earth growing under the house.
· Taking a bath during the eclipse.
· A coffin with room to spare.

Monday, September 29, 2008


STUDENTS OF THOMASITE CARROLL PEABODY. The very first pupils of Maestro Americano Peabody in Mabalacat. Note the school shacks which served as classrooms at the back. Peabody also served in nearby Tarlac province. This photo postcard was personally sent by him from Cleveland, Ohio, his home state.

In my town, Mabalacat, few records exist about the existence of Spanish colonial schools. Formal education beyond the primary school level was, in the beginning, reservd for Spaniards only. Mostly, private tutoring was practiced in those times. In San Francisco, a certain Apung Beltung Pile (Old Lame Beltung) had a “bantayan” school, a kind of day-care center, where parents left their kids to study under his tutelage. Here, he mostly taught reading and writing.

With the coming of the Americans, a Department of Public Instruction was established in March 1900. Mr. Fred W. Atkinson was appointed as General Superintendent of Public Instruction and imposed two things: the use of English as a medium of instruction and the importation of American teachers to help run native schools and train local teachers. The largest and most well-known batch of teachers arrived in the Philippines on 21 August 1901 aboard the U.S.S. Thomas.

Of the 600 civilian educators that arrived, twenty five were deployed to nineteen towns of Pampanga where they labored under extreme conditions to establish a new public school system for $125 a month. Part of their job was training local teachers especially in the use of English as a medium of instruction. A teacher from Mexico, Constancia S. Bernardo, trained under the Thomasites and she may have very well been the first native teacher of English in Pampanga.

Cornell graduate William Carruth for instance, was assigned to Betis town, and later moved to Sta. Rita, San Simon and San Fernando, where he not only collected teaching materials for schools but also solved administrative problems. Luther Parker took so much interest in Pampanga history that he initiated the compilation of town histories, now known as the Luther Parker Collection. He also published an English-Kapampangan dictionary. John W. Osborne, on the other had, served as the first principal of the esteemed Pampanga High School in San Fernando.

Closer home, Thomasite Carroll Peabody, a fresh graduate of Western Reserve University in Ohio, was assigned to Mabalacat and became a school superintendent. His wife, Emma, was also a teacher. Schools had to be quickly set up to institutionalize the American educational system. The early buildings of the Mabalacat Elementary School were built on rented lands in different places: along Ligtasan Street (site of the present Venmari Resort near the Morales Bridge) and in Sta. Ines (property owned by Narcisa Lim), where a cockpit now stands.

The school as we know it today, was built on land donated by Mrs. Rufino Angeles de Ramos, through funds raised with the help of Hon. Ceferino Hilario. Like all public schools of the period, Mabalacat Elementary School adhered to the architectural lay-out specified by the Gabaldon Act, with the structure elevated on posts like a nipa hut.

The Thomasites may have come and gone, but as late as the 1960s, every Mabalacat elementary student could still feel the American influence on the educational process, thanks to nearby Clark Field. Our school used to get regular donations of used school books, and I remember reading “Dick and Jane” books profusedly illustrated in color, alongside my black and white “Pepe and Pilar” textbooks. Then there were the regular milk feeding programs sponsored by Clark, where we got to drink stateside milk for our nutrition—for free.

There was also this matronly American teacher from Clark Field, whom we knew only by the name of Mrs. Davies, who used to come and sit at the back of the classroom to observe teaching methods. In my fourth or fifth grade, it was she who administered an oral exam to determine the final placements of students in the honor roll. I remember how intimidated I was at her presence; she was big and spoke with an accent that was hard to comprehend. But I was more terrified when she quizzed me about the forms of matter, which I completely flubbed (Answer: liquid, solid and gas), so I ended up sorely as just an honorable mention.

With the current sorry state of Philippine education, the older generation formally schooled under the Americans are quick to recall and point out the quality and calibre of schooling in the 1920s and 1930s. There is truth to this observation: America indeed, placed emphasis on quality education to form good citizenzhip and to allow sharing of cultures. It is no wonder then today, the establishment of a new educational order in the Philippines, is considered as one of the most important legacies of the American colonial period.

(*NOTE: Feature titles with asterisks represent other writings of the author that appeared in other publications and are not included in the original book, "Views from the Pampang & Other Scenes")

Sunday, September 14, 2008


AIN'T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH. Excursionists from Red Star Stores gather at the foot of the dormant volcano, Mt. Arayat, where the Mount Arayat National Park, established by Pres. Manuel L. Quezon in 1933, can be found. Dated 2 March 1941.

Long before the supermalls changed Pampanga’s landscape and became favorite family hang-outs, everyone’s choice destination for natural relaxation was Mount Arayat National Park. Scene of many excursions from many decades past, the park was actually conceived by Pres. Manuel L. Quezon, who, in the early 1930s, took a liking to the lush, soothing environs of the fabled mountain. After all, the accessibility of the 3,564 foot mountain and its unique geographical position offered limitless possibilities to restless urban dwellers. Spanish friars recognized the revitalizing qualities of Arayat, even setting up tiled baths in Baño to soothe their tired spirits in the medicinal spring waters.

Pres. Quezon himself led the way towards the establishment of the park by developing his own hacienda in Arayat. His Kaledian estate was where he sought refuge from the pressure of his work, often retreating there together with wife Aurora Aragon. He began transforming Arayat into a tourist area, what with places of natural interest like springs, slides, rock formations, dotting the place.

On 27 June 1933, the national park was thus established. Plans were set in motion for the park’s immediate development. Buracan Lake, for instance, a picturesque sanctuary of flora and fauna west of the mountain was looked at as a health resort. A certain section lying within the vicinity of the lake and the Quarry Reservation was to be turned into a landing field for airplanes. Also, as a wildlife reserve, all form of hunting were prohibited in the area.

The post-war years saw the park increasingly becoming popular tourist haven. Company tours and excursions from Manila and nearby provinces were regularly organized. Public utility buses included Arayat in their travel routes to take advantage of the growing number of mobile Filipino tourists.

Today, Mount Arayat National Park—even if it has degenerated into a local resort with little infrastructures— has a few attractions to offer. It boasts of a picnic site with lush greeneries, two swimming pools fed by natural spring waters, recreation halls and various plant and animal life like monkeys, civets and native birds. Run by the government, the park’s latest attraction is the Tree House, a cluster of huts and houses ideal for private gatherings. The park also is the perfect starting point to scale the mountain peak. The peak has a view deck from where one can take in the view of the plains and fields of Pampanga, including the famed Pampanga River and the Zambales mountain ranges.

In 1993, the national park was declared a tourist spot by the enactment of Republic Act 7690. Still, the park has been overshadowed by more high-profile destinations—including private resorts--considered safer and more modern. In an effort to revitalize tourism again in Arayat, Rep. Rey Aquino, in response to the has urged the House of Representatives to declare the mountain an eco-tourism haven. It is hoped that in the near future, fair Mount Arayat can reclaim once more its stature as a natural monument, whose beauty and grandeur radiates throughout the great Central Plain.

(*NOTE: Feature titles with asterisks represent other writings of the author that appeared in other publications and are not included in the original book, "Views from the Pampang & Other Scenes")

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

*107. Pampanga's Churches: OUR LADY OF GRACE, MABALACAT

AMAZING GRACE. Virgen de Gracia Church of Mabalacat, as it appeared in 1915, dressed up for the Holy Week rites. Note the sawali walls and the pew-less interior.

Mabalacat is the only town of Pampanga that was not ministered by Augustinians. Instead, the Augustinian Recoletos—the last of the religious orders to arrive in the Philippines—were tasked to put up missions in northern Pampanga and Tarlac. Mabalacat became the focal center of missions and it soon became imperative to construct a more permanent church for the town.

Mabalacat Church was said to have been established in the year 1768, but a more realistic date would be around the early 1830s. The oldest bell in the parish is dated 1835, during the term of Fr. Jose Varela, the town’s first cura parocco. Cast by 19th c. Quiapo bell maker, Mac.(ario) E Los Angeles, the bell pre-dates those cast by the more renown Hilario Sunico. A second bell, dated 1846 is dedicated to Nuestra Señora de Grasia ( as spelled). It is certain therefore that a structure of more permanent materials must have existed earlier to house these bells.

The Estado General of 1879 reports that the parish was elevated to a vicariate status under the titular patronage of Nuestra Snra. De Guia around 1836. In November 23, 1881, in compliance with the Recollect Provincial Chapter of 1876, the Mabalacat parish was named as one of the head parishes (“priorato”) of the San Nicolas de Tolentino province, together with Sta. Cruz, Balayan in Batangas and Boac, Marinduque.

The Recoletos have always had an early devotion to the Nuestra Señora de las Gracias (Our Lady of Graces) and it is certain that they propagated this among Mabalaqueño converts. The original shrine in Guadalupe, Makati was first dedicated to her Divine Grace. The imposing image of the seated Mater Divina Gratiae in the main altar was installed during the term of Fr. Felipe Roque. In one of his visits to Rome, he beheld the a similar image in San Giovanni Rotonda (home of stigmatist saint, Fr. Pio) and was inspired to have a copy carved after the original image. The Virgin is flanked by the figures of San Joaquin and St. Ana, installed through the sponsorships of Dna. Paz vda. de Wijangco and Dna. Maningning de Naguiat respectively. The recent repainting of the images was done in 2002.

There is a slight confusion as to who the real town patroness is. February 2, the traditional date of the piestang balen, is actually the Feast of the Purification of Our Lady or Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria. There is, in fact, an old ivory image of the Virgin in the Parish, which is made to look like a Candelaria Virgin by having her hold a candle. Surprisingly, this image is not displayed on the main altar. On the other hand, the feast of our Lady of Grace is observed every June 9 (piestang patron) according to the Catholic calendar. Church records from the late 1930s show that processions were still being held in June, with a devout woman from Dau, Dña. Cecilia Samson, shouldering the expenses.

There now seems to be a practical explanation to this date change, as explained by oldtimers. In the olden days, they recount, it was very inconvenient for the people to negotiate the dirt roads just to attend church service in June—the onset of the rainy season. So, a mutual agreement was reached between the townfolks and the parish priest to move the date to February, when the weather was drier and better.

The actual construction of the Catholic church as reported in 1909 by then parish priest Fr. Teodoro Garcia to Luther Parker, began on October 2, 1904 . This was done under the guidance of Capitan Domiciano Tizon. A 1906 report of Fr. Francisco Sabada, “Nota de los Edificos Parroquiales (Yglesia y Conventos)”, Mabalacat church was classified as a 2nd class church made of mixed materials , like sawali, nipa, wood and stone (1st class churches were de mamposteria, 3rd class were of wood).

In the 1984 souvenir program of the renovation of Our Lady of Divine Grace Parish however, it is claimed that the construction began in 1912 through the initiative of Fr. Maximino Manuguid, after a fire gutted the market and other major portions of the town. It was renovated during the term of Fr. Pedro Jaime in 1938. Another bell was donated by Bibiana Lim, and the Siopongcos: Gliceria, Francisco, Candida, Marcela and Emilia on 12 October 1958. Two years later, another bell donation was made by Mrs. Pilar Siopongco de Lara on 4 April 1960, during the term of Fr. Cancio.

During the administration of Fr. Alfonso Ducut, the church was further expanded and refurbished from 17 June 1983 to December 1984 . The starting budget was a meager P11,000, although the entire job was estimated at 2.1 Million Pesos. The construction covered 2 phases, involving major reworks such as the widening of the floor area by 2.5 meters, replacement of timber posts, electrical re-wiring and the installation of stained glass panels especially ordered from Kraut Art Glass, a German-owned glass shop established 1911 in the Philippines. Its façade and its interiors were tiled , marbled, glazed and re-painted and today, the church bears little resemblance to its original yet simple architectural grandeur.

(*NOTE: Feature titles with asterisks represent other writings of the author that appeared in other publications and are not included in the original book, "Views from the Pampang & Other Scenes")

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


PAMPANGA LODGE NO. 48. Officials and members of Pampanga's oldest existing masonic lodge, still in existence today. Circa 1920s.
Becoming a mason is often seen as turning one’s back against religion. On the contrary, the rules of masonry stipulates that one must have a religion of his own and to believe in God to gain membership. In the York rite of the mason, the Lord’s Prayer is prayed at the opening of every session.

In the Philippines, masonry had strong patriotic beginnings. The formal organizations were among the first to throw their support for Filipino propagandists. The first lodge was founded in Manila in 1891, with membership initially limited to the elite class. The Masonic Lodge Nilad counted among its first members, at least 7 Kapampangans, including Ceferino Joven, a future governor of the province.

Masonry spread throughout the country as the reform movement gained momentum and support. It reached Pampanga through the members of the Manila lodge. Recruitment was done through the triangle system, a form of networking where a Mason invited 2 prospects to form a triangle, who in turn, formed other triangles. When a sufficient number of members were acquired in this manner, a lodge was established.

The first triangles in the province were formed through the efforts of Ruperto Laxamana (Mexico’s gobernadorcillo), Manuel Alejandrino and Spaniard Eugenio Blanco of Macabebe. Two lodges were formed to accommodate the new masons—one in San Fernando, set up by Cecilio Hilario and another in Bacolor, initiated by Francisco Joven. The original aim of Masonry in Pampanga to endorse the reformist movement was thought to have been moderated with the presence of Spaniard Blanco, who was openly anti-Philippine independence.

Even then, a number of Kapampangan masons remained steadfast to the cause. They accorded a warm welcome to fellow mason Jose Rizal when he visited Pampanga in 1892. High-profile masons in government positions were harassed like Ceferino Joven, and ousted from their offices like Ruperto Laxamana and Antonio Consunji of Mexico. Manuel Alejandrino was exiled for possessing incriminating Masonic documents. After 1892, masonry seemed to have disappeared in Pampanga, although another explanation was that it went underground.

Masonry enjoyed a limited resurgence in the late 1900s thru the1930s with the establishments of lodges such as Masonic Lodge Macawili and Pampanga Lodge No. 48. Founded in 1918, it was first comprised of 15 Kapampangan masons culled from 8 different lodges: Pedro Abad Santos (named Worshipful Master by Manuel L. Quezon), Pablo Angeles David, Lucas Babiera, Felix Bautista, Regino Gamboa, Benito Golding, Ceferino Hilario, Isidro Makabali, Pedro Malig, Saturnino Ocampo, Pacifico Panlilio, Bernardo Samson, Isabelo de Silva, Mariano Tiglao and Marcelino Bustos Zabala. “Pamikakapatad, Pamisaupan at Katutuan” (Brotherhood, Relief, Truth).

The first five members were Saturnino David, Pascual Gozun, Candido Hizon, Marciano Ordonez and Amado Pecson.On 16 July 1918,  then Grand Master Manuel L. Quezon, granted an initial dispensation to the Masons appointing his classmate Pedro Abad Santos as First Master, Isabelo De Silva  as Senior Warden and Ceferino Hilario as Junior Warden.

During the 7th Annual Communications of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free & Accepted Masons on 28 January 1919, a Charter was granted to Pampanga Lodge No. 48 thus perpetuating their mission.

Ninety years after its founding, the Pampanga Masonic Lodge No. 48 is still in existing, marking its historic 90th year founding anniversary in July 2008. It is heartening to know that this ancient fraternal tradition lives on in this 90 year-old institution, with glowing accomplishments in the community that continue to give new dimensions to the spirit of brotherhood in these modern times.

(*NOTE: Feature titles with asterisks represent other writings of the author that appeared in other publications and are not included in the original book, "Views from the Pampang & Other Scenes")


ATTENTION! An unidentified Kapampangan military man, possibly a member of the Philippine Scouts, addressed his smart-looking photo to his lady love Celiang Pineda. Dated 14 June 1929.

Brave, loyal, daring, fierce and at times, reckless and misunderstood. Such are the characteristics of the Kapampangan as a soldier that have endured, as painted and mythicized by recorded history. Indeed, our men of the military are a breed apart, with their predecessors showing a predilection for the vocation of arms upon unwarranted provocation.

Rajah Soliman for instance, a Macabebe warrior, fought the Spaniards together with Rajah Lakandula in 1574, dying a here’s death while fighting for his people’s freedom. In 1660, the trio of Francisco Maniago, Nicolas Manuit and Agustin Pamintuan led Kapampangans in an uprising against Spain, stemming from unfair abuses in connection with the cutting of timber. Two years after, Francisco Laksamana led a 400-strong contingent to quell a Chinese revolt in Manila, killing many of them and capturing their trenches in Antipolo. And, when the British invaded Manila in 1764, a Kapampangan, Jose Manalastas engaged General Draper to a fight and stabbed him on the chest.

Much have been said about the loyalty of the Kapampangan soldier. When ordered by a superior to implement a course of action, he does so without question and without fail. When Macabebe town was besieged by revolutionists, the Spanish forces abandoned the town, except for Eugenio Blanco, a Macabebe native who was an honorary colonel of the Spanish Army. He organized a regiment of “Voluntarios Macabebes” to ward off the revolutionists and in so doing, suffered torture at the hands of his own countrymen who accused him of betraying his own people—but who was in fact, just obeying his orders.

Perhaps, it was this uncompromising loyalty of the men of Macabebe that led American military leaders to organize the first troop of 100 scouts in the said town in September 1899—the Macabebe Scouts. The troop was meant to help the American forces who were unfamiliar with the fighting conditions in the Philippines. Thus, the Macabebe scouts were used to engage the forces of General Emilio Aguinaldo, resulting in his ultimate capture.

Working with Americans became highly popular, resulting in an increase in enlistment. Thus, in this way, the Philippine Scouts under the command of Lt. A.M. Batson, was formed. The scouts participated in various campaigns throughout the country, and a large number of Kapampangan recruits were stationed at Forts McKinley, Mills and Stotsenburg—gaining a reputation as among the best soldiers in the Philippines.

Through the years, Kapampangan men in uniform have done our province and our country proud. In the days of the Revolution, we have Gen. Jose Alejandrino who became the chief commander of Central Luzon while Gen. Aguinaldo was up north. In 1934, he became the chairman of the National Defense Committee and a military adviser of Malacanang. Gen Servillano Aquino of Angeles was likewise a well known figure of the Revolution, but perhaps more well-known today as Ninoy Aquino’s grandfather. Gen. Maximino Hizon (Mexico), Gen. Francisco Makabulos (Tarlac) and Lt. Emilio Dominguez (Mabalacat) were all gallant Katipuneros who led offensives against our colonizers.

In more recent times, military notables have come to include: medical doctor Basilio Valdes (Floridablanca) who rose to become a Brigadier-General and Chief of the Police Constabulary in 1934. Lt. Gen. Gregorio M. Camiling Jr. (Bacolor) was appointed as the commanding general of the Philippine Army in 2002. Currently, the highest ranking Kapampangan in the military is Gen. Avelino Razon, head of the Philippine National Police.

(*NOTE: Feature titles with asterisks represent other writings of the author that appeared in other publications and are not included in the original book, "Views from the Pampang & Other Scenes")

Sunday, September 7, 2008


IF THERE'S A MILL, THERE'S A WAY. The American-owned Pampanga Sugar Mills (PASUMIL), set in the sprawling fields of Del Carmen, Pampanga, was the first-ever modern centrifugal mill in the province, with a capacity that's the biggest in the country.

Between 1911 and 1921, the country’s sugar industry became the most technologically-advanced business in the Philippines—and the sugar central became the one major symbol of agricultural progress. Such mills efficiently processed sugar, with modern machines capable of extracting up to 25% more cane juice than antiquated mills. The use of centrifugals to separate sugar from molasses resulted in better sugar products comparable to the world’s best, and it was imperative to build these fabricas de azucar centrifugado if the country were to compete in the global market.

By 1921, there were only 26 of these sugar mills in operations throughout the country. One of these modern mills was the Pampanga Sugar Mills, the first in the province--established only in 1919 at Del Carmen, Floridablanca.

As early as 1917, American investors realized that advantages of having a sugar mill right in Pampanga. Before that, sugar had to be transported by railroad to Calamba, a good 120 kilometers away, where it was milled at the Calamba Sugar Central. Sugar deteriorates after the cane is cut, so the long haul to Laguna often meant diminished value for the product, which often is aggravated by poor railroad service.

Sugar investors from Hawaii, California and the Philippines pooled their funds to raise the capital, and in 1919, the new group incorporated under the name Pampanga Sugar Mills. The whole project was supported by Senate President Manuel L. Quezon, and a host of Americans led by John Switzer, the executive vice president of Pacific Commercial who secured and guaranteed milling contracts with Kapampangans.

The building of the Pampanga Sugar Mills by Honolulu Iron Works, went underway at Barrio Del Carmen in Floridablanca, under the supervision of American engineers and sugar expert R. Renton Hind, who also developed Hawaii’s sugar industry. Twenty five miles of railroad tracks were laid out to bring the harvest from the fields to the mills, and when finished, it was the largest plant of its kind in the Philippines with a rated capacity of 2,500 metric tons daily. In the first 2 years of operation, the central managed to double its output from 8,700 metric tons of raw sugar to 19,400 in 1921. In all, Pasumil cost $7 million dollars to build.

The Pampanga Sugar Mills became a force to reckon with, winning milling contracts from Pampanga and Tarlac planters. The Valdes family for instance, who built Barrio Valdes out of their extensive sugar farmlands, made use of the central’s services. Even Spanish and American planters—like the Todas, Arrastrias and Sellmans-- shifted to the American-owned PASUMIL because of its capacity to process large amounts of sugar cane in a manner most efficient. Even the Manila Railroad Company recognized the economic value of the mills, creating a 4 kilometer spur road to join the central to its mainstream tracks. In the 1950s, PASUMIL even had its own Manila office at the 2nd floor of the Chronicle Building at Aduana.

In April 1918, a second sugar mill, put up by Filipino investors and large-scale Kapampangan planters was built in San Fernando—the Pampanga Sugar Development Company (PASUDECO). As opposed to PASUMIL, it targetted smaller planters and offered them shares in the company, thus increasing their milling benefits. Backed solid by the government, PASUDECO started its operations in 1922 and it immediately attracted a large and loyal following among local planters.

Though PASUDECO today is more well known than PASUMIL, its place in Pampanga’s economic history cannot be denied. As the pioneer sugar mill in Pampanga, it set into motion the fast modernization of the province’s sugar industry. It provided the impetus for more technological breakthroughs to be introduced—like the use of tractors. Agricultural associations were also formed by landowners and planters to act as lobby groups. PASUMIL, at its peak, surpassed milling operations in other parts of the country, helping established Pampanga’s reputation as Luzon’s Sugar Queen, second only to Negros Occidental.

(*NOTE: Feature titles with asterisks represent other writings of the author that appeared in other publications and are not included in the original book, "Views from the Pampang & Other Scenes")

Sunday, August 31, 2008


PARTING AND DEPARTING. Jesusa C. Del Rosario, my favorite aunt, with families and friends seeing her off at the Manila International Airport, a few moments before her departure for the U.S. East Coast in 1964.

I was going through the albums of my dear old Imang Susing ( center, in a plaid Jackie O. outfit and pointy white framed glasses) and I found this photo of my auntie about to leave for the U.S. of A. in 1964 to try her luck as an OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) in New York. What a send-off—about half of the large Del Rosario clan seemed to have turned up at the Manila International Airport to wish Imang Susing well as she was about to embark on her new stateside life.

Call it overkill, but that’s how we Del Rosarios are. We move in packs, we travel in groups and we fill parties to the rafters with our presence. One call is all it takes to send Del Rosarios from Manila and Pampanga to come together for a reunion, a niece’s or a nephew’s wedding, a funeral, and in this instance, an airport despedida for an aunt.

Imang Susing’s full and half-siblings came in full force, as I see from this picture. Padre Maning, in his white sutana, stands second from right. I think he is forcing a smile here; my old maid aunt was his longtime housemate at the San Roque Church and I am sure he felt a bit sad letting her go. Youngest sister, Imang Baby and my mother are also here (she’s the one holding the biggest handbag in front, with my 2 year old sister Susan beside her). Two brothers are kneeling in front, Tatang Carling and balding Tatang Pabling. Imang Susing is flanked by a sister-in-law, Imang Perling (Justice Jose Gutierrez David’s daughter, married to Conrado del Rosario, another brother) and family friend Conching Rosal, the operatic soprano star. The coterie also includes a dozen Tinio nephews and nieces, grandchildren and more in-laws.

Unfortunately, Imang Susing’s great American dream was not meant to be; she went home just after a year in the Big Apple. Even then, she learned valuable life lessons from her foreign adventure--living away from family, she took care of herself, but also discovered her own limits and potential. When she came back, she returned to keep Padre Maning company in his Blumentritt assignment.

Imang Susing, (born Jesusa Del Rosario y Castro, 7 Oct. 1926) was your typical terror-aunt, or so I thought when I was much younger. Being a single adult, we tended to typecast her in the usual old maid mold—strict and surly. Her sharp, well-manicured fingernails were ready to pinch us when we bawled and made crying scenes at family affairs. She was always curt in her responses, unflinching with her comments. When we cousins from the province came to Manila to work, it was at my priest-uncle’s San Roque Rectory, that we stayed—and there we survived, watched under the eagle-eyes of my “taray” (surly)aunt.

Imang Susing would cut a snazzy figure when she went to work at the Department of Finance. She would jump into her noisy Volkswagen, a lighted cigarette between her fingers, and she was off. On some days, she would cram 3 or 4 nephews in the car and drive us around Avenida. She would remind us, “Anyapin eku mikyasawa, eku buri ing mika responsibilidad. Pero lawen yun ngeni—ikayu ing kakung meging responsibilidad!”. ( I didn’t want any responsibility, so that’s why I didn’t get married. But now look—you’ve all become my responsibilities!).

Indeed, Imang Susing cared for us in silent, self-effacing ways. Come tuition time, she would surprise my mother—her younger sis—with a big alkansiya (piggy bank) full of coins collected over time—“pang-daily allowance for your anak!”. When we would get into the nerves of my uncle Padre Maning and would get a lashing, it was Imang Susing who shielded us from his temper. Still, when yet another cousin appeared at the rectory already cramped with our presence, it was Imang Susing who offered to share her small bedroom with him.

When Imang Susing retired, she went back to Pampanga to live at the Del Rosario Compound in Abacan. By then, her beloved brother, Padre Maning had passed away in 1987. She kept an “open house”—with Del Rosario relatives coming and going to visit or to chit-chat. I would often drop by every week-end to check on her and have afternoon coffee.

Everything went fine until she got sick of cancer sometime in early 1991. I was already working abroad at this time so I could only get intermittent updates about her health. But my feisty Imang Susing beat the “Big C” and went on remission for over 10 years. Her cancer came back with a vengeance in 2003 and once more, the Del Rosarios came together to help her in this new, and final crisis.

Thank God, I was already home by then, and I would often try boosting her morale by accompanying her regularly to her doctor's appointments. When she was confined and worried about her finances, it was the turn of nephews and nieces--now scattered around the world--to pass the hat for her hospital funds. Another nephew mobilized acquaintances to donate blood for her transfusion.

When the inevitable did come for Imang Susing one sad March morning, Del Rosarios gathered once more in droves to give her a final send-off. Her surviving siblings, in-laws nephews, nieces, grandchildren, friends and high school classmates turned up to celebrate her life full of unselfishness and generosity. At her cremation, she was surrounded by our presence, not unlike her despedida picture over 40 years ago. I am sure my dear Imang Susing had a great flight and arrived at her Final Destination on wings of love and prayer.

(*NOTE: Feature titles with asterisks represent other writings of the author that appeared in other publications and are not included in the original book, "Views from the Pampang & Other Scenes")

Thursday, August 28, 2008

*102. YA ING PARI, YA ING ARI: The Priest Is King

AMONG US MEN. Kapampangan religious in the persons of Arch. Rufino Santos, Msgr. Cosme Bituin , Fr. Vicente Coronel, Fr. Manuel V. del Rosario are feted by the Del Rosario family of Angeles, headed by host Dr. Fernando Del Rosario. Early 60s.

The Philippines—touted as Asia’s only Christian country—is running out of priests fast. Even in our very own province, our parishes are being left to aging priests way past their retirement years. As a result, the quality of their ministry have suffered and continue to deteriorate. Our good priests are humans after all, subject to natural frailities—mood swings, memory loss and the occasional hormonal imbalance. Talk about rambling sermons that go nowhere, mismanagement of church funds, hidden families, wealth accumulation sprees and grouchy temperaments.

This has led to ‘disgusto’ on the part of the parishioners sometimes, and I have heard of at least one story where church elders of one Pampanga parish tried to oust their indifferent priest through ‘people power’.

As a general rule though, we Kapampangans are a forgiving and understanding lot. We are long on tolerance, quick to kowtow before authorities. Thus, when it comes to our priests, we treat them consistently with our pampering, over-solicitous attitude. A Kapampangan hymn sung during Mass goes: “Balen a pari, balen a ari” (Town of priests, town of kings)—and this speaks true of the royal treatment we accord our religious leaders.

We call them “Among”—a derivative of the word “amo”, meaning Master or Lord—thus putting them in a class above us. We kiss his hands, we trail behind him when we walk and we give him money envelopes with his every visit. During fiestas, the best seat of the house is reserved for the priest. It is no wonder that, served with the richest, most delicious food, he fattens up—from his belly to his nape—leading to an expression called “katundun pari”, a bulging nape like a priest’s.

This extra reverence of Kapampangans to their parish priests can be traced back to the days when the Augustinian friar was looked at as the most powerful figure in town. It is this same attitude that our national hero, Jose Rizal, took note of and loathed, documenting these excesses in his novels.

On the other hand, there is basis for this unabashed attention given to priests. The early Augustinians assigned to Pampanga were noted for their rare virtues like compassion, humility and the will to serve. Several letters in the Augustinian archives reveal the sincere feelings of the Kapampangans towards their church leaders. Written by gobernadorcillos and local town people, these testimonial letters give us a glimpse of the heroism of early Augustinian priests.

In a letter dated 11 December 1897 sent by the Angeles principalia to the Augustinian Provincial requesting him not to transfer their cura, Fray Rufino Santos, the people wrote: Fr. Santos is a kind priest, a good father, the best advser and assiduous protector. To him, Fr. Provincial, we owe our peace in these (critical) times..”.

Floridablancans also asked for a permanent stay for their parish priest Fray Pedro Diez Ubierna in an 1898 missive: “ During the ill-fated days of such disastrous Revolution..our Rev. Parish Priest protected us, who, like Providence, arrived in time to be our venerable Pastor. With his affable treatment and talent, he knew how to inculcate in the hearts of all his faithful, the humility and true obedience to the Divine Laws, strengthening us with the Word of the Gospel and setting good examples, which he so eloquently knows how to transmit in the local language”.

Returning friars assigned to Pampanga spoke glowingly of the renown hospitality of Kapampangans, news that reached even the Augustinian Royal College in Valladolid, Spain. In the years that followed, this same indulgent regard was transferred to native priests, and to this day, this attitude persists, notwithstanding conduct unbecoming. The dwindling number of priestly vocations have also given the Christian populace not much choice but to accept whoever is assigned to their parish, warts and all. As one parishioner moaned, “ala tang agawa, ditak na la reng mag-pari” (‘we can’t do anything, only a few are entering priesthood).

With that tone of fatal resignation, we might as well rephrase that familiar line: “Ya ing pari, ya ing ari…itamu ing mayayari!” (He is the priest, he is the King…but we are the victims).

(*NOTE: Feature titles with asterisks represent other writings of the author that appeared in other publications and are not included in the original book, "Views from the Pampang & Other Scenes")

Monday, August 25, 2008

*101. Finding Faces from the Past: ENRIQUE CAGUIAT

MYSTERY MAN, REVEALED. Enrique Caguiat of Arayat, a man of many achievements, merited a feature in the book, Pampanga's Social Register 1936, by Kabigting, which listed the high and the mighty of Kapampangan society.

One of the most challenging part of research is finding the identity and background information of nameless people staring at you from a photograph. I have quite a number of Kapampangan subjects whose backgrounds and even identities, I am afraid, will remain forever unknown to me. I collect them not only because they are kabalens, but also these old photographs are antiques in themselves, freezing time for us to glimpse at our old ways, how we looked, dressed and how we socialized.

A picture that immediately attracted my attention is this 1915 photograph of a young man in his 20s who sent this picture to an acquaintance in Sta. Rita with an eloquent dedication: “Tula, bandi at sicanan ing pagnasan cung idala na keca Simang, niting banuang daratang. “ ( Happiness, wealth and health are what I hope this New Year will bring you, Simang”). It was signed with a flourish by a certain E. Caguiat, who added a date, Dec. 31, 1915 and address, P.O.Box 962, Manila.

I have often wondered who this gentleman was, handsome and smart-looking in his black Americana with a stiff collar. A folded hanky protrudes from his breast pocket. His well-pomaded hair, parted almost in the middle, reflected the grooming style for men in his time. His arm rests on a pedestal with a sinuous art nouveau 3-leaf clover design, on which one can also see his banded straw hat. Not lost on the viewer is a ring on his left finger, next to the pinkie, indicating his married state.

I thought—just like other hundreds of pictures in my albums-- I would consign this portrait to anonymity until I got myself a copy of the Pampanga Social Register, a book published in 1936 that featured who’s who in Pampanga—achievers, elites, businessmen, children from de buena familias, politicos and accomplished professionals. There, on page 31 was a small, familiar picture of one Enrique Caguiat—the same E. Caguiat in my mystery photo.

Enrique was born on 15 July 1893 in Arayat, Pampanga, (which meant that he was but 22 when he sent his picture above). He studied at the University of Washington in Seattle and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. He became a First Lieutenant of the U.S. Army but soon held a civilian job. At the time the book was printed, Enrique was a treasurer of A.C. Gonzalez and Co. , which held office at 314 Philippine National Bank Bldg. in Escolta.

On the side, he was also in the construction business as a masonite dealer, and was also connected with firm of Clarke and Larkin, Certified Public Accountants. He was a member of the Wack-Wack Gold and Country Club, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and the Philippine Columbian Association—exclusive clubs reserved for the rich and the privileged. His wife was the former Lourdes Reyes, with whom he had 5 living children in 1936: Enrique Jr., Jose, Teodoro, Lourdes and Teresita. The Caguiats resided at 8 Hollywood Drive in San Juan.

I have also identified the recipient Simang as Maxima de Castro, who turned out to be a direct descendant of the founder of Angeles, Don Angel Pantaleon de Miranda. Stumbling on pieces of information such as these make collecting generic photos worthwhile. Suddenly, the subject acquires a name, an identity and comes alive. It is hoped that the dear reader can contribute more information about the life and times of Enrique Caguiat, a proud Arayateno and a Kapampangan achiever

(*NOTE: Feature titles with asterisks represent other writings of the author that appeared in other publications and are not included in the original book, "Views from the Pampang & Other Scenes")