Sunday, July 27, 2008


POWER OF TWO. The Nepomuceno couple, Juan and Teresa, had this wedding picture taken months after their actual wedding day, as they were still convalescing from their illnesses that left them emaciated and thin. With their many businesses, the 'Nepos' helped in shaping and defining the progress of Angeles as a town and later into a progressive city that it is today.

The story of Angeles and its march to progress is inextricably linked to the remarkable partnership of a couple whose larger-than-life businesses shaped the course of the town’s economy while serving God and their beloved community.

Together, they singlehandedly opened the 1st electric plant and the crystal ice plant of the region. They ventured into softdrinks production, which, though shortlived, provided employment to hundreds of kabalens. Then, they established the country’s 1st Catholic school run by laypersons. In the 60s, they developed the city’s premiere subdivision that reconfigured the layout and social strata of Angeles. Around this, a new commercial business district was laid out by the couple and their children, whose very name today—“Nepo”—bears their enduring influence and legacy which continues to reverberate in the city today.

Juan de Dios Nepomuceno y Paras was born on 8 March 1892, the son of Juan Gualberto Nepomuceno or Kapitan Juan, a former head of Culiat (old name of Angeles) and Aurea Gomez Paras, his 2nd wife. Juan was descended from the original founders of Angeles, as his grandmother, Maria Agustina Henson y de Miranda was the granddaughter of Don Angeles Pantaleon de Miranda, the town’s first citizen. Juan was all set for a priestly vocation with the Jesuits, but ill health forced him to enroll at the University of Santo Tomas where he received his law degree, graduating summa cum laude in 1918.

Clara Teresa Teodora Gomez y Pamintuan was born on 12 August 1893, to parents Esteban Gomez and Josefa Pamintuan. Her paternal grandfather was Nicolas Gomez, who was an alias assumed by Fr. Guillermo Masnou, an Augustinian priest once assigned in Angeles. Though largely uneducated (she spent a few years at the Holy Family Academy), Teresa was active assistant to her mother, overseeing the household when still young. She also was to develop a knack for business.

Family lore has it that Juan actually acted as a go-between for a friend who wanted to woo Teresa. In the end, Juan ended up marrying Teresa with the prodding of Teresa’s Lola Barang. They were married on the feast of St. Joseph, 19 March 1919, after months of suffering from tuberculosis. In fact, so emaciated were they that they opted to have their wedding picture taken 6 months after the wedding, after they have recovered sufficiently.

The couple set up house in their Bale Maragul, along Santo Rosario, just across the church. Initially, Juan practiced law but the business minded Teresa sought other means of livelihood. In 1921, they set up Angeles Ice Plant, and just 2 years later, the Angeles Electric Light and Power Plant, which provided electricity to the town and which proved to be viable. Their power partnership paved the way for the modernization of Angeles, as more family businesses were established, including Reina and Aurora Softdrinks in 1928.

In 1933, in response to oldest son’s Javier's lobbying for a Catholic high school in Pampanga to serve local students (instead of going to Manila) saw fruition when his parents, together with Msgr. Pedro Songco Santos, founded the Holy Angel Academy. Holy Angel was envisioned to be a school for the masses, a secondary institution designed “to educate, uplift and prepare the youth to become socially efficient”. Today, it has grown into Central Luzon’s premiere and largest center of learning—the Holy Angel University.

In 1965, the Villa Teresa Subdivision was developed from the 64 hectare agricultural lands amassed by the Nepomucenos. It was transformed into a prime residential property that changed the city’s landscape and further escalated the pace of business in the adjacent commercial area. This even quickened with the establishment of the Nepo Mart Commercial Complex in 1968, a one-stop retail outlet where one could get their favorite and elusive PX goods. Nepo Mart has evolved many times since; now it houses a coterie of meat markets, fashion boutiques, shoe stores, dollar exchange shops and food outlets.

Juan and Teresa raised 10 children in all, each one raised in good old Kapampangan family values, and each one an achiever in their own right. Javier (b.1919) , a lawyer-CPA, rose to become a respected executive at the Ayala Corporation, Fr. Aureo (b.1921) became a Jesuit priest and was connected with Ateneo for the longest time, Geromin (b. 1923/d. 1975) was a former councilor of the city, Mamerto (b. 1925/d. 2002), a mechanical engineering graduate from Purdue University and taught at the UP, Carmelo (b.1927) became a doctor, Teresita (b.1929) earned a nursing degree in the U.S. , Aurora (b. 1930) and Flora (b.1932) managed their own successful family businesses, while Josefina (b. 1934) became a Benedictine nun. The youngest, Peter (b. 1936), an engineer, managed Angeles Electric Corp. and is largely credited with the successes of their other family enterprises. Geromin, Sr. Josefina and Mamerto all served as presidents of Holy Angel at different times. It is no wonder that in 1969, the Nepomuceno Family was awarded the Rizal Pro-Patria Award for Family Solidarity by then Pres. Ferdinand Marcos at rites in Malacanang.

Throughout their lives, Juan and Teresa shared their triumphs not only with their family, but also with the community through their philanthropic works, socio-civic activities and advocacies. Juan served as the town mayor for 2 consecutive 3-year terms (1922-1928) and represented the 1st District of Pampanga in the 1935 Constitutional Convention. The generous patriarch also supported scores of seminarians in their studies and translated religious writings like “Our Daily Bread” into Kapampangan (“Ing Kakanan Mi King Aldo-Aldo”). For his services to the church, Juan received the Papal Award, “Knight of St. Sylvester”.

Teresa was an indefatigable champion of woman’s suffrage and even ran unsuccessfully for the vice-mayoralty of Angeles at the time the Socialists were gaining patronage. She got involved in the new Angeles City Hospital and the TB Pavilion. The couple lived their life simply, quietly and kindly till the end of their days, remaining steadfast in service and prayer. They lived to celebrate their 51st wedding anniversary in 1970. Teresa passed away on 17 April 1970, while his beloved Juan followed 3 years later on Easter Sunday-- 22 April 1973, at age 81. Today, as one walks around the bustling city, one can see how their their lifeworks continue to inspire the next generation of Angelenos.

(*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")

*94. HON. SOTERO J. BALUYUT: Engineer, Governor, Senator

HE LIVED TO BUILD. Hon. Sotero Baluyut led Pampanga as its Governor during the Commonwealth years, and later joined the Cabinet of Pres. Manuel L. Quezon. He was a prolific builder of roads, bridges and other infrastructures all over the country.

Sotero Baluyut was Pampanga’s most visible and progressive leader of the Commonwealth years, serving the province first as an engineer, then as a governor and senator. Born on 3 January 1889 to Leoncio Baluyut and Casimira Julao of San Fernando, Sotero overcame his humble beginnings by becoming one of the first government pensionados to the United States in 1904. He was just 15 when he left to enroll at the Santa Ana Central and High School in California and later to the University Summer Schools of Illinois.

In college, Baluyut pursued an engineering course at the University of Iowa, earning a Civil Engineering degree in 1914. After coming home from his studies, he joined the Bureau of Public Works as assistant engineer of Pampanga and Cavite in 1911. Soon, he rose to become a District Engineer, serving Isabela, Antique, Ilocos Norte, Bulacan and Pangasinan. He was named as a special engineer for the San Jose-Santa Fe Road (1912-1919) as well as for PASUDECO in 1920 (Pampanga Sugar Development Company).

With a record performance in the building of roads and infrastructure, Sotero ran for the governorship of Pampanga in 1925. He won and was, in fact, re-elected in 1927, soundly beating Pedro Abad Santos, his townmate, who founded the Socialist Party of the Philippines.

In 1931, Baluyut was elected Senator of the Third District. In 1938, he served his third and final term as Pampanga’s governor. Due to the prevalent Socialist-led agrarian unrest, Baluyut formed the Cawal ning Capayapan (Knights of Peace), composed of nonradical peasants to keep order among dissidents and strikers. The Cawals were organized because of the inadequacy of the government to maintain order.

Under Pres. Manuel L. Quezon, Baluyut served as the Secretary of Interior and, in 1941, as Secretary of Public Works. He was also at the helm of several mining companies. His affiliations included membership in the Philippine Columbian Association, Philippine Engineers and Architects and Pampanga Lodge 48 F & A.M.

Baluyut’s engineering skills gave Pampanga a historic bridge that today bears his name: the Baluyot Bridge, on Gen. Hizon Avenue, barangay Sto. Rosario. Formerly known as Puente Colgante, the Spanish era bridge was reconstructed in 1896 using iron and stone. It was damaged during the Philippine-American War and then bombed in the last World War. Using Baluyut’s design thesis completed at the University of Iowa in 1909 , the bridge was restored, becoming an attractive arch bridge made of reinforced concrete.

Baluyut was married to the former Encarnacion Lopez (b. 25 March 1901). They were childless. He died in Manila at the age of 86, on 6 January 1975.

(*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, July 20, 2008

*93. Pampanga Towns: SAN SIMON

Catalino Ibanez (municipal president), Fernando Galang (vice presidente), Braulio Gonzales, Ramon Ibanez, Abdon Sichon, Virgilio Cortes, Venancio Bagtas (consejales), Agustin M. Ses (secretary), Zoilo Cunanan (treasurer), Vicente D. Leuterio (juez de paz), Vidal Guevara (jefe de policia), Dr. Miguel Morales (president, sanitary division).

San Simon’s origins can be traced back to 1771, the town’s founding year. It was so named to honor the one time Governor General of the Philippines (July 1770-Oct. 30, 1776) during the Spanish Regime—Simon de Anda y Salazar. He had earlier left Manila in 1762 at the height of the British invasion and established the capital of the Philippines in Bacolor and had himself proclaimed as governor. He ruled with characteristic energy, foresight and honesty. The town’s titular patron is San Simon Apostol.

But legend say that the town was formerly known as Del Pilar, taken from that of Mariano del Pilar de los Reyes, considered as the founder of the town, whose patroness is the Virgin of the Pillar, thus the October 12 date of the fiesta. The town was carved out from the lands of San Luis in the north and Apalit in the South. Consolidated with San Luis in 1904, it became a separate municipality in 1907, by virtue of Act 1719 of the Philippine Commission. Sometime in 1920, San Simon acquired additional hectares of marshland when town boundaries were re-set by the Provincial Government.

The first inhabitants of San Simon were the Puyats, Macapagals, Simbulans and Guarins. From 8 barrios in 1835, san Simon now has 14 barangays: Concepcion, De La Paz, San Isidro, San Miguel, San Nicolas, San Pablo Libutad, San Pedro, Santa Cruz, San Juan, San Jose, Santo Nino, San Pablo Matwa, San Agustin and Santa Monica.

San Simon in the 1930s had for its principal products, rice, buri hats, petate mats and bayong bags. The town has since made great strides, rising from a 6th class municipality to 4th class, with an annual income of over 3.5 M Pesos towards the beginning of the new millennium. A modern commercial market and a new town hall has risen in barangay San Agustin, making the town more accessible and attractive to investors.

Many progressive enterprises have set up offices here—from producers of construction materials, animal feeds, ceramic tiles to industrial parks and resorts—have further enhanced this town’s reputation as a favored enterprise haven. The Comprehensive Municipal Development and Land Use Plan, as well as the town’s inclusion in the “W” growth corridor of Central Luzon, has made San Simon a force to contend with, with resources and people ready to meet headlong the challenges of an emergent Pampanga

Sunday, July 13, 2008

*92: Pampanga's Churches: SAN LUIS GONZAGA, SAN LUIS

PISAMBAN SAN LUIS. The age-old stone church dedicated to the town patron San Aloysius Gonzaga is one of the few churches in Pampanga that has retained its air of antiquity through the years. Picture shows a Holy Communion group picture, ca. 1918.

San Luis town was originally called Cabagsa or Cabagsac, a contraction of “cabag” (fruit bats) and “bagsac”, hence a place where fruit bats come to roost. To honor the memory of one of its cura, Fray Nicolas de Orduno, it was later known as San Nicolas de Cabagsa. The eventual name—San Luis—is attributed to Dna. Luisa, wife of a lawyer who acted as a counsel in claiming a parcel of land disputed by neighboring Santa Ana (then Pinpin) town. The town was named after San Luis Gonzaga (St. Aloysius Gonzaga, 1568-1591), the blue-blooded Jesuit saint who died young at age 23. The town fiesta is celebrated on June 19.

The first recorded missionary to serve the town was Fr. Jose Echevarria, who was assigned as a prior in 1742. No information exists as to when the church was built, but it must have been completed in the late 18th century. In 1883, the church was restored by Fr. Isidro Bernardo, which then had the following dimensions: 56 meters long, 13 meters wide and 11 meters high. The church convent was expanded by Fr. Francisco Diaz in 1877. Today, San Luis Church is one of the few churches in the province that retains its old-world authenticity, even after assiduous restorations, one as recent as 1984 done on the retablo mayor, undertaken by Fr. Jacobo David.

The façade is heavily stone-laden, with spiraling stone buttresses and symmetrical twin belfries with marked Baroque influences. The historian Mariano A. Henson recorded the existence of 4 bells, inscribed with the names of Nstra. Snra, de la Correa (dated 1859), San Juan Evangelista (dated 1789) and San Jose (dated 1843). The fourth bell dates from June 1939.

The main portal is carved and recessed. Sandwiching the papal insignia are two niches with small statues. The heaviness of the carving continues on the stone balusters that decorate the central window, the arched niches on each side of the bell towers. The pediment is encompassed by scroll-like designs on both sides, while the arched window panels served to decorate the façade.

Behind the church, remnants of tombs can still be found, some still with marble lapidas. Then, as now, the ancient, massive presence of San Luis Church continues to hold sway, even if the trappings of modernity are just a few steps away from its door.

(*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, July 7, 2008

*91. Power Couple: Arch. FERNANDO H. OCAMPO and LOURDES M. LUCIANO

THE BEAUTY AND THE BUILDER. Arch. Fernando Hizon Ocampo and Pampanga beauty, Lourdes Luciano on their wedding day. 1931. Photo courtesy of Tatang Pandot Ocampo).

In 1931, two pedigreed Kapampangans, both born into wealth and power, tied the connubial knot and formed a union that, in the next years, would further cement their stature not just among the elite circle of Pampanga but also among the country’s social creme de la creme. After all, long before they met, Fernando Ocampo y Hizon and Lourdes Luciano y Magdangal were achievers in their own right, catching the nation’s fancy with their de buena familia backgrounds, talent, and in the case of Lourdes, her renown beauty.

Fernando Ocampo was the son of Basilio Ocampo and Leoncia Hizon, whose father, Anacleto, had been a former gobernadorcillo of San Fernando. He finished his Bachelor of Arts at the Ateneo in 1914, and after earning his Civil Engineering degree from the University of Sto. Tomas, he took up architecture from the University of Pennsylvania. His contemporaries included Juan Nakpil and Andres Luna de San Pedro (Juan Luna's son). He further pursued advanced studies at the American Academy in Rome, then joined the firm of Ballinger and Perrot in Philadelphia in 1922.

The next year though, he returned to the Philippines and was employed in the Architecture Division of the Bureau of Public Works. In partnership with Tomas Arguelles, Ocampo formed his own archictectural firm in 1928. In 1930, he founded the U.S.T. School of Fine Arts and Architecture and was a member of the Board Exams from 1929-1930. His contributions to Philippine architecture were honored with a Gold Medal of Merit from the Philippine Institute of Architects in 1953.

In his prime, Ocampo designed high profile projects that include the Arguelles Bldg., Sacred Heart Novitiate Bldg., Cu-Unjieng Bldg. , Paterno Building (later the FEATI University), and the Central Seminary of UST. His residential commissions included the homes of Benigno Aquino Sr., Admiral and Angela Apartments along Roxas Blvd. He also undertook the restorations of the Cathedral of San Fernando after it was destroyed by fire in 1939 and the war-damaged Manila Metropolitan Cathedral in the mid 1950s, under then Archbishop Rufino Santos.

On the other hand, Lourdes Luciano was one of three daughters of Jose Lazatin Luciano and Aurelia Magdangal of Talimundoc, Magalang., who were known for their legendary beauty (Rosario and Delfina were the other two). The Lucianos were the original founders of Magalang town, and it was here that Lourdes—or Unding--grew up.

While in La Concordia high school, Unding was handpicked by the local club, Mountainside, to join the search for Pampanga’s representative to the original Manila Carnival. By then, Lourdes’ famed beauty had already reached the organizers of the Carnival, and all indications pointed to a clear and easy victory in the national pageant. But a fellow Kapampangan—Socorro Henson—was also in the running. That time, the idea of having 2 Kapampangans in the winners’ circle either would not have seemed right, and so, Lourdes pulled out from the contest, a decision that hardly bothered her—for shortly after, she met and married Fernando.

The couple took residence in San Rafael, Manila, where they raised 4 children who were just as accomplished : Fernando Jr. (Pandot, also a noted architect and interior designer), Edgardo (+Hall of Famer, 4-time member of the Philippine Olympic basketball team), Oscar and Maria Pilar (Piluchi, now Mrs. Fernandez). Eventually, the family would move to M.H. Del Pilar in Ermita, before settling in Pasay.

Fernando Ocampo Sr. would leave his mark in history as the Father of Modern Philippine Architecture. Lourdes Luciano outlived her husband for over a decade and passed away on 13 June 2001.

(*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")