Sunday, September 7, 2008

*104. THE PAMPANGA SUGAR MILLS (PASUMIL)

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")

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

PASUMIL reminds me of my late maternal grandfather's late half-sister. Born into wealth, her father was one of those planters you mentioned that had a milling contract with PASUMIL. My late grandfather said that his sugar plantation was quite vast that it was impossible to cover the entire area if one walked for an entire day.

Sadly, after her father's passing, she and her late husband didn't make wise use of her inherited company and property. She lost everything by the late 1930s.

Thanks for such a great and informative post.

alex r. castro said...

Fortune can indeed be fickle, esp. in the sugar and rice business. I am also reminded of the coffee industry in Lipa, which, in one twinkling of an eye, came to a complete halt when the plants were ravaged by pests, from which some of the coffee magnates never recovered. Thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

I remember Pasumil very vividly. We always ate at the clubhouse with white crisp tablecloth, ceiling fans and served by the waiters wearing bowties. The clubhouse reminded me of the old American clubhouses you see in old films.

They had a bowling alley, a swimming pool, a playground with swings and slides. After running around in the playground, I always wondered why our feet were always black even if we were always wearing socks and shoes. My father always explained to us that it was the soot for the sugar mill. I was never brought inside the sugar mill although I wanted to see how they processed the sugarcane. My father found it dangerous for me with long hair that might get caught in the rotating machines although my two brothers George and Jerome were always allowed to go in when they wanted.

Lately, I've been asking my father what has happened to the clubhouse, if we could at least visit it and he says it has been flattened by looters. The bowling alley materials were bought by someone from Manila to be used in his existing bowling alley.

Those are some of my childhood memories of Pasumil.

Pasudeco is now another story.

Gina

Anonymous said...

"soot from the sugar mill" typo error, Gina.

alex r. castro said...

What vivid memories!

Anonymous said...

Do you have any information to Pedro "Keiichi"Yamane? He use to head the sugar mill in Floridablanca (Del Carmen). Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Do you have any information about Pedro "Keiichi"Yamane? He use to head the sugar mill in Floridablanca (Del Carmen). Thanks.

alex r. castro said...

Not at the moment, but I'll do my best to ferret out any information about him. Is he Japanese?

Archie Yamane said...

Yes. Keiichi Yamane or better known as Pedro Yamane is Japanese (From Hiroshima) who married Roberta Paguio. They had 13 children and lived for a while in one of the houses (for officials) in Del Carmen but eventually moved to San Nicolas, Floridablanca. He came to the Philippines way beyond the war as a businessman. He's my grandfather. He got injured during the American raid of Del Carmen and got hit by a shrapnel. He passed away 3 days later. He also had diabetes at that time. My father was only 3 years old at that time. I was told during his time, he was the head of the sugar central at Del Carmen and was well loved by the Filipinos since he was very kind to all. He saved a lot of Kapampangans from being beheaded during the Japanese occupation. From time to time I would hear from my friends(from Pampanga & as far as Bacolod)that their "lolo's" knew of my grandfather.
Hope you can help me find out more about my grandfather.


Thank you so much.

alex r. castro said...

The story of a hometown hero such as your grandfather should not be forgotten. I will do my best and ask around in my next trip to Floridablanca, perhaps some senior people still have memories of the last war...

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much..

Anonymous said...

BTW, my grandfather (Keiichi Yamane) was also well known in Calumpit, Bulacan.

alex r. castro said...

Calumpit is the last Bulacan town before you hit Pampanga, so it is possible certain senior people still remember him there.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the added information. Please let me know should you find anything more.

dee said...

I literally lived across the river from this mill (my dad's parents house). Just poke my little head out of the kitchen window and there it is...I never knew that it was called "pasumil," as far as I can remember everyone called it "central" but that was during late 80's. I remember the smell(ugghh!) and the mountain pile of what's left of the cane over the high concrete wall.
I wonder who owns the property now. Such a waste.

dee said...

I literally lived across the river from this mill (my dad's parents house). Just poke my little head out of the kitchen window and there it is...I never knew that it was called "pasumil," as far as I can remember everyone called it "central" but that was during late 80's. I remember the smell(ugghh!) and the mountain pile of what's left of the cane over the high concrete wall.
I wonder who owns the property now. Such a waste.

alex r. castro said...

It's the same feeling when I go to San Fernando and catch the whiff of sugarcane-in-process at Pasudeco. It stinks, but just like the scent of fresh crayons, the smell conjures memories of childhood past..

Anonymous said...

hi alex,
my great grandpa used to own some sugar & rice mill
we jst dont kno wat happend...
names r pedro de la cruz & rita zita they have a son name roman luneta de la cruz & maria flores was the mayor in lubao 1853 & his son benito luneta de la cruz was the cabeza in sta. catalina, lubao...
im tryin to see if i could get some old pics of the de la cruz clan ...
thank you very much

knerramirezfajardo said...

i still remember vividly my childhood years when PASUMIL (Central as we fondly call), life then was very simple and compare it to today's way of living, it is very far from the yesteryear. I miss the INUYAT, i miss the ATBO (SUGARCANE) and i miss the smell of central.

Ricky said...

from my father...
"Your Lolo was a pioneer and very well-known blacksmith in Mabalacat. When I was growing up, he made beautiful decorative iron fences, window grills, plows for farmers, etc. He was also a rice mill engineer and actually operated the biggest rice and sugar cane mill in our town. I had the chance of visiting him at the rice mill. He was also a plumber and actually built most of the artesian wells in our town. When he passed away, Edna's dad inherited most of his equipment and for a time did some plumbing work also.
When I was in grade school, your Tatang Abling and myself used to help him operate his furnace, that equipment that heats the iron. But I remember I hated doing it. Your Lolo was an outstanding and an accomplished artisan in his time. He was very mechanical. Your Lola, on the other hand, operated a family store when we were growing up until probably when I was 5 or 6 yrs. old. During the holy week, she used to be the featured singer at the bario chapel for the 'pasyon', esp. during Good Friday."

Anonymous said...

Does anyone remember the Fukumoto family. Carlos Fukumoto was born and raised in Hawaii and went to the Philippines to work for the Pampanga Sugar Mill. He was a Chemical Engineer. He married Catalina and they had seven childrem. Their children were born and raised in Del Carmen. They were named Jean, Robert, Elena, George, Richard, Mildred and Priscilla. After the war the whole family relocated to Hawaii. Any information about the Fukumoto family is appreciated.

Charles Mayeux said...

My family lived in Pampanga Province from about April 1949 until late 1950. We lived in the sugar mill compound. My father was an agricultural advisor. I am trying to find out more about others who may have lived in the compound during that time. Some names-Mr. and Mrs. Corp and children, Faye Richardson. Our housekeeper was named Miguela. Our family name is Mayeux. We are from Avoyelles Parish in Louisiana. Any information about this time period would be helpful. I have many pictures of people and countryside. email address: charlesmayeux46@gmail.com

Charles Mayeux said...

My family lived in Pampanga Province from about April 1949 until late 1950. We lived in the sugar mill compound. My father was an agricultural advisor. I am trying to find out more about others who may have lived in the compound during that time. Some names-Mr. and Mrs. Corp and children, Faye Richardson. Our housekeeper was named Miguela. Our family name is Mayeux. We are from Avoyelles Parish in Louisiana. Any information about this time period would be helpful. I have many pictures of people and countryside. email address: charlesmayeux46@gmail.com

Phillip Wilson said...

Hello, my name is Phillip wilson and my papa work at the central as a truck and central manager driver.I was born in del carmen and have two brothers and five sisters. My uncle Francing worked there yoo.he was an oiler and when I was younger, I used to bring him lunch and shows me how the Molino work by squishing the cane. His name is Francisco morales.he is 90 yrs old and still going strong. My dad is also phillip wilson.I knew the sugar central really well. I remember the golf course, American camp,the brickleys,the antons,the old hospital.now that I have lived in states for a long time, now I realized why del carmen looks like a small town in usa.when Americans ran the mill,it was great, we used to have celebration when they reach one million sack of sugar. I really missed this place,my hometown. Some of my family still live there. If you have any old photos of the central, I appreciate if you can send me some.my email is philmwjr@earthlink.net. thanks,boy phillip.

Phillip Wilson said...

One more item, since they turned over the central to filipino ownership, central went down completely. Now all you see is bare land,you can't even tell that there was a famous sugar cane factory.we even had the manila railroad company trolley and the steam engine locomotives.it was really truly great and del carmen was the most advance and beautiful Barrio in pampanga.

Phillip Wilson said...

One more item, since they turned over the central to filipino ownership, central went down completely. Now all you see is bare land,you can't even tell that there was a famous sugar cane factory.we even had the manila railroad company trolley and the steam engine locomotives.it was really truly great and del carmen was the most advance and beautiful Barrio in pampanga.

Phillip Wilson said...

Hello, my name is Phillip wilson and my papa work at the central as a truck and central manager driver.I was born in del carmen and have two brothers and five sisters. My uncle Francing worked there yoo.he was an oiler and when I was younger, I used to bring him lunch and shows me how the Molino work by squishing the cane. His name is Francisco morales.he is 90 yrs old and still going strong. My dad is also phillip wilson.I knew the sugar central really well. I remember the golf course, American camp,the brickleys,the antons,the old hospital.now that I have lived in states for a long time, now I realized why del carmen looks like a small town in usa.when Americans ran the mill,it was great, we used to have celebration when they reach one million sack of sugar. I really missed this place,my hometown. Some of my family still live there. If you have any old photos of the central, I appreciate if you can send me some.my email is philmwjr@earthlink.net. thanks,boy phillip.

Phillip Wilson said...

Hello Gina, have you lived or been in del carmen before, do you have any old pics of the central or the Barrio del Carmen. I sure would love to see some. Phillip Wilson