Monday, June 30, 2008

*90. Bale Matua: THE LOPEZ MANSION, Guagua

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LIFESTYLES OF THE RICH & FAMOUS. The Lopez Mansion, built by the sugar magnate Alejandro Lopez in the early 1930s, Guagua, Pampanga. The house is decorated for a religious celebration.

One of Pampanga’s most spectacular and most photographed landmarks is the Lopez Mansion, an imposing concrete residence and office built by the sugar magnate, Don Alejandro Lopez (b. 16 May 1883) of Guagua.

Alejandro was a product of the Philippine Normal School in 1911, and was for a time, connected with the Bureau of Education until 1920. But with the burgeoning sugar industry, Lopez became a successful planter, establishing the Lopez Rice Mill, Co., and becoming the Vice President of Pampanga Sugar Mills Planters Association.

For his wife Jacinta Limzon, Lopez built a spacious multi-storey mansion fit for a queen in the early 1930s. Constructed of APO Cement, the mansion also doubled as his office. Done in the Greek Revival style, the faƧade is dominated by Grecian columns accented with reliefs of foliate swags flowing down from the column's capital. Sandwiched in between are glass-panelled openings that lead to individual room balconies.

Concrete balusters line the building perimeter as well as the the 2nd floor protruding balconies where one can stand to watch the world go by. These were topped with eaves with simple geometric patterns, a design that recurrs around the house. Mini-pediments, evenly spaced out, crown the imposing structure, with cast-cement Grecian urns

The landing features a short flight of steps that leads to the main arched double doors. Two narrower doors flank the main portal, protected from the elements with a gracefully curving concrete canopy.

A spiral staircase linked the ground level to the upper rooms. The mansion was furnished with the latest styles from Puyat Furniture, the leading furniture and woodworking company of the day. Gonzalo Puyat, also from Guagua, established the factory that manufactured cabinets, bedroom suites, sala sets, tocadores, vegillas, sillas and even billiard tables of tangile and narra that became staples in wealthy Philippine homes.

The grounds were beautifully landscaped with flowering trees, small plants and shrubs. The perimeter is defined by a simple concrete and wrought iron fence. In its time, this mansion was an object of awe and attention, meriting write-ups in the Pampanga Social Register and Pampanga Directory, two who’s who books about Kapampangan high society.

It is fortunate that the Lopez Mansion still stands today, well-preserved after over 75 years. Indeed, the magnificence of this mansion would rival even some opulent residences in Europe, a singular showcase to the lifestyle of wealth and splendor as lived by Pampanga’s self-made men.

(*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, June 23, 2008

*89. In the Footsteps of a Saint: FR. JUAN PEREZ DE STA. LUCIA.

A HEART FOR HEATHENS. Fr. Perez de Sta. Lucia labored amongst the lowly Negritos, protecting them from Spanish exploitation and even joined them in jail when some aborigines were falsely accused of hiding contraband goods. Photo from the Recollect A rchives, courtesy of Fr. Rommel OAR.

Among the Recollects and TarlaqueƱos, there is a future saint being talked about who served the town of Capas with extraordinary devotion and grace. Above all, he dedicated most of his missionary life improving the lot of Aetas by creating the mission center of Patling just for them, to facilitate their integration to Christian society. His name is Fray Juan Perez de Santa Lucia, who, at one point, also served Mabalacat town as a companero of Fr. Jose Varela Fernandez de la Consolacion.

Born to Felipe Perez and Juliana de Lucio on 8 February 1817 in Santander, Spain, Fr. Juan joined the Recollect order in 1843, choosing for his patron, Santa Lucia. Arriving in Manila as a member of a mission group on 22 July 1843, he was ordained here in December of the same year. Mabalacat was his next stop, where, on 23 February 1844, he joined Fr. Varela as an assistant. Here, he quickly immersed himself in learning the Kapampangan and Zambal languages. He stayed on in Mabalacat until September 1845, because by the 2nd week of the same month, he was named as missionary of Capas, which was then still a part of Pampanga.

It is in Capas where he truly left his mark, working with indefatigable zeal and fervor among his parishioners. For instance, when water from Mt. Pinatubo inundated Capas in May 1850, he stayed with his parishioners, leading them to higher grounds, unmindful of his own safety. He wisely made use of donations to build a stone church for Capas.

Beyond Capas, he also worked tirelessly among the Aetas in Patling, protecting them from the exploitation of Spaniards and settlers hungry for new lands. So detached was he from materialism that when his Father Provincial gifted him with clothing, he tore the fabric into smaller pieces which he then gave away to the Aetas. In yet another instance, when several Aetas were jailed by the police for allegedly hiding contraband merchandise, the good father joined them in jail! Not even the governor of Pampanga, Don Jose Paez, could make him move out of the prison.

In 1864, a great cholera epidemic hit Capas, and a large number of the population fell victim to the plague. Fr. Juan labored day in and out to minister to the spiritual needs of the dead and dying. Sadly, he too was afflicted by the same disease. This holy man who started his walk to sainthood in Mabalacat, breathed his last on 20 June 1864, in his beloved Capas mission.

(Adapted from Dr. Lino L. Dizon, “Fr. Juan Perez de Santa Lucia, OAR: A Forgotten Saint?”, Kapampangan K Magazine Issue 6, pp. 27-29.)

(*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, June 16, 2008

*88.HUK ON FILMS: From Movement to the Movies


DANTE'S INFERNO. Film poster of Kumander Dante's (Bernabe Buscayno) biopic, portrayed by Phillip Salvador and filmed in 1988. Buscayno, founder of the New People's Army in 1969, was a former worker in the sugar plantations owned by the Cojuangcos. The film was directed by Ben Yalung.

The Philippine movie industry began in the early 1900s, and since then, the medium has become one of the more popular sources of entertainment for many generations of Filipinos. Early films about the Philippines were story-less, featuring scenics and events such as Fiesta de Quiapo and Panorama de Manila. Narrative films with patriotic themes like La Vida de Jose Rizal and Los Tres Martires became the vogue in the first 2 decades of the new century.

With the formalization of the studio system, the film emerged as an effective medium for storytelling, with themes that often mirrored the thoughts of the country. After World War II, the local film industry rose from the ashes quickly, with a motherlode of tales from the ruins of the war—the 1st postwar film was Manuel Conde’s Orasang Ginto (The Golden Clock) which pictured graphically the heroism and sufferings of the Filipino guerilla. The mood had shifted dramatically from innocent romance to the harsh realism of violence and criminality.

The end of the war also signaled the start of our independence, but the pervading euphoria quickly gave way to feelings of betrayal as corruption and the struggles of the social class all but erased the gains of our new independence. The Communist HUKBALAHAP (Hukbong Bayan Laban sa mga Hapon) movement had gained grounds and support—providing the film industry with more eye-opening stories to tell about the revolt of the masses. Agrarian unrest, peasants bound to the soil, the heroic lives of Huk kumanders—all these found expressions on the screen, providing the audience a real hard look into the movement and its causes, its often-bloody struggles and its larger-than-life rebel heroes.

A comprehensive list of Huk-inspired films:

BACKPAY. (1947) Plot: Post-war guerrillas, disappointed because of the non-payment of their benefits and failure of the government to implement agrarian reforms decide to join the Huk movement

MGA BUSABOS NG PALAD (1948, Slaves of Destiny). Cast: Leopoldo Salcedo, Gil de Leon, Plot: Guerrillas find themselves jobless and resort to stealing, begging and boxing.

LUPANG PANGAKO (1949, Promised Land). Cast: Leopoldo salcedo, Mila del Sol. Plot: Returning guerrillas find difficulties in adjusting to mainstream life and find unemployment.

CANDABA. (1950) Cast: Tessie Quintana, Teody Belarmino and Tony Santos. Directed by: Gregorio Fernandez. Plot: Agrarian conflict.

TIGANG NA LUPA (1950, Parched Land). Cast: Rogelio de la Rosa and Leila Moreno. Plot: Agrarian conflict.

HUK, SA BAGONG PAMUMUHAY (1953, Huks, A New Life). Cast: Jose Padilla Jr., and Celia Flor.

HUK. (1956) A U.S. made movie. Cast: George Montgomery, Mona Freeman. Plot: A plantation owner struggles to fend off native insurrectionists (the "Huks" of the title).

KUMANDER 13. (1956) Cast: Rogelio de la Rosa, Carmencita Abad.

KUMANDER ALIBASBAS. (1981) Cast: Joseph Estrada, Perla Bautista. Bipic of Cesario Manarang, Huk leader from Concepcion, Tarlac.

PEDRING TARUC. (1982) Cast: Joseph Estrada, Ronaldo Valdez. Biopic of Huk leader, Pedro Taruc. The showing of this movie was blocked by the Marcos regime, citing that no outlaw should be made into a hero for a film.

KUMANDER DANTE. (1988) Cast: Phillip Salvador. Plot: Biopic of Bernabe Buscayno, leader and founder of New People’s Army (NPA).

(*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, June 9, 2008

*87. FELICIDADES! : The Charm of Vintage Holiday Calling Cards

BEST WISHES, KABALEN! An assortment of Christmas calling cards from Pampanga. Personal collection.

Many aspects of our Christmas traditions have their roots in colonial customs from a number of countries and cultures. Misa de gallos, noche buenas, belens and parols are but a few legacies of Spain. America introduced us to Santa Claus, Christmas trees and Christmas cards, which, in turn, evolved from the Victorian practice of leaving calling cards.

In 19th century England, these cards were essential part of social etiquette ranging from introductions, visits, invitations and gift-giving. When a caller comes visiting, he would leave a card (also known as “carte de visite”) on silver trays in the entry hall with the more socially prominent names displayed on top. Cards were often carried in attractive cases of ivory, leather, filigreed silver and papier mache. The use of calling cards became very fashionable in Europe and early illustrated samples were often collected and pasted in scrapbooks.

Victorian era cards were about 9 x 6 cms.; later examples approximated the size of modern day business cards. The cards bore only a person’s title and name, but by the end of the century, the address was added to the card. Soon, the all-occasion calling card was designed to fit a specific ceremonial event or season. For instance, mourning cards were edged in black. Formal calls were also made after wedding rites, childbirth or as acknowledgment of hospitality. During the holidays, Christmas greetings were also printed on the card.

The calling card fad apparently reached our islands and our province, what with our penchant for forming elite social circles and endless giving of regalos and aguinaldos. A few examples of vintage Christmas calling cards collected from Pampanga show marked Victorian influences despite their relative simplicity. The cards were decorated with color, embossing and die-cutting as printing techniques improved in the 1850s.

For instance, the calling card of Ms. Eduviges Beltran of Lubao, Pampanga, sent out on Christmas 1920, shows delicate pink and green color tinting on tiny violet flowers. Florenciana Lacsamana of San Luis opted for a very local motif, embossing her Christmas 1918 calling card with a figure of a woman in baro’t saya against a truly Filipino backdrop of a rising sun and palm trees. Messr. N. Diaz Carreon, on the other hand, chose a lucky horsehoe design fringed with anahaw leaves for his circa 19-17-1918 card. Warm Christmas wishes were sent out using straightforward Spanish greetings (“Felicidades!”) to more lyrical expressions in contemporary English.

The popularity of Christmas calling cards waned with the advent of the more festive, more visual Christmas postcards and greeting cards in the 1920s-30s, which allowed every inconceivable subject to appear in explosions of color: from Angels to Santas, rural scenes, animals to far-fetched imageries as snowmen, reindeer and fur-clad people. No matter, calling cards of our holiday past provide us with a rare, interesting glimpse of social protocol in our history, when Kapampangan hospitality and proper observance of etiquette were the order of the day—practices that are sadly being taken for granted in our present-day society.


(*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, June 2, 2008

*86. KAPITAN BIKONG: A Revolucionario in the Family

O CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN. Isabelo del Rosario y Tuazon, a Captain of the local Katipunan chaper, and two times a hero (Philippine Revolution and of the Philippine-American War).

There are many members in our over-extended clan that we consider as icons, idols and heroes. As a young boy, I looked up to so many uncles, aunts and an odd assortment of relatives who excelled in their fields as doctors, lawyers, ambassadors, government officials and even international news personalities. But by definition, there is one genuine, honest-to-goodness hero who shares our Del Rosario bloodline, a revolucionario whose dramatic execution has often been written about in local history books: Kapitan Isabelo del Rosario y Tuazon.

Kapitan Isabelo or Bikong is a cousin of my maternal grandfather, Emilio. Their fathers, Marcelino and Cornelio were brothers, children of Pablo del Rosario and Luisa de Ocampo. Born in San Fernando on 8 July 1878, Bikong was brought up by a strict but devout mother, Agueda Tuazon, from whom he learned the values of discipline, love of God, country—and music. He became a superb violinist, adept at playing the popular awits, danzas and kundimans of his time.

At age 18, Bikong joined the local chapter of the Katipunan and was elevated to the rank of a Kapitan for his exploits. At about this time, he married Emilia Abad Santos y Basco, a sister of Jose and Pedro Abad Santos (the future Supreme Court Justice was a friend of Bikong even before the war). This union was blessed with two sons, Pastor and Agapito.

The defeat of Spain by the Americans gave Bikong false hopes of returning to San Fernando to live a life of peace with his family. When it became apparent that the Americans were staying for good, he once again joined the war against the new colonizers. He said of the Americans: “Den ela sasaup...sasakup la” (they did not come to help, but to conquer).

The Philippine Insurrection, as the Americans called the war, proved to be short and bloody for the revolutionary forces. With the American military prevailing over the Filipinos, Kapitan Bikong and his fellow Kapampangan revolucionarios were asked to lay down their arms, surrender and gain pardons. But the brave Kapitan continued on with his fight and was subsequently captured at Sapa Libutad in 1901, shortly after the birth of his youngest son.

Taken to jail in Mexico, he was sentenced to die by hanging at the town plaza. His last request was to play his violin for one last time. With that final wish granted, he proceeded to play a moving version of “Danza Habanera de Filipina”. After which, he smashed his violin to smithereens on the gallows’ post where was to hang. Kapitan Bikong gave up his life for his beloved country on 12 April 1901, just 22 years old.

(POSTSCRIPT: Isabelo’s son, Agapito, became a Mayor of Angeles in 1940, during the Commonwealth Period. He was arrested for being anti-Japanese and imprisoned in Fort Santiago. Like his father before him, he chose to die for his country, dying at the hands of the Japanese in March 1942, age 41.).

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