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")

Monday, August 18, 2008


PREJUDICE GOES ON A PICNIC. A group of local Kapampangan tourists on an picnic excursion in Porac gather ‘round for a souvenir picture with an Aeta native. Dated 25 May 1929.

In 1904, the St. Louis World’s Fair unfolded in splendor in Missouri, to celebrate the Louisiana Purchase. At the fairgrounds, America exhibited its colonies and its vassals, the Philippines Islands among them. One of the sensations of the imperialistic fair were the “savages” on display—human exhibits of ethnic people—not as individuals, but as nameless stereotypes. The Filipinos represented the biggest group, and as such bore the ogles, stares and the brunt of unflattering comments from the press. Bagobos, Moros, Visayans, Igorots—and yes, Negritos, came to America to lend interest to the Fair, but instead aroused feelings of racism and prejudice.

A newspaper editor, J.W, Buel, wrote specifically of the Negritos: “These aborigines of the islands are among the lowest order of human beings”. Other accounts described them as “savages”, “primitives” and “monkey-like”, who could not count above 5 and had limited speech. Capitalizing on the prevailing prejudices of the time, another paper, The Post Dispatch, reported that Negritos “attracted attention due to their assumed African ancestry”. American anthropologists were quick to predict that the Negritos were doomed to extinction.

At the Negrito Village, 41 Negritos replicated their lives in the Philippines, going around with their bows and arrows, climbing trees, weaving palm baskets , singing and dancing for the crowds. They posed for souvenir pictures—racist photographs, actually, not unlike the photo above, taken in Porac at a company outing, 25 years after the end of the Fair.

The picture came with a few others from someone who had perhaps worked for Dna. Teodora Salgado Ullmann, a rich sugar planter and a businesswoman from San Fernando, Pampanga. A widow, she had remarried a French-German merchant who had settled in the Philippines, Don Benito Ullmann. The picture shows a naked Negrito, stoic and emotionless, poised to shoot with his rattan bow and arrow, standing on a pile of boulders. He is surrounded by smiling male tourists, some in derisive poses. The man on the left seems ready to throw a bag on the poor Negrito’s face. The kneeling man directly in front holds a hat, as if to catch something from the Negrito’s loincloth. Big Boss has a hand on his shoulder. Behind the group are more people, watching with detached amusement.

We can never find out the circumstances behind this photo shoot. Perhaps, the Negrito, strayed from the forests of Porac and stumbled upon these revelers. Was he paid a few centavos to pose for this shot? A small plate of picnic food? Was he a willing participant? Did he swallow his pride, perform a dance, chant a song or climb a tree for the group’s entertainment—just like what his forebears did at the fair?

But one thing is certain. Prejudice is not the domain of Westerners. Filipinos too are capable of cruelty and racism. We call dark-skinned people “baluga”, while children of mixed Filipino-American Africans, we insultingly call “nog-nog”. In contrast, we praise the beauty of Fil-Am whites as a blessing to our race—“gumanda ang lahi”—a better breed, thanks to white genes.

Close to home, we treat Negritos and other people of color and ethnicity differently. When a Negrito sits next to us on a jeepney, we look the other way. We cringe when a Negrito vendor tugs at our sleeves. We look at them as dirty and diseased, avoid them like the plague. We think that as part of a minority group, they rightfully deserve our minor attention. And then we blame them for not being able to integrate with the rest of Philippine society.

After all these years, there has never been a significant in the improvement of our human kindness quotient. Charity doesn’t begin home, but in the heart.

(*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 14, 2008

*99. HON. PABLO ANGELES DAVID: "No Fear" Governor

FIERCE AND FEARLESS. Hon. Pablo Angeles David of Bacolor, Governor of Pampanga (2 terms 1931, 1934) and Senator of the Philippines (1947).

A distinguished son of Bacolor, Pablo Angeles David was born to Carlos de los Angeles (of Brgy., San Vicente) and Ceferina Mesina David (of brgy. San Isidro) on 17 August 1889. Early on, Pablo displayed brilliance as a juvenile student in the private school of Don Modesto Joaquin, which was considered the best “escuela “ in the province. After all, Don Modesto was a former Katipunero whose discipline was legendary, even among the Americans who feared him. When not fighting, he was tutoring students at his Spanish academy, many of whom would grow and become Pampanga’s leading lights: Justice Jose Gutierrez David, patriot Nicolas Dayrit and Benigno Aquino Sr.

After Pablo left the local school in 1901, he was sent to study at the “Liceo de Manila” and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1906. He next enrolled at the country’s leading law school, “Escuela de Derecho”, and finished his Bachelor of Laws in 1909. In 1910, at age 20, he took and passed the bar examinations and placed third. He was thus the country’s youngest bar passer , but he had to wait another year to take his oath as a lawyer as he was considered underaged.

He chose to serve Pampanga, and became a justice of the peace for Sasmuan, Santa Rita and Bacolor, his hometown. He became the assistant fiscal of Pampanga from 1913-1915 and the next year, his political career began when he became a member of the Provincial Board for 3 years. In 1918, he was named as the Census Board chairman and the next year, he was elected to the House of the Representatives for Pampanga’s 1st District.

David became acting governor of Pampanga at age 27 when Don Honorio Ventura was appointed as Secretary of the Interior, being the number one board member. He was officially elected as governor in 1931 and was re-elected in 1934. After the Liberation, he re-established the provincial government, driving away the Huks who occupied the provincial capitol and took the helm of running the affairs of Pampanga, with the blessings of the national government. In 1947, he was elected as a Senator.

As a senator, Pablo Angeles David had his share of controversies with his fiery exposes. In 1950, he contested Pres. Quirino’s claim that the war on Huks has diminished, and instead charged that the perpetrators of terror were not the Hukbalahaps but government troops out for blood for the assassination of one of their commanders. David then revealed to the Senate, a massacre that took place in Bacolor involving these constabulary forces, that further infuriated the President.

Without fail and without fear, the good governor, with his wife Concepcion “Conching” Baro and his family, lived to serve his province and his country long and well, staying in Bacolor till the end of his illustrious life on 16 May 1965.

(Many thanks to Mr. Mariano Angeles y Angeles, grandson of Don Pablo Angeles David, son of his second child Atty. Ciceron Baro Angeles Sr., for providing additional information and corrections on this entry.)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

*98. BELLEZAS PAMPANGUEÑAS: Miss Pampanga 1933 Candidates

ARO KATIMYAS DA DENING DALAGA!. The official candidates for the Miss Pampanga title in the 1933 Pampanga Carnival Fair and Exposition, San Fernando, Pampanga.

In 1933, Kapampangans held their grandest event ever, to celebrate the progressive stride made by Pampanga in the two previous decades. From 22 April to 6 May 1933, the Pampanga Carnival Fair and Exposition—“the greatest concourse of people on the island of Luzon”--was held at the Capitol grounds in San Fernando.

The much-awaited selection of Miss Pampanga 1933 provided the climax of the fair. Pampanga’s leading muses, most from socially prominent families. First, each town had to select its own “Miss Municipality” to compete in the provincial pageant. Socio-civic and youth groups like Mountainside, Circulo Escenico, Kayanikan ning Kuliat and Aficionados Baculud helped in drawing up a beauty list from which the loveliest was chosen. Not unlike contemporary pageants marked by sourgraping and backstage dramas, the Miss Pampanga search had its share of controversies.

First, the selection criteria was put in question. Following the Manila Carnival style of selection, Miss Pampanga was to be chosen based on newspaper ballots cast in her favor. A leading Kapampangan newspaper, “Ing Cabbling”, put out an editorial that cautioned using “social influence”, rather than physical beauty , as basis for judging. It even went as far as recommending an ideal mix of judges to make the selection truly impartial and objective, a panel to include a painter or sculptor, a poet, a high society lady, a professional and a respected elder from the province.

Then there was the case of a town muse who, in the voting, was boycotted by her own town mates because of her perceived snobbishness and haughty demeanor. In one tabulation, she gathered zero votes. Despite these minor issues, the contestants had a great time as they were feted and paraded about in motorcades. In the end, it was the slim and svelte Miss San Fernando, Corazon Hizon who romped off with the title.

The titled town beauties included the following:

MISS ANGELES, Maria Agustina Pilar Nepomuceno. (b. 13 October 1911-d. 5 June 1995) Daughter of Gonzalo Mariano Nepomuceno and Gertrudes Ayson y Cunanan. Not much is remembered about her reign or the circumstances of her victory. Later married noted doctor, Conrado Manankil y Tison. They have 4 children, one of whom—Marieta Manankil (now Mercado)—continued the tradition of beauty in her family by becoming Miss Angeles 1955.
MISS APALIT. Lina Espiritu
MISS BACOLOR. Luz Sarmiento. (b. 23 July 1914-d. Aug. 1988) to Laureano Sarmiento and Ines Lugue. Studied at the local St. Mary’s Academy, then attended Assumption Academy in neighboring San Fernando for her higher education. Became Pampanga’s entry to the 1934 Manila Carnival. After the contest, settled down as wife to Jose Gregorio Panlilio y Santos-Joven, in April 1934. An only child, Jesus Nazareno a year later. The couple made their home in their beloved Bacolor, where Luz propagated a lifelong devotion to Nuestra Sñra. del Rosario.
MISS CANDABA. Marina Reyes
MISS GUAGUA. Quintina Lapira
MISS LUBAO. Cornelia Flores
MISS MABALACAT, Pacita Sese. (b. 1916-d. 21 Aug. 2004) Daughter of the town treasurer, Andres Sese and Justina de Guzman. Graduate of Instituto de Mujeres. Married Mauro Feliciano of San Fernando.
MISS MACABEBE. Paciencia Gomez
MISS MAGALANG. Belen Gueco. Daughter of Lorenzo C. Gueco, a successful doctor, sugar planter, business man and PASUDECO stockholder and Elena Aquino. Her elder sister Paz was also a noted town beauty. Schooled at St. Paul’s Institute, Manila. She was an active and popular member of Rho Alpha and Nucleo Solteril. Her candidacy was supported by the Mountainside Club, headed by Jose Luciano, but pulled out of the provincial contest after some controversy. Nevertheless, she was feted house-to-house by her proud kabalens, who were rumored to have withdrawn their support for her. Later married Jose Tinsay.
MISS MASANTOL. Maria Guinto. Later married Artemio Manansala with whom she had 7 children, mostly U.S. based. Died 1969 of cancer.
MISS MEXICO. Candida Nuqui. A student of Sta. Rosa College in Manila when elected as town beauty.
MISS MINALIN. Benita Mercado
MISS SAN FERNANDO. Corazon Hizon (WINNER). Daughter Corazon Hizon of San Fernando, the daughter of Maria Paras and Jose Hizon. After her reign, the lovely Corazon, the toast of the Pampanga Carnival, married Marcelino Dizon also of San Fernando. They settled in the town they loved best and raised 9 children, all daughters—Monica, Maria Teresa, Maria Corazon, Lidia, Encarnacion, Concepcion, Maria Asuncion and Josefina. Monica’s daughter with Marcelino Enriquez, Maria Lourdes, continued the beauty tradition in the family by becoming Bb. Pilipinas- International 1987.
MISS STA. RITA. Juana Amio
MISS SEXMOAN. Marta Pinlac

(*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, August 5, 2008


HAIL MARY. Guagua's grand church, dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. Note the garland-decorated Grecian columns that characterize the altar mayor. Ca. 1920s.

Guagua’s landmark is its simple, yet spacious church that has stood witness to the town’s unraveling history for over two centuries. The church—dedicated to the Immaculate Conception—traces its lowly beginnings back in the 1500s, when Guagua (from ‘uaua’—mouth of a river) , a primal settlement on the banks of the river, was first visited by Augustinian missionaries. A makeshift structure was erected in 1587, only to be razed by fire. A replacement church was erected, manned Fr. Bernardo de Quevedo (prior) and Fr. Juan de Zabala (resident priest) who were officially named to evangelize in this place.

It would seemed that the church flourished, as it was asked to pay an annual rent of 100 pesos, 100 bushels of rice and 100 chickens to the infirmary of the San Agustin Monastery. By 1612, the census listed 3 priests and 3,600 souls living in prosperous Guagua. Guagua by then had attained an enviable level of prosperity brought about by its rich agricultural lands and its Chinese Parian.

Of the town’s spiritual side, Fray San Agustin noted: “Guagua occupies 2nd place among the converts of Pampanga, just after that of Bacolor, although formerly, it was number one.” One observer wrote that the Guaguanos “are well educated, generally brave and courageous, very good Christians, who revere their pastors more than any other town in Pampanga. They are showy during public ceremonies especially during the Semana Santa processions which can compare with those of Spain”.

This fervor was much apparent in the constructions that took place when Fr. Jose Duque took over as parish priest in 1661. Parochial buildings which began in 1641 continued under the dynamic priest who not only helped in pacifying the Pampanga rebellion in 1660 but also went on a building spree, raising structures of bricks and stones.

The church measured 6 meters long, 16 meters wide and 12 meters high—and was “as beautiful and as big as that of San Agustin in Manila”. In 1762, funding for its remodeling were obtained by Fr. Manuel Carrillo, who is credited in building the present stone convent. In 1862, Fr. Antonio Bravo had the church painted and in 1886, the beautiful dome was added by Fr. Paulino Fernandez. Reputedly, the church had the best organ in Pampanga at this time, a donation from a certain Dna. Carmen.

Although devoid of the usual ornamentations, the church façade displays classic elegance. The massive belltower provides contrast to the slender columns lining the building frontal. The altar, with its characteristic Grecian columns has also been worked on by noted artist, Spanish-trained carver Willy Layug, a resident of the town. Today, the church, which stands majestically next to the municipal building, also houses the Cardinal Santos Catholic Center and the Immaculate Conception Parochial School, a monument to the Spanish missionary zeal as well as the devout spirituality of the people of Guagua.

(*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 4, 2008


STRIKE A POSE. Students of Salgado Fashion School--aspiring purveyors of beauty--with the school founder, Florencia Salgado. At the San Fernando school, girls learned the fine art of fashion designing, beauty culture and hair science. ca. 1946.

Kapampangan women, like all daughters of Eve, love to dress up and strut their stuff, making statements with the latest fashions and style. The pre-War economic boom brought about a new level of prosperity to Kapampangans allowing women to indulge in a bit of vanity, including resources to pursue her personal interests for beauty, fashion and grooming.

Alta sociedad events of yore have often served as centerstages for a Kapampangan lady to strut her stuff and display her sense of style. To be seen in her best finery in one of Pampanga’s socio-civic balls like those staged by El Circulo Fernandino is definitely one of the most flattering experiences she could ever have. It was a must then for a modern Kapampangan to be abreast of the latest trends in fashion and beauty, and for these, she turned to the known fashion schools of Pampanga.

R. T. Paras is perhaps the most notable fashion house established by a Kapampangan. It was put up by the enterprising Roberta Tablante Paras, a woman of extraordinary talent and character, very much ahead of her times. Roberta was one of the daughters of Modesto Paras, a former juez de paz (justice of the peace) of Culiat. Her dressmaking skills were recognized early. But a romantic liaison with a married doctor caused her to be disowned; she fled to Manila and open a small dressmaking shop in Binondo in 1902 and in Quiapo in 1912.

Slowly but surely, she built her business while building a list of prominent clients, that would come to include First Lady Aurora Aragon Quezon. Roberta’s daughter by the doctor, Josefina, acquired her mother’s skills and business acumen, establishing R. T. Paras as one of the country’s most popular couture shops in the 40s and 50s. Josefina’s son, Froilan “Roy” Gonzales would later graduate at the top of his class at the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne and, at age 22, would join the House of Pierre Cardin in Paris as a designer in the early ‘60s. He would eventually also become head designer for Jean Patou and Leocanent-Hemant. He came home to head R.T.Paras Haute Couture which has become a name synonymous with excellence in the domain of high quality wedding gowns, corporate attire, suits and formal wear.

In San Fernando, Florencia Salgado Paloma was another trailblazer who put up the famous Salgado Fashion School in the 1940s. It had a complete curriculum, offering courses in dressmaking, beauty culture and hair science. The school boasted of the international credentials of its instructors—one, Miss Erlinda Miranda, had “just arrived from America where she graduated from Hollywood hair science and beauty culture in New York”--as a signboard proclaimed. The founder herself was educated in France. Florencia’s son, Albert Paloma, inherited his mother’s creative genes and is an accomplished interior designer, artist and art connoisseur.

In the 70s and 80s, Gang Hizon Gomez and Efren Ocampo, both of San Fernando, made their own distinctive marks in the Philippine fashion scene. Gomez (now Dom Martin) created haute couture for Manila’s 400, while Ocampo found success in the RTW business, and is still active today. Sisters Peanut and Patis Tesoro, who trace their roots to the Pamintuans of Angeles, are also recognized couturiers noted for weaving in traditional materials into modern creations. Indeed, if there is one thing that never goes out of style, it is the Kapampangan’s passion for fashion.

(*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")