Tuesday, April 28, 2009

*144. Heritage Structures: CANDABA BRIDGE

I'M A CANDABA BRIDGE FAN. A souvenir cardboard fan given away to guests at the 1953 dedication of the Candaba Bridge. Town heads led by Mayor Anastacio Gallardo, Vice-Mayor Vicente pelayo, the munipal secretary, treasurer and Justic of the Peace Ramon Ricafort, attended this major town event.

Rio Grande de la Pampanga provided the lifeblood of the province, regulalry used as a channel to transport goods and agricultural produce from town-to-town, to Manila and beyond. To facilitate movement of commerce, bridges had to be constructed, but Spain chose to concentrate its bridge-building in Manila. The old España (renamed Jones Bridge) , Colgante ( (the country’s 1st suspension bridge) and Convalencia bridges (known as Ayala Bridge, designed and built by Gustave Eiffel) are some of Spain’s more prominent architectural legacies.

It took the Americans to fast-track the building of transportation infrastructures in the Philippines and the peacetime years of the 1930s were a period of raod and bridge-building, adding precious mileage to the country’s limited network of highways. linking towns, islands and whole provinces.

Pampanga has its share of historic bridges that have become historic landmarks of the province. Sulipan Bridge in Apalit provided a vital link between Manila and Pampanga and other northern provinces. The former wood-and-steel bridge was recently reconstructed through Japanese funding and was inaugurated in March 2007.

Still another famous architectural marvel is the Baluyot Bridge of San Fernando, which actually replaced an earlier Spanish-made bridge. Sotero Baluyot, the engineer-governor of Pampanga designed the bridge based on his theses completed at the University of Iowa in 1909, reconstructing it into an arched bridge made of reinforced concrete.

The Candaba Bridge, though lesser known than the Baluyot Bridge, is however, just as important. Candaba, after all, is a major farming and fishing community, and as it is a low-lying, marshy town, its fisherfolks and farmers depended much on water transport for the delivery of their catch and their various. The building of Candaba Bridge sought to make the flow of commerce quicker and more efficient for the community.

Spanning the Pampanga River, the Candaba Bridge was a major project of the Bureau of Public Works, supervised by a platoon of American highway engineers. It suffered extensive damages in the Second World War but was rebuilt after the war with a grant from the United States. In its time, the Candaba Bridge was truly a building masterpiece, sleek and streamlined, with its load-bearing deck hung below cables on vertical suspenders. From a distance, the bridge seemed to float miraculously on air. It is the same type as the Golden Gate Bridge of San Francisco in California, leading many to believe that the Candaba Bridge was patterned after the design of the famous American bridge completed in 1937.

The Candaba Bridge was rededicated in 1953 during the tenure of Mayor Anastacio Gallardo (assassinated in 1966) and Vice Mayor Vicente Pelayo. It must have been a major event as commemorative items such as this fan, were produced to mark the ribbon-cutting rites.

Today, Candaba Bridge has been totally overshadowed by the 5 km. Candaba Viaduct along the North Luzon Expressway, the longest concrete bridge in Luzon. But its place in our province’s history has long been cemented.

Monday, April 27, 2009


THE GREAT TYPHOON OF AUGUST. A typhoon of ferocious intensity cut across Luzon on 31 August 1920, leaving a trail of destruction in Manila and nearby provinces.

The pitter-patter of rain brings to mind a flood of memories from my Pampanga childhood. As a lazy elementary school student, heavy rains were always welcome news especially in the early morning, for they are portents of cancelled classes. My father, an assiduous weather watcher, would tune in to the radio and give a blow-by-blow account of a coming typhoon and the rising signal. Typhoon Signal No. 1 was all it took for a declaration of class suspension, and even if that meant being homebound, we would still take delight in our enforced holiday for that meant hours of comics-reading and other play activities--which, if father allowed it, included taking a rare bath in the rain!

But the onset of the rainy season can both be a boon and a bane for many Kapampangans whose livelihood depends on farming. Rains make green our rice and sugarcane fields, assuring bountiful harvests and profitable yields. On the extreme side, the season also spawns typhoons that can flood farm fields, destroy millions of pesos worth of crops and property and take away lives. It was not too long ago—in September 2007 to be exact—that a trio of typhoons (Chedeng, Dodong and Egay) battered Pampanga, causing damages worth over 102 million pesos. Over 320,000 families were affected and most of Pampanga towns—Lubao, Masantol, Candaba, Mexico, San Luis, Sta. Ana , Arayat, Bacolor, Apalit, Sta. Rita and the capital city of San Fernando--experienced varying levels of flooding. Only two of Guagua’s 24 barangays, were spared of the destructive floods.

Over the last one hundred years, Pampanga has been doused by heavy rains, visited by super typhoons and blasted by 100kph plus gales—transforming the province into a virtual wasted, wetland. Angeles historian Mariano A. Henson has noted some of the more powerful storms and heavy rains that hit the town and their terrible aftermath. In 1871, for instance, on the eve of the “La Naval” festivities, a freakish typhoon blew down thousands of lanterns in the churchyard, snuffed out the lights and leveled the bandstand and decorative arches. The galvanized roof of the Sto. Rosario church was peeled off by the strong winds, and many houses were damaged. It was fortunate that the fireworks and rockets were saved from the storm, as they were scheduled to be lit only the next day.

The “La Naval” fiesta was to be disrupted again and again by more typhoons in the succeeding years. On 14 October 1934, a typhoon with vicious winds lashed at the town shortly after midnight, dampening the celebration. Two years after, it was the same story—a typhoon raged for 3 days from October 9 to 11, spoiling yet again the La Naval festivities. In 1947, while La Naval was celebrated sumptuously, the “Fiesta ng Apu” procession was cancelled after a typhoon hit land at 4 p.m., ravaging the town until midnight.

The great typhoon of 1882 is recorded as the most devastating in the town’s early history, with an unprecedented intensity that caused untold damages to life and property. In 1885, the Taug River overflowed and swept away the town’s 3 bridges. This usually shallow river overflowed with the onslaught of the wet season, and in 1911, it affected the Abacan area. Once again, in August 1919, Taug swelled together with Sapang Balen, destroying the 3 town bridges, previously restored in 1899. Abacan suffered a double whammy in 1929 when two typhoons in early August and September cut across and flooded the area, causing serious damage to the river sector.

In 1947, a post-Christmas storm from the North started battering the town on Dec. 26 midnight, with sustained winds of up to 130 kph. The rains pounded Angeles without let-up until 4:15 in the afternoon and by the time it left, the savage squall had uprooted the sturdy, half-century old chico and tamarindo trees and spoiled the palay stocks of the town. Surprisingly, even with the beneficial fall of rains, the expected “bumper harvest” did not materialize this year. The blame was put on the late typhoons, the damage to farmlands caused by illegal pasturing of cattle and hogs, and the loss of farmhands who preferred to work for American military families.

The wettest typhoons have also been recorded in Pampanga, all in Clark Air Base. In 1986, Typhoon Miding dumped 20.6 inches of rain on Clark within a 24 hour period. In 1966 and 1976, Typhoon Klaring and Typhoon Diding doused the military base with 19.19 inches and 17.81 inches of rain respectively. Of course, these readings are still a far cry from the 1911 all-time wettest record, when a typhoon drenched Baguio with 46 inches of water in just a span of 24 hours.

The eruption of Mount Pinatubo changed the Pampanga landscape irrevocably, making more towns prone to inundations. “Alta Pampanga” (High Pampanga), the supposedly-flood proof areas north of Manila have also become vulnerable to “bagyu”. Flash floods have been reported in Mabalacat. Years after lahar choked the river channels, San Fernando started having floods that took longer to subside.While it is said that low-lying Bacolor benefitted from the lahar deposits of the volcano by rising higher, floodings continue to occur in the town.

This year, the weather patterns have gone awry, with rains and low pressure areas coming in early in April. A shortened summer has caused many bakasyonistas to grumble and beach resorts to lose money. When it rains, blessings do not necessarily fall. The passing “April showers” feel more like “April deluges”, but for now, I am not complaining as I am enjoying the respite from the stifling heat. Why, I even remembered a childhood ditty as the familiar patter of rain pounded on my window pane last night: “Mumuran, mumuran, magkanta la ring asan..” (It’s raining, it’s raining, the fish are singing). All of a sudden, I felt like singing under the rain showers—just like in the good old days.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


WHEN APALIT WENT GREEN. Apalit celebrates Garden Day with a specially-designed booth displaying the town’s best agricultural, commercial and industrial products like these post and woven hats. Dated 1925.

Industrial education in the Philippines was espoused by the Thomasite teachers because it had a natural fit to the local conditions and needs. Practical in its aims, industrial instruction sought to instill appreciation for manual labor, and by 1913, about 91 percent of pupils in the Philippines were devoting some of their school hours to manual work like sewing, weaving and carpentry.

Still, agriculture, though primitive in method, remained the main calling of Filipinos, and the American educators capitalized on this, emphasizing school and home gardening as an established part of the primary school program. By doing so, the Bureau of Education felt that this will result in an improved diet for Filipinos, and will pave the way for a more scientific approach to agriculture. To promote this idea, school farms were started in different provinces and Garden Days were held in towns all over the Philippines.

Like Rizal Day, Carnivals and Petit Fairs, Garden Days (or Arbor Days) were an American invention, patterned after the state fairs that showcased agricultural products and other articles representing the best standards, in attractive displays for every one to see. These events, held under a merry and entertaining atmosphere, fostered a community’s competitive spirit, spin-offs of the more elaborate national carnivals.

Garden Days were held with regularity in Pampanga and Tarlac, achieving popular acclaim as these events were also occasions to show off, sell and trade goods. Everything--from bottled fruit marmalades, rice cakes, pickled vegetables, molasses, whole baskets of pechay, squash, eggplants, radishes, cabbages and root crops can be found in booths—ready to be ordered or sold.

Corn exhibits became the rage in the Garden Days of Tarlac, starting in 1912, after a campaign was waged for this alternative food staple in schools. Corn-growing contests, corn exhibits and corn cooking demonstrations were held in the province to promote “the growing of corn and for extending its use as a human food”. In one such event in Camiling, 8,000 people turned up to see an amazing innovation being demonstrated—a small hand mill for preparing corn meals.

In Pampanga, the Garden Days held in Capalangan, Apalit were marked with much revelry and variety as side activities—like athletic competitions, calisthenics drills and even a beauty pageant—were held alongside the traditional agricultural exhibits! In 1927, for instance, the elementary school team from San Vicente copped First Prize in the calisthenics contest.

By the mid 1930s, Garden Days became less popular as provincial expositions which were more encompassing in scope, became the more preferred venues for showing off a province’s progress. As community events, Garden days ceased to exist altogether after the war years. Gardening, as an industrial arts subject, remained in the curriculum of elementary schools until the 1960s, achieving short-lived spurt in the early 1970s with the Green Revolution project of the Marcoses.

Today, gardening as a subject is known by its fancier name--“horticulture”--and is now available only as a subject in agriculture schools. Landscaping, a related gardening activity, has even evolved into a separate specialized course—“landscape architecture”, they now call it. With talks of global warming and looming environmental threats, maybe we should revisit the concept of the Garden Days of yore. They might just be the ideal events to create awareness for this planet’s pressing need to go green, before it’s too late.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


UNION OF SPIRITS. Atty. Rafael G. Morales and bride, Belen G. Lansangan on their wedding day, dated 3 July 1926.

The Moraleses were one of the first nuclear families to settle in Mabalacat, where most of the family members engaged in sugar planting and local politics. One family patriarch was Quintin Tuazon Morales (b. 1856/d.1928), who was one of the more successful town hacenderos--and one of the first to start a family tradition in politics (A nephew, Dr. Miguel Morales, son of his brother Feliciano, was the 1st post-Liberation mayor of Mabalacat. Dr. Morales’ grandson, Marino, is the long-serving incumbent mayor).

Don Quintin married Paula Cosme Guzman, daughter of Ciriaco and Dominga Cosme, and they further consolidated their fortunes built from their prime real estate holdings and large tracts of agricultural lands and commercial establishments. The couple bore five children who went on to continue the Morales legacy of wealth, power and achievement: Clotilde, Maria, Pedro, Rafael and Patricia.

Eldest son Pedro would grow up to be a successful Mabalacat lawyer and his younger brother, Rafael (b. 24 Oct. 1893), followed in his footsteps. Like Pedro, Paeng enrolled at the Escuela de Derecho, the country’s leading law school at that time. He was one of the first Mabalaqueños to study abroad, taking up Foreign Service at the prestigious Georgetown University. While pursuing his studies in Washington D.C, he met and became friends with Florentino Torres Pamintuan, a kabalen from Angeles, whose son, Pepe, was going to the same school. The affluent Pamintuans had a 3-storey corner house at East Kirk St., Chevy Chase, where Paeng was often invited to visit. (Tragically, Pedro and most of his family, would be killed during the liberation of Manila, making Paeng an unico hijo, after the war.)

Meanwhile, Belen Lansangan (b. 1900), was the daughter of Don Simon Lansangan and Aleja Gamboa of Sta. Ana. Like the Moraleses, the Lansangans were also involved in the sugar industry and town politics. Don Simon was at one time, a municipal councilor. A sibling, Pedro Lansangan, was a sugar planter of repute. Belen was an accomplished pianist and in her very first recital, she met the young abogado, Rafael, who had tagged along with his doctor-friend from Arayat to watch her music debut. The two were married at the Lourdes Church in Intramuros in 1926.

Rafael and Belen settled in Mabalacat with a fabulous mansion built by Don Quintin. Here, Paeng quickly made a name for himself as a brilliant lawyer. He also took over the reins of the family sugar business and became a member of the Pampanga Sugar Marketing Association. He also became a stockholder of the Arayat Sugar Central, National Life Insurance Company and one of the incorporators of the Central Luzon Milling Company. In 1933, he was elected as a town councilor, under the term of Dr. Jose Garcia.

Paeng and Belen had two daughters, Luz Dorotea and Leonor Cecilia. When they reached school-age, their daughters were sent off to Manila to study at the Assumption. Eventually, the couple acquired a home in Manila, shuttling back and forth from the city to Pampanga to check on their various family enterprises, which consisted mostly of land holdings in Mabiga, Mabalacat, Angeles and Sta. Ana. Belen died in 1950, after battling the ill effects of a stroke for 2 years. Paeng outlived his wife, and passed away in 1967. Despite their stature in Pampanga society, the Morales couple always kept a low profile, preferring to work quietly for various advocacies.

Like their parents, their Makati-based daughters today are well-known for their philanthropic work for the church, schools, seminaries and other charities. Luz remained single, while Leonor, married to Jose “Pepe” Hizon of Mexico is a mother of 4: Ernesto (a lawyer in Maryland), Bernadette, Maria Belen and Federico. The latter, known in the TV world as Rico Hizon, is a successful broadcaster (business anchor and reporter) for BBC based in Singapore. He is a TOYM (The Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines) and MOKA (Most Outstanding Kapampangan) Awardee.

Today, the material legacy of Rafael and Belen Morales is still very much apparent in Mabalacat town and elsewhere in Pampanga. Belen Homesite and Villa Belen in Angeles comprise of their major real estate projects in the province. The land on which the Mary, Help of Christian School sits is a private donation of the family, and so is the ancestral Morales mansion in Sta. Ines, which now houses a religious order. The contemporary San Rafael Church, inaugurated in 1995, was also donated and built to honor the memory of Rafael Morales and Belen Lansangan, a fitting tribute to this self-effacing couple whose kind generosity remained a hallmark of their intertwined lives.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


MAGALANG FARM SCHOOL. Students apply classroom theories with actual field work in the school's vast farmlands courtesy of the government. The Magalang school, nestled on the foothills of Mount Arayat, would become the most eminent agricultural state college of the region. Dated 8 April 1927.

Pampanga’s prosperity relied very much on its agricultural produce, but it is ironical that the Spanish government paid very little attention to the production of sugar in the country. It was only in 1849 that the King promulgated a decree granting a sugar monopoly to the Recoleto fathers in Negros. An organization, “Real Sociedad de Amigos del Pais”, undertook the cultivation of sugar in that island, with limited success, but the government seemed to be more interested in the tobacco industry.

To redirect the government’s focus, another decree was issued in 1871, establishing the Agricultural School of Manila, but this too, failed. “Real Sociedad”, however, succeeded in establishing an experimental station on the slopes of Mt. Arayat, where Manuel Sota demonstrated the value of attention to scientific methods and the advantages to be derived from irrigation. Thus, this simple outpost became the precursor of Pampanga’s agricultural schools which sought to advance the cause of agriculture through education, training and the use of science.

In 1885, the “Granja Modelo”, a pilot agricultural school, was opened by the Spaniards in Magalang. The well-equipped school was subsequently renamed “Estacion Pecuaria”, until 1898. Thereafter. It remained idle, until an American Thomasite, Kilmer O. Moe, and Assemblyman Andres Luciano from Magalang initiated its reconstruction in 1917. Finally realizing the value of the school, the Bureau of Education threw its support behind its reopening. Gov. Honorio Ventura, himself a supporter of the Bacolor School of Arts and Trade, donated more funds to aid the project. Thus, the Magalang Farm School was born.

In 1921, the school offered a curriculum with a strong agricultural orientation for intermediate and high school students. The subjects were mostly non-academic, and were more aligned to the province’s economic activities. Students underwent manual training in the fields and learned proper usage of fertilizers, and new farming techniques using modern machinery. They also were exposed to the use of science and technology in creating better sugarcane breeds as well as practical pest control and the delights of horticulture.

In 1954 Magalang Farm School became Pampanga National Agriculture School, and was hailed as a worthy contribution to education—but not to Pampanga economics. More than 100 squatter families were allowed by the local government to farm free on the best irrigated soil of the school, which hampered the school operations. Eventually, the school regained not only its grounds and the impetus it lost, and continued on its mission to promote excellence in education and improvement of agricultural and rural development in Pampanga and the whole Central Luzon region.

In September 1974, it became a state college and was renamed Pampanga Agricultural College. Today, PAC, as it is known, offers over 13 undergraduate courses, with an expanded curriculum that include computer courses, agricultural technology, veterinary science and veterinary nursing—a first in the Philippines. Its campus, which occupies over 700 hectares of agricultural lands also houses a Vet med hospital, student dormitories, an audio-visual center, various sports facilities, a radio station, tissue culture and feed laboratories and an internet café. With its rich history that spans more than a hundred years, Pampanga Agricultural College—once known as Magalang Farm School—stands as one of the finest institutions of agricultural learning in the country, a beacon of excellence at the forefront of countryside development now on the brink of universityhood.