Tuesday, August 11, 2009


POOL PARTY. A cool bath in a Magalang swimming resort was everyone's idea of a week-end leisure activity during the peacetime era. Dated 6 November 1938.

For hyperactive youngsters growing up in the 70s, our idea of weekend leisure was simple enough. All we needed was a swimming hole to do our water sports, and Saturdays often found the family driving to Abacan in nearby Balibago, with our picnic baskets and towels to the Del Rosario Swimming Pool for an hour or two of free swimming. Imang Perling and Tatang Dadong, my mother’s elder brother, happened to own and operate the pool located in their residential compound. Later, a more modern resort, Yap Park opened in Dau, but then we had to pay entrance fees, and so we got stuck swimming at good old Del Rosario for quite awhile.

In the 30s, before the rise of man-made resorts and water parks, Kapampangans spent their leisure hours in places with natural scenic sites and resources. Mount Arayat had always been a favorite haunt, a virtual paradise with rich greeneries natural springs with pristine waters channeled into pools for swimming. When it was transformed into a national park, more amenities were added, making it the province’s top tourist destination.

The areas behind Clark, especially the Pinatubo side, had been explored by American military officers early in their stay in Pampanga, so much so that by the mid-1920s, horse and foot trails, streams and swimming holes had already been identified for use by the adventurous Americans and their families. Magalang, by its sheer proximity to Arayat had its share of natural swimming pools and dipping holes.

In Porac, the Dara and Miyamit Falls were frequent destinations of local excursionists. The wide waterfalls had strong, powerful currents that flowed into a deep basin, perfect for swimming. The highlands had meandering trails and lush environs that offered quiet respite from the madding crowd. In Mabalacat, Mascup River, owned by the Tiglaos, was the choice of local bathers, what with its pristine waters, giant sized boulders and rock walls defining the area.

Mount Pinatubo’s eruption have completely altered these natural wonders, resulting in the obliteration of Mascup River. The falls in Porac are no longer what they used to be, and natives claim that the basin is much shallower even if the water still flows vigorously. But even then, the Dara and Miyamit Falls continue to inspire awe and wonder and are very much part pf Porac’s tourist attractions to this day.

If people had extra money for bus fare, then the Sibul Springs in San Miguel, Bulacan was another excellent excursion choice. The springs, which, like those of Arayat emanated from the mountain, were believed to have medicinal and revitalizing values, ideal for the weary weekday worker. There were other scenic spots conveniently located nearby, like the mysterious Madlum Caves and the Madlum River. Sibul Springs was also a top destination of newlyweds and sweethearts, as there was a chapel within the area, a perfect venue for weddings. Pres. Manuel L. Quezon and his family frequented Sibul Springs and so did other important personalities like the Roxases.

Post-war prosperity saw the beginnings of contemporary resorts, and in Angeles, the pebble-paved Paradise Swimming Pool became a favorite get-together place of young students and their friends. By the 1950s, to service the leisure needs of a growing American populace, new subdivisions always included a swimming pool and a clubhouse in their blueprint.

Then, as now, the Kapampangan leisure seeker is easy to please. One day, he is on a bird tour of the famous Candaba swamps, the next he is relaxing in a factory site-turned-leisure park in Calibutbut with a mini-zoo to match. Whether taking a dip at the Pinatubo crater lake or playing golf at Mimosa, the Kapampangan sure knows how to enjoy himself, taking delight and finding his own adventure, regardless if his playground is natural or man-made.

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