Monday, September 21, 2009


THE DOCTOR AND HIS NURSE. Dr. Pacifico L. Panlilio M.D. and his wife, Marcelina P. Nepomuceno, an early nursing degree graduate, both belonged to well-known families from Pampanga.

The Panlilios of Mexico and the Nepomucenos of Angeles are two of the most prominent and biggest families of Pampanga, populating the province with their progeny who went on to become achievers, professionals, successful businessmen, visionaries and community leaders. So when two members from these distinguished families forged a union through marriage, their future was already considered written in the stars. Indeed, the marriage of Dr. Pacifico Panlilio y Lising and Marcelina Nepomuceno y Paras consolidated their individual successes to emerge as a power couple in Kapampangan society.

Marcelina was born on 9 August 1881, the daughter of Ysabelo Nepomuceno y Henson and Juana Paras y Gomez. Ysabelo’s parents were Pio Rafael Nepomuceno and Maria Agustina Henson. When it was time for Marcelina to pursue her ‘karera’, she chose to study the relatively new course of Nursing, first offered at the Escuela de Enfermeras of the Philippine General Hospital. As part of the earliest batches of nursing graduates, Marcelina thus earned her place as a pioneering Kapampangan Florence Nightingale in the field of medical service.

It was at PGH that Marcelina met fellow Kapampangan, Pacifico or Pepe, as he was known by his nickname. A son of Juan Panlilio and Feliciana Lising of Mexico, the young Pepe was born on 30 October 1880 and attended a local school under the tutelage of Don Felix Dizon. He was then sent off to San Juan de Letran for his secondary schooling, and upon completion in 1896, he enrolled at the University of Santo Tomas then to the newly established University of the Philippines, becoming a Doctor of Medicine in 1909.

While taking his internship at the San Lazaro Hospital from 1910-11, he became a Doctor de Sanidad at Meisic, Manila. By December 1910, he was named as a health inspector and the next year, he served as a District Officer of Sibul Spring. In late 1911, he was stationed at the Dispensary of the Philippine General Hospital. Dr. Panlilio was also a member of good standing of the Manila Medical Society, the Malthusian League of London, and later joined the Masonry.

After their wedding in January of 1912, the couple decided to return to their roots and settled in Pampanga. Don Pepe had the chance to serve his town, becoming its Doctor de Sanidad from 1918-20. They divided their time between Mexico and Angeles as the couple also had some real estate property there. They would eventually raise 4 children: Josefina Guillermina, Noemi Guia, Filadelfo and Vladimir Crisostomo. The good doctor could have accomplished more, but on 9 August 1934, he passed away at the age of 54.

The widowed Marcelina and her children stayed on permanently in Angeles, living a full life and dying at the age of 78 on 16 April 1959. In the late 1960s, the children developed the property of their parents, a wedding gift from Marcelina’s uncle, Don Juan Nepomuceno. The plot of land along Jesus Street was transformed into a subdivision known as Pacimar—from Pacifico and Marcelina—whose united names lived on in this city landmark.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

*165. INYANG MALATI KU: Growing Up Kapampangan

CHILDREN ONE AND ALL. Kapampangan kids pose as serious-looking passengers on a boat in this playful souvenir shot. Ca. 1920s.

Children were a prized possession in every Kapampangan family—to be doted on, cared for and pampered. Our innocent childhood years are perhaps, the most magical—when even the world revolved around you and your needs. The arrival of a newborn baby into this world was always a cause of great excitement, tinged with anxiety. In the days when medicos were scarce and hospitals were limited to urban centers thus rendering them inaccessible, babies were delivered by an “ilut” or a local midwife who was also capable of handling other medical emergencies. The chosen sponsors for the baby must give the “ilut” a small amount of money—“para imu” (for face washing), lest the child suffers from dirty eyes (‘muri”) for the rest of his life.

Children are a prized possession in every Kapampangan family—to be doted on, cared for and pampered. Our innocent childhood years are perhaps, the most magical, when even the world has to revolve around you—until such time you reach the age of reason. But, as an infant till your toddler years, you’ll find yourself the apple of everyone’s eye. At a baby’s baptism, it is the “tegawan” (sponsors) who spend for the baptismal gown, often of expensive lace and jusi.

Babies were delicately handled and treated to lots of tender loving care. For his amusement, silver bracelet rattles were worn on his wrist or ankle. When it came to feeding time, other than mother’s milk, only the best will do, like Bear Brand (“gatas osu”) and Milkmaid. A baby from an affluent family may have a wet-nurse or a “yaya” who made sure his daily needs are met—from regular “lampin” (cloth diaper) changes to naptime rituals that involve rocking the child on a “duyan” (hammock) fashioned from an old blanket.

So favored were babies and children, that when photography came into vogue, they became natural subjects, often dolled up in sailor’s outfits or Lord Fauntleroy costumes for the camera. Little girls were dressed in ribbons and curls, and were made to pose with their favorite dolls and playthings. A requisite portrait sitting involves nude babies atop a bed, a sofa, in a bassinet or in one weird instance, seated inside a giant shell.

All the pampering came to an abrupt end when the child attains school age, usually at age seven. A period of training, learning and stern discipline followed, in an unfamiliar school setting and under the watchful eye of a teacher-mentor. Here, children learn their ABCs by rote and through memorization. Those who failed to toe the line were subjected to corporal punishments. Common modes of disciplining kids included the stick or a paddle, kneeling on “balatung” (mongo) seeds or a sharp pinch on the ear—deemed cruel and unacceptable by today’s standards.

In his free time however, he gets to be his own carefree self, building his interactive skills through social games like piko, maro, tambubung and teks. But once back in his industrial arts or home economic class, however, the growing child is exposed to more adult skills like weaving, carpentry, sewing and cooking.

At home, lessons of discipline continued. A ‘bunsu” may have his privileges, but he has to defer to his “caca” for important decisions. Following a chain of command imposed by tradition, an older sibling wielded authority over a younger “kapatad”, disciplining him when the parents were not around to do so. Suddenly, his daily life, once unhampered by rules becomes more regimented and controlled. At 5 p.m, before the Angelus, his play hours must stop and he must trudge home if he is out on the street. Disobedience meant being subjected to scare tactics--"kunan naka ning Bumbay, kanan naka ning Aswang!" (the Bumbay will come and get you, the aswang will eat you..)

Things get more stressful when children reach pre-pubescent age. For boys, undergoing circumcision (‘tule”) is a painful rite of passage that is both inevitable and inescapable. For girls, the first ‘period’ is often accompanied by a mixed feeling of fear and confusion. At this time, the child ceases to be “cute”. In fact, he ceases to be a child, and instantly, he is treated as such. He inherits his brother’s long pants while she is a given a camison to wear beneath her regular clothes. It’s just a matter of time that paraphernalias like tweezers, Gilette blades, sebo de macho, tawas and Brilliantine pomade, make their appearance on their tocador.

When that happens, the magic and innocence of childhood disappear, as a new life phase begins opens: the wonderful world of adulthood. Welcome to the real world, kids!

Monday, September 7, 2009

*164. COURT AND SPARK: The Rituals of Courtship

WHEN BOY MEETS GIRL. Lovey-dovey couple pose for a romantic souvenir photo. This must have been a post-wedding snapshot. ca. 1920s.

When a Kapampangan swain found a possible object of his affection, he had to follow a certain modus operandi to win her heart, in a way that was acceptable to the mores of the times. Indeed, if our baintau wished to keep his good standing in society and win approval, then he had to follow and meet the standards of ‘pamaglolo’ rituals.

To signify his intentions, our young man would often use a go-between, maybe an acquaintance of the girl, to pave the way for an introduction and then some. If our dalaga showed a positive response, our baintau went ahead to set up a meeting. As it was unthinkable for a girl to contrive to meet elsewhere lest she incurs parental wrath, Sunday church visits as well as community events such as fiestas, were legitimate occasions to meet and greet. Our young man sat himself a few pews away from the girl, within her eyesight, so she could cast furtive glances at him.

After the service, he would linger around the girl, behaving much like a rooster in the presence of a hen. In fact, the verb “tandic” which describes this behavior, applied also to men “who is about to fall in love and is beginning to court and woo a lady”.

Our young man could also decide to be more formal and go “mamanikan”, in which an appointment is made with the girl for a home visit. Even then, the girl was always provided with a chaperone who lurked nearby so she could eavesdrop on their conversations. To throw a nosy chaperone off, however, our dalaga would use her fan to send messages to a lovestruck visitor.
If she held a dangling fan with her right hand, it meant she already had a suitor. If she fanned herself furiously, it mean that the young man held no meaning for her. An open fan meant, “I love you like a friend”, while a closed fan indicated sincere love.

Similarly. Our young man could profess his heart’s wishes through the language of flowers. If he presented the girl with red adelfas, it meant that he has serious romantic designs. Yellow azucenas signified greatness of love. White jasmine reflected his inner goodness, while white rosals, the purity of his love.

There were other ways to woo a young woman. He could serenade her or engage the services of his friends to make “arana”, melting her heart with lyrical kundiman songs. When enough trust was built, the couple could be allowed to go dating with the consent of parents. When they went out, it was more likely that a group date, with several chaperones in tow. Dating became popular among the middle during the American occupation, with the rise of leisure centers such as bowling alleys, soda parlors and movie theaters which became favorite hang-outs of young people.

During the courtship period, a man was required to render manula services to the family of the girl—like chopping wood, filling water drums or cleaning the backyard. When he is finally given the go-signal to marry the young woman, his parents must make repairs to the house of the bride-to-be, a practice called “sulambe”. It was also customary for the suitor’s parents to ask formally for the hand of the girl by visiting her family in the home (“pamamalayai”). Preliminary wedding plans are discussed in this meeting.

The profession of love through courtship rituals can be elaborate, long and tedious, but the lovelorn Kapampangan does not seem to mind. When struck with Cupid’s arrow, he could even transform himself into a poet. Just read this “kilig-to-the-bones” love letter written by my late father to my mother, dated 21 March 1949, just weeks after meeting her in a botica where my mother worked as a sales attendant: “I unflinchingly adored you in utmost secrecy and silence until I realized but lately how much it would distress and embitter me if I won’t confide to you through concealed emotions which had long beat hard and clamored for an honest confession. I had rteid to subdue every bit of my deep passions until finally, I had to yield to the dictates of my hearts. Can you possibly forgive this soul seeking consolation through truthful revelation?”.

Now did his overly dramatic outpourings—possibly copied from a “How to Write Love Letters” book, work? Apparently they did. My mother and father got married just a month and a half later. See what love can do.