Friday, December 31, 2010

*232. Tastes Like Heaven: PAMPANGA'S SANICULAS

SAINTLY SWEETS. Saniculas cookies made with the imprint of San Nicolas de Tolentino, the miracle healer. Legend has it that he revived the sick with blessed bread mixed with water, hence the "panecillos de San Nicolas", or simply 'saniculas' in Pampanga.

Every time my parents go to San Fernando to attend to business matters, they would go home with my favorite pasalubong: packs of saniculas—those crumbly, arrow-root based cookies imprinted with the image of a saint—or so we were told. So, when I ate one, I would carefully nip the edges of the cookie and save the center for last—the part with the stylized figure of a man in relief. This, they say, is San Nicolas, the Great Miracle Healer.

San Nicolas de Tolentino, the cookie’s inspiration, is an Augustinian Recoleto who was gifted with the power of healing—through his blessed bread soaked in water. He is depicted wearing a star-dotted habit, holding a cross or a palm in one hand, and a dish on the other, with a partridge bird perched on the rim. This is in reference to a legend in which a bird served for eating was restored to life after feeding on his dish.

The Macabebe priest, Fray Felipe Tallada, wrote about this wonder worker in the first Kapampangan book published by the Augustinians in 1614. The town, in fact, has San Nicolas de Tolentino as its patron, his fiesta marked on September 10.

The celebrated miraculous bread, known as “panecillos de San Nicolas”, is known simply in Pampanga as “saniculas’. There used to be a ritual blessing of the cookies before they are distributed, although this tradition is now rarely practiced, saved for some Recollect parishes like San Sebastian where saniculas are still blessed during Masses.

The cookie itself is made using age-old techniques and ingredients like arrowroot flour (uraro), eggs, lard, dalayap (lemon rind) and coconut milk. Mrs. Lillian Lising-Borromeo, Pampanga’s culinary historian who still makes “saniculas” from heirloom recipes, insist on using homemade pork lard, instead of ordinary margarine to give the cookies better aroma, taste and texture.

The “saniculas” wooden moulds which are used to impress the dough with the distinctive imprint are interesting kitchen artifacts themselves. They are often commissioned from Betis and Bacolor carvers, and although the designs vary, the moulds always have the abstracted figure of the saint in the center, surrounded by floral, vegetal and curlicue patterns.

Kapampangan cooks treasured these uniquely-designed wooden molds, which commonly came as single blocks. Some have back-to-back designs, but most are often carved with the owner’s initials. As fine examples of folk art, “saniculas” moulds have also found their way in antique shops.

The shapes of ‘saniculas’ may also vary, and Atching Lillian—with her expert eye--could even determine the Pampanga town where the cookies were made, from their shape alone. Masantol churned out round ‘saniculas’, while Sta. Ana favored harp-shaped cookies that echo the calado transoms of old houses. The “saniculas” of San Fernando and Mexico are leaf-shaped, with pointed ends.

The shaped dough, laid out on a tray, are then ready for baking in the oven. In the olden times, a cooking contraption fed with live coals and very similar to a bibingkahan was used. Dough scraps were used to make smaller cookies called “magapuc”.

Today, it is heartening to know that my favorite ‘pasalubongs’ are still being made year-round in the aforementioned towns. Recently, I drove all the way to Mexico to buy a box of “saniculas” specially made by Atching Lillian. Wrapped in paper, the delicate, crumbly cookies with the signature image of the saint are a delight to eat, especially with hot chocolate. And ‘saniculas’ continue to work wonders—healing hunger pangs, satisfying cravings and nourishing the body with their wholesome, heavenly, homemade taste. Praise the saint who started it all!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

*231. The First Binibining Pilipinas : MYRNA S. PANLILIO

MYRNA WITH THE MOST. The country's first Binibining Pilipinas, Ma. Myrna Sese Panlilio of San Fernando, crowned in 1964.

Before 1964, the Philippine delegate to the Miss Universe Beauty Pageant was chosen by various organizers and sponsors that included such institutions as Boys Town, Casino Español of the Philippines, Elks Cerebral Palsy, and, in the case of the first ever search for Miss Philippines of 1952, Khan Cigarettes, which received its franchise from the Miss Universe Committee.

In 1963, long-time impresario Alfredo Lozano acquired the pageant franchise through his promotions company, Japonica Consultants Inc., which staged the 1963 quest in cooperation with sponsors Gentex and the Philippine Couture Association. That year’s edition, which ended with the selection of Lalaine Bennett, was met with criticisms—from the quality of the contestants to the drab production and even lousier entertainment.

All that changed in 1964 when Stella Marquez-Araneta’s Binibining Pilipinas Charities, Inc. got the exclusive rights from the Miss Universe Inc. to stage the local search to the popular beauty concourse . Colombian Stella Marquez herself was a beauty queen, the first title holder of Miss International. In her visit to the Philippines, she had met a wealthy business tycoon, Jorge Araneta, who pursued her around the globe and finally married her after her reign. Settled in Quezon City, Stella used her beauty queen experience to organize a foundation—the Bb. Pilipinas Charities Inc., which, to this day runs the national tilt.

The search for the queen had to conform to the international standards imposed by the Miss Universe committee, which set age, height and physical criteria for contestants. The local winner also acquired a new title—Binibining Pilipinas (Miss Philippines) – and with it came the honor of representing the country in the world’s most prestigious beauty competition.

That honor---of being named the first ever Bibining Pilipinas--- turned out to be reserved for a beautiful Fernandina, then 21 year old Maria Myrna Sese Panlilio. Myrna Panlilio, born in 1943, was the eldest of 4 children of Enrique M. Panlilio and Jaina Sese. She went to local school and completed high school at St. Scholastica. Her college years were spent in Maryknoll and upon graduation, she was immediately taken in as a teller for Merchant’s Bank. Though already employed, the beautiful Myrna was egged on to join beauty pageants. In fact, two days before the Bb. Pilipinas, she was at the 1964 Maid of Cotton contest, won by Bettina Herrero.

Undeterred, she made it as one of the 15 official candidates to the 1964 Bb. Pilipinas Pageant, trimmed down from a total of 28 applicants. The finals were originally scheduled for July 3, but had to be postponed due to Typhoon Dading. Two days later, in a spectacular beauty show at the Araneta Coliseum, Myrna Panlilio was crowned as our country’s first Binibining Pilipinas, succeeding the outgoing queen, Lalaine Bennett, who had placed fourth at the 1963 Miss Universe.

Myrna’s runners-up included Bb. Waling-waling, Milagros Cataag and Bb. Ilang-ilang, Elvira Gonzales (mother of another future binibini, Charlene Gonzales). One other losing candidate was Milagros Sumayao, a former Miss Press Photography winner like Elvira, who would later be known in showbiz as Mila Ocampo (mother of Snooky Serna).

The new Binibining Pilipinas won a slew of prizes that included P2,000 in cash , gold trophy from the Lions Club, a complete wardrobe from the Philippine Couturiers’ Association, Helene Curtis beauty products and a Regal sewing machine. She also won the right to represent the country in the Miss Universe Beauty Pageant in Miami Beach, Florida with the title going to Miss Greece, Korinna Tsopei. Myrna enjoyed her stint in the U.S. though, and even attended a Democratic Convention at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, visited the World's Fair and met Shirley Temple! She also played host to Miss Universe 1964 when she came to visit the Philippines in 1965.

After her reign, Myrna went right back to her work at the bank. Two years after her reign, she married the orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Ramon N. Borromeo (+) in June 1966. Dr. Borromeo’s mother had been also been a beauty queen from Cebu--Amparo Noel, the 1912 Queen of Visayas. She settled down to a suburban life and became an active member in several socio-civic organizations. The Borromeos had three children: Ramon Jose (1967), Patricia Ann (1971) and Mitzi (1977). Patricia or Trisha was well known as a model and as a former girlfriend of actor Richard Gomez, but sadly passed away in 2003 from lymphoma. In her memory, Myrna put up the Trisha P. Borromeo Legacy Association, which aimed to support the University of the Philippines - Philippine General Hospital Pediatric Cancer Ward.

Myrna’s name re-surfaced during the term of Pres. Joseph Estrada when she was named as Executive Director of the Nayong Pilipino. On 17 July 2009, Myrna unexpectedly passed away from a gall bladder disease at the Makati Medical Center. She was just 66, but Myrna’s place in Pampanga’s history had already been sealed on that one fateful night in June—with the proclamation of a Kapampangan as the country’s first Binibining Pilipinas—the most beautiful Filipina of 1964.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

*230. HON. AMELITO MUTUC, Arayat's Ambassador to the World

OUR MAN IN WASHINGTON. Ambassador Amelito Ramirez Mutuc, from Arayat, overcame his humble beginnings to become a successful lawyer and later as a top-ranked diplomat under the Macapagala Administration. ca. 70s.

One of the first high-profile politicians I remember seeing as a kid was the former diplomat Amelito R. Mutuc in 1970. Campaigning for a seat in the 1970 Constitutional Convention, he had passed through our street and had seen my parents who waved at him while his car sped by. The former envoy was a very close friend of Msgr. Manuel del Rosario, my mother’s brother, and so he stopped briefly to chat briefly with my parents. That was my first and only brush with this accomplished grey-haired, bespectacled diplomat, who rose to become one of the most powerful men under Macapagal’s Administration as his Executive Secretary and as our point man in Washington.

His rise to prominence in the diplomatic filed belie his very humble beginnings that began with his birth in 1922 in Barrio Candating, Arayat to parents Anselmo Mutuc and the former Ramona Ramirez. His father was the town’s municipal clerk for many years and then became a Chief of Police.

Amelito had four other siblings—Amor, Fe, Sol and Luz. An uncle, Fr. Nicanor Mutuc Banzali, who also happened to be the parish priest of Arayat, offered to send the Mutuc boys to school as his father’s meager salary as a government employee was not enough to fund their early education. Amelito attended Arayat Institute then finished his high school in Guagua as class valedictorian.

In 1936, he went to Manila for his law studies and he ended up enrolling in Ateneo by accident. The University of the Philippines in Padre Faura was the first choice of Amelito’s father for his son, but when they waited for hours without managing to enlist, the older Mutuc took him to Ateneo—which was just across U.P. As luck would have it, the Jesuits took Amelito in.

Amelito finished his Associate in Arts as class valedictorian and later completed his law degree in 1942 as salutatorian. In his class were other distinguished graduates like the future congressman Joaquin Roces, Ramon Felipe Jr. (the valedictorian who joined the Dept. of Labor), Raul Roque, Pablo Diaz and Alberto Avanceña.

The next years proved to be very trying for Amelito and his family. In 1943, his father Anselmo, an outspoken anti-Communist, was kidnapped and presumably killed by Red elements in his own hometown of Arayat, known as the hotbed of Communism. Left alone to fend for her children, Anselmo’s widow gave up her teaching job and set up a boarding house on Padre Faura St. in Manila, which Amelito helped run.

Amelito’s graduation also coincided with the Japanese Occupation of the Philippines, so right after graduation, he deferred his practice of law and returned to Arayat, where he headed the town’s Catholic Action Unit. After the War, he set up a small law office at the Villongco Building in Quiapo after being invited by lawyer Claudio Teehankee to join the Araneta Law Office.

In 1948, he decided to strike it on his own , putting up an office in Dasmariñas, Manila and serving the legal needs of such clients as Roman Santos, an Apaliteño who operated various enterprises ranging from fishing, insurance to banking (Santos founded Prudential Bank). At the same time, he also joined the faculty of the Ateneo Law School, teaching legal history, brief making, legal research, torts and damages.

The legal luminary was also famous for his dashing good looks, and for awhile, the eligible bachelor was romantically linked with high society girls. But, in 1952, he chose instead to marry a kabalen, the beautiful Blanca Medina, daughter of Dr. Esteban Medina and an AB Assumption graduate. The Medinas were considered to be one of the richest families of Arayat then. On their honeymoon to the United States, Amelito visited Harvard. He decided to enroll there and in a year, he finished his Master of Laws. Their union would produce 7 children: Jose Maria, Corinna, Rosa Maria, Emmanuel, Victoria and twins Pietro and Paulo.

The young lawyer’s career was boosted when he was elected as the 7th President of the National Jaycees from 1954-55. In 1957, Amelito caught the eye of then congressman, Diosdado P. Macapagal, who consulted him about his plan to run for vice president of the Philippines. Amelito thus launched “Macapagal for Vice President Movement”, and from thereon, became the future president’s right hand man. When Macapagal was elected to the highest post in the land in November 1962, Mutuc was named as the Executive Secretary in his cabinet.

That same year, he was appointed as Ambassador to the United States. During his 1952 graduation in Harvard, his classmates had predicted that in ten years, he will return to the U.S. as an envoy. Their prophecy, said in a jest, was thus fulfilled when he assumed his post in Washington D.C. from 1962-1964.

In February 1965 however, Amelito defected from the Macapagal camp, dealing the Liberal Party a severe blow. He had earlier been linked to the shady dealings of American businessman Harry Stonehill who owned and operated several multi-million enterprises in the country including cigarettes and oil. Stonehill was found to have bribed high-level government officials, including members of Macapagal’s cabinet. He was subsequently deported.

When Ferdinand Marcos thwarted Macapagal’s re-election bid, Amelito joined the new president’s circle. He was said to have been one of Marcos’ henchmen who helped protect his so-called “Marcos Gold”. Amelito continued legal career, and, in 1977, he became the president of the World Association of Lawyers. In the next decades, he also gradually distanced himself from politics. His reputation still rests on his brilliance as a lawyer, a diplomat and a cabinet official who helped build the credentials of the Macapagal Administration. Amelito Mutuc, Arayat’s envoy to the world, passed away in 1994.

*229. CLARK AIR BASE HOSPITAL: "Medical Center of Southeast Asia"

CALL THE DOCTOR VERY QUICK. USAF Clark Hospital, "Asia's Military Medical Center", figured prominently during the Vietnam War years. Wounded or injured military were flown from Vietnam for treatment in this full service hospital. Staffed with American and Filipino medical specialists, the base hospital served the medical needs of American civilians as well as Filipinos. Ca. 1966.

Whenever I pass by the duty free shops of the new Clark Field, I can’t help but notice the sorry remains of the USAF Hospital Clark, located at the back of McDonald’s. Once touted in the ‘60s as “Asia’s Military Medical Center”, only the ruins of the Clark Hospital now stands, itself a victim of the Pinatubo eruption, its contents long lost to thieves and looter, and then left to the elements to decay.

Though covered and overgrown with weeds and foliage, I could still make out the shell of the building with its signature façade lined with ceramics. In recent years , the hospital site has become the favorite haunt of ghost-hunters and thrill-seekers, who go there in search of a good scare, hoping to find spectral apparitions and other spirits.

In its time however, the Clark Hospital was the savior of thousands of American military men and their families, and is recognized for its exceptional medical services and treatment of soldiers during the Vietnam War. At the height of the War, 70% of patients were soldiers who sustained varying degrees of injuries in the battlefields.

Opening its doors in December 1964, the new Clark Air Base Hospital was built in the early ‘60s for $5 million, to answer the primary health care of U.S. military personnel and their dependents stationed not only in the Philippines, but all over Southeast Asia. It had the most modern facilities for almost all kinds of medical care , except heart surgery and neurosurgery. It had a Laboratory, X-ray facilities, a Pharmacy, and an efficient Emergency Room open 24/7.

In 1966, under the directorship of Col. William Hernquist, the out-patient service routinely treats 17,000 patients per month, while it dental services department takes on about 35,000 cases. The hospital personnel is mostly American, including its nursing staff. Essentially a military institution, rules are strict at the Clark Hospital, especially with regards to patient confidentiality and access to the wards where the patients are.

Interestingly, the hospital also offered specialized training services to local medical residents in the fields of veterinary medicine, sanitation, immunization and public health care. In 1966, the American hospital had 21 Filipino medics, --mostly graduates from Manila schools-- under its training program, detailed in the medical, pediatric and orthopedic wards. They were paid from only Php 200-300 monthly, but with free board and lodging.

The reputation of USAF Hospital Clark as the ‘Medical Center of Southeast Asia’ continued through the 70s and 80s, only to end with eruption of Mount Pinatubo that buried and severely damage the hospital in 1991. The biggest blow yet were the pillagers who looted and stripped the building of its world-class equipment like hospital beds, operating tables, incubators, oxygen tanks, medicine cabinets, wheelchairs and walkers. Even glass doors, lavatory parts and bedpans made their appearance for re-sale in the second-hand shops of Dau.

In a twist of irony, the death of the hospital gave post-Pinatubo Dau—which had depended on its PX goods shops-- a new lease on its life by jumpstarting a new enterprise. Today, Mabalacat’s most prosperous barangay has a growing medical supply business, thriving alongside stores that sell consumer durables, household tools and auto and agricultural machinery. Proving once and for all that in heath, there indeed,wealth.


CLOSE-UP CONFIDENCE. Dr. & Mrs. Tomas Yuson (the former Librada Concepcion) on their wedding day in 1936. Dr. Tom Yuson was the leading Kapampangan dentist in his time, and a co-founder of the Pampanga Dental Association in 1930. Personal Collection.

Pampanga is renowned for its eminent medical doctors and surgeons of superb skills. The names of Drs. Gregorio Singian, Basilio Valdez, Mario Alimurung and Conrado Dayrit come to mind. The allied course of Dentistry has also given us notable Kapampangans professionals who have made a name for themselves in this less crowded field of dental science, and their achievements are no less significant.

In the first decades of the 20th century, when colleges and universities started offering medical courses, students were drawn more to Medicine and Pharmacy. Dentistry was not even considered a legal profession during the Spanish times--tooth pullers were employed to take care of problem molars, cuspids and bicuspids.

As public health was given emphasis during the American regime, the course of dentistry was given legitmacy with the opening of the Colegio Dental del Liceo de Manila. It would become the Philippine Dental College, the pioneer school of dentistry in the Philipines. Students started enrolling in the course as more schools like the University of the Philippines opened its doors to students. The state university established its own Department of Dentistry that was appended to its College of Medicine and Surgery. The initial offering attracted eight students. That time, with a population of eight million, there was only one dentist to every 57,971 Filipinos. More educational insititutions would follow suit: National University (1925), Manila College of Dentistry (1929) and University of the East(1948. In 3 to 4 years, these schools would be graduating doctors of dental medicine, many of whome were Kapampangans.

One of the more accomplished is Guagua-born Tomas L. Yuzon, born on 7 March 1906, the son of Juan Yuzon and Simona Layug. He attended local schools in Guagua until he was 16, then moved to Philippine Normal School in Manila. At age 20, he enrolled at the country’s foremost dental school, the Philippine Dental College, and finished his 4-year course in 1930. That same year, he passed the board and began a flourishing career as a Dental Surgeon in San Fernando.

In 1930, together with Dr. Claro Ayuyao of Magalang and Dr. H. Luciano David of Angeles, Yuzon founded the Pampanga Dental Association on 25 October 1930. The constitution, rules and by-laws were patterned after the National Dental Association. The initial members of 30 Pampanga dentists aimed to elevate the standard of their profession and foster mutual cooperation and understanding among themselves. Elected President was Dr. Ayuyao, while Dr. Yuzon was named as Secretary. The P.D.A. was the first provincial organization to hold demonstrations in modern dental practice and was an authorized chapter of the national organization.

As a proponent of modern dental medicine, Dr. Yuzon was one of the first to use X-Ray and Transillumination in diagnosing his patients. He was also an active member of the Philippine Society of Stomatologists of Manila. He received much acclaim for his work, and was a respected figure in both his hometown—where he remained a member of good standing of “Maligaya Club”, as well as in his adopted community of San Fernando. On 19 Sept. 1936, he married Librada M. Concepcion of Mabalacat, daughter of Clotilde Morales and Isabelo Concepcion. They settled in San Fernando and raised three children: Peter, Susing and Lourdes.

Guagua seemed to have produced more dentists than any other Pampanga town in the late 20s and 30s and some graduates from the Philippine Dental College include Drs. Marciano L. David (1925), Emilio Tiongco (1931, worked as assistant to dr. F. Mejia), Domingo B. Calma (who was a town teacher before becoming a dental surgeon), Eladio Simpao (1929), Alfredo Nacu (1929) and Hermenegildo L. Lagman (an early 1919 graduate and also a member of the Veterans of the Revolution!)

The list of of Angeleño dentists is headed by Dr. Lauro S. Gomez who graduated at the top of his class at National University in 1930, Mariano P. Pineda (PDC, 1930, a dry goods businessman and a Bureau of Education clerk before becoming a dentist), Pablo del Rosario and Vicente de Guzman.

In Apalit, Dr. Roman Balagtas placed ads that stated “babie yang consulta carin San Vicente Apalit, balang aldo Miercoles". He also had a clinic in Juan Luna, Tondo. Arayat gave us the well-educated and well-travelled Dr. Emeterio D. Peña, who was schooled at the Zaliti Barrio School, Arayat Institute (1916), Pampanga High School (1916-18), Batangas High School (1918-1919) and at the Philippine Dental College (1920-23). He squeezed in some time to study Spanish at Instituto Cervantino (1921-23). Then he went on to practice at San Fernando, La Union, Tayabas, Mindoro, Nueva Ecija and Tarlac. Also from Arayat were Drs. Agapito Abriol Santos and Alejandro Alcala (both PDC 1931 graduates). The latter was famed for his “painless extractions” at his 1702 Azcarraga clinic which ominously faced Funeraria Paz!

Betis and Bacolor are the hometowns of dentists Exequiel Garcia David (who worked in the Bureau of Lands and as a private secretary to Rep. M. Ocampo) and Santiago S. Angeles, respectively. Candaba prides itself in having Dr. Dominador A. Evangelista as one of its proud sons in the dental profession while Lubao has Gregorio M. Fernandez, a 1928 Philippine Dental College graduate, who went on to national fame as a leading film director, and Daniel S. Fausto, who graduated in 1934..

Macabebe doctors of dental medicines include Policarpio Enriquez , a 1931 dentistry graduate of the Educational Institute of the Philippines, Francisco M. Silva PDC, 1923) who also became a top councilor of the town. Magalang gave us the esteemed Dr. Claro D. Ayuyao who became the 1st president of the Pampanga Dental Association and Dr. Alejandro T. David, a product of Philippine Dental College in 1928, who was also a businessman-mason.

Dentists Dominador L. Mallari (PDC, 1932) and Pedro Guevara (UST, Junior Red Cross Dentist 1923-29) came from Masantol. Guevara even went on to become a councilor-elect of his town. The leading dentist from Minalin, Sabas N Pingol (PDC, 1929) announced that: “manulu ya agpang qng bayung paralan caring saquit ding ipan at guilaguid’. He moved residence to Tondo and kept a clinic at 760 Reyna Regente, Binondo.

In Sta. Rita, Drs. Maximo de Castro (PDC, 1931) and Sergio Cruz (PDC, 1932) had private practices in their town. Finally, well-known Fernandino dentists of the peacetime years include Paulino Y. Gopez (UP, College of Dentistry, 1931) and the specialist Dr. Miguel G. Baluyut, (PDC, 1927) who took a course in Oral Surgery at the Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois. Trailblazers of some sorts were lady dentists Paz R. Naval, a dental surgeon, Consuelo L. Asung who held clinics in San Fernando and Mexico.

Next time you flash those pearly whites and gummy smiles, think of the early pioneering Kapampangan dentists who, with their knowledge, talents and skills, helped elevate the stature of their profession, putting it on equal footing with mainstream medicine.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

*227. EDGARDO “ED” L. OCAMPO, Basketball Olympian

MR. BASKETBALL. Edgardo "Ed" Ocampo, star athlete son of Arch. Fernando Hizon Ocampo (San Fernando) and Lourdes Magdangal Luciano (Magalang) was a member of the national basketball team that played in 3 Olympics.

The country’s no. 1 sports—basketball—has produced outstanding Kapampangan icons through the years—names like Hector Calma, Ato Agustin, Yeng Guiao, Jojo Duncil come to mind. But one young Kapampangan stands out for being a legend in his own time, winning honors for the Philippines and for himself in not one, but two sports—football and basketball. It is in the latter discipline that he came to international prominence, earning the title of “Mr. Basketball of 1960” at age 22. His name: Edgardo L. Ocampo.

Eddie or "Ed" Luciano Ocampo, born on 5 October 1938, was one of four children of the “father of modern Philippine Architecture”, the acclaimed Fernando Hizon Ocampo (San Fernando) and the renown Pampanga beauty, Lourdes Magdangal Luciano (Magalang). His siblings included Fernando Jr., also an architect, Oscar, his football team mate at Ateneo and sister Maria Pilar.

Basketball and football caught the young Ocampo’s fancy almost at the same time while enrolled at the Ateneo Grade School. He tried out for the school’s midget basketball team but did not pass the height requirement. Instead, he made it to the football squad where his brilliance in the field became much apparent. By age 17, Ed was acclaimed by sportswriters as “Mr. Football”. Ed qualified for the Philippine national football team that toured Korea and Spain in 1956.

But in that same year, Ed broke his clavicle during a rough game, promoting doctors to advise him to take off from the sports for half a year. But even before those six months were up, Ed was back in school, joining the basketball tryout for the school’s NCAA (National Collegiate Athletics Association) team. This time, he made it after several Blue Eagles dropped out from the squad. Ed first played in the second round of the 1957 NCAA series.

At five feet seven inches and 157 pounds, Ed was certainly not considered tall enough in the sports where “height is might”. But his stamina,power, speed and quick reflexes made him the man to watch on the court. He managed to captain the Blue Eagles to two NCAA championships in 1957 and 1958.

One of his most memorable stints as a basketball collegian was when the Blue Eagles played against the tough Keh Nan team from China in the World Boy Scouts Jamboree benefit at the Rizal Coliseum. The Chinese dribblers were stunned when they saw Ocampo bounce his chest on the floot, intercept a pass and score on the same play. Six thousand roaring fans rose to their ferr to give him a standing ovation.

Ed was recruited by YCO where he played as a guard, becoming a key figure in the team’s 1960 victory in the MICAA (Manila Industrial and Commercial Athletic Association), the top basketball league in the 60s. It was Ed who limited Narciso Bernardo of Ysmael Steel—then considered as the country’s best forward—to just 9 measly points in a critical game. For his performance, he was dubbed as “Mr. Basketball” in 1960.

At the peak of his career, young Ed was a member of the national basketball team 4 times, played in the world championship in Chile, competed in the Asian Basketball Conference and competed in 3 Olympics (1960-1968-1972). At the 1960 Olympiad in Rome, the Philippines placed a creditable 11th place. Newspaper accounts glowed at how “Ocampo played magnificently, with brilliant reprising and rebounding”.

What has also earned his fans’ admiration is his sportsmanship on and off court. Not even once in any game did he figure in a brawl. That is a feat in itself considering the nature of the fast and furious game. When his playing years ended, he turned to coaching, guiding the San Miguel Beermen, the Toyota Tamaraws and the Pepsi Bottlers of the PBA (Philippine Basketball Association). As coach, he led his teams to 4 championships.

Ed Ocampo was married to the former Maria Lourdes Trinidad. Pampanga’s basketball legend and Hall of Famer passed away in 1999 at age 61.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


LOVE, UNDER THE BIABAS TREE. Luis, his three "lady friends" and his boys. Ca. 1920s.

Once in a while, I get to find postcards not just with interesting subjects but also amusing stories written at the back of the photo—some chatty, some rambling—and in the case of this particular photo, very revealing of the character of the subject and sender, who goes by the name, Luis.

Luis wrote mostly in English—with a smattering of Kapampangan and Spanish words, suggesting that he had picked up a lot of the Americanisms. Perhaps, in his college days, he was one of the many ‘sajonistas’ who avidly took to the styles popularized by their new colonial master—wearing Western clothes, writing and speaking in English, slang and all.

This photo, sent from Manila on 13 June 1912, was taken from an unknown place in Pampanga. Luis, a good-looking Kapampangan himself, stands to the right, with a black mourning band on his left arm. For sure, there was a death in the family—but whose family? The older woman in the picture looks like she is in mourning too, as she is wearing a long black dress.

Luis, however, appeared to be in a happy mood when he jotted down a few lines to his Uncle, even becoming effusive about his special ‘ two ladies’, while soliciting comments about the photo.

The ladies have strong Spanish mestiza features—they could be even be sisters. The previously mentioned older woman on the left could very well be their mother. Two boys in straw hats stand before them, and Luis has one hand on one of their shoulder, suggesting close familiarity with the family. Did Luis have designs on one of the ladies? The lady nearest him seems to be lovestruck, her longing gaze fixed on his face. We will never know the exact relationship Luis had with this family but maybe one can discern some clues from his missive:

Dear Uncle:
I want to let you know my new Ladies, two Boys and, one Old—women friends. They have been here last Fiesta and perhaps, you have seen them.
This photo has been taken in the same day of the Fiesta, outside of my house, under the Biabas tree, near the Camalig. What do you say about this picture, Uncle? It is fine? Perhaps, all right? This is all and this Postcard will be in remembrance de Nuestra Nueva Amistad. Your new friends Pacita Godinez, and Purita Casado and, Luis. Perhaps you know me, Uncle? Do you?

On that cryptic note, lucky Luis, our dashing Kapampangan palikero who had every thing a man could ask for-- a house, a camalig, a biabas tree, two boys and lovely lady friends--ended his letter.

*225. LUIS GONZALES: Marcos of the Movies

LUIS FROM SAN LUIS. The handsome Sampaguita contract star was an all-around actor who did well in both dramas and comedy movies. His pairing with Gloria Romero is considered as one of the Philippines' most famous and successful love teams of the 50s. Ca. 1950s.

The handsome Kapampangan movie star who convincingly portrayed presidential candidate Ferdinand Edralin Marcos and helped ensured his victory was born Luis Mercado in the old town that gave him his name, San Luis. As a contract star of Sampaguita Pictures, he was introduced in the movie “Pilya” (1954) and was groomed as a romantic leading man for light drama and comedies. He was often seen playing the love interest of Rita Gomez and Lolita Rodriguez, both Sampaguita beauties.

But it was his pairing with screen star Gloria Romero that captivated legions of movie fans, even as Gloria had already been initially paired with Ric Rodrigo. The Gloria-Luis love tandem proved to be more successful and productive, a team-up that began in “Despatsadora” (1955) and which led to other blockbusters like “Artista” , “Hootsy Kootsy” (1955), Pagdating ng Takip Silim, Teresa, Vacationista (1956), Colegiala, Paru-Parong Itim (1957), Alaalang Banal, Palaboy, Ikaw ang Aking Buhay (1958), Sinisinta Kita (1963) and Show of Shows (1964). Together, they did about 30 movies.

The controversial movie “Iginuhit ang Tadhana” would catapult his name and Gloria’s in the forefront of Philippine moviedom—as well as national newspaper headlines. Produced in 1965 by 777 Films, the cine bio movie is credited with helping Ferdinand E. Marcos win the presidency. Luis ably portrayed the life of the Nacionalista Party candidate, culminating in his romance with Imelda Marcos, a role essayed by Gloria Romero.

Reviewed by the Board of Censors under Diosdado Macapagal’s administration on 24 August 1965, it was approved for showing, but its scheduled premiere at Rizal Theater was stopped by the Board. This sent a signal to the influential Manila press which suspected Malacañang meddling in this mess. As a result, the country supported the Nacionalista underdog and history was re-written with the defeat of Macapagal and the dramatic rise to power of Marcos.

Luis Gonzales would again reprise his Marcos role in the 1969 movie, “Pinagbuklod ng Langit” by United Brothers Production which won Famas Best Picture that year. The story revolves around the Palace life of the Marcoses. He was reunited with Gloria Romero in this propaganda movie.

Luis would continue to be active in the next decades and some of his memorable movies include “Tubog sa Ginto” and “Haydee” in 1970, where he helped launch the career of another Kapampangan, Hilda Koronel. (Much earlier, in 1956, he did a movie closer to home entitled “Pampanggenya”). He was in action movies ( Nardong Putik, Niño Valente, Kidlat ng Maynila: Joe Pring, Humanda Ka Mayor: Bahala na ang Diyos, Kamay ni Cain, Iukit mo sa Bala), comedies (Just Married, Do Not Disturb, Anak ni Waray vs. Anak ni Biday), drama (And God Smiled at Me, Pahiram na Ligaya, Nasaan ang Puso), fantasies (Madonna, Babaeng Ahas, Tiyay and His Magic Payong) and even teen-oriented flicks (Message Sent, I Think I’m In Love). In all, he was in over a hundred movies.

The versatile actor is married to an affluent socialite Vina Concepcion, whose family is engaged in electronics. They have 3 children, and a daughter, Melissa Mercado Martel, made news herself when she accused her husband, Robert Puyat Martel, of physical abuse and attempted murder in 2004. Luis Gonzales's last appearance on the silver screen is in the multi-episode movie, “Xerex”, shown in 2003. His last public appearance was in December 2010, when he received a star on the Eastwood Walk of Fame. Luis Gonzales succumbed to complications due to pneumonia on 15 March 2012, at the Makati Medical Center.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

*224. The Reverend and His Flock: FR. OSMUNDO G. AGUILAR, World-Class Ornithologist

THE PADRE & HIS FLOCK. Fr. Osmundo G. Aguilar of Guagua, as a new graduate of San Carlos Seminary. He combined his love of nature with his religious calling, studying Theology and Ornithology at the same time. He is the founder of St. Michael's College, a well-known institution of learning in Guagua. Dated May 1930.

Fr. Osmundo Aguilar is well-known in Guagua as a never-say die priest who established Saint Michael’s College at the church convent from the ashes of World War II. Serving the parish of the Immaculate Conception from 1939 to 1948, Fr. Aguilar is also remembered for having refurbished the church (the altars of St. Joseph and the Crucified Christ were erected during his term) and for propagating Marian devotion through his founding of Children of Mary. But he was also famous for his colorful menagerie of birds from all over the world—a fabulous collection that, at one time, was considered the largest and rarest in the country.

The bird-loving priest spent his childhood years in rural Guagua, and pursued his religious calling at San Carlos Seminary in San Pedro, Makati where he graduated in May 1930. He had always been interested in pets and animals—and when it was time to choose a special course alongside Theology, he chose Ornithology, the study of birds. This would lead him to a lifetime pursuit of bird collecting.

His initial collection of 200 local and foreign birds consisted of parrots, peacocks, doves and cranes, which he began in 1924 and which he further expanded with birds coming from the jungles of Southeast Asia from 1937-38. Unfortunately, this collection was seized by the Japanese during the war.

Unfazed, he started to reassemble his collection after the war, investing about P30,000 for the acquisition of new birds, mostly from the American tropics. His collection of macaws (six of 18 species) was considered the largest in the world. One Royal Scarlet Macaw from Brazil set him back by $400. His garden became a veritable nesting place for white peacocks, pheasants, flamingoes from Cuba and red-breasted egrets from Africa. Fr. Aguilar also managed to bring home the most expensive parrot in the world—the 14 inch Queen of Bavaria’s Conures, found only in Paraguay and Brazil.

The Reverend’s obvious favorites were his 41 parrots, which he trained to speak in Spanish, English and Portuguese. He avidly researched on these birds, studying their habits and behavior. The most intelligent are the two African greys which were a donation to him from the Zoological Garden of Brussels, the only pair of the kind in the Far East in 1951. He was offered P62,000 for the pair, a big fortune at that time, but he turned it down.

That is not to say that his collection remained purposeless. In order to raise funds for the schooling of underprivileged boys at St. Michael's, he put up a pioneering show at the Assumption College along Herran St. (now Pedro Gil) which featured 41 of his most attractive birds. For fifty centavos, one could marvel at noisy cockatoos, talking parrots and colorful macaws in their cages, and appreciate the beauty of God’s most beautiful feathered creations. The first ever bird show drew curious Manilans to the school, ensuring the success of the good father’s fund drive.

So precious were the birds to Fr. Aguilar, that he even made an arrangement with the U.S. Government to fly the bird out of the country for safekeeping in the event of another War. Eventually, his bird collection was sold to such sanctuaries as the Honolulu and San Diego Zoo. The beloved priest of Guagua passed away in 1992. Fr. Aguilar was no Saint Francis, but like the patron of animals, the Reverend genuinely cared for his fine, feathered friends and you could say that they loved him back--with squawks, screeches and cackles!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

*223. PAMPANGA'S PARUL: Spectacular Stars of the Season

TWINKLE, TWINKLE CHRISTMAS STAR. A Kapampangan lass from Barrio Talang in Candaba, Pampanga spruces up their family's humble home with a homemade star lantern crafted from papel de japon, cellophane and bamboo sticks, December 1961.

Pampanga’s star shines the brightest during the holiday season, in both literal and figurative sense, as it brings out its dazzling, colorful paruls (lanterns) to light up the nights leading to Christmas. While the lantern tradition is not unique to the Philippines—Oriental countries like Japan and China are likewise famous for their lighted paper lanterns with their characteristic tassels—it can rightfully claim to be the home of the most spectacular Christmas lanterns in the world, courtesy of Pampanga.

The parols in Pampanga, like all lanterns in the Islands, started with simple, boxy paper lanterns with wooden frameworks held on bamboo poles and borne to light early religious processions, as in the lubenas of the Virgen de La Naval in Bacolor. ‘Parol” was localized from the Spanish ‘farol’ (lantern), which, in turn was derived from “Pharos”, a Grecian island along the Nile renowned for its lighthouse that came to be part of the world’s seven wonders. The lanterns soon acquired the shape of a star and even a tail, to represent the Star of Bethlehem that shone over Christ’s birthplace in Bethlehem.

For many years, the basic construction of the parol remained unchanged—bamboo sticks form the framework for the three-dimensional five pointed star, which is then covered with papel de japon of suitable color. The bamboo frames are lined with strips of foil paper to define the star and one or two tails of are added, also made from paper strips. The star can also be accentuated with foil cut-outs and circumscribed with a papered bamboo hoop. Several variations were spun-off from this basic parul, including lanterns with multiple points and, of late, paruls fashioned from translucent capiz shells, fiberglass, colored vinyl and handmade paper.

SAN FERNANDO PARUL FROM 1964, shows a star-shaped center with santan flower designs in between, circumscribed by 5-petal flowers.

But it took the people of San Fernando to re-invent the ‘parul’ , transforming them into the giant, spectacularly-lit lanterns that we know today. The advent of electricity in the 1930s solved the lighting problems of lanterns, and so artisans focused their attention in enhancing the design and size of the common ‘parul’.

The Davids from barangay Sta. Lucia, are a family of lantern-makers who were crafting ‘paruls’ as early as the 1930s. The patriarch, the late Rodolfo David, is credited with inventing the rotor, which revolutionized the design and lighting mechanisms of paruls, allowing for countless lighting possibilities and color combinations.

To maximize such attractive kaleidoscopic effects, lanterns grew in size, with the first battery-powered giant lanterns devised by David’s son-in-law, Severino, in the early 1940s. By 1958, David had perfected a new lantern design, papered with papel de japon, and now distinctively known as ‘parul sampernandu’. The flat, circular lanterns are designed with individual compartments housing a lightbulbs that light and ‘dance’ using the ingenious rotor technology devised not ny engineers, but by local craftsmen. Rotors are fashioned from barrels, which are rotated manually by a person to light the lanterns—the same principle employed by small music boxes that has rotors with embossed parts that sound off when they come in contact with the steel tines.

CLASSIC PARUL DESIGN, shows a kaleidoscope of colored patterns--curlicues, spirals, arches and mosaic patterns. Ca. 1964.

In the case of sampernandu lanterns, the electricity is activated with hairpins when they come in contact with the metal rotor. Strategically-placed masking tape on the rotor, on the other hand, cuts off the flow of electricity. This stop-and-go flow of electricity dictates the lighting pattern of the thousands of lightbulbs (some as much as 4,000 bulbs) , achieving the dancing illusion that becomes more apparent when the lighting is synched with live band music.

Today, the paruls of Pampanga, led by the sampernandu of the capital city, continue to shine brightly with the annual Ligligan Parul (Giant Lantern Festival and Contest) that has helped popularized and revitalized interest in this once-vanishing art. Leading lantern makers like Erning David Quiwa, Eric Quiwa, Roland Quiambao and Arnel Flores are at the forefront of this mision to keep the parul tradition alive.

The Kapampangan paruls have also awed audience worldwide—from Hollywood U.S.A. (where a float decorated with sampernandu lanterns won first prize in a folk festival), Thailand, Taiwan, to Austria and Spain. Always a community affair, the making of Christmas lanterns also helps to keep the flame of bayanihan spirit burning, encouraging generosity, charity, goodwill and peaceful co-existence, which are, in fact, the same messages that Christmas brings.


Sunday, October 24, 2010


MISS DECEMBER. A Kapampangan child from the Lilles family dresses up for a Christmas school play, in a costume representing the holiday month, complete with a mask, moon, stars and a paper crown with the number 12 in Roman numerals. Ca. mid 1920s.

There’s a certain spirit in the air whenever December comes, instantly turning on the holiday mood as the sights and sounds of the season come alive everywhere: carols on the radio, lanterns on the streets, Yuletide décor in homes, and yes, the dip in the thermometer, a sure sign of the approaching Christmas season.

To a child growing up in the 60s, December will always be a month unlike any other—for it meant shortened school days, a long vacation and one or two weeks of exciting holiday activities before the actual Christmas Day. You know it's really that time of the year when our Teacher-in-Charge starts ordering us to bring out our shoeboxes of Xmas ornaments stowed in our classroom cabinet. In my elementary school days, I remember how we turned our classroom into a virtual Winter Wonderland. The centerpiece was a Christmas tree fashioned from a real tree with branches covered with lots of cotton balls.

We decorated our tree with chains made from colored paper, and cut-out figures from old Christmas cards. Glitter was made from old cigarette ‘palara’ and more generous classmates would donate five-centavo Chinese folding paper lanterns with tassels of string. Traditional star lanterns of bamboo and papel de japon were all hand-made—which, after being graded by our Industrial Arts teacher, were quickly hanged above our door.

There would also be hurriedly-practiced Christmas presentations, which consist mostly of singing carols learned from our Commonwealth era music books. We played "manitu-manitu", our version of Kris-Kringle, in which mystery benefactors gave small surprise gifts for you every day—bubble gum, a hand towel, a sachet of balitug (roasted corn kernels), a bar of Choc-nut. The identity of your donor is revealed on the day of the Christmas Party, where more gifts are given, with the best reserved for our Teacher-in-Charge.

At home, you can sense that the preparation for the big day is more frenetic, as househelps are mobilized to clean the backyard, wax the floors and scrub the wooden windows and the pasamanos (window ledge) with isis leaves. Two weeks before Christmas, my Ingkung (grandfather) would give an extra 100 pesos to my Ima for her Christmas marketing. I remember accompanying her to far away San Fernando so she could order special ‘saymadas’ (local pastry) slathered with butter and topped with grated ‘quezo de bola’. This must explain why ensaymadas are my favorite pastries to this day.

Ati Bo, my father’s former yaya and our resident cook would also be preparing the big ‘kawas’ (vats) and ‘kalderas’ (wide cooking pans) for our special noche buena (midnight meal) based on my Ima’s menu, scrubbing the copper ‘tachos’ to bring back their gleam, which she will use for cooking tibuk-tibuk. Banana leaves would be gathered from our backyard garden, cut in size and then smoked to make them supple for wrapping suman and bobotu.

Around this time too, while the adults are absorbed in their holiday chores, I would also be snooping around to see what I would be receiving for Christmas. There were years when we got ‘stateside’ gifts bought from Clark made possible by an American friend--my favorite were the stockings stuffed with mint candies, small toys, crayons and activity books. When that was not possible, my big sister would find something appropriate at Johnny’s Grocery in Balibago or in the school supply stores of Angeles like Josie’s Variety and Estrella’s. I always looked forward to receiving Classic Illustrated comic books (they cost 80 centavos back then) that featured both "stories from the world's greatest writers" and classic fairy tales. I still have a few issues saved from those past Christmases.

Children were also expected to attend religious festivities during the holidays and the ‘pastorellas’ of our church in Mabalacat were always a delight to hear. Latin hymns are sung during the 9-day Christmas masses , and the songs include “Kyrie” (in Greek, actually) , “Gloria”, “Credo”, “Sanctus” and “Agnus Dei”. Though I could not understand a word, the operatic hymns, sung by a full choir and accompanied by violins, accordion and flutes, completely enthralled me, leading me to believe that these musical pieces must have been composed in heaven. Today, the pastorella tradition lives on in Mabalacat and in a few towns like Betis and Sta. Rita.

The final prelude to Christmas happens on Christmas Eve with the holding of the kid-anticipated ‘Maytinis’—the spectacular procession of holy images—patrons of every barangay, accompanied by colorfully lit lanterns or parul. Village choirs singing “Dios te Salve” accompany the faithful as they wend their way through the main streets of the town and back to the church.

As a young boy, I could only see the procession from afar—on the other side of Sapang Balen—as our narrow street was not part of the designated ‘limbun’ route. How I often fretted those nights away! Which is why, when I was asked to judge the Maytinis competition in 2004 (yes, prizes are now being given away for the Best Lantern, Best Carroza, Best Barangay Participation, Best Choir, etc.), I did not think twice and said yes. Through the years, the level of artistry has grown by leaps and bounds, evident in the creatively-designed lanterns and imaginatively-decorated floats; I pray that the depth of devotion has grown too.

Call me killjoy, but the excitement over Christmas drops drastically for me the day after—December 26. Then I start counting 364 days all over again till the next Christmas. For another chance to bring back scenes from one’s childhood and relive honored traditions, the wait is worth it.


*221. WITNESS TO THE WEDDING: Castro-Del Rosario Nuptials

WEDDING DAY BLUES. Two Kapampangan families--the Castros of Mabalacat and the Del Rosarios of Angeles--were united in the 1949 wedding of Ecteng del Rosario and Dong Castro--my lovestruck parents. 15 May 1949.

My parents used to keep an album of their 1949 wedding, and I remember poring over the pages many times, enthralled by the pictures, the newspaper write-up and even a feature of their wedding cake, which made it to the page of a magazine. Over the years, the album just crumbled, until all we had left was half of their wedding invitation, and a fragment of their wedding announcement published in the papers. Being the self-appointed ‘family historian’, I had the good sense to save the remaining pictures in a new album, which my Mother, the former Estrella Castro del Rosario, stowed away in my late father’s cabinet.

She had always told me about that special day in her life, albeit, in bits and pieces—and photos of her show her indeed, relishing the moment, her smile full, her face beaming. It was only recently that I had the heart to go through my Mother’s stuff again, over a year since her death, leading me to find more details about that magical 15th day of May, one morning in 1949.

My mother and father had a whirlwind courtship, getting hitched three months after their chance meeting in Angeles. My mother worked at the botica-cum-gift shop owned by her doctor-brother and it was here that my good-looking Dad introduced himself to her, on the pretext of buying a tin of Vicks. To make the long story short, my mother was swept off her feet by this short, Ateneo high school drop-out, and next thing she knew, he was asking her hand in marriage. I still keep their love letters and read them every now and then. I am both amazed and amused at my father’s sugar-sweet notes, parts of which I am sure were copied from a “how to write a love letter" book and which were certainly enough to convince my mother to give her ‘yes’.

The wedding was just a family affair, but it was complete with all the trimmings of a grand wedding. After all, my father was the eldest son, a junior, no less—and a wedding of this magnitude was a privilege of his rank. In reality, however, their wedding cost so little, thanks to wise budget-cutting and planning. The wedding itself was solemnized at the San Miguel Catholic Church (Pro-Cathedral), with Rev. Fr. Pedro N. Bantigue as the officiating priest.

My mother, just 21, was given away by his eldest brother, Dr. Pablo del Rosario, as her father had passed away two years before. She wore a printed ecru satin gown with beautiful butterfly sleeves. On her head, she wore a heart-shaped headdress, which accentuated her trademark widow’s peak. She lived long enough to see her wedding gown and headdress, framed for posterity, now hanging in my living room. My mother was every inch a picture of a radiant bride on her wedding day.

On the other hand, my 25 year-old father was in an all-white Americana sharkskin suit, the style of the day for young grooms. He wore a blue printed silk necktie and a matching hanky. Unlike mother’s gown, my father’s suit did not survive, but his necktie did. I wore his necktie for my high school graduation photo; so did my brothers, who borrowed it for their formal parties. My dashing father had his hair slicked with Brilliantine and I remember him using pomade on his hair right down till the 1990s.

Maid of Honor at their wedding was my mother’s sister, Jesusa or Imang Susing. Her counterpart was Tatang Maning, my father’s younger brother, who acted as the Best Man. Standing as principal sponsors were Pedro M. Lansangan and Paz Dizon de Gomez. Among the secondary sponsors were then my mother’s brother Renato, or Tatang Ato, (Veil), Orlando del Rosario and Nila Tayag (Cord). Sonia del Rosario (my mother’s niece) and Marcelo de la Cruz (my father’s nephew) were the well-behaved Flower Girl and Ring Bearer respectively.

The Breakfast Reception was held at the Riviera, a popular restaurant for social functions. At 4 pesos per plate, the newlyweds managed to save a lot on their reception. They even had a wonderful wedding cake that had a man-and-wife cake topper under a decorated canopy. The official photographer was X’OR Studios, which presented my parents lots of photo proofs of the event for their approval. But when they were shown the bill, my parents almost fainted. They chose not to order a final set of photos but kept the proofs instead. These pictures are what they kept in their album, complete with “Proof Only” marks, stamped on their pristine white dresses.

It is interesting to note that when my mother assumed my father's last name, she just switched her Del Rosario surname with her maiden name --which was also Castro (her mother was Felicisima Castro). Some say it's a coincidence, but to my parents, it's destiny, their meeting written in the stars.

My parents were together for 49 years, and while many felt a tinge of dismay for not reaching their golden wedding anniversary, I like to believe that it is not only in the number of years that one should count love’s ways. My father was no poet like Elizabeth Browning, but he sure meant it when, just 11 days before their wedding, he wrote my mother: “Remember, my darling, an hour or two with you is just like a minute and a minute without you is like a year. I shall always be loving you, my darling, whether in sickness or in health, till the end of our lives”.

Every time I read this part, I always get "kilig to the bones". Now that's true love!

Sunday, October 10, 2010


"COLEGIO DE LAS MADRES DE GUAGUA". College of the Sisters of Guagua--was how Guagua folks referred to the Academy of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in its early years. It was run by the Religious of the Virgin Mary (RVM), a congregation founded by Mother Ignacia. Dated January 1929.

Guagua’s most regarded Catholic institution of learning is over 100 years old and is still a force to contend with in the academic community of Pampanga. Starting out as the Colegio del Sagrado Corazon de Jesus in honor of the Sacred Heart, it was founded in 1908, with the first two-storey building donated by a pious lady of means. It was put under the charge of the Sisters of the Beaterio, or known as the Religious of the Virgin Mary, the first Filipino congregation established by Ven. Mother Ignacio del Espiritu Santo.

The Sisters were supported by duly qualified teachers and emphasis was not just on academics but also in the teaching of Religion-- “to make its students devout both in faith and in practice”. By the early 1930s, the Academy of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (A.S.H.J.) touted that it was “modern in its methods of instructions and in its complete equipment, library, laboratory and dormitory". It offered Elementary and Secondary courses recognized by the Government.

The War put a momentary end to the school and, over a decade after the war’s end, a petition was filed by Mother Maria Emilia Romero, RVM, together with some school alumnae to reopen the school. The request was favorably granted by the Superior General, Mother Catalina Dychitan, RVM. The old convent beside the church was used to house the Kindergarten and elementary classes. The school also assumed a new name-- Sacred Heart Academy—when it reopened on 10 June 1956.

The High School Department reopened in 1960, which led to an increase in student population and the subsequent expansion of the school, its buildings and its facilities. A 2-storey high school building was added in 1968 and the numerous school alumnae pitched in to have a Lourdes grotto as well as the campus gate made for their beloved school. The grade school building on the church grounds however, was razed to the ground a day after Christmas in 1969. A replacement wooden structure was hastily constructed on an unused lot donated by the Cancio family in 1970, until the grade school was moved ultimately to the San Roque campus a year later.

Further expansions were started in 1988 with the addition of 10 classrooms, a library, a high school faculty room and laboratories. The Pinatubo eruption did not deter the Sisters from stopping their operations, even opening their doors to hundred of victims seeking refuge from Pinatubo’s fury. When the volcano quieted down, the administrators replaced the termite-damaged grade school building with a new one.

By then, the funds of the school were drained due to the catastrophe, but money borrowed from the RVM congregation went into the construction of a 4-storey edifice which was named as Assumption Building that had over 20 classrooms.

For the first time too, starting school year 1996-97, male students were finally accepted by the school, freshmen and sophomores only. The first graduation of male students was realized in 1999. The next year, Sacred Heart Academy was re-named “St. Mary’s Academy”, and another 4-storey building was added with state-of-the art facilities including a Speech and Computer Labs, Auditorium and the Music Department. Inaugurated in 2003, it is now known as Beaterio Building.

The journey of this revered school--from Academy of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to St. Mary’s Academy—is a long one, but throughout its history, it has remained true to its Ignacian Marian spirituality, helping build Christ-centered communities and transforming societies by molding students into leaders, dedicated to serve others.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


ClOWNING AROUND. Two young Kapampangan lads dressed up as harlequins for the annual 'karnabal' revelry in Manila. Ca. mid-1920s.

The annual Manila Carnival, first held at the Luneta in 1908, was a big national event, unparalleled in spectacle and pageantry. It owes much of its attraction to the fabulous pavilions, exciting rides and shows, the presence of regal Carnival beauties, as well as the rambunctious atmosphere created by revelers that took to the streets in fantastic outfits and costumes.

Indeed, the very first Carnival of 1908, was in fact a one big costume and masquerade ball. The grotesque dances, pageants and processions had participants masked and dressed as harlequins, clowns and allegorical figures. The pageant that involved the Occidental and Oriental royalties featured characters dressed in formal raiments of the richest variety. Following the ceremonies, the evenings were lighted up “to show costumes, masks and masquerades”, leading to the Grand Masquerade Ball of Nations.

The Fancy Dress Balls and the Costume Contests proved to be one of the more awaited events, a showcase of Filipino creativity at it most imaginative. Prizes were given to costumed participants; loving cups were awarded to the most beautiful lady’s costume, the most beautiful gentleman’s costume and to the most attractive group. The succeeding balls were a combination of both a masquerade and costume party, with the traditional unmasking happening at midnight. No one was allowed entrance unless he was suitably garbed in a costume.

Drawn to the wild Carnival atmosphere, Kapampangans took to the big city to participate in the costumed events. One notable Kapampangan joined the costumed capers of the Carnival, and he recounted his Carnival experience in his unpublished 1975 memoirs, “The Story of My Life”. Jose Gutierrez David, the future Associate Justice of the Supreme Court was just 17 when he, together with his friends, attended the country’s much ballyhooed first Carnival. He recalls:

“In 1908, the Philippine Carnival in Manila offered free rides on the train for all persons coming from the provinces who wore costumes. For lack of sufficient money for the fare, I took advantage of this offer. I donned the costume which I had used in one Spanish drama presentation. It was the costume of a Prince together with the wig and crown. I used a mask—as all other costumed participants did—so that nobody would recognize me.

It so happened that Chong (Concepcion Roque, his future wife), her father and sister Amanda boarded the same train for Manila. I learned from Chong afterwards that she had recognized me although I did not greet her. The Carnival Queen then was Pura Villanueva from Iloilo who became Mrs. Teodoro Kalaw. I stayed in Manila three days attending the festival every night. I used to see Chong in the Pampanga Pavilion. I stayed in the house of my friend surnamed Dimacale on Raon Street. I just took my breakfast there and I ate luncheons and dinners in a Chinese Restaurant, the “Panciteria Antigua: at Plaza Sta. Cruz. I ate the same food at noon and at night. It consisted of one bowl of “pancit mike” (noodle) which cost me 10 centavos and two plates of rice worth two centavos each. Fourteen centavos per meal in all. This was what all my budget could afford.

The succeeding year (1909), my friends, Zoilo Hilario, Maximo Vergara, Joaquin Gozun and I went to Manila for two days during the Carnival season, Julia Agcaoili was the Queen. We all slept in the house in Bacolor on the eve of our trip on board of one of the steamships of Teodoro Yangco plying between Guagua and Manila. The fare by boat was much cheaper than by train. We had to be on board at 6 o’clock sharp in the morning, so we had to be awake at 3 o’clock to go to Guagua, negotiating a distance of about six kilometers from our house, to be on time to catch the boat.

In Manila, we stayed in the house of a brother of my friend, Joaquin Gozun, a shoemaker or a ‘zapatero’ who was also from Bacolor and who entertained us during our two-day sojourn in Manila. Once in a while, we took our luncheon or dinner in the panciteria, Dutch treat.
The little money I had to spend in those trips to go and stay in Manila, to attend the joyous season, came from my meager (few pesos) royalty for my ‘zarzuela’, and from petty cash given by my brother Amado.”

The “Karnabal” in Manila was certainly the place to be for a ‘promdi’ teenager in search of new experiences, new thrills. Under a mask, concealed by a costume, he could be another person he wanted to be, free to give vent to his emotion and imagination, as he loses himself to the sights and sounds of an emerging nation on the road to progress—all in the ‘greatest annual event of the Orient”.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

*218. CHIQUITO: The Man Who Laughs

TO-CHIQUI 'TO!. Augusto Valdez Pangan, in real life, was not just a popular comedian who animated the silver screen with his well-known comic characters and spoofs of Hollywood movies, but also a dancer, politician, inventor, jockey and businessman. Ca. 1960s.

One movie character icon that certainly made an impression on me as a kid was this unforgettable Chinese with a long droopy moustache, called “Mr. Wong”. Before his appearance, the Chinese were portrayed unflatteringly on the silver screen, either as taho peddlers or as people with incomprehensible accents. But Mr. Wong was funny yet sagacious, distinguished but practical, a champion of the Chinese people and its traditions.

It was a role originated by a comedian with Kapampangan roots, who had always been seen as the chief rival of Dolphy for the title of comedy king. Here, finally was a performer with a fine mind and sensitivity, who did comedy for a purpose, not just for a few cheap laughs.

Augusto Valdez Pangan, or simply “Chiquito” was born on 12 March 1932 to Manuel Pangan, an executive of San Miguel Brewery and Remedios Valdez, the second of eleven children. The Pangans trace their family roots to Apalit, Pampanga, but moved to San Miguel, Bulacan and finally to Manila were “Tito” or “Gus” grew up.

He was 7 when he started performing in Manila theaters, and in one impersonation contest, impresario Lou Salvador Sr. spotted him. He gave him a role in a musical production at the Manila Grand Opera House during the Japanese regime. Only 13 at that time, Chiquito went on to delight crowds at bodabil shows at Cloverand Life Theaters, with his engaging boogie-woogie dancing. Soon, he was being called “Tito Boogista”.

Enrolled at Mapua, Gus dreamt of becoming a topnotch engineer but the lure of showbiz proved irresistible. A meeting with Fernando Poe Sr., jumpstarted his film career in the 50s, starting with Sanggano (1947), from Palaris Pictures. He was also one of the original “Lo’Waist Gang” (1956) that counted Zaldy Zshornack and Jess Lapid as members. For the next five decades, he would make movies, mostly comedies, like Atrebida, Fighting Tisoy, Mr. Basketball, Lo’Waist Gang and Og sa Mindoro (all shown in 1958). He would also star in “Sotang Bastos” (1959), a movie about professional jockeys, of which Chiquito was one. He developed a love for gambling, naming even his production outfit (Sotang Bastos Productions) after this hit movie of his.

One highlight of his long, stellar career is appearing wit Hollywood vixen Mamie Van Doren in the western comedy spoof, “Arizona Kid”, released in 1970. To make it official, Chiquito was also the first to don a Darna costume in the film “Teribol Trobol”, thus beating Dolphy for the title of the first male Darna.

In later years, the characters he portrayed would become major movie icons. Aside from “Mr. Wong” (1977) there were: the caveman “Barok” (1976), “Asiong Aksaya” (a Larry Alcala cartoon character, 1977), “Mang Kepweng” (1979), “Gorio” (1979), “Estong Tutong”, “Kenkoy at Rosing”, “ Tacio” (based on a popular comic strip, 1980), “Pete Matipid”, “Django” and “Atorni Agaton” (1990).

Chiquito married Vilma “Ely” Isidro, who was once Ramon Zamora’s dancing partner. They were just 19 and 17 respectively, and they raised seven children, Medy, Eliza, Buma (“Bukol”), Princess, Tiny, Gus and Archie. Chiquito is also credited with discovering Alma Morena (Vanessa Laxamana), a Kapampangan actress whom he introduced in “Kambal-Tuko”.

Entering politics, he was successfully elected three times as a councilor of Makati. He served briefly as the Vice Mayor of the city, and then in 1992, he ran for a seat in the Senate, but lost. He returned to the movies in 1994, teaming up with rapper Andrew E. in the blockbuster Viva movie, “Pinagbiyak ng Bunga (Lookalayk)". A spin-off TV series was rushed that same year entitled “Puno’t Bunga”. His last movie before he got sick was “Strict ang Parents Ko’, with Amanda Page.

3 July 1997 was the day the laughter died. Chiquito, the master of broad comedy and character spoofs passed away at age 65 after a courageous bout with liver cancer at the Makati Medical Center.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


KA-ARTE MO! An advertisement of "El Arte", owned and operated by academically-trained sculptor Maximino J. Jingco of Betis, touts the services of the shop. The artisans made monuments, wooden statues, mrble figures, and many more. Dated 1933.

Sculpture is an art where Kapampangans reign supreme as masters. Paete may have their manlililoks, but their works are often imbued with folk quality, while the carvers of northern highlands limit their carving to ethnic and souvenir art. Kapampangan sculptors on the other hand, are a versatile lot—sculpting everything from religious statuaries, rebultos, furniture, monuments and decoratives.

Many of the early sculptors were untrained and unschooled, most often coming from Betis, regarded as Pampanga’s old carving district. There was a lot of wood in those days, coming from logs that floated on Betis River, cut from the forests of alta Pampanga and the nearby provinces of Bataan and Zambales. The historian Mariano Henson notes: “In the matter of carving images, altars, ornaments, furnitures, the people of Betis during the 17th and 18th centuries, again are mentioned here to be masters in the art of their own time”.

It is no wonder that the 19th century works of Kapampangan sculptors and carvers were kept in Spanish museums. Some of the sculpted pieces featured in a 19th c. Madrid exhibit included a bamboo woodcarving made in Mexico, a pair of polychromed wooden busts of El Mediquillo (Medicine Man) and La Comadrona (The Midwife) from Sta. Rita, and another pair of tipos del pais figurines from the same town.

There was a demand for religious sculptors about this time, and Isabelo Tampinco filled this need. Born in Binondo but descended from Lakandula, Tampinco was the first to popularize the use of Filipiniana motifs like anahaw leaves, banana and bamboo in his carving, known today as estilo Tampinco. Considered as his obra maestra are the decorations he did for the church of San Ignacio, as well as the magnificent image of San Ignacio itself, both destroyed in the last war.

One of his workers was a talented young man from Guagua, Maximiano Jingco. Born on 6 July 1904 to Sabas and Irinea Jingco, Maximino grew up in Manila, finishing his primary schooling in Quiapo in 1914. He finished his secondary course at Manila High School in 1917. Unlike unschooled artisans, Maximino attended the University of the Philippines and enrolled in Sculpting, one of the few Kapampangans to do so (Note: Graduating from U.P. even earlier was Hipolito Lampa of Bacolor, who finished Fine Arts in 1916). In 1926, Maximino finally became a successful “graduado en Bellas Artes”.

Commercial workshops or talyers of sculptors sprouted in Quiapo, mostly catering to the santo trade. Maximino chose to specialize in secular art (non-religious) and, in 1927, he opened his own shop back home in Guagua—“El Arte, Taller de Escultura y Pintura”. A 1933 ad described his shop thus: “Iting taller a iti metung ya caring peca maragul a oficina quieti Capampangan a maliaring tatanggap qng obrang escultura antimo ding macatuqui: Monumentos, Estatuas en Madera, Marmol. Pintura, at aliua pa. (This shop is one of the largest offices in Pampanga which has the capacity to accept commissioned sculptures like the following: Monuments, Statues in wood and marble, Painting and others.) Jingco lived by his motto: “Magluid qñg capanintunan” (Long live livelihood) and his business prospered for many years.

Equally successful was the prodigious Juan Flores (b.1902) of Sta. Ursula, Betis. He started as an apprentice in the shop of Maximo Vicente, and progressed to being a restorer of santos and ecclesiastical arts for Luis Araneta and went on to help build the Betis woodcarving industry. His carvings adorn many churches, palaces and hotels here and abroad. In 1972, he even won a sculpting competition in the United States organized by the University of the California. Back home, he and his Kapampangan team helped refurbish the Malacañang Palace, carving wooden ornamentations and wooden panels for the various rooms, including the three wood and glass chandeliers in the Ceremonial Hall.

Juan Flores passed away in 1995. Happily, his torch has been passed on to contemporary mandudukits who are active to this day: Spanish-trained Willy Layug (an architecture graduate from U.P.), Boyet Flores ( a Flores descendant), Peter Garcia, Salvador Gatus and Nick Lugue of Apalit. In their hands, Kapampangan creativity lives on.

*216. ARAP-PISAMBAN: A Town’s Gathering Place

MEET 'n GREET PLACE. Our Lady of Divine Grace Church, with its wide and secure churchyard makes an ideal place of convergence for students, barkadas, sports enthusiasts, lovers and friends. It is strategically located in the center of the town, within reach of the market, schools, the municipal building and the national highway. Ca. 1968.

Our town church, Our Lady of Grace, is plain by any standards. It was built by the more austere Augustinian Recollects—and the church as I remember it back in the mid 60s—was but a high-ceilinged box, with a detached belfry and an undecorated façade—no columns, no fancy arches, no stained glass windows. It may not be as impressive as the baroque church of Betis and the cathedral of San Fernando, but it is strategically located in the heart of the town, sandwiched between the market, the municipio and the Mabalacat Elementary School.

The church’s most remarkable feature is the 'arap-pisamban', the churchyard—one of the most spacious in Pampanga. Facing the Macarthur Highway, the churchyard is big enough to contain an all-purpose court that faces a covered stage. This was once the venue for the P.T.A. Balls of the 1960s, formal, fund-raising affairs in which best-dressed Mabalaqueños danced the night away to the music of Iggy de Guzman and his Orchestra. Basketball leagues and tennis players take turns playing on this cement court, and of late, this section and its stage continues to be in use today, as the venue for the annual search for Miss Mabalacat. During Maleldo (Holy Week), on the other hand, the stage is converted into a “puni” , complete with pasyon-reading.

When I was a snotty schoolkid in short pants, however, the church grounds were something of a hallowed, almost holy place. Framed by a concrete fence topped with iron grills, the church was accessible through two side gates—one that opens to the school, and the other leading to the market; the main gate fronts the national highway. To go home from school to Sta. Ines, Poblacion or San Francisco, we always had to cut through the church yard. We would be such a noisy bunch as we trudged home with our bags and books, but the moment we passed before the church, we would shut our mouths and automatically bend one knee to the ground and kneel.

When we were feeling more prayerful, we would even stop and go inside the church where my adventurous classmates and I would climb up the stairs leading to the Calvario. There, we would touch our hankies to the huge statues of the grieving Mary, St. John and Mary Magdalene, avoiding the gaze of the crucified Christ. Donated by Don Gonzalo Tantingco and his family in the 1950s, these wooden figures are still in the church, now set on a concrete ledge, with the stairs gone. The bell tower was another place to explore but it was too risky—the sacristan always hovered nearby with an eagle eye.

We would also pay homage to the Santo Entierro—the shrouded dead Christ carved by Paete carver, Aurelio Buhay. I always had goosebumps as I wiped the Lord’s feet with my handkerchief—I thought it would wake up any moment.

Another source of wonder in the church was a small skull that once rested on an antique comoda. Local legend had it that it was the skull of a Spanish friar, but it was too small to be one. It must have been just a monkey’s skull, but as a child back then, we believed in everything!

Sundays were the best time to be in church, for the yard was a-buzz with so much activity. Peddlers of balloons, pink cotton candy, clay pots, ice drop and toys would gather around churchgoers with their wares. I was always attracted to the folk toys made from tin and I remember going home with a pair of red-painted tin horses that raced against each other when you pushed the stick attached to them. There were also those acrobat toys with moveable limbs that jumped and flipped when you squeezed the bamboo sticks on which they were strung. I don’t see those any more.

It has also been a tradition during the annual fiesta that the church grounds are rented out to stall owners as well as to carnival operators. The priest needs the extra cash, you know. As a child, I always looked forward to going back to the church grounds in the evening to ride the tsubibu and the rueda, watch the ‘Taong Gubat’ eat a live chicken and enjoy the sights and lights of the perya. My Ima loved going to the baratilyos the day after the fiesta, carting off utensils, pots and pans for the house sold at hefty discounts.

On Christmas, we would once again crowd the arap-pisamban as we attend the midnight masses, although what I really looked forward to were the mouth-watering bibingkas cooking on the clay kalang. The whole lantern-lit church yard would be packed with crowds, waiting for the Christmas lubenas, and the misa de gallo awhile later. This is the one of those times that even the expansive grounds are filled with people – families, neighbors, young and old, Christmas revelers all.

In the 1950s, the owners of a local high school, St. Anthony’s Institute, petitioned the parish to allow them to build a branch of the school within the church grounds, but the request was turned down by the Archdiocese of Manila. In later years, a decorative fountain was constructed to improve the look of the churchyard. Children would gather around it, until the day a dead man was found dunked into the fountain.

Through the years, our arap-pisamban has been an all-purpose ‘tabnuan’, a convenient meeting place of sorts-- for students to discuss their projects, for sweethearts to set their dates. Vendors congregate here to ply their wares while drivers use the space to park their cars. The youths come here to practice their ball games, enjoy a round of tennis, fly kites, frolic and gambol. This special place has seen it all: the whole cycle of life—from the baptisms of newborns, first communions of children, marriages, anniversaries, deaths and funerals. And in all these, it is comforting to know that our Lady of Grace, our Apung Gracia, keep watch over us.