Wednesday, February 24, 2010

*184. Miss Mindanao 1936: CLEOFE BALINGIT of Macabebe

TALL & TAN & YOUNG & LOVELY, THE GIRL FROM MACABEBE. Smalltown beauty Cleofe Jaime Balingit makes her Macabebe town proud with her 4th place finish at the 1936 Miss Philippines pageant of the annual Manila Carnival. 1936.

There is something about Macabebe girls that merits more than a fleeting look. Such is the case with smalltown beauty Cleofe Balingit, the accomplished daughter of a former Macabebe Scout Felix Balingit and Juliana Jaime. Long before the actual 1936 Miss Philippines Contest, this winsome colegiala, was already involved in civic work, lending credence to her “beauty with substance” reputation. She was a favorite welcome official of the town. On 10 September 1933, she was part of the entourage (led by Gov. Pablo Angeles) that welcomed Gov. General Frank Murphy ( 1890-1949) to the fiesta of Macabebe.

As the reigning Miss Macabebe, "Soping" again, was a frontliner at the 1935 town visit of U.S. Senator and Col. Rice William Means (1877-1949) of Denver, Colorado. The former Spanish-American War veteran and Commander in Chief of the Philippine Army (1913) had already left politics in favor of a publishing career (he was the publisher of the National Tribune and Stars & Stripes from 1927-1937) when he paid a much-publicized visit to Cleofe’s hometown. Like a true hostess, Cleofe showed him around town, treating her VIP guest to the unique brand of Kapampangan hospitality.

It came as no surprise then that she was chosen to carry Pampanga’s colors in the national beauty finals of 1936. The Manila Carnival that year, held from February 15 to March 1, was being touted as “the biggest annual event of the Orient”. Bolstered by her impressive credentials and strongly supported by the local newspaper “Ing Catimauan”, Cleofe duplicated Carmeling del Rosario’s feat the year before—winning the Miss Mindanao title in an all-mestiza finals.

At the Coronation Night, she was escorted by her fellow Kapampangan, Ricardo Paras. The winner was Mercedes Montilla of Negros Occidental followed by Amparo Karagdag (who later became an actress and a favorite dancing partner of Pres. Manuel L. Quezon) and Helen Bennett. Returning to Pampanga after her reign, she married Dr. Mariano Bayani of Apalit. She became even more active in socio-civic causes, most especially the Pampanga Chapter of the Girl Scouts and the local Red Cross, indefatigably raising funds and pursuing related advocacies. She died in 1981 of natural causes.


FOLLOW YOUR FAITH. A famil in Centra Luzon rolls out its carroza with the heirloom image of Sta.Maria Jacobe, one of the women who visited the tomb of Christ, for the annual Holy Week procession. Ca. mid 1920s.

The season of Lent officially begins on Ash Wednesday, a day of marked with abstinence, personal sacrifice and austerity. But somehow, or so it seems, during Semana Santa (Holy Week), all thoughts of economics and abject simplicity vanish as a people’s religious fervor find release in the opulent and dramatic prusisyons (or limbun) that feature a long parade of life-size heirloom santos and complex tableaus, visualizing the events of the Passion. Introduced to the Islands by our Spanish colonizers, holy processions have evolved from a simple act of veneration to complex showcases of ritual pageantry.

In terms of religious revelry, Pampanga offers some of the country’s more unique expressions of faith during Maleldo (Holy Week). Other than the display of blood and gore by magdarames (flagellants) culminating in actual and shocking crucifixions, the prusisyons (or limbuns )of old Kapampangan towns provide stunning spectacles featuring antique sculpted imagenes dressed in gold-embroidered vestments, crowned with gem-encrusted halos and diadems, festooned with dazzling lights and arrayed on flower-bedecked carrozas of silver.

Indeed, the list of the most treasured and remarkable santos that go on “limbun” during Maleldo is long. In Arayat, the age-old Manalangin (Agony in the Garden) tableau of the Medina family shows a small lithe angel with silver wings attired in short pants. In Guagua, which reputedly has the best processional line up, the ivory Dolorosa of the Limsons and the Sto. Entierro—figure of the dead Christ in its own stately funeral bier---are the images to watch. Nearby Sta. Rita boasts of an ancient calandra (owned by the Manalangs) still complete with its original and intricate silver fittings, lit by delicate antique tulip-shaped glass globes.

Angeles has its own Apung Mamacalulu (Sto. Entierro, owned by the Dayrits) which figured in a controversial 1929 Good Friday procession that ended in its kidnapping . It took the Supreme Court to resolve the issue of its ownership. While Apalit has an exquisite Magdalena and Mabalacat’s jewel is a beautiful Veronica, Lubao has a San Pedro that rides a boat-shaped carroza. Fernandinos in the capital city meanwhile, take pride in the images of the Sorrowful Virgin and Peter, handiworks of the country’s foremost santero, Maximo Vicente and the 19th c. Misericodia Christ image of the Rodriguezes.

Equally arresting are other quaint processional rituals such as that practiced in Bacolor. On Good Friday, handpicked representatives of prominent families take to the processional route dressed in black hoods while bearing the different symbols of the Passion—ladder, spear, whip, robe, etc.—on poles. This practice, called “paso”—has been a tradition in this town for as long as one can remember.

Other Pampanga towns like Betis and Mabalacat, also stage their own “dakit cordero” on Holy Thursday, where a “lamb” , handmade from cotton or from edible ingredients like yam, is brought to the church in a short procession, prefacing the eucharistic meal.

There are no signs that the Kapampangan’s interest in “limbuns” is waning, as evidenced by the growing number of images and the longer processions that take to the town streets each year. Even not-too-popular figures such as Sta. Maria Jacobe, Nicodemus, Jose de Arimatea are being added to the line-up. Blame it on his fierce and unflagging devotion to his God. Or his penchant for divine excess. One can also point to the pool of talented Kapampangan artisans who wield their chisels and paint brushes who create with ease and skill, these precious objects of veneration. Whatever the reason, we, Kapampangans, can continue our walks of faith content in the thought that our revered religious traditions will live on.

Monday, February 22, 2010

*182. HON. ELIGIO G. LAGMAN: Voice of his People

A LEGACY OF GOOD GOVERNANCE. Under difficult and trying times, Eligio G. Lagman, a native son of Guagua, ably served Pampanga both as an assemblyman and as a governor on two occasions. Ca. 1935.

It is often difficult to measure and appreciate the full value of a leader without revisiting his own fascinating life and times. Pampanga Governor Eligio G. Lagman is one such man, who had the honor of serving as leader of the province of Pampanga for two terms, a full ten years apart. But he is equally well-known for his long and dedicated service as an accomplished assemblyman who put first and foremost, his province’s interests and the people he chose to represent.

The future leader of Pampanga was born in Guagua on 28 January 1898, to parents Carlos and Casimira Lagman. At age 7, he was tutored by local school teacher Don Tomas Gamboa, staying under his mentorship for three years. By age 10, he was ready to take up his secondary studies—which he completed in Manila, at San Juan de Letran.

Eligio remained at Letran for his college education, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts diploma. He then proceeded to the premiere law school of the country, Escuela de Derecho de Manila, and finished Law. Upon passing the bar in 1917, Eligio became a practicing attorney and quickly made a name for himself as a legal luminary. One of those who joined his law firm office later was another future Kapampangan politico, Jose B. Lingad.

On 26 February 1921, he married his sweetheart Enriqueta, and the two had 7 children. Eligio’s star continued to rise in the next decade, when he ran for and won a seat as a member of the provincial board (vocal) of Pampanga. He briefly took the reins of the Capitol as Pampanga’s interim governor from June to October of 1931, as the incumbent, Sotero Baluyot, had cut short his gubernatorial term to start his stint as a newly-elected Senator. He then turned over the office to incoming governor, Pablo Angeles David.

In 1935, Eligio set his sights on being the Pampanga first representative under the Commonwealth for the 1st District of Pampanga (Magalang, Angeles, Mabalacat), a position he handily won. As a member of the House, he actively joined different commissions, including the Commission of Impeachment, Agriculture, Commerce & Industry, Communication, Judiciary, Mines, National Companies, Privileges, Provinces & Municipalities and Public Works.

In the critical years of the second World War, Eligio once again, was named as Governor of Pampanga under the Japanese rule, from 1942 to 1944. After the war, he resumed his role as an Assemblyman, helping his kabalens start anew by rebuild their shattered lives through his aggressive reconstruction and livelihood programs. Eligio thus fulfilled his promise to be the voice of his people, guided by his motto that defined his life and leadership: “Isulung ing pamaquitalamitan qñg pisasabian ning labuad” (Advance the discussions of relevant issues of our land”).

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


SONGS IN THE KEY OF LIFE. A Kapampangan girl takes a break from her piano lessons to pose before her imported piano, a status symbol for many Pampanga homes. Ca. mid 1920s.

For many affluent Kapampangan homes at the turn of the 20th century, the piano was a must-have musical instrument cum furniture piece, and owning one became a status symbol—and more. A child’s mastery of the ivory keys reflected the level of culture a family has attained, his skills a statement of his refined upbringing.

Families went looking for the piano of their dreams at the Philippine Music Store along Carriedo, operated by the Kapampangan Quisons. There were German-made brands like “F. Weber” and “Hermann” as well as the English “Robinson” or American "Steinway” and "Baldwin" pianos, all available in convenient monthly installments.

Schools like the Assumption Academy in San Fernando took advantage of the growing demand for piano lessons by offering Musical Sciences, major in piano. But for those who wish to study at their own leisure, one could hire private tutors. In the 1930s, Angeles kids went to the home of Isabel Mesina, who advertised her services in local papers."Tuturung tigtig piano”, she described herself. “Matula nang paquilala ing pegaralan na quenumang bisang agad mabiasang tigtig piano. Abac at gatpanapun ing pamanuru” .

Through the years, a number of Kapampangan pianists have attained national and global fame with their musical wizardry. One artist who gained wide exposure on Philippine TV is Amado Pascual of Arayat, who, at the age of 9, was tutored by his father. By 16, Pascual was a professional pianist for a band which got assignments at Clark Field.

Moving to Manila in 1947 to expand his musical horizons, Pascual became an arranger and a musical director. Pascual became a freelance performer both here and abroad but he is best known as a resident pianist for ABS-CBN from 1957-1972.

Internationally-acclaimed classical pianist Cecile B. Licad (b. 11 May 1961) , whose family roots are in Lubao, started as a child prodigy, tutored at age 3 by her mother, Rosario Picazo. She made her debut as a soloist with the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra at age 7 and was taken in eventually as a student of Rudolf Serkin at the Curtis Institute of Music.

In 1981, Licad received the prestigious Leventritt Gold Medal, one of the youngest artists in the contest’s history to be recognized. She has performed with the most renowned orchestras of the world, from the Chicago Symphony, Boston Symphony, New York Philharmonic, London Symphony, Tokyo’s NHK Symphony and regularly records for Sony.

An accomplished chamber musician, Licad has also graced the major concert halls of the world—from Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Chicago’s Orchestra Hall and the Kennedy Center. She has a son, Otavio Licad Meneses, who is also a musical artist. Cecile Licad is set to treat her kabalen in a special homecoming concert scheduled for 2011 at the Holy Angel University Auditorium in Angeles.

Making waves for many years now in Europe is Conrado del Rosario (b. 21 Aug. 1958), based in Germany. Angeles-born “Titus” spent much of his young student life in the city schools where he first gained attention by winning regional musical competitions in the 70s. As a University of the Philippines scholar, he moonlit as a professional pianist-arranger in the commercial music industry.

Eventually, he won a Young Artists of the Philippines Foundation Scholarship that took him to Berlin, where he studied composition and orchestral conducting while mastering the flute, alto saxophone and exotic Asian instruments like the kulintang and gamelan. Known in Europe as Titus Chen, he made his mark by winning international competitions (1st Prize at the Hambacher Competition in Germany for his piece “Darangan”, besting 300 contestants from 32 countries, 2nd Prize at the Hitzacker Composition Contest for his chamber ensemble work “Yugto”).

In 1991, he was picked by the Berlin Senate for Cultural Affairs as one of 5 young composers to write a piece for the Scharoun Ensemble, performed in Salzburg and Berlin. His music has been heard not only in Germany but also in Zurich, Paris, Katowice, Melbourne, Budapest, Amsterdam, Tokyo, New York, San Francisco, Toronto, and Tel Aviv.

As a teacher, he has taught piano and piano improvisation. And, as founder-pianist of the Berlin Improvising Composers’ Ensemble, he has gone on international tours and done recordings on CD. Titus has also dabbled in films, appearing as an actor-pianist in a few movies like “Company Business” (1991) starring Gene Hackman. This Kapampangan virtuoso is into jazz music these days (as a jazz saxophonist, he is known as Titus Chen), playing regular gigs with his band, but he hopes to go back to composing.

The piano has lost much of its appeal to Kapampangan youths of today who are more into band music that calls for electric guitars, drums and synthesizers. But one need only to look at the stellar achievements of Pascual, Licad and del Rosario, to be convinced of the priceless rewards that the gruelling years of piano training have brought to their lives as creative artists. In an extraordinary way, the ivory keys that they passionately touched and played, became the very same keys that unlocked a world of untold opportunities, paving the way for their conquest and triumph of the global music stage.