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.