Saturday, June 26, 2010

*205. THE GUAGUA CANNERY: Industrial Revolution along Dalan Bapor

IT'S IN THE CAN! The Guagua Cannery was put up by the National Development Company in 1939 to help industrialize the country. Here, home economics students visit the cannery to observe the latest canning and preserving techniques. Dated 10 September 1939.

Guagua was one of the more prosperous towns of Pampanga, noted for being a market hub, with businesses livened by the arrival of Chinese traders and merchants during pre-Hispanic times. The Chinese stayed, and further helped build Guagua’s reputation as an eminent commercial center of the province, until the rise of Angeles in the 1940s.

Guagua, after all, was strategically located, with major waterways running through the interior of the town. Serving as a gateway to progress was the Pasak-Guagua River, which was connected to the great Pampanga River. This river was traversed by cargo ships, bringing important goods to be sold, transported, swapped or traded for other commodities. A significant tributary of Pasak-Guagua River is Dalan Bapor (Ships’ Way) which would play a significant role in the industrialization of Guagua and the province of Pampanga.

At the time of the Philippine Commonwealth, a primary institution for the industrialization of the country was established. This was the National Development Company, which gained much legal powers and financial muscle from the government as it sought to advance the economy of the Philippines. Already, it had started to develop the local textile industry, and, in 1938, helped set up a tin canning factory in Manila, which manufactured packaging tin from imported materials.

Through its subsidiary—the National Food Products Corporation—NDC established a canning plant in Guagua, Pampanga in 1939. The plant was located on a tract of land (now LM Subdivision) beside the Guagua National College in Barangay Sta. Filomena and was accessible via Dalan Bapor. The cannery had a capacity of 5.4 million cans and for the next years, it did good business, canning everything from bangus (milkfish) to vegetables and fruits. (Canning seemed to have been a lucrative business as NDC opened another cannery in Capiz in 1941).

Guagua thus became the scene of brisk economic activity as ships docked to transport tons of canned goods from the town to all points of the country. Old residents remember those boom years with fondness as “huge ships” made their appearance in the town, ferrying out canned fish and other ‘conservas’ for national and international distribution. The Guagua Cannery became an attraction site of the town, frequently visited by excursionistas and home economic students from schools near and far.

The coming of World War II signalled the beginning of the end for the Guagua Cannery. The plant was bombed by Japanese planes and by the time it reopened after the war, many things have changed. For one, the Manila-Dagupan Railroad became an even more efficient mode of transporting people and goods. As more roads were constructed, waterways became obsolete, and soon, the ships stopped sailing along Dalan Bapor, to be replaced by barges carrying fertilizer, honey, mining produce and sugar. Some recall the plant was sold to the Pampanga Sugar Development Company (PASUDECO) which turned it into a warehouse. Troubled by management and labor disputes, it closed down permanently in the 1960s.

Dalan Bapor started to become impassable and useless too, due to siltation. The eruption of Mount Pinatubo completed the river’s devastation. Today, in the middle of the once wide and flowing river, from across where the Guagua Cannery formerly stood, is a sliver of an island called Duck Island, so named because, from their planes, American pilots described it as duck-shaped. But island residents believe it refers to when ships used Guagua as a “dock” to load and unload their precious canned cargo, back in those days when the town’s bustling growth and prosperity knew no boundaries.


HAIR THERE AND EVERYWHERE. A long-tressed lady from Central Luzon shows of her long, wavy mane ('mala-Birhen") in this posed photograph. Ca. 1930s.

Our crowning glory—our hair, that is—has always been a major grooming concern of our forebears, particularly, the womenfolk. Next to the skin, it is the hair on their head that is lavishly pampered, and even foreigners writing in the 19th century took note of the special way in which women washed their coal-black tresses with ‘gugu’, a native shampoo concocted from the bark of a gugu tree and perfumed with an orange called 'kabuyao' or with the aromatic leaves of sale-sale. Curious observers took note of how women shined their hair with coconut oil then coiled into a neat bun (sanggul) and held together with peinetas of tortoiseshell and gold.

Many superstitious beliefs and practices have come down to us revolving around hair and which have since become part of our pop culture. In dreams, cutting of hair bodes misfortune. It is believed that cutting hair in the evening can result in headaches. If done after an illness, it may lead to relapse or ‘binat’. Again, cutting one’s hair immediately after the death of a parents can make the soul restless. A pregnant woman is ill-advised not to cut her hair lest her baby is born bald. Old folks also maintain that sleeping with wet hair can cause blindness or even dementia.

In the Victorian age, a dead person was remembered by his hair. The hair of the dead was cut, collected and placed in gold lockets, a form of memento mori. Those with more artistic bent braided and coiled dead people’s hair into flowers and framed these in shadow boxes—unique examples of mourning art. In 19th century Philippines, Adela Paterno mastered the art of ‘hair painting’, in which fine strands of hair were woven into fabric to create whole figures and picturesque sceneries.

Indeed, many Kapampangans even today judge a person’s character by how he/she cared for his hair. One who kept his/her uncombed is deemed as burara or careless—and can’t be relied on to do good domestic work. A curly-haired person is looked at as having a bad temperament. A woman endowed with “buwak mala-Birhen” was looked at as someone virtuous, chaste and decent. One’s identity and/or ethnicity was determined by hair types. “kulot” referred to Aetas while “unats” were those from the lowlands. Hair—or the absence of it, defined a person in the community—hence, in a remote barrio, it is not uncommon to hear one talk of “Inggong Kalbu" or "Nardong Kulot”.

One’s personal hygiene is also dependent on one’s hair condition. When American doctors came over to the Philippines to check the state of sanitation of the country, they were appalled at the extent of lice infestation among Filipinos. The quaint practice of picking lice on each other’s head so fascinated photographers of the period that they took souvenir snaps of luxuriant haired women ‘squirreling’.

But even writers were entranced with women’s hair so much so that Kapampangan Aurelio Tolentino wrote the novel “Ing Buwak ng Ester” (Ester’s Hair). It is a detective narrative that revolved around the conflict of two brothers, in which a handkerchief containing a strand of hair was used as a ploy to bring the criminal out in the open. The novel was a smashing success in its time.

As for men, they had fewer hair concerns, as they grew their hair long and luxuriant during our pre-colonial days. Barbering was introduced during the Spanish times for our hirsute colonizers needed not just regular trims for their hair but also coiffing and waxing of their beards, goatees and moustaches. Clean-shaven Filipinos had simpler needs so the basic services of self-trained barbers sufficed. Of course, Macabebe warriors defied convention and authority by growing their hair long and unkempt, just like ‘bandoleros’ of old.

It was the Chinese, however, who became adept barbers and made a business of this skill, often making the rounds of barrios while they carried the tools of their trade—scissors, razors and a stool for customers to sit on. An additional service is ear wax removal, where the ear is picked clean with a ‘panluga’.

The eventual ‘Americanization’ of the Philippines opened the eyes of the youth to the ways and styles of their culture and many started aping the hair fads of the day: from the slick-back Valentino look (parted in the middle, Cachupoy-style) to the curls of Shirley Temple and the Flapper girl bob cut. Young men greased their hair with Brilliantine, Palikero or Tarzan pomade.

The military gave us the ‘flat top’, the ‘crew cut’ and the ‘white side wall’ and the extent by which hair is shaved off the side is indicated by ‘2-fingers’ or ‘3-fingers’. In 50s, the James Dean look prevailed with hair dabbed with Glo-Co to make it behave just like the mane of the screen rebel. Girls had their spraynets to achieve the beehive or fly-away look in the 60s. The trademark hairstyles of the Beatles, Farrah Fawcett, David Cassidy were imitated by millions of teens worldwide.

Today of course, the range of hairstyles for both men and women is simply amazing. Aside from the traditional ‘gupit baintau’ (men’s cut), there’s ‘syete’ (where sideburns are lopped at an angle), Mohawk, geometric cut, asymmetrical cut and even a Korean boy band look. Where hair was once only bunned or braided, it can now be permed, sculpted, tinted, dyed, highlighted, streaked, re-bonded, relaxed and woven. Come bad hair days or good hair days, our preoccupation with our hair remains, pampered with special salon treatment, washed with the latest anti-dandruff shampoo brand and trimmed at a posh barber shop. Then, as now, we know that it is in looking good that we feel good.


MASCUP RIVER. Picnickers frolic in the crystal-clear waters of Mascup River in sitio Bana, Dolores, Mabalacat, Pampanga. The river was a popular destination of local tourists since the 1920s, when the Tiglaos, on whose property the river flowed, developed the area as a natural resort. Ca. mid 1920s.

True, the great Pampanga River is one of the more well-known natural resource that defines the Kapampangan landscape. However, there are other bodies of water in Pampanga—rivers, estuaries, creeks and streams—that are no less important though not as known, providing Kapampangans with livelihood and leisure, main sources of nurture for farms and fields, and in the same vein, causes of some of the province’s most devastating tragedies. Snaking across the province “antimong ubingan” (like a snake) and branching “sanga-sanga” through towns and barrios.

The eruption of Mount Pinatubo brought many of these rivers into our consciousness and on national news. At the foot of Kamias Mountain in Porac is a stretch of the Gumain River, a pathway to the lowlands often used by the hardy Aetas. The river’s water source is Mt. Abu in Zambales, where it streams to Floridablanca and converges with Porac River in barangay San Pedro (Floridablanca) and Sta. Rita (Lubao). Torrential rains often caused the Gumain to flood the entire Lubao region. The cataclysmic eruptions of Pinatubo in 1991 buried the river.

Porac River descends from Mt. Dorst and Mt. Cumino, meandering through Porac, Del Carmen and Lubao, until it joins Gumain. The 1991-1997 lahar years brought unspeakable horror to Porac, causing the town’s evacuation as well as damage to property. Mancatian Bridge was washed out, 119 houses were buried and 3 Japanese perished while attempting to cross the swollen Mancatian River.

An often-mentioned name during the Pinatubo years, is the Pasig-Potrero River. With headwaters from Mt. Cumino, the Pasig-Potreo drains the area of Porac-Angeles and Sta. Rita-San Fernando. Its course shifts erratically, bringing along sand and silt deposits to the plain lands.

The capital city of San Fernando has a river of the same name that originates from Pampanga River and which cuts through Mexico where it is known as Sapang Matulid. When San Fernando River crosses Bacolor and Betis, it is called Betis River—merging with the Dalan Bapor River in Guagua that flows through the larger Guagua-Pasak River.

Another river—Kabalasan—is actually a major tributary of Sapang Balen in Angeles. It joins Calulut River and Sindalan River, losing its water as it heads towards Maimpis where it flows as Maimpis River. These rivers, like many others in the region, derived their name from their unique natural characteristics. Similarly named rivers in northwest San Fernando is the Malino River (named after the clarity of the water) and Pandaras River— “daras”, a gouging tool used in boat-making.

Every town it seems, has its own “Sapang Balen”, but the Sapang Balen of Angeles has a history that is intertwined with Taug River. This creek that cuts through the town proper follows the old path of the Taug River . At one point in time, Taug fed into Abacan, and its ancient riverbed is now occupied by the area that includes Brgy. Cuayan and Carmenville subdivision. Sapang Balen is heavily polluted now and currently, there are efforts led by the local church officials to keep it environmentally safe and clean.

Taug River is an offshoot of Ebus River that originates from the foothills of Mount Pinatubo. It joins Abacan River near Bo. Anunas. The river ( actually a creek that comes to life only during the rainy season) scared the city residents during the Pinatubo days when lahar from Pasig-Potrero River threatened to spill into its channel-- too narrow to contain such water volume. Had the worst case scenario happened, Angeles City would have been engulfed by lahar and pyroclastic materials. Taug River has had a history of dangerous overflows. In 1881, as recorded by Angeles historian Mariano Henson, a typhoon caused Taug River “to swell up to a murky clay-ey tone into the Sapang Balen creek, causing the destruction of three bridges”. Three more overflows were recorded in 1885, 1919 and 1961.

Abacan River separates Balibago (once a part of Mabalacat) from Angeles City proper. Abacan means “ early lunch or brunch”, because in the old days, traders from Mexico and other towns would sail on the once-deep waters and reach Culiat by lunch hour. It made national news on 15 June 1991 when the Abacan Bridge collapsed due to the surge of water and pyroclastic materials from the Pinatubo eruption that the shallow river.

The town of many rivers—Lubao—has interestingly-named waterways that evoke the physical nature of the place: Matsin, Mansanitas, Pinanari, Atlu Busbus, Pulung Kamuti, Maubingan, Sapang Pari, Kuwayan, Kulasisi and Sapang Ebun, Sapang Payung, Sapang Balas, Balantacan.

In Mabalacat, a once-famous watering hole and picnic site since the 1920s was the Mascup River in sitio Bana. Large rocks dot the river banks and its crystal-clear waters were perfect for swimming and wading. Sadly, just like the many rivers in the province affected by Pinatubo, the waters of Mascup flow no more.

Rivers may overflow, ebb, dry up, change course, get silted and polluted. But many resilient Kapampangans used to the fickle ways of nature continue to live by the river’s side. Conditioned to the changing seasons, to the cycles of floods and drought, they live, adapt and thrive--by learning to go with the flow.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

*202. CHEVALIER SCHOOL (Sacred Heart Seminary), Angeles City

FRESHMEN AT SHS. First Year Section A, 1969-1970. Extern Department. Sacred Heart Seminary. With Miss Dahlia Guiao as Class Adviser, and Pilipino teacher, Lydia Gabiana (Pionela).

30 July 2010 marks the 50th anniversary of Chevalier School aka Sacred Heart Seminary, the high school I went to from 1969-1973. A grand alumni homecoming is planned with the usual motorcade, medical missions, a Thanksgiving Mass and recognition for 25 distinguished alumni as selected by the host class, the Class of 1985. I am humbled and honored to be part of the list, and I look forward to seeing some of my batchmates again after 37 years. It wasn’t too long ago that we held our own 25th Silver Anniversary Homecoming, and now, more than a decade has again elapsed, putting more distance to those wonder years of youthful discovery and explorations.

When I graduated from a public school in Mabalacat, I was very single-minded with the high school I wanted to go to. For me, it was Sacred Heart Seminary or nothing. Never mind that I was being recruited by St. Anthony’s Institute, a community high school, with a fifty peso scholarship being waved at my mother’s face. But I bawled no end; after all, my older brother was already a part of the pioneer class of 1971. Eventually, the scooter-riding rector, Fr. Bartholomew “Bart” Witteman, charmed my mother by telling her of this wonderful high school with a teacher-student ratio of just 1:30, in one of his house-to-house sales blitz.

And so, with a mix of nervous excitement and apprehension, I entered the hallowed halls of the school in the big city of Angeles, along with 70 other boys on that fateful day in June 1969. By then, the school was almost a decade old. The place where the seminary stood was leased for 99 years beginning in 1958 to the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart by Most Eminence Emilio Cinense D.D. Fr. Cornelio Lagerway MCS was tasked to build a minor seminary—and thus, in 1960, Sacred Heart Mission of Pampanga Inc. came to be.

Seminarians (interns) and externs were both admitted to the school from 1960-1967, with classes held separately. Eventually, with a dwindling seminarian recruitment, classes were merged. I still remember pangs of envy every time I caught sight of intern students dressed in their immaculate long sleeved shirt and tie enter the classrooms, while we externs only had plain white polos with the school seal (such silly insecurities!). In 1972, the intern department closed.

Oh, but we were a privileged batch, and we bore witness to a lasting revolution, starting with our Freshman Year under Miss Dahlia Guiao. We saw the first man walk on the moon, felt the first stirrings of dissent and unrest against our government, watched Gloria Diaz win Miss Universe. But we were a young and carefree bunch. We sang “Aubrey” and “Stairway to Heaven” until kingdom come, held rock masses at the Chapel, dominated the cheering contest of our lively intramurals (Splashdown, Charade, Ating Landas), and gamely joined the APSCOP meets .

We turned the school’s empty lots into a virtual vegetable garden as part of the Green Revolution of the 70s and held hilarious plays with an all-male cast. We hanged out in the school canteen during recess time, sipping Sunkist tetra-packs with our 5 peso spaghetti or cheese pimiento sandwich. Come lunch, I and my chum, Guillermo 'Emong' Morales, would eat our packed Tupperware meals under the lush bonggabilya bower that grew near the back gate, hidden from everyone's view.

We had chess tournaments, basketball competitions (our senior ball team was the “Radicals”) and even had a Junior-Senior prom that was staged so badly that the students demanded a refund. The band (‘Angel of Death’) that Miss Casupanan had commissioned to play at the prom apparently did not please the hip crowd with their limited repertoire. I attended that said prom and you can only take so much of Harry Nilsson’s “Without You” after four or five repetitions.

But we also agonized over Mr. Ramoneda’s Physics test and Mr. Ramon Villablanca’s oral exams that he conducted with his unforgettable accent. Oh, how I dreaded the postings of our bi-weekly grades! But I enjoyed Miss Pangilinan's Literature class (doesn't she look like Barbra Streisand?) , Mr. de la Cruz's interesting Biology lectures, Mr. Batac's history lessons and Principal Larry Pineda's Economics subject . In between, we found time to ‘torture’ teachers, playing pranks at every available opportunity (I remember the “trebalak” that was placed inside Miss Ramos’s desk, but the joke’s on us—she didn’t flinch). We had so much angst that we boycotted the PMT classes much to the consternation of Commandant Escalante, and protested to the fathers at the slightest provocation.

Then the tumultuous 70s took over. Idols and icons came and went. Woodstock. Love Story. Make Love, Not War. James Taylor. The Vietnam War. America. Shaft. Peace Man. Bomba Films. Marcos. And, on the day of the school election for the Supreme Student Council, Martial Law was declared. All too soon, our age of innocence was gone.

Shocked at the passing of our beloved Fr. Bart and barely surviving the first two years of the 70s, the class was ready to salsoul, L.A. walk, bump-and-grind its way to its 1973 graduation. I remember the frenetic preparations before that big day—the yearbook had to be laid out, graduation photos had to be shot at Selegna’s and ads had to be solicited. On that actual graduation day, I remember so little. But I do remember wearing a borrowed coat and coming with my Ima for the commencement exercise. I think I finished with a ranking of 7th or 8th—my bad Algebra grades did me in-- but at that time, it really didn’t matter as I was so excited about getting to college. I didn't even say a proper goodbye to my best friend Emong; that would be the last time I would see him.

By 1978, Sacred Heart Seminary would change its name to Chevalier School to honor the founding father of MSC, Fr. Jules Chevalier. It opened its doors to elementary students and then went co-ed, in response to the imperatives of change. Each time I pass the school though, I would still refer to it as SHS and remember those 4 years spent in the school where we breathed and lived the great Caballero spirit.

Three decades after, we not only survived but thrived. A little scarred perhaps, but never scared. Clearly focused with what we want to accomplish, never mind the authority. We’re still feisty and irreverent as ever, perhaps a little softer on the edges. Though our paths have taken us to different worlds, we stay on, comfortable with each other in the truest sense of friendship, hopefully, forever. Long live and prosper, Caballeros!

*201. LOTA DELGADO: The Star of Rogelio de la Rosa’s Life

LOVELY LOTA. Actress Lota Delgado of Angeles was on her way to becoming a major star when the War interrupted, and Rogelio de la Rosa's love beckoned. She stood by Rogelio even as he changed careers--from being in the movie industry to government service. 1953.

The charming Sampaguita contract star who became the wife of movie’s golden boy, Rogelio de la Rosa is, herself, a Kapampangan. Carlota Delgado was born in Camp Stotsenburg, Pampanga on 19 May 1921 to parents Luis Delgado and Caridad Concepcion. As a child, Lottie, as she was called, showed no inclination to the performing arts, and it was through a twist of fate that she found herself working in the movies.

In fact, she had started out as a secretary at Marsman office. In one Anti-TB gala ball she had to attend, Lottie was introduced to Pedro Vera, the big boss of Sampaguita Pictures. Mr. Vera encouraged her to enter the movies, but she demurred; she was not sure her parents would approve. Lottie was given employment anyway at the Sampaguita office, and it was here that she caught the attention of two kabalens from Lubao—the director Gregorio Fernandez and Rogelio de la Rosa, then a rising star.

The two convinced Lottie to do a screen test, to which she agreed. She registered so well on the screen, prompting one smitten reporter to write: “An eloquent personification of live youth and exquisite charm, her person is as eye-arresting as black against a background of white and vice versa. A complexion that is clear and fair, a height that is just right for one endowed with so great an amount of charm, a carriage that is impressively stately, a physique that is pleasantly slender and a smile that carries an eyeful of infection---all these are the fundamentals that justify Lota Delgado’s attractiveness.”

Immediately, the young ingenue now known as Lota Delgado was cast in her first movie made in 1938, “Magsasampaguita”, supporting Corazon Noble and Rogelio de la Rosa. Her first appearance on the silver screen was a pleasant discovery to movie fans who took note of the photogenic Angeleña actress. She then showed up next in “Takip-Silim” (1939). Though just a feature role (it was a Carmen Rosales-Rogelio de la Rosa starrer), Lota’s performance convinced even the studio skeptics that the young artist was somebody to watch.

She was kept busy at the start of the 40s decade. In 1940, she made five Sampaguita movies in a row ( “Gunita”—a musical, “Katarungan”—her first lead role with Rogelio, “Estrellita”, “Colegiala”, “Nang Mahawi Ang Ulap”). In 1941, she made a movie with Rogelio de la Rosa yet again--“Tarhata”. Rogelio, then already a superstar, decided to put up his own RDR Productions and invited Lota to do “Dalawang Anino”, with younger brother Jaime de la Rosa. Lota’s career was not only blooming, but also his love affair with leading man, Rogelio.

Just when Lota was hitting the apex of her movie career, World War II broke out, putting her stardom on hold. He forced retirement however, gave her time enough to consider Rogelio’s proposal, and on 20 September 1942, Lota became Mrs. Rogelio de la Rosa.

From then on, she opted to focus on her new role as a wife, and later as a mother of six children, 5 boys (Ramon, Rudolph, Reynaldo, Roberto, Rocky) and 1 girl (Ruby). She preferred to stay in the background and allowed Rogelio to run the show, so to speak. She would follow her husband all the way to the Mountain Province, where they not only had a Baguio home but also a ranch in Irisan, where she ran the de la Rosa household efficiently while managing a dairy farm. When Rogelio decided to revive RDR Productions, he convinced Lota to stage a comeback with him as her leading man in the 1951 movie, “Irisan”.

The death of Ramon Magsaysay in a plane crash in 1953 galvanized Rogelio to join politics. Magsaysay, the godfather de la Rosa’s only daughter, Ruby—had often prodded the actor to enter government service, and 4 years later, Rogelio was elected Senator. He continued his quest for presidency in 1961 and had excellent chances of winning. Eventually, he had to give way to the LP bet-- his brother-in-law, Diosdado Macapagal. Had he pursued his quest, Lota Degado could have been a First Lady—and a beautiful star at that! But she remained dutiful as always, standing behind her husband in his multi-facetted career as an actor, politician and a popular diplomat, until his death in 1986.

Lota Delgado would live for over two more decades in the company of her children with Rogelio, none of whom entered showbiz. One of the most beautiful faces to grace the silver screen finally passed away of undisclosed causes on 28 April 2009.

*200. A Virgin's Tale: OUR LADY OF PAMPANGA

O, INDU! The original image of Virgen de los Remedios of Baliti, patroness of Pampanga. Ca. mid 1950s.

Perched high up in a home altar in my Ingkung’s room was a framed colored picture of a beautiful Lady that’s been there ever since I could remember. She had a most beautiful face, framed by a halo of golden stars and topped with a gem-encrusted crown. Resplendent in her blue and white satin robes and with a rosary in her hands, she watched over the room together with other plaster cast figures of the Sacred Heart, St. Therese of the Child Jesus and Our Lady of Lourdes. I knew that this particular representation of the Virgin was special, because every so often, we would bring down the picture, put it out the window and lighted candles on its side as a procession went by. I would also see similar pictures of this Lady hanging in other people’s homes around town.

It was only later that I would learn that the Lady in the picture was none other than the “Patroness of Pampanga”—Nstra. Sñra de los Remedios, our “Indu ning Kapaldanan”. It turned out that we not only had her framed picture, but also a big escayola version of the same Virgin, with molded clothes, a plaster crown and a tin halo.

Virgen de los Remedios was the central character in the turbulent post-War events unfolding in Pampanga, when the province was being called “Little Russia”. Many Kapampangans were being turned on to Communism, giving rise to social unrest that threatened to tear the province apart. Then Bishop Cesar Ma. Guerrero conceived of a crusade to bring back Kapampangans to the Catholic fold, and thus was born on 15 April 1952, the Cruzada y Buena Voluntad (Crusade of Charity and Goodwill), under the patronage of Our Lady of Remedies.

The original image was borrowed from a chapel in Baliti and was sent on an uninterrupted pilgrimage to all Pampanga towns (siba-balen) and parishes. Indeed, after a year, our Lady proved to be a true remedy for the turmoil in the province, converting and pacifying people, while bringing back devotion to the Faith.

The next year, when it was time for the image to be brought out again for its scheduled visits, the people of Baliti refused to loan their image. Fr. Generoso Pallasigui, then Baliti parish priest, was quite worried that “blood will flow” if Bishop Guerrero insisted on taking the image away. It was ironical that the image that was meant to bring Kapampangan together, was now causing divisiveness between the cruzada organizers and the “possessive” people of Baliti. (Years later, it was gathered that the people were misinformed about the news they heard about their Virgen de los Remedios—that it was going to be sent for coronation in Rome and then stay there permanently!).

Bishop Guerrero instead, had a replica made—and this new Virgen de los Remedios was the image that was canonically crowned on 8 September 1956 in San Fernando—a full 4 years after the inaugural crusade started in Masantol. Today, there are two other duplicate images that visit the northern and southern towns of Pampanga; the canonically crowned image is kept in the San Fernando Chancery and is brought out once a year for its coronation anniversary. The “Virgen de los Remedios of Baliti” reposes in its own chapel in Baliti, and the place is being propagated as a shrine by the residents who, for many years, had to endure the stigma of being branded as “selfish” community, long after the controversial rebuff.

In the meanwhile, the pilgrim Virgin continues its visits to every nook and cranny of Pampanga towns, moving and touching Kapampangans by the thousands. I, myself, have seen the dramatic effects of the visit in my town most recently. From June to the 2nd week of July, Mabalacat played host to the revered patroness of Pampanga. Townfolks turned out en masse and lined the bunting-decorated streets for the arrival of the Our Lady in Quitanguil. Santos, representing the barangay patron saints, stood on their flower-bedecked carrozas and joined the Mabalaqueños in the warm welcome, complete with band music.

Barangays tried to outdo each other in according the best welcome for the Virgen. In a show of solidarity, people worked together to spruce up their visitas and chapels, hang blue and white buntings, set up welcome arches and streamers to honor our Lady. For days, barangay chapels hummed with the sound of novena prayers, with devotees coming non-stop to join in the festivities.

On an overcast 17 July afternoon, when it was time to send off the image to its next destination--Hensonville in Angeles—hundreds of Mabalaqueños celebrated a festive Mass in the parish church, specially decorated for the grand mañanita. Then, the town residents, pastoral council members, Damas de Caridad and the Caballeros de Cristo formed a long convoy to accompany the image and the Santo Cristo del Perdon all the way to the city, singing and intoning prayers while continuing the tradition of lamak—an act of charity done through the sharing of donated goods, with the sick, the needy and the destitute.

In an age of skepticism, one only has to look at the attendant effects of our Lady’s visit on Kapampangans---you can see a deepening of faith, a return to prayer, a heightened sense of awareness of our social ills, and a strengthening of the will to make a difference -- to conclude that modern day miracles still happen. Our Indu ning Capaldanan has done it again.

*199. ST. MARY'S ACADEMY. Bacolor

AND THE ACADEMY GOES TO... A post-war picture of a class of the Benedictine-run St. Mary's Academy of Bacolor, rehabilitated after it sustained major damages during the war. Dated 1946.

St. Mary’s Academy is one of three Benedictine schools opened in Pampanga, pre-dating Holy Family Academy in Angeles by a few months (although founded by Augustinians in 1910, it was taken over by Benedictine nuns in 1922) and Saint Scholastica’s Academy of San Fernando. Rev. Fr. Pedro Santos of Porac laid the foundation when he put up the Bacolor Catholic School in 1919, which offered free education to all children.

In 1922, the parochial school was turned over to the Sisters of St. Scholastica’s College in Manila. Five nuns were assigned to the school to oversee the education of some 200 students. Fr. Santos remained its Director. In 1923, the school opened a high school department—for first and second year students. However, when St. Scholastica’s College opened its San Fernando branch, the high school was forced to close after only two years. Assumption Academy, as the St. Scholastica branch was then known, absorbed some of the students of St. Mary’s, often transported in school buses bought by Fr. Santos just so they could continue on with their education. After Fr. Santos ended his term, many students dropped out forcing the high school to stop its operations.

In 1925, St. Mary’s Academy was granted government recognition for its elementary course. Much of the school population came from the lower class; those who could pay were charged the minimum monthly fee, probably the lowest among private schools in the country.

St. Mary’s operated without any interruption until the coming of the second World War in 8 December 1941. During the War years, the American Forces used the school as its headquarters on their way to and from Bataan. It resumed operation at the onset of the Japanese Occupation in June 1942, only to be suspended in late 1944 and early 1945—during the country’s Liberation. The school provided sanctuary to refugees and evacuees during those difficult times. Finally, it reopened its doors on 20 February 1945.

Just a year after--in 1946-- St. Mary’s Academy took pride in its course offerings, that included kindergarten and elementary grades, with a total student population of 300 boys and girls. Of this total, 100 students enjoyed free tuition. It had a library, school garden and clinical facilities administered by the Sisters themselves, although it still needed much post-war rehabilitation , including the repair of classrooms, benches its Home Economics equipment. In all, the school suffered damages worth P1,000.

But the worst blow dealt on the school was the 1991 Pinatubo eruption that closed the devastated academy for months. Several alternative venues were used to accommodate students whose education just could not be disrupted--the San Vicente health center, the parish social hall, the Cabalantian Elementary school and even private residences. By 1992, after a year of rehabilitation, St. Mary's was back on its feet, but the year also signalled the end of the Benedictine administration of the school after seven long decades. St Mary's Academy was entrusted to the archdiocese of San Fernando on 6 May 1992.

The school’s distinguished alumni include the internationally well-known cardiologist Dr. Mariano Alimurung, Amparo Villamor (Cabinet Member of Pres. Carlos P. Garcia and Social Welfare Administrator), Rev. Frs. Odon Santos and Generoso Pallasigui, Pasudeco executive and agricultural magnate Gerry Rodriguez, civic leaders Elisa Buyson-Sison, Pilar Villarama and violinist Virgilio Palma. Their exemplary achievements reflect the school's commitment to education excellence shaped by solid Catholic values that it has espoused since the school's inception.


O SISTER, WHERE ART THOU? A cloistered nun is visited by relatives who could only peek through the wooden window slats for a few, precious minutes. They could not even touch her. Monastic rules were designed to be severe to test the faith, will and morale of religious people. But even life in the convent could not prevent early Kapampangan nuns from achieving their highest spiritual goals of serving man and God. Ca. 1920s.

Kapampangan men of cloth figured early in sowing the seeds of the Catholic faith in our Islands. The early Filipino members of the religious orders introduced in the Philippines were mostly Kapampangans: the 1st Filipino Jesuit (Martin Sancho, admitted to the novitiate in Rome in 1593), the 1st Recoleto (F. Juan de Sta. Maria Dimatulac of Macabebe, 1660). Pampanga’s revered pioneers also include the 1st Filipino priest ( P. Miguel de Morales, Bacolor, ordained in 1654) and the 1st Filipino Cardinal (Rufino Cardinal Santos, Guagua, elevated to cardinalship in 1960).

But the pious daughters of Pampanga were equally commendable in their quest to serve the will of their God; and it can be said that their was a more daunting task than the challenges faced by their male counterparts, as they had to over come overcome barriers like gender, class and racial prejudices before they could find their place in the Philippine church.

The first Filipino nun, for instance, Sor Martha de San Bernardo, a Kapampangan whose roots are no lost in history, had to make a great personal sacrifice to be admitted to the religious order of Poor Clares. The order, the first in Asia, had been founded by the Spanish Franciscan nun, Madre Jeronima de la Fuente (now Venerable) in 1621. It barred ‘indias’ like Martha, despite the backing of Spanish nuns who testified to her nobility and virtue. To skirt the Spanish laws that applied to the Philippine colony, Martha sailed for Macau, where, aboard the ship and far from Spanish domain, she was invested with the holy habit. She must have professed her vows in the monastery of the Poor Clares in Macau. Here--even after King Joao IV of Portugal ordered the expulsion of Spaniards in Macau as a result of Portugal’s secession from Spain in 1644-- Sor Martha would stay and serve the order for the rest of her life.

The Franciscan Provincial, after taking note of Sor Martha’s exemplary life and example, relaxed the rules for the next wave of Filipina applicants. Another Kapampangan member of the principalia was admitted to the mother house of the Poor Clares in Manila to become the second Filipino nun. Sor Madalena dela Concepcion received her habit from Abbess Madalena de Christo on 9 February 1636, and professed her monastic vows a year later. For 49 years, this Kapampangan nun led a humble life, performing difficult taskas and abhorring positions of honor until her death on 5 April 1685.

Two persevering sisters with clear Kapampangan roots would work against all odds to found a religious congregation which, in the the 21st century, would find worldwide recognition and acclaim. Dionisia Mitas Talangpaz de Santa Maria (1691-1732) and her younger sister, Cecilia Rosa de Jesus (1693-1731) were born in Calumpit, Bulacan but were half-Kapampangans owing to their paternal grandmother, Juana Mallari and maternal grandfather, Agustin Sonsong de Pamintuan, both from Macabebe. Pamintuan was revolutionary leader in the 1660 Pampango Revolt. Another notable kin is their great granduncle, the saintly Bro. Felipe Sonsong, a Jesuit and a martyr from the same Macabebe town.

The duo founded the Beaterio de San Sebastian de Calumpang in Manila in 1719, the only one founded by Indias among 4 Philippine beaterios (a Chinse mestiza, Mother Ignacia del Espiritu Santo founded the 1st beaterio in 1684, now known as the Religious of Virgin Mary). But they had to overcome great difficulties and oppositions posed by cynical Recollect authorities who stopped their screening of applicants, recalled their habits and expelled them from the convent grounds. Today, the Beaterio is known as the Congregation of Augustinian Recollects, the oldest non-contemplative religious community for women in the Augustinian Recollect Order throughout the world.

Coming from a patriotic and affluent family from Bacolor, Srta. Cristina Ventura Hocorma y Bautista, was born with a silver spoon in her mouth and could have chosen to live a life of ease. But she forsook all these to become a nun of the Hijas de la Caridad (Daughters of Charity) in 1872, only the 3rd Filipina to do so. Using her inherited wealth, she founded the Asilo de San Vicente, a school for underprivileged girls in Paco. She dedicated her lifetime teaching and serving the poor.

Many more holy women of Pampanga followed the path of these early trailblazers. Sor Bibiana Zapanta of Bacolor and a nun of the Beaterio de la Compañia was the 1st beata missionary to Mindanao. In 1875, she was assigned to the mission school in Tamontaca, Cotabato as a principal. Sor Josefa Estrada de San Rafael became the first Filipino Poor Clare in the 18th century. Descended from Lakandula and with roots in San Simon, Josefa or Pepita professed her vows in 1881. Beata missionaries to China included Sor Ana del Sagrado Corazon de Jesus and Sor Pascuala Biron del Sagrado Corazon de Jesus who founded the Asilo de la Sta. Infancia in Fijian.

The life stories and achievements of these nuns, sisters, beatas and mystics are incredible testaments to Kapampangan women power, providing inspiration to both the laity and Philippine clergy. Shoulder to shoulder, they stand as co-equals alongside the Kapampangan men who preceded them, in their unyielding pursuit to serve Man and God.

(Source: Laying the Foundations: Kapampangan Pioneers in the Philippine Church 1592-2001, by Dr. Luciano P.R. Santiago. Holy Angel University Press © 2002)