Sunday, April 10, 2011

*244. YESTERDAYS IN SAPANGBATO

STONEY RIVER. Sapangbato, once a vast frontierland, is today, Angeles City's biggest barangay. Its progress is linked with nearby Camp Stotsenburg, America's largest military installation in the Philippines, which depended on the Sapangbato for supplies and labor force. Ca. 1912.

Angeles City’s biggest barangay (around 18.8 hectares) , Sapangbato, was once a rugged, unfriendly land, marked by thick forests and cliffs, bisected by a strong stream (sapa) that flowed and brought large stones (bato) down its route, as it made its way to lower Pampanga. Long before the American military came to claim large portions of Sapangbato, Negritos lived and hunted freely here, scrounging for root crops like yams and cassava, and roaming the wilds of nearby Mabalacat, Porac and the mountains of Zambales.

There are claims that Sapangbato was the property of Ludovico Narciso, a former town head of Mabalacat, who was said to have registered the place under his name during the Spanish times. In fact, old residents assert that marriages, births and deaths occurring in Sapangbato were registered in the town as well, up to 1892. Unfortunately, all municipal records were burned during the last war and no documents have yet been recovered to validate this claim.

One thing was certain though; the arrival of the US 7th Cavalry in 1901 was a turning point in Sapangbato’s history, and their settlement of the place would result in the establishment of Fort Stotsenburg. The population of Sapangbato started to swell beginning on 12 May 1903, when families of those who joined the Philippine Scouts migrated to the said district.

Thus, Sapangbato became a melting pot of sorts, a place of convergence for Kapampangans, Tagalogs, Negritos and Americans. Its progress was intertwined with the development of Fort Stotsenburg. Not only were residences built, but also markets, sari-sari stores, a church and schools. In 1918, a teacher, Glaciano Cruz, went to Sapangbato and set up a school in the shop of Mr. Geirge Seltzer.

Civilian American families settled in Train Barrio, Hill Barrio and Veterinary Barrio, but they would often venture into the commercial area of Sapangbato to do their marketing and shopping in open-air tiendas that sold fruits, vegetables, meats, dry goods, and domestic products. On the other hand, the locals who were employed in Stotsenburg lived at the perimeter of the barrio closest to the camp, called the “civilian line”. In 1931, however, they were required to move further, to the barrio proper. Sapangbato’s proximity to the military camp caused it to be placed under constant surveillance by the U.S. military police, who kept watch on gambling and drinking activities.

At the height of the second World War, most of the buildings in Sapangbato were torched by the American military, with the exception of the school, the church and the market. Today, a site called “Grotong Hapon” can be found in Purok 6, near the cemetery, where Japanese soldiers who lost their lives in the last war lie at rest.

Several natives of Sapangbato have played crucial parts in the barrio’s long history. Gen. Lucas was the first and only Baluga to be appointed as a military head officer of Negritos by the commanding officer of Stotsenburg, giving him the rank of a general. Don Lorenzo Sanchez, for instance, sheltered Manuel L. Quezon in his home as the American forces pursued Aguinaldo and his party who had earlier sneaked into Angeles.

Similarly, Don Segundo Tayag opened his house to battle-weary revolucionarios, supplying them with food and clothes. It was said that Don Segundo gave up his bedroom to sleep on a bench outside, which caused him to fall ill of a respiratory disease that claimed his life. Of course, a modern day celebrity from Sapangbato is currently making waves in the U.S.and around the world as a member of the Grammy award winning hip hop group Black Eyed Peas: Apl. De Ap (born Allan Pineda Lindo Jr.).

With the re-development of Clark Air Base as a commercial business district with an international airport to match, Sapangbato continues to bustle with activity, as it did when Americans were still around--only this time, the barangay is moving forward with a livelier beat, in keeping with the quicker tempo of progress that the whole of Angeles now enjoys.

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