Monday, May 30, 2011


PASS THE HAT! Women working on buri hats, made for local use and for the international market. Pampanga hat makers flourished in the towns of Arayat, Apalit, San Simon and San Luis, where buri hats proved to be the most popular. Ca. 1915.

Whenever my late Ingkung Dandu would go someplace in town like hear Mass, he would wear his trademark white pair of pants, striped polo, two-toned shoes and then would saunter out with his walking cane in his hands and a straw boater hat with a ribbon on his head. Though small in stature, my Ingkung stood ten feet tall in that outfit, looking jaunty and smart, especially with that black-banded, flat-brimmed hat that came from a shop in Sta. Cruz, Manila. I remember that his younger brother, Ingkung Lolung, also sported a similar hat when he dropped by the house for his regular weekly visits, and many times, I was tempted to try his hat only to be prevented by my father’s stern stare.

It is almost mandatory to wear some form of head protection in this tropical weather—either under a scorching sun or rainy weather. Before commercial hat shops were established in Pampanga, everday functional hats—"kupya"-- were made all over the province. Apalit was once a hat center, and in Barrio Sucad, ‘kupyang ebus’ by the thousands were woven and commercially sold in town markets from as far as Tarlac, Baguio, Bataan, Zambales and Manila. But due to the scarcity of ‘ebus’ materials, production was not sustained and gradually slowed down in the 1920s.

In Bulacan, weavers put Baliwag on the national map with their export-quality “balibuntal’ hats and their characteristic fringed brim. Pangasinan has its 'Calasiao hats' while Laguna is famed for its ‘buri hat’. In Pampanga, Arayat gained recognition for its 'Arayat hats' that were made in commercial quantities for the international market). Other hat-making towns included San Luis and San Simon. Weavers not only made generic ‘kupyas’ but other hat forms, like the ‘turung’, cone-shaped men’s hats that were made in Minalin. The ‘turung’, made from ‘sasa’ leaves, came in different sizes—the biggest being the size of an ‘igu’ or a native circular sieve. Workers of the field often wore the ‘turung’ in tandem with a ‘takuku’, a cape woven from 'sasa' leaves that functioned as a raincoat during downpours.

The "sumbreru" (sambalilo, in Tagalog), is also a common worker’s hat that had a wide brim to protect the eyes from the glare of the sun . Very similar to the Mexican ‘sombrero’, the local sumbreru has a finer weave despite its being plain. Katipuneros, of course, pinned the brim to the front top of their hat for better visibility, and this has become part of their trademark ‘revolucionario’ look.

Hats made from natural sources include the ‘salakut’, fashioned from dried gourds and squashes. Other examples are made from tortoiseshell strips and finely-woven ebus or buri, which were more conical in shape. The top of the head rested on a trivet made from woven bamboo. ‘Salakuts’ were prized possessions of menfolks, whether plain or fancy. The rarer ones were embellished with silver appliqu├ęs made from melted Mexican coins, with matching silver neck clasps and topped by silver-tipped finials.

Americans introduced Kapampangans to whole new sense of style, and hats were staple fashion statements for many young men growing up in the 20s and 30s. There were tophats for formal functions, derby hats for casual strolls (Rizal wore one to his execution) and boat hats for outdoor recreation. Straw boater Italian hats were popularized by Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire who wore them in their movie musicals. Panama hats – actually, of Ecuadorian origin—were widely worn by Filipinos, emulating Hollywood stars who donned them in movies such as “Casablanca” and “Gone with the Wind”. American-invented sports like golf and baseball--so well-received in the Islands--gave rise to golfer's hats and baseball caps that are still cool and hip to wear to this day.

Pampanga shops that operated in the 1930s sold hats of all shapes, sizes and materials. In San Fernando, one could go to La Fernandina, Zapateria Moderna or to the Japanese bazaar of T. Tsuchibashi along Mercado St. and the Indian Bazaar of Battan Singh. "Sombreros del pais y del extranjero" (local and imported hats) could be bought in Macabebe at the Bazar L. Magat, while "El 96" in Angeles offered a few headwear selections.

Today, of course, the hat is staging a comeback; young people have taken to wearing hats again to complete their fashion statement. The most popular is the ‘fedora’, originally a woman's hat, made of fabric, felt or straw and embellished with colored bands, feathers or flowers, then worn smartly at an angle. The only difference is, kids never seem to take them off—be they inside classrooms, churches or malls. It’s all part of Kapampangan ‘porma’, of course, of which our youths are prime subscribers, and though one may agree that ‘clothes make the man’, hats certainly have a way of making him hold his head up high!

(Thanks to Joel P. Mallari of the Center for Kapampangan Studies for additional info on hat-making in Pampanga)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

*250. DR. EMIGDIO C. CRUZ: A Doctor's Courage, A Hero's Valor

PAMPANGA'S PRESIDENTIAL DOCTOR. Dr. Emigdio C. Cruz of Arayat, Quezon's personal physician and recipient of the Philippine Congressional Medal of Valor and Distinguished Service Cross for his valiant WWII undergound work.

In 1948, the Philippine Congressional Medal of Valor, the highest award that the Philippine government can give to its citizens, was conferred on a Kapampangan doctor for his “daring resourcefulness and long sustained courage” he displayed at the height of the second World War.

The recipient, only the third to merit the award, was Dr. Emigdio Castor Cruz, of Arayat, who, as a personal physician of Manuel L. Quezon, had accompanied the president-in-exile in the U.S. Already safe in Washington, the doctor volunteered to return to the Philippines to survey the prevailing conditions of war-torn Philippines and to coordinate with key Filipino contacts working against the Japanese. Despite the odds, Dr. Cruz succeeded in his perilous mission.

Emigdio or “Meding” was born from the union of Jacinto Cruz, a rice trader from Malabon, and Andrea Castor, a Portuguese-Filipina whom Jacinto had met in Candaba. The couple settled in Arayat where Emigdio first saw the light of day on 5 August 1898. The Cruz brood numbered 7 in all : (Luis, Cornelio, Emigdio, Vicente, Maria, Jacinta and Maning—the last two died as infants. Fate dealt the family a cruel blow when Andrea died, leaving 5-year old Meding and his siblings mother-less. His father would marry again; second wife Juana Goquingco would give him 2 more children—Cecilio and Rafael.

Meding’s father had a reputation for being an effective ‘herbolario’ in Arayat, and because of this, Jacinto encouraged his children to take up science courses upon finishing their schooling in Arayat. In time, 3 sons (Emigdio, Vicente and Cecilio) would become doctors while Cornelio would earn Ph.Ds in Chemistry and Physics in the U.S.

Meding, himself, went to U.P., finishing a Liberal Arts course in 1923 and Medicine in 1929, at a rather late age of 31. This was because Meding alternately pursued his studies and his love for zarzuela, a passion that led him to tour with a company all over the Philippines. He soon settled down, however, to complete his medical degree, and was one of the topnotchers of the Medical Board exams.

He immediately set up practice in Arayat and it was here that he met his wife, a Philippine Normal College Chinese mestiza beauty named Restituta “Titing” Roque. While Titing taught at the local school, Meding set up a hospital—Arayat General Hospital—which he would serve as its medical director from 1935-38.

Meding’s reputation as an excellent doctor reached Pres. Quezon, who had been looking for a physician for his respiratory illness. He would eventually become the Quezon family physician and was instrumental in convincing the president to invest in a tract of land in Arayat that would be developed into their sugar farm—“Kaledian”.

As Meding’s career prospered, so did his family. The Cruzes had 7 children—Emigdio Jr., Rene, Tristan, twins Norma and Myrna, Jesus and Rita, who sadly died in infancy. Their seemingly-perfect domestic life was shattered with the looming Pacific war that was ignited with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Meding joined the Army and became a Captain of the Medical Corps in 1939. He left Arayat to join Quezon’s medical staff in Corregidor and later, accompany him into exile in the United States, this, without his family’s knowledge.

In the U.S. he attended to the ailing president and took up advanced medical courses. All the while, he longed for field action. The chance came when rumors reached the government-in-exile that Commonwealth officials back in the Philippines had switched allegiance to Japan which had promised the country independence. Worried and embarrassed, Quezon had sent emissaries like Col. Jesus Villamor to return to Manila, only for the flying ace to fail. Meding volunteered to undertake the next mission which included not only validating the rumors but also delivering arms to guerrillas and gathering confidential military information.

He sneaked back to the Philippines from Australia on the submarine USS Thresher, landing in Negros on July 9. There, he met with Negros guerrillas and key officers in different provinces—Sorsogon, Bicol, Lucena, until he reached Manila, even as the Japanese Imperial Army had gotten hold of his presence and were now hot on his trail. His mission culminated with a meeting with Gen. Manuel Roxas, the highest Commonwealth official in the Philippines, who debunked the rumors and confirmed the Filipino’s undying loyalty to America, under Quezon’s leadership.

His underground work finished, he left for Negros on 8 November 1943 and realized his dream of fighting in the war alongside guerillas until February 1944. He left for Brisbane aboard the Australian submarine, Narwhal, where he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross by Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

Back in the U.S. and now a major in the Army, he was assigned to the Walter Reed Hospital until Quezon’s condition worsened. He accompanied the president to Saranac Lake and was with him when news of MacArthur’s return to the Philippines was aired over the radio, to everybody’s joy. Quezon lived to hear the great news before passing away on 1 August 1944.

After Quezon’s death, Meding lingered in the U.S., doing stints at Walter Reed Hospital, Brunns General Hospital, Ann Arbor University Hospital and the Barnes General Hospital in Missouri. In February 1946, he returned to the Philippines together with the Quezon family. But by then, the peasant revolution and agrarian unrest had replaced the horrors of the past war, and Arayat, his old hometown, was not spared of the violence.

He had entertained the idea of starting anew in Arayat and resuming his practice, but he had no choice but to go to safer grounds. Meding—as well as his siblings--uprooted themselves from Arayat to settle in Manila, building safe havens for their families in Sta. Mesa Heights, Quezon City. What was left of the Cruz land holdings were distributed to their tenants under Marcos’s land reform program.

Near the end of his life, the good doctor would wax nostalgic about his old hometown. He passed away in 1978. Today, a government hospital stands in Arayat—the Dr. Emigdio C. Cruz Medical Center--named after the decorated physician-patriot who played a pivotal part in the wartime history of the country with his gallantry in action and courage that knew no bounds.


ONCE A PRIEST. Fr. Jose Dayrit left the priesthood to marry and raise a family, leaving his Kapampangan community in turmoil. He became a researcher and a college dean after turning his back on his profession. This picture is from his Sapangbato days where he served as a chaplain. Ca. 1936.

The post-religious life of Fr. Jose Cunanan Dayrit is no different to the experience of many former priests who left their holy vocations and struggled to get back into mainstream society. While there are many reasons for leaving priesthood—disillusionment, internal squabbles, inability to live by the rules, human frailty (especially when it comes to matters of the heart), such rude awakenings are often met with disapproval by a harsh and judgmental community, leaving former priests stigmatized as they try to fit back in.

Jose was born on 12 September 1908, the youngest son of Eligio Dayrit and Eduviges Cunanan. The Dayrits were an enterprising family—Eligio’s brother, Felipe, was the first pharmaceutical chemist of Mabalacat town. Jose shared this brilliance, and after finishing his early studies in the local schools, he heard his religious calling. A month before turning 15, Jose entered San Jose Seminary on 12 August 1923. As a seminarian, he excelled in his studies and became a full-fledged priest on 5 April 1935, earning the distinction as the first ordained priest from Mabalacat.

Fr. Dayrit was first assigned to Sapang Bato, which was close by the military camp and which already had a thriving populace. He served the Holy Cross Parish from 1936-41. For convenience, he was likewise assigned as a chaplain of Fort Stotsenburg. He next move to the Immaculate Conception Church in Guagua, where he finished a one year term (1938-39). Even if his stay in the parish was only for a short span of time he was also well loved because he was regarded as a kind and good priest.

In 1937, Fr. Dayrit’s shining moment happened in that 33rd International Eucharistic Congress held in Manila—a first for Asia. The more popular events were the Philippine sectional meetings officiated by regional leaders. The meetings for Pampanga delegates were conducted at the San Agustin Church in Intramuros, and Fr. Jose C. Dayrit of Sapangbato was chosen as one of the speakers during the 2-day gathering together with Rev. Frs. Jose Pamintuan (Sampaloc) , Cosme Bituin (Guagua), Vicente de la Cruz (Mexico) and Esteban David (Minalin)

But alas, a bitter feud with his Bishop ensued—a disagreement that must have been so painful and profound so as to cause him to resign from priesthood. Fr. Dayrit found himself fallen from grace, so he retreated to Manila and never looked back, to pick up the pieces of a shattered life and start anew.

Calling on his entrepreneurial skills, he opened and operated Malayan Restaurant on busy Raon St. (now Gonzalo Puyat St.) near Avenida. It was while working here that he met Maria Paras, a kabalen from Angeles. After a short courtship, Fr. Jose Dayrit married Maria who gave him three children.

Fortune dealt him a cruel blow as the children came one by one. His food business was not enough to support his family though. He accepted a job at the Southern Luzon Colleges in Naga City and became the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. There, his new-found career blossomed, and he put to good use his gift of language (he knew Latin, Greek and Spanish) by translating Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere into Kapampangan (“E Mu Ku Tagkilan”). For the rest of his life, he would embark on exhaustive researches at the National Library and continued his passion for writing.

When Fr. Jose Dayrit finally died in the 60s, he was almost ignored by his town—only a handful attended his wake held at Our Lady of Grace, the main church of Mabalacat. But surely, that would not have mattered to him; it is the triumph of the human spirit despite adversities that will long be remembered and rewarded not by Man but by His Maker.

Monday, May 9, 2011


WHEN IN PAMPANGA, DO AS AETAS DO. Aetas at Stotsenburg show how to cook horse meat before an observant American soldier. The hardy natives were looked at by Americans as masters of jungle survival and in the 60s, many were employed to mentor the U.S. military on jungle survival technqiues. Ca. 1915.

To Spanish colonizers, the hardy Aetas (or Negritos) were objects of disdain for their stubborn resistance to the new religion. For their refusal to be Christianized, they were branded as “uncivilized savages”, without use or purpose, and no attempt was made to protect the tribes who were among the first to inhabit the Islands. Hence, the Aetas were pushed back to the wilds, living by hunting and foraging, never to be integrated with Christian lowlanders.

The coming of the Americans, somehow, changed that perception. After all, when the first contingent of U.S. military arrived in Pampanga to found Camp Stotsenburg, the semi-nomadic Aetas quickly made their presence felt in the area and were determined to make the visitors’ stay comfortable—while making a few quick bucks. While Americans went about their daily grind, these Aetas would quietly make the rounds of the houses, peddling exotic air plants (orchids), root crops, animals and souvenir native weapons to their families.

Many Americans, however, found the Aetas a fascinating people, equipped with unique skills and capable of embracing change. In the first ever census conducted in the Philippines in 1903, 35 Negritos living in Pampanga and Tarlac were described as ‘civilized’, from a total of 6,000 ‘wild’ ones. Then, at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, two Negritos, Basilio and Sayas, astounded a mixed international and American crowd by finishing 1-2 in the Pole Climbing competition during the “Anthropological Days Contest”—part of the Olympic Games of 1904.

Americans in Stotsenburg shared this positive interest for these generally good-natured tribes. At least one commanding general, Gen. Johnson Hagood, who served the camp in 1922, showed real concern for the Aetas’s welfare, for he was of the belief that the local Filipino government had nothing for them to uplift their lives. As such, all throughout the 1920s, the U.S. government granted them reservations where they could go about their lives peacefully, protected from abuses. (In the 1970s however, during the term of Col. William Truesdell, Aetas were threatening to overrun Clark Field, with their on-base ‘Negrito village’ and makeshift tiangge-style stalls. Macapagal and Marcos Village, two barangays of Mabalacat, started as ‘Negrito villages’ ).

Such good relationship fostered many benefits for both sides. Negritos found gainful employment, and later, were given access to food and free medical services. On the other hand, Americans hired the ever-willing Negritos as hunting assistants, errand and cargo boys and even posers for souvenir photographs. Early on, the Negritos’ mastery of the jungle was acknowledged by the Americans, and their skills for jungle survival were soon harnessed by the U. S. military, most specially during the Vietnam War.

It took the Pacific Air Forces (PACAF), to tap the abilities of the Aetas in leading the secret training of military soldiers. In the early 1960s, as communist military strength grew in Vietnam, the PACAF began to beef up its forces not only with better munitions but also training and readiness. Hence, the PACAF Jungle School, under Maj. Ewing, was set up at Clark Air Base to prepare air crew members for their Vietnam assignment and to help banish the fear of jungle. This program would help save the lives of many American pilots shot down in the hinterlands of Southeast Asia.

Before their ‘students’, Aetas demonstrated such a wide variety of lessons as loading and shooting a primitive crossbow. They also showed the military how to identify species of poisonous snakes and crocodiles, often letting them pet slithering snakes like pythons to overcome their fear. They also gave instructions on how to make traps and tent-style animal snares.

For the Aetas, the bamboo can be a critical tool for survival. A piece of bamboo can help one start a fire and cook a decent meal. It also has a thousand and one uses—as a utensil, a carry-all, a rice cooker. This cooking technique, called “binulu” (from ‘bulu’, a bamboo specie), entails stuffing uncooked rice (abias) and adding a cup of water into a ‘bulu’. For the rice to cook, the bulu is placed over a bamboo-created fire. If desired, tomatoes, kamias, onions, garlic, fish or meat could be added to make for a more filling meal.

To build a fire, one needs a bamboo piece split in the middle. A small hole is cut on one side where a rounded stick can be driven. Friction is created by rubbing the stick between palms while blowing on it gently, until wood shavings or dry bamboo leaves spread around it, catches fire.

Drinking water can be collected using funnel-shaped leaves and certain stalks of plants, when cut, can yield potable drinking water. All these valuable jungle survival lessons—and more—were learned in the PACAF school, thanks largely to the Aetas who ably mentored the military from the 1960s through the 80s.

Today, the program has been adapted for contemporary use—mainly, to entertain adventure-loving and nature-tripping tourists and mountaineers. In Subic, the Ocean Adventure offer such a show, where native Aetas continue to demonstrate the aforementioned jungle-survival techniques. There are mountain treks, through forests and canyons, guided by Aetas who are always quick to point out the name of an insect, a tree, a forgotten trail, along the way. The Aetas may have learned to survive in the wilds, but in the face of modernity and relentless change, he still struggles to find his identity and his rightful place in Philippine society, that has for centuries, continue to neglect his race.