Sunday, July 3, 2011

*256. Pampanga Towns: APALIT

APLIT APALIT! An Apalit Garden Day booth for a local provincial fair, showcasing the town's famous products--including its well-known woven buri hats. Ca. 1926.

In the pre-Expressway days, Apalit seemed like a faraway place, especially to one who grew up in the northernmost town of Pampanga. Like Mabalacat, Apalit is a bordertown located south of the province, next to Calumpit, Bulacan. I remember stopovers at this rustic, old town en route to Manila in the late 60s, to buy pasalubongs like espasol and putu seco--native delicacies which Apalit was famous for—sold alongside blades, knives, bolos, metal garden and farm implements.

Nowadays, the native pasalubongs are harder to find, but the blacksmith industry is still very much around, evident in the foundry shops that sell all sorts of metalware, blades and knives being the most popular. It is a legacy left behind by an early metalsmith from Barrio Capalangan of this town—Pande Pira—the first known Filipino maker of cannons (lantakas) who, because of his talent, was employed by Gov. Gen. Miguel Lopez de Legaspi.

But before earning a reputation for its excellent smiths, the place was known for its lush forests of apalit trees—enormous Philippine hardwood trees of the narra family that became the landmark for traders and visitors who regularly visited the settlement along the banks of Rio Grande de la Pampanga.

The town counts many pre-colonial founders including the great Malangsic, who, together with his nephews Tawi and Pangpalong (or Macapagal) established Sulipan and Capalangan, as recorded in the Balagtas Will. Also recognized are Capitañgan, elder brother of Tawi and Pangpalung and husband of Lady Bayinda and a certain Agustin Mañgaya in the 16th century. So strategically located was Apalit that it was one of the 11 most important communities of Pampanga by the 16th century, its relative prosperity fueled by the riverine trade and commerce.

It was in 1582, however, that Apalit was formally established by the Spaniards as a Pampanga municipality during the term of Gov. Gen. Gonzalo Ronquillo de Penalosa. It was composed of just four encomiendas then: Apali (Pale), La Castilla (Poblacion), Cabambangan and Capalangan. The early settlers included the Samontes, Candas, Catus, Cortezes, Vergaras and the Yangas.

The Apalit Parish was created in 1597 with Fr. Perdo de Vergara as its first prior. But it was Fr. Juan Cabello who constructed the church in 1641. The annual fiesta days marked by a fluvial parade for patron "Apu Iru” was begun by Capitan Pedro Armayan Espiritu in 1844. The church was destroyed by an earthquake in 1863, but it was rebuilt by Fr. Antonio Redondo from 1876-83, with materials and services donated mostly by the generous Apaliteños.

Apalit’s history is replete with many memorable events and personalities that rivaled those of imperial Manila. Puerto Sulipan, for instance, was the place to be during the time of Capitan Joaquin Arnedo-Cruz and his cultured wife, Dona Maria de la Paz Sioco. Their magnificent home was the venue for high society parties, attended by the country’s who’s who. The Arnedos even hosted a banquet for Grand Duke Alexis of Russia. The opulence of the feast and the sophistication of his Kapampangan guests left the international royalty amazed. No wonder that Sulipan is known for having the best culinary connoisseurs of the province.

At the height of the Philippine Revolution, Apaliteños, led by the Arnedos, offered refuge and aid to passing Katipuneros in pursuit of the retreating Spanish forces. The town, however, fell to the Americans on 27 April 1898. During the American rule, the boundaries of Apalit were revised in 1920; some sections of land were given back to San Simon, thus decreasing its area.

Through the years, the achievements of the sons and daughters of Apalit have further enriched Pampanga’s hallowed history. The names include: Don Macario Arnedo, son of Capt. Joaquin and a four-time governor of Pampanga, business magnate Don Ernesto Escaler, industrialist and PASUDECO co-founder Atty. Augusto Sioco Gonzales, Malolos Congress representative Dr. Joaquin Gonzales, distinguished anthropologist Dr. Ricardo E. Galang, educators Bienvenido M. Gonzales, Bro. Andrew Gonzales and Bishop Federico Escaler SJ, Amb. Hermenigildo B. Garcia, WW II patriot Col. Ricardo Galang, former Q.C. mayor Adelina Galang Santos de Rodriguez, top bank executive Dominador Pangilinan, Central Bank governor Amando Tetangco, Jr. , outstanding physician, Dr. Antonio Quiroz, Movie-radio personalities Bert Leroy and Orly Punsalan, culinary master and SEA Games Gold Medalist Gene Gonzales, master carver Nick Lugue and Philippine Military Academy 2011 topnotcher Edward Angelo Buan Parras, among others.

Today, the town of Apalit is comprised of 12 barangays: Balucuc, Calantipe, Cansinala, Capalangan, Colgante, Paligui, Sampaloc, San Juan Nepmuceno (Poblacion), San Vicente, Sucad, Sulipan, Tabuyuc (Santo Rosario), Sampaga and Alauli, and is home to over 100,000 people. The community boasts of a dozen or so banking institutions, shopping malls, restaurants, modern residential villages, oil refineries and a large fuel depot, flourishing side by side with its traditional farming, fishing and local industries.

Not even the problems wrought by the Pinatubo eruption could slow down the pace of progress of this once ancient town—now seemingly quicker, livelier. “Aplit…Apalit!”, is the town’s battlecry—nothing could be more apt for a border town in a rush to take its place among Pampanga’s finest communities.

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