Tuesday, August 30, 2011

*266. EMILIANO J. VALDES, Kapampangan Philanthropist

ONE IN A MILIONG . Mabalacat-born Emiliano "Miliong" J. Valdes, Kapampangan businessman, landowner and philanthropist. When he passed away, his descendants donated the land on where the Emiliano J. Valdes Memorial TB Pavilion was built.

The generous Kapampangan philanthropist who gave his name as well as financial donation to fund Pampanga’s leading TB hospital was born in Mabalacat, to parents Francisca Valdes and Cenon de Jesus on 5 January 1873. “Miliong” was baptized in the same town as “Emiliano de Jesus”, but for some reason, he took on his mother’s last name, a tradition that was followed by his female siblings (Agripina, Maria Salome and Agueda). His two older brothers, Sisenando and Pedro used De Jesus as their surnames.

Miliong married Macabebe-born Eusebia Garcia Hernandez (b. 29 October 1876) and the couple settled in Culiat (Angeles) along Plaridel St. where they built a grand mansion with a spacious front lawn in 1936. By then, Miliong’s business in real estate had grown and prospered, more than enough to live a life of comfort for themselves and their large family of 10 children: Luz, Jose, Salud, Socorro, Francisco, Emilio, Lorenzo, Augusto, Remedios and Africa. They Valdeses had barely enjoyed their new house when Eusebia died in Angeles on 20 September 1936.

To forget his loss, Miliong focused his energy on growing his business, and not even the war years could dampen his enterprising drive. His house, however, was commandeered by the Japanese and turned it into a military headquarter. Perhaps to forget the sad events that transpired in his Angeles residence, he sold the house and lot after the war, and the space has since become a commercial area.

Miliong died on 28 August 1953, but not before leaving behind funds and resources for his philanthropic pursuits. His heirs donated 5 hectares of land as well as Php 75,000.00 for the construction of a TB Pavilion in Angeles in 1972. Turberculosis had always been a prevalent disease that plague Filipinos for decades, and it was hoped that the Emiliano J. Valdes Memorial TB Pavilion would alleviate the conditions of Kapampangans as well as Filipinos afflicted with the dreaded disease. An Anti-TB postage stamp was even issued to commemorate the construction of the state-of-the-art hospital building.

Sadly, the TB Pavilion closed its doors in the 80s with the successful control of tuberculosis, but for a decade or so, the TB Pavilion stood as a tangible testament to the kind and generous spirit of one Kapampangan man who believed in sharing the fruits of his success: Emiliano J. Valdes.


SOUVENIR SNAP WITH THE GENERAL. The stately grounds of the Pampanga Capitol in San Fernando is favorite stop of local tourists as seen from this picture. The tour group pose before the statue of Kapampangan revolucionario, Gen. Maximino Hizon. The statue still stands today at the Arnedo Park. Ca. 1938.

The original provincial Capitol grounds of Pampanga in San Fernando covered an area of about 12 hectares. The Capitol was erected in 1907-1908, during the administration of Governor Macario Arnedo and no expenses were spared from making the seat of the local government, truly an attractive tourist attraction in itself.

The expansive grounds are lush with landscaping, planted with mango and acacia trees, shrubs and flowering plants. The wooded area was named Silva Park, after the late provincial treasurer of Pampanga, Isabelo de Silva, who led in the drive to beautify the Capitol surroundings.

When the age of electricity reached the province, the major lanes and walkways were lined and lit with Doric-style electric lamps; a radio system was installed to entertain the visiting public.

One of the earliest structures stands in front of the Capitol Building—a stately statue of Gen. Maximino Hizon of Mexico , the highest ranking Kapampangan officer in the revolutionary army. He distinguished himself in many battles against the Spanish and American forces during the Philippine Revoution. Captured by Americans in June 1900, he was exiled to Guam together with other war leaders on 7 January 1901 and died there on 1 Sept. 1901. The patriot is depicted in full uniform, astride a handsome steed. The statue was installed in 1919, a donation of the Kapampangan people and the provincial government. As this picture shows, the monument was favorite ‘photo opportunity’ spot for many local visitors.

In 1929, an additional attraction—the Provincial Zoological Garden—was established, featuring a rare collection of caged exotic birds and rare animals for the public to enjoy. Tourists would even stop by Pampanga to view the mini-zoo en route to Baguio. The garden complemented the several tennis courts, the bandstand or glorietta, the clubhouse and the park benches.

When San Fernando played host to the biggest spectacle of the province in 1933, the Capitol Grounds became the venue for the Pampanga Carnival Fair and Exposition. The Carnival was meant to promote Pampanga as the richest market outside of Manila, with rich limitless agricultural, commercial and industrial possibilities. Pavilions of the 21 towns of Pampanga were put up, featuring the best and finest products of each community. The fair was capped with the election of Miss Pampanga.

Visitors from all over the country left the province very much impressed after having seen the events as well as the impressive venue. After the Carnival, a Rizal Memorial Forum was erected at the site of the provincial fair, at a cost of Php 18,000.

Most of these points of interest are long gone from the Provincial Capitol grounds—some destroyed by the War, others by overzealous reconstruction and expansion projects. Only the Hizon Monument at the Arnedo Park remains, now nearly a century-old, a mute witness to the scenic wonder of the place, that once marked the hallowed grounds of Pampanga’s Provincial Capitol.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

*264. '60s Singing Star: HELEN ALVENT GAMBOA of Sta. Ana

SHING-ALING SINGING STAR, Helen Gamboa of Sta. Ana jumpstarted her showbiz career by joining a beauty pageant where she placed 2nd. She went on to become one of the most popular stars of the Shindig Age, appearing in movies and recording her own cover versions of international hit songs. This autographed fan photo of Helen dates from 1967.

Helen Gamboa, one of the most popular, multi-facetted celebrities from the 60s, hails from the town of Sta. Ana. She first made a name for herself as a beauty queen, then became a singer of note, joined the movie bandwagon and became an icon of the ‘shing-aling’ decade.

Born on 7 May 1946, Helen came from a talented family that included big sister, Elaine, also a budding beauty who had been a finalist in the 1955 quest for Miss Philippines to the fledgling Miss Universe Contest. Inspired by her sister, the 5'6", 15 year old Liberal Arts student from Sta. Isabel college student enlisted for the 1961 Miss Press Photography of the Philippines (Miss PPP), then a prestigious beauty search conceived by an association of renown Philippine photographers. Previous winners like Mila Ocampo and Edita Vital had used the contest as a springboard to greater fame in Philippine movies. Helen surprised everyone by placing second to favorite Cynthia Ugalde.

Helen was swamped with movie offers after that, and she chose to do a movie with Larry Santiago Productions. She was introduced in “Gorio and his Jeepney “ with Chiquito in 1962, based on a hit comic strip drawn by Larry Alcala for Manila Times. Directed by Pablo Santiago, the movie was an instant hit and Helen was on her way. She followed this up with “Hugo, the Sidewalk Vendors” (with Bering Labra) and “Sakay and Moy” (with Oscar Obligacion and Cris de Vera), whose main characters were drawn from Philippine ‘komiks’. From her initial PhP 1,000 talent fee, she commanded Php 40,000 in her next films, a princely sum in the mid '60s.

She starred with almost all the leading men ‘hotties’ in those times—from Fernando Poe Jr. (Kumander Fidela, 1964), Joseph Estrada (Bantay Salakay, 1966) and Romeo Vasquez (Doble Trece, 1967). But Helen would find enduring success with her ‘now generation’ movie musicals that showcased her singing and dancing talents to the hilt—Let’s Go, DJ Dance Time, Top Tunes, The Nite Owl Dance Party (1964), Shing-aling-a-loo, Mash ‘K Pops, Operation: Discothèque (1967), Bang-shang-a-lang, Boogaloo, Let's Go Hippie (1968) and Grind, Grind (1969).

Her recordings also hit the local billboard charts, and her debut album with Jonal records produced the monster hit, “Together Again”. She did successful covers of the songs of Petula Clark (“Kiss Me Goodbye"), Lulu (“I’m A Tiger"), Mary Hopkins (“Those Were the Days”) and Jeannie C. Riley (“Harper Valley PTA”).

Her showbiz career was cut short when she eloped with Tito Sotto ( Vicente Castelo Sotto III), who was a band leader of the very popular combo, Tilt Down Men. Tito was the grandson and grandnephew of two senators, Vicente Y. Sotto and Filemon Sotto. He would go on to follow their footsteps and become a senator himself after a successful music career.

Nevertheless, Helen continued to appear in carefully selected projects on TV, hosting Eat Bulaga, and Lovingly Yours, Helen, after the demise of Helen Vela. She also pursued her recording career with RCA Victor International, where she did covers under the name Bunny Chanel. Helen has been a FAMAS Best Supporting Actress nominee for “Kailan Mahuhugasan ang Kasalanan” (1989) and has won an Urian Best Actress Award for “Unsung Heroine” (1996). Today, she plays a bigger role as the wife of a Philippine senator, mother of Romina Frances, Diorella Maria, Gian Carlo and Ciara Anna and grandmother to Romino and Victorio.

Monday, August 8, 2011


A FAMILY TRAGEDY. Ingkung Pedro Morales as a young lawyer. He and most of his family members were killed during the liberation of Manila, saved for Esmeralda who left war-torn Ermita and fled to Dimasalang with her husband.

The Moraleses, from which my father descended, are not exactly a large family. The patriarch, Quentin Tuazon Morales (b. 1856/d.1928), had five children with Paula Cosme Guzman: Clotilde, Maria, Pedro, Patricia (my father’s mother) and Rafael. I barely knew this side of the family, as my Apung Tiri (Patricia) passed away long before I was born. Saved for Ingkung Paeng (Rafael) whose house we looked after in Mabalacat, I cannot recall ever meeting the rest of my granduncles and grand aunts. But every now and then, when my father and his siblings would reminisce about the years gone by, they would talk about the tragic death of their uncle, Pedro, whose family was nearly wiped out in the second World War.

Pedro Morales or Ingkung Pedro was born on 22 February 1886, a middle child, and the firstborn son of Quintin and Paula after two girls. He grew up in Poblacion, where his father was the teniente mayor, and attended local schools in Mabalacat. When he came of college age, he went to Manila and enrolled at the Escuela de Derecho, then a leading law school of the Philippines favored by many brilliant and patriotic Filipinos who wanted to become legal luminaries (his youngest brother Rafael, would follow in his footsteps and finished Ll.B in the same school too). After passing the bar, the young lawyer went back to his hometown to practice, and became a well-known notary public.

As his father had various business holdings, the dutiful Pedro took charge of the legal requirements of the family enterprises. Upon the death of his father in 1928, he also prepared all the legal documents pertaining to his father’s will that called for the equitable distribution of his parcels of land among his 5 surviving children. There was even a case that he took on for his elder sister Maria Morales-Concepcion, in which he went in pursuit of two people who had paid his sister with counterfeit money after buying some cigarettes and corned beef from her store. Determined to teach them a lesson, he hauled them to court where they were eventually prosecuted in the Court of the First Instance of Pampanga in December 1933.

Pedro wooed and won the hand of Magdalena “Elena” Hizon of Porac, also a middle child, daughter of Florentino Singian Hizon and Juana Henson. For her bride, he had a house designed and built by by the accomplished Kapampangan architect Fernando Ocampo y Hizon, now known as the “Father of Modern Philippine Architecture” who happened to be Elena’s first cousin. The art deco house was once an imposing presence in Mabiga, Mabalacat and merited a write-up in the Pampanga Social Register of 1936. Here, the couple raise their children: Esmeralda, Eliseo, Felicidad and the youngest, named after his father, Quintin Marcos.

As his legal career, so did his other business ventures. Pedro also became a successful sugar planter and businessman and became a stockholder of the National Life Insurance Company and Provident Insurance Company. All these would come to a tragic end in the dying days of the last world war. Ingkung Pedro and his family had evacuated his family in Manila, where they had a house along Indiana St. The rest of the Moraleses took refuge in Dimasalang.

During the infamous 1945 siege of Ermita, the Japanese went on a killing rampage in the area, while the pursuing Americans strafed the area with bombs. Ingkung Pedro perished along with his family--Elena, Eliseo, Felicidad, Quintin-- when a stray bomb directly hit his house, just another collateral damage of a cruel war. The only survivor was Esmeralda who was already married and living with her husband, Severino Madlangbayan at that time. She and Bebeng would go on to repopulate the decimated Morales family tree by producing 3 children--Teresita, Lourdes and Jose--who, happily, would have large families themselves.

*262. 1953 Mrs. Philippines: ESTRELLA OCAMPO LOPEZ of San Fernando

COVER GIRL. Estrella Ocampo Lopez of San Fernando, winner of the 1953 Mrs. Philippines quest launched by Weekly Woman's Magazine. She was crowned at the auditorium of the 1st Philippine International Fair, country's biggest post-war event in 1953.

The year 1953 began on an exciting note for the Philippines. On 1 February, the 1953 Philippines International Fair reeled off at the Luneta, a three-month celebration of 500 years of Philippine progress. The fair, a huge and daring enterprise never before attempted since the first Manila Carnival of 1908, was laid out at the Luneta featuring not only national government and provincial exhibits but also foreign pavilions.

Countries like Thailand, China Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Spain, Sweden, U.S. Korea, Italy, China and Belgium lent their participation. One highlight of the fair was the selection of the Miss Philippines who will serve as the welcome official of the fair. The 1st Miss Universe, Armi Kuusela, was invited to crown the eventual winner, Maria Cristina Galang of Tarlac.

The first international fair that sought to depict the Philippines as the “Gateway to the East” generated much interest and was covered extensively by media. One women’s magazine even dared to ride on the popularity of the Miss Philippines pageant by conducting its own beauty search, this time, for the fairest married Filipina of the land. The Weekly Women’s Magazine, a widely circulated female-oriented magazine invited its readers to send nominees to the said “WWM Mrs. Philippines Contest”, even as it issued a disclaimer reminding its readers that their contest should not be confused with the Miss Philippines search that was also being conducted at the same time.

Ballots were printed on the magazine worth 10 votes, which a reader could fill up with the name of her favored nominee and mailed back to the publication. The candidate receiving the most number of votes at the end of the contest—18 April 1953 to be exact—will be proclaimed as “Mrs. Philippines”.

The response to the contest was tremendous—after all, the grand prize was a modern house designed by Arch. Angel E. Nakpil, which was put on display at the International Fair. Hundreds of nominees from different provinces of the Philippines were received—including Pampanga, which had about 11 candidates by the end of the contest: Estrella Lopez, Carmen Alfonso, Teodora de Mesa, Providencia Ramos, Lucia Lavares, Gloria Mejia, Rosario Songco, Adoracion Nicolas, Marcelina Valencia, Julia Escobar and Vicenta Nicdao. Married women of all sorts—movie celebrities, former beauty queens, lawyers, teachers, housekeepers—made the final list of nominees.

When the first batch of votes were tallied, a Kapampangan matron from San Fernando surprised contest organizers by copping the top slot early in the contest. Mrs. Estrella Ocampo Lopez amassed 23,370 votes after the February tally, way ahead of second placer Lucia Garcia of Bacolod who had 14,120. Estrella was quickly hustled off to Manila so she could have her picture taken for the February 27 cover of the prestigious magazine. She solidified her lead after the May 20 counting, getting 113, 910 to Manila’s Nena Aragon who had 85, 820. Her campaign slowed down a bit after March—119,690 to Lucia Garcia, who regained her 2nd place position with 104, 690 total. Mrs. Lopez never surrendered her lead at the contest’s end in April, winning handily over such heavyweight candidates as former Miss Philippines 1937 Mrs. Chita Zaldarriaga Arnaiz, actresses Mrs. Tessie Quintana-Reyes and Mrs. Lilia Dizon-de Leon, society ladies Mrs. Purita Kalaw-Ledesma and Nora V. Daza and lawyer Corazon J. Agrava.

She not only won a house but also stainless kitchen tool set, a pressure cooker from Philippine Manufacturing Company, supplies of Palmolive soaps, Colgate toothpaste, a General Electric combination refrigerator-freezer, a terno from Madonna Fashion hop and a free hairdo from Realistic Beauty Salon—prizes that every accomplished missus would certainly love to have.

Mrs. Estrella Ocampo Lopez was officially crowned as the first ever “Mrs. Philippines” together with her court of honor—Mrs. Luzon, Mrs. Visayas and Mrs. Mindanao—at the Philippine International Fair Auditorium, the pride of Pampanga, and of the millions of happy Filipina homemakers all over the country.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

*261. Pampanga's Town: MAGALANG

MAGALANG TOWN PLAZA, with a commanding view of Mount Arayat. Magalang is one of Pampanga's oldest towns, and owes much of its growth and expansion from pioneering families like the Lucianos, Aquinos, Yumuls and Cruzes. Ca. 1950s.

Magalang is just a stone’s throw away from Mabalacat, my home town, yet, growing up, I knew very little of our next-door neighbor. Of course, silly me, I had presumed that the people of Magalang were a respectful lot, based on the name of the town alone. Then again, there are the ‘galang-galang’ bracelet biscuits that kids could wear and eat—maybe they were popular enough to give the town its name. I also recall reading Katoks Tayag book which made mention of a place called Magelang in Indonesia. I really wonder if there is a connection there.

In any case, one thing is certain—Magalang is one of the most ancient towns of Pampanga, established by the Augustinians in 1605 at the western side of majestic Mount Arayat, under the governorship of Pedro Bravo de Acuña. Its original site was a place called Macapsa, which was later transferred to San Bartolome. As early as 1660, Magalang was only one of 15 towns in the province to have an Augustinian church and convent to administer to the spiritual needs of the residents. Its first prior was Fr. Gonzalo de Salazar.

Early in its history, Magalang figured in some of the most tumultuous moments in the Kapampangan region. The armed rebellions of Francisco Maniago and that of the Pangasinense rebel Andres Malong, wrought havoc on the town in 1660 and 1734 respectively, causing the dispersal of the townfolks to various locations. There was also the great flood caused by the Parua River in May 1863 which necessitated the relocation of the town center.

First to move was the gobernadorcillo Pablo Luciano, who, together with his followers like the Cortezes and Davids, moved from San Bartolome to Barrio San Pedro or Talimundoc which became the new ‘poblacion’. The group brought with them the image of their patron, San Bartolome. Fr. Ramon Sarrionandia helepd in the transfer and gave the town its name, San Pedro de Magalang. Meanwhile, another group of families led by the Aquinos, Yumuls and Pinedas transferred to Barrio Matandoc, which they put under the advocation of the Immaculate Conception. Magalang expanded with the generous land donation of Don Cristobal Lacson, which included that occupied by the church of Magalang and the now-abandoned old municipal cemetery.

During the Philippine Revolution, Magalang was the site of the battle of Camansi that led to the annihilation of General Monet’s army by local revolucionarios that included Carlos Guiao and Candido Niceta. Under the American Regime, Magalang became a prosperous sugar and rice town. The Pampanga Agricultural College, established during the Spanish times at the foothills of Arayat, was revitalized and continues to be a highly regarded institution of agricultural learning to this day. The town’s society life flourished with the influx of wealth and several social clubs like Mountainside, were organized in the 1930s.

Today, Magalang has kept its old world charm amidst 21st century progress. Heritage houses line many of its streets. It continues to be famous for its sweet confections; the favorite pastillas de leche from this town are renowned for their unsurpassed creaminess made more delectable by carabao’s milk. Many inland fishponds, piggeries and poultry farms were moved to Magalang by small entrepreneurs following the Pinatubo eruption, infusing the town with much needed income and reinvigorating these small industries. Magalang may be ancient in age, but it has a youthful, can-do attitude in its pursuit of its goals, a forward-looking vision that continues to yield gains for its 27 barangays and their residents. For that, Magalang has certainly earned our respect.