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.

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