Wednesday, October 5, 2011

*269. Macabebe's Man for All Seasons: LEONARDO V. LILLES

LILLES OF THE FIELD. Leonardo Valdes Lilles with second wife Graciana Engracia del Rosario, was a successful agricultural engineer, landowner, businessman and town leader of Macabebe.

Engineer, politician, agriculturist, businessman, revolucionario--Leonardo Valdes Lilles is all that—a Kapampangan visionary who wore many hats and played many roles, all in the name of community service and for his beloved town, Macabebe.

He was born on 11 April 1877, the unico hijo of Remigio Lilles and Leodegaria Valdes, the second child in a brood of five that also included his sisters Felisa, Margarita, Florencia and Laurentina.

“Ando”, as he was called, went to Ateneo de Manila (1886-87) and then to San Juan de Letran for his high school. He then enrolled at the University of Sto. Tomas in 1894 to take up agriculture from 1894-96. The course was a natural choice for Ando as the Lilles family had vast farmlands from where they derived their livelihood. As the only son, Ando was expected to continue the family’s agricultural tradition that had given them wealth, comfort and status in Pampanga society.

The Revolution however, briefly intervened and Ando was quick to support the cause, one of the first Macabebes to do so. His first act was to resist Col. Blanco and to join the local revolutionary government. He was elected member of the Committee of Fund Drive (Comite Reandador de Fondos), together with Capt. Mariano Talag, Capt. Felipe Bustos, and town cabeza Cirilo Musni.

When conditions stabilized, Ando was sent off by his parents to England, where he enrolled at the University of London to finish his Agricultural Engineering (Ingeniero Agricola) course . While there, he also became an esteemed member of the “Agriculture Club” of England. Ando could have stayed in Europe but he decided to go home and pursue his career as an agriculturist. From 1905 to the late 30s, he worked an managed their landholdings in Lubao, Macabebe and Masantol. “Ing pamagtiaga yang dalarayan ning pamagwagi”(Patience is the way to success), was the motto he lived by, and slowly but surely, Ando steered his family enterprise to greater heights.

With a secure future, Ando decided to share his time and services with his fellow Macabebes. In 1911, he ran as an independent for the position of a councilor. He won a slot and became a consejal (councilor) for the next 12 years, despite not having a party affiliation. He had always ran as an independent because he could not bear to ‘play politics’.

Ando now had everything—except a family. He found true love in Olivia Limson, a kabalen, whom he married in December 1915. The couple, however, were childless. Adding to his sorrow was Olivia’s untimely death in 1919—they were just together for 4 short years. Undaunted, he devoted the next few years to public service. As a councilor of Guagua, he was one of those who donated Php100 for the salaries of teachers so that the Intermediaria Guagua (Guagua’s Intermediate School) could run and operate, under the tenure of Mayor Felipe Simpao. Ando also supported the construction of the public market and even participated in drawing up the plans.

On April 1922, Ando married for the second time to Graciana Engracia del Rosario (b. 18 December 1886) of Guagua. This time, the union produced three offsprings: Leodegaria, Remigio and Renato. (Note: Leodegaria married Rodolfo Tioseco. Their son, Leonardo, is the father of Alexis Tioseco, the noted film critic who was murdered together with his Slovenian girlfriend Nika Bohinc on 1 September 2009. Alexis is interred in Angeles City)

The best years of his followed after; he left politics to help raise his family and grow his business. He would divide his time between Manila and Macabebe, until his death on 27 February 1951. His wife, Engracia, outlived him for 12 years, passing away on 5 March 1963. Leonardo Lilles left behind a legacy of good governance and public service, guided by this precept that he subscribed in and which he evidently took to heart: “Ing catapatan o calinisan qng sablang tratus yang babie catimawan at catajimican qng tau”(Loyalty and fairness in all dealings is what gives prosperity and peace to people).

*268. My Teachers' Yearbook: TERRY SANGUYU & PAULA SUEMURA

Like most Mabalacat kids, my early learning years were spent in the town’s largest public school—the Mabalacat Elementary School. It was located right next to the municipio, at the side of the big church, a typical Gabaldon building of concrete, slightly elevated, with large swinging capiz windows and wooden flooring. Beginning at age 6, I went to my classes here along with 30 or so classmates, our education and character molded by a series of teachers who left varying degrees of impressions on our young minds.

My first grade teacher was an oldish but kindly schoolma’arm named Madam Gomez, whose first name I have forgotten. My second grade teacher was even older, Mrs. Roberta de la Cruz by name. The next year, I made it to the elite special class supervised by the very animated Mrs. Salud Manarang; there was never an idle moment with her. About this time, I became more aware of how special our instructors were. My Grade 4 teacher was a young graduate of Normal School, Miss Angelita Dayrit, who was my every idea of how a smart, sophisticated and modern teacher should be.

When it came down to my last two years at M.E.S., I was determined to make it to the classes of the school’s most popular teachers who both had great reputations for being progressive and effective educators—Mrs. Paula (Suemura) Alfaro and Mrs. Eleuteria (Sanguyu) Paquia, class advisers of the top sections of Grade 5 and 6 respectively. Sure enough, I was privileged to be a student of these two teachers who proved to be the most influential in my course and career direction.

I didn’t realize that my teachers were batchmates at then Holy Angel Academy (now University) in Angeles, Pampanga, from the Class of 1959 as their yearbook shows. Holy Angel, then and now, was a leading educational institution founded by Don Juan D. Nepomuceno and Fr. Pedro Santos—they were still personally involved in the affairs of the school in the 50s. Many high school graduates from Mabalacat pursued their college studies there, as the fees were affordable and the quality of education, very high.

Back in 1959, Mrs. Alfaro was still unmarried at 28, and was still known as Paula Suemura y Madlangbayan. Her yearbook described her thus: "Her friends call her Poling and her co-teachers call her 'Sayonara'. Her friendly attitude has made her win for herself many friends and her sweet smiles have magnetized many men".
She had Japanese ancestry, I think her father was a Japanese from Okinawa, and this was apparent in her flawless Oriental complexion--one classmate even likened her to a Japanese doll. She also walked with a bit more energy as she went from class to class. She was not as expressive as other teachers but one memory of her still remains vivid to me to this day. In 1967, she lost her young son to some disease and I recall the whole class going to the funeral wake and seeing her inconsolably crying with grief-- I had never seen such an outpouring of profound sorrow from her before.

We’ve always addressed Mrs. Eleuteria Paquia as “Madam”, so it was a surprise to know that in college, she had a thoroughly modern nickname—“Terry” and that her maiden name was "Sanguyu". A cum laude graduate, "Terry is patient and industrious. In addition to her particular stocks, she is gifted with natural curly air and academic talents".
I remember her as a big, dark woman with a trademark mole—a Mother Earth of some sorts, who had beautiful penmanship and who spoke English with a perfect diction, enunciating each word with clarity unlike any other. Naturally, English became my favorite subject, but she also taught Social Studies with much facility. When she became Mrs. Paquia, we often times chanted her name in secret games—“Misis Paquia, Misispak ya" (she is cracking).

I lost track of my two “Madams’ after our graduation, and I have not seen them since. I would, however, hear occasional news about them; I knew for instance, that Mrs. Alfaro became a school administrator of Mabalacat South District and then went to the U.S. Mrs. Paquia, I think, taught all her life, tutoring even my younger siblings in the years that followed. Sadly, I would hear of her passing in the 90s.

Looking back now, the best part of going to school in the 60s was not just exploring new worlds and meeting new friends, but also sitting in the classes of Mrs. Alfaro and Mrs. Paquia, and literally learning from their knees. But in 1959, in those simpler, gentler times, they were young and eager women freshly graduated from college, about to embark on a lifelong journey that would see them become our second parents, teaching with patience, mentoring with compassion while ennobling their chosen profession.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

*267. LET'S EAT OUT!

PARTY PEOPLE. A party reception held at the nationally popular Carbungco Restaurant which was ran and managed by a Kapampangan, Ambrosio Carbungco of Floridablanca. Dated 30 April 1947.

Kapampangans’ love for food is so much evident in the many creative dishes that have found national approval and acceptance. This has paved the way for the establishment of commercial eating places and restaurants all over the province and even in the city of Manila, founded by enterprising Kapampangans who have parlayed their love for cooking into profitable businesses, long before fastfoods became the standard of a typical Filipino dining out experience.

Pre-war restaurants ran by Kapampangans include the famous Carbungco Restaurant. It was put up by Ambrosio Carbungco of Floridablanca, a former chef of Casino Español. It had a branch in Manila as well as in Antipolo, where the restaurant became a favorite stop of local tourists. Carbungco Restaurant also took city and provincial orders for banquets, picnics and weddings, offering prompt and efficient service every time.

Opposite Cine Palace along Ronquillo St. in Manila, one could drop by for a quick chow at Panciteria Ramon Lee. Lee, who hails from Sta. Ana put up his noodle restaurant which he touted as “the place where all friends meet friends”. The Panciteria was well known for its best-tasting, economically-priced Chinese dishes, whipped up under the supervision of an expert Cantonese cook and most economical prices. Lee also handled the catering of banquets and lauriat parties, served either outside or within city limits.

At nearby Sta. Cruz, at 1726 Azcarraga St. (Recto) was another favorite haunt of foodies ran by a Kapampangan proprietor, Gregoria Villanueva of Sasmuan. Star Restaurant, so named because it was just across Cine Star, took pride of its all-Filipino origins, in the face of American-ran diners like Dixie’s and Plaza Lunch. Its advertisement proclaimed: “Bandi yang Filipino, pamañgan bale, Malinis, Maniaman at Mura. Subucan ye”.

San Fernando, being the province’s capital town, was the hub of the best eating places where whole families can go out and have their fill of their favorite dishes and snacks. There were excellent roadside restaurants that one could visit, like the Panaderia y Panciteria of Andrea David de Nuqui strategically located near the railroad station. Nuqui’s unique carinderia also housed a sari-sari store as well as a beauty parlor, which promised “courteous service, excellent cuisine at moderate charges”. In 1933, Nuqui bagged its biggest commission yet, by becoming the official caterer of the 1st Pampanga Carnival Fair and Exposition. Also around the town were smaller popular haunts like the Carinderia, Cafeteria y Panciteria of Emerenciana Dizon, located at Felix del Pulgar St. and Magnolia Rendezvous.

The war slowed down the country’s restaurant businesses, but in the years of rebuilding, many more restaurants started sprouting again all over Pampanga. Still existing today is Everybody’s Café, which started as a 2-table affair put up by couple Benito and Carmen Santos on Consunji. The cafeteria was a hit among Americans as well as the locals, and in 1965, it opened a more spacious branch at Del Pilar. It now also has a branch in Angeles City, serving the same sumptuous dishes like paku salad, betute, buru, kare-kare, bulalo and sisig it has become famous for.

In Angeles, the only pre-war bar that was still in existence in the 1950s was the Star Bar along Henson St., which featured orchestra music. But like Esquire Club (put up by Paz Pamintuan and husband Frank Von Heiland), Star Bar catered more to adults and American servicemen from Clark. Family-oriented restaurants included Dely’s Kiosk, Selecta Café (both on Rizal St.), San Miguel Canteen (beside Pat Theater), Esting's Cafe (at the side of Marte Theater), Angeles Jaycee Canteen (on Plaridel St.) and Hi-Way Kiosk, the last two, both managed by Mrs. Gloria Tinio. Another popular spot was Spic ‘n Span, “The Symbol of Satisfaction”, famous for its excellent food at reasonable prices. Spic ‘n Span, located in Balibago, accepted professional catering of banquets, club meetings and private dinners.

Today, Kapampangan eateries are finding stiff competition from quick-service restaurants and international fast food chains. But it is heartening to know that once hole-in-the-wall Kapampangan establishments like Razon’s, Kabigting’s and Nathaniel’s---are doing well despite the coming of these giant burger-and-fries joints. Bright lights, fun giveaways, adorable mascots may give these stores initial appeal, but in the end, there’s nothing like familiar, home-cooked meals prepared and served the Kapampangan way to comfort a hungry tummy. That certainly is the best part of eating out!