Wednesday, April 27, 2011

*247. BARS, BOOZE AND BABES: Off-Duty Pleasures of Stotsenburg

"ONE WHO CAN ALWAYS TELL WHEN PAYDAY IS COMING..". A Filipina stands ready to sell her charms to American military servicemen near Stotsenburg. Angeles. Ca. 1915.

For decades, especially in the 60s and 70s, Angeles was Pampanga’s “sin city”, a reputation bolstered by its honky-tonk atmosphere, its avenues lined with girlie bars and booze houses that catered to American servicemen stationed at Clark. En route to school from Mabalacat to Angeles, I would often pass through Balibago, lit with bright neon signs that spell come-on names like Cock and Bull, Pussy Galore, Thigh Hi alongside Las Vegas-inspired establishments like Copa Cabana, Stardust and Nina’s Papagayo.

Fields Avenue reflected a brasher, Wild, Wild West mood with its dizzying array of swanky bars, ‘dens of iniquities’, go-go-girls and ladies offering pleasures of the flesh to lonely American soldiers. Drunken brawls, crimes both violent and petty, conflicts between the military and civilians--not to mention the spread of venereal disease--were the inevitable consequences that are bound to happen in such volatile settings.

But scenarios like these already existed in the early days of Clark Field. American soldiers’ abuse of alcohol was already a constant problem then, and liquor-related deaths were regularly reported as in the case of Pvt. Henry T. Horton, who, in drunken stupor, fell asleep on the railroad track between Dau and the camp and was promptly ran over by a train. Alcohol also led to the violent end of Pvt. Arthur Breault who was beaten to death by 4 co-soldiers in 1911. Perhaps the worse tragedy was the deaths of four officers who met a vehicular accident on 23 January 1938, after their off-base drunken revelry. Only the driver survived.

It did not help that Filipinos also engaged in illegal liquor trade, causing strain between the base and the local government. In 1920, Lt. W.B. Ganther stormed into the office of acting governor Jose Narciso to demand the suspension of the Angeles police chief, who, he believed was involved in the illegal sale of wine. Narciso refused, and the next day, armed soldiers from Stotsenburg confronted him again. Only then did Narciso issue a suspension order, but he had the sense to report the matter all the way to Gov. Gen. Francis B. Harrison.

Another major problem that Stotsenburg officials had to contend with was the rise of sexually-transmitted diseases at the camp which became the leading cause of military inefficiency. An 1898 medical report took note that as American soldiers became “ habituated to the repulsiveness of native women, sexual immorality (became) more common”. By 1901, the report was more serious, with venereal disease spreading in other provinces “where the native women have been hitherto free from disease”.

Red-light districts were to be seen in Sapang Bato, known as “Sloppy Bottom” to soldiers, a place “full of sin and iniquity". Here, Filipino ‘baylarinas’ plied their services, although some Japanese women also worked the area. Barrio Margot, a recently-established barrio in the mid 1920s, provided an alterNAtive, what with its 300 residents, “composed mostly of women with questionable character”. Eventually, other areas of pleasure would sprout outside of Margot and all over Angeles—and pick-up places like “Bull Pen” were patronized by soldiers before the War, with girls to be had for 2 pesos per hour and 10 pesos for an all-night stand.

Much like Sodom and Gomorrha, the heady, decadent days of Angeles as a sin city came to a sudden end with the eruption of Mount Pinatubo, which caused the closure of Clark, and subsequently, the places of lusty pleasure along Jake Gonzales Blvd., Friendship Highway, Fields Avenue and Balibago. But such setback was only temporary. A quick survey of those places today reveal that only the habitués have changed—instead of Americans, a more international crowd animate the strip: German retirees, Aussies, Britons, Japanese and the ubiquitous Koreans.

Even business has expanded to include spas, massage parlors, gay bars, comedy and videoke clubs featuring strippers, masseuses, macho dancers, transvestite performers, hostos and GROs, sing-along masters and even oil wrestlers. Angeles may never be able to shake off its ‘sin city’ image, but for as long as cash registers are ringing, it does not really matter: happy days are here again.

*246. BANDA ANGELES: Marching to a Winning Tune

BAND ON THE RUN. The award-winning Banda Angeles was first place winner in the marching band competition of the 1909 Manila Carnival. ca. 1912.

Music bands, consisting of a marching group playing brass and woodwind instruments, are a staple of practically every Philippine festivity—livening up fiestas, weddings, sports competitions and even political campaigns. On the other hand, bands also provide the appropriate mood to a religious procession and funeral marches with their dirgeful pieces and sacred hymns.

In fact, in a 1521 fiesta in Cebu, Antonio de Pigafetta wrote about a retinue of women who created music while singing together, using a drum beaten with palm fronds, cymbals and a bamboo instrument called ‘subing’. With the coming of the Spaniards came formal musical training, and many musicians were employed in Spanish-formed bands that played in church rites as well as in popular entertainment like the moro-moro and the comedia.

In 1820, the first Filipino band was organized in Guimba, Nueva Ecija by Fr. Eliodoro Bustamante Chico, a Tagalog priest. He named a relative, Lorenzo Zabat, as its musical director—hence the name of the band, Banda Zabat. Its modern instruments replaced the old ‘musicong bumbong’, or native bamboo bands.

But it took an American—Lt. Col. Walter H. Loving to develop a world-class military brass band organized from the men of the Philippine Constabulary in 1902. Performing at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri on May 1904, the 84-member Philippine Constabulary Band, under Loving’s baton, played the “William Tell Overture”, which they performed superbly without missing a note—this, despite a power failure in the middle of their performance. They won Second Prize and the adulation of the discriminating American audience.

The success of the Philippine Constabulary Band—they were invited to perform all over America after that—inspired musicians all over the islands to organize their own local bands. A scant five years after the PC Band’s American debut, Angeleños had their own band—Banda Angeles. The band was composed of 32 members and their first conductor was Prof. Higino Herrera of Angeles, followed by Jose del Prado (from Manila) and Lucino Buenaventura (of Baliwag).

Like all bands, Banda Angeles was maintained by a recamadero, a grand patron, who took it upon himself to supply the band with their instruments. Assuming this role was a wealthy music lover from Mexico, Don Mariano Cunanan, who helped provide the Angeles musicians with brass and woodwind instruments, most of which were made in Paris, France.

In January 1909, at their first national outing at the fabulous Manila Carnival, the Banda Angeles captivated the crowd with their rendition of Tobani’s “Crème de la Crème”. To their delightful surprise, Banda Angeles was awarded First Prize. Their victory was not lost among their kabalen and one cigarette manufacturer even proudly reproduced their image put on the package of its cigarette brand. The band, however, failed to keep their title in the next Carnival, but they continued playing locally.

Other towns with their own street bands included the Banda 31 of Sasmuan which was reputed to be the best band of Pampanga in the 1940s and the brass and reed band of Sta. Rita. The proliferation of bands in Pampanga saw the rise of inter-brass band competitions called ‘serenata’ that were usually held in the town plaza or the courtyard of the church. It was not just a test of musical skills but also of endurance, as the bands squared off by playing the most number of musical pieces—culled mostly from the operas of Verdi, Bellini, Donizetti—lasting till the early morning hours. When they ran out of classical pieces, the bands played folk songs. The last band standing was declared the winner.

From barangay bands, school bands to drum and bugle corps, Angeles City today has more top bands to be proud of, complete with baton-twirling majorettes, with smartly-dressed members all skilled at playing everything from the classics to the contemporary, playing the Philippine National Anthem as adeptly as Bruno Mars’ rearranged-for-a- brass-band,“Billionaire”. Let us just hope that they continue to bring musical cheer, and not go the way of “banda uno, banda dos”—an expression brought about by the proliferation of many contentious bands in every Philippine town, and which has come to mean disunity.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

*245. FERNANDO POE JR.: Da King's Kapampangan Connection

THE ONCE & FUTURE 'DA KING'. Fernando Poe Jr., (aka Ronnie Poe, Ronwaldo Reyes) at age 18. FPJ had Pangasinan and Kapampangan blood in his veins,--which, ironically, his presidential rival--GMA--also had. This rare autographed fan photo was issued just about the time "Lo' Waist Gang" was released, the movie that catapulted him to stardom. Ca. 1957.

Many of the most iconic roles in Philippine movie history—Flavio (Ang Panday), Aguila, Totoy Bato, Roman Rapido, Teodoro Asedillo, Pepeng Kaliwete -- were essayed by an actor who would build a reputation as legendary as the characters he portrayed: Fernando Poe Jr. His was a long and illustrious career, from the time he was introduced to the silver screen in the 50s, to the peak of his fame in the 60s and the 70s, and all the way to a major professional move with his bid for the 2004 presidency.

The King or FPJ, as he is known to his millions of fans, was born on 20 August 1939, the son of Spanish mestizo Fernando “Nanding” Poe Sr.—himself an esteemed actor and a director of San Carlos, Pangasinan and Fil-American Elizabeth “Bessie” Gatbonton Kelley. Bessie was the product of the union of Engr. Arthur Kelley of Iowa and Martha Gatbonton, a Kapampangan from Candaba, Pampanga

Ronald Allan Poe was the second of six children; his siblings included Elizabeth, Andy (who, in real life was named Fernando Jr.), Genevieve, Fredrick and Evangeline. A half-brother is Conrad Poe, son of Fernando Sr. with Patricia Mijares, an actress.

One of the perks of being the son of a celebrated actor-director and producer were small roles in his father’s movies in the 1940s. Tragically, Poe Sr. died in October 1951, of rabies, leaving behind a devastated Bessie to raise her family singlehandedly. Ronnie finished his elementary schooling in 1953. He spent his high school years in San Sebastian College, Mapua and University of the East, but dropped out to help his mother support the family. It was just a matter of time that he joined the movie industry, working odd jobs as messenger boy and as a stuntman before becoming an actor. At age 14, billed as Fernando Poe Jr., he was launched in the movie “Anak ni Palaris”, which was not exactly a hit for Everlasting Pictures. But FPJ as a full-fledged actor, was on his way.

The movie that would make him a star was the 1957 youth-oriented film, “Lo’ Waist Gang”, from Premiere Productions. Just 18, he was paired with Corazon Rivas, and the movie started a national fashion craze for low-waisted pants. In 1961, he founded FPJ productions; subsequently, he formed other film companies like D'Lanor, JAFERE, and Rosas Productions.

In 1965, he played lead in the WWII movie, “The Ravagers”, considered as one of the most influential Filipino films. He would win the FAMAS Best Actor Award in 1967 for “Mga Alabok ng Lupa”, and he would repeat this feat with Asedillo (1971), "Durugin si Totoy Bato", "Umpisahan Mo, Tatapusin Ko"(1983), and Muslim Magnum .357 (1987). The 1960s were indeed, FPJ’s heyday, earning the title of “King of Philippine Movies” for his widely-popular action films. But perhaps, his biggest catch was another superstar of that era, Susan Roces (born Jesusa Sonora) whom he married in 968, three years after their first movie team-up entitled, “ Ang Daigdig Ko’y Ikaw”. They would star together in many movies that drew crowds and made money at the tills: “Bayan Ko, Lumaban Ka”, “Pilipinas Kong Mahal” (1965), “Zamboanga” (1966), “Langit at Lupa” (1967), “Sorrento” (1968), “Perlas ng Silangan” (1969), “Ikaw ang Lahat sa Akin” (1970), “Salaginto’t Salagubang” (1972), “Mahal, Saan Ka Nanggaling Kagabi” (1979), “No Retreat, No Surrender—si Kumander” (1987).

FPJ would also become the most highly paid talent for commercials, reprising his Panday character in San Miguel Beer ads that won raves and awards from the local advertising industry in the 80s. His later movie hits were “Kahit Konting Pagtingin”, “Dito sa Pitong Gatang”, and his last outing was with the billiard champ, Efren “Bata” Reyes (also a Kapampangan) in “Pakners”.

In 2004, FPJ announced his candidacy for presidency under the “Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino" (KNP) party. It was said that he was prevailed upon to run by his bosom friend, ex-president Joseph Estrada, against re-electionist candidate Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who was installed as president after he was deposed. He lost in the controversy-marred election. In a weird twist of fate, both FPJ and GMA had Kapampangan and Pangasinan blood running in their veins (GMA's parents were from Lubao and Binalonan, respectivey).

Later, on December 11, FPJ suffered a stroke and lapsed into a coma while attending an after-work socials. He died three days later at age 65, leaving behind wife Susan, an adopted daughter, Mary Grace Poe-Llamanzares, current MTRCB Chair, and two other children from other relationships, Lovi Poe (an actress) and Ronnian Poe. He rests in the family plot at the North Cemetery in Manila. On 24 May 2006, FPJ was posthumously proclaimed as a National Artist

FPJ’s death mask, cast by National Artist Napoleon Abueva, can be seen at the Center for Kapampangan Studies at the Holy Angel University, alongside the death mask of another great Kapampangan, Ninoy Aquino Jr.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

*244. YESTERDAYS IN SAPANGBATO

STONEY RIVER. Sapangbato, once a vast frontierland, is today, Angeles City's biggest barangay. Its progress is linked with nearby Camp Stotsenburg, America's largest military installation in the Philippines, which depended on the Sapangbato for supplies and labor force. Ca. 1912.

Angeles City’s biggest barangay (around 18.8 hectares) , Sapangbato, was once a rugged, unfriendly land, marked by thick forests and cliffs, bisected by a strong stream (sapa) that flowed and brought large stones (bato) down its route, as it made its way to lower Pampanga. Long before the American military came to claim large portions of Sapangbato, Negritos lived and hunted freely here, scrounging for root crops like yams and cassava, and roaming the wilds of nearby Mabalacat, Porac and the mountains of Zambales.

There are claims that Sapangbato was the property of Ludovico Narciso, a former town head of Mabalacat, who was said to have registered the place under his name during the Spanish times. In fact, old residents assert that marriages, births and deaths occurring in Sapangbato were registered in the town as well, up to 1892. Unfortunately, all municipal records were burned during the last war and no documents have yet been recovered to validate this claim.

One thing was certain though; the arrival of the US 7th Cavalry in 1901 was a turning point in Sapangbato’s history, and their settlement of the place would result in the establishment of Fort Stotsenburg. The population of Sapangbato started to swell beginning on 12 May 1903, when families of those who joined the Philippine Scouts migrated to the said district.

Thus, Sapangbato became a melting pot of sorts, a place of convergence for Kapampangans, Tagalogs, Negritos and Americans. Its progress was intertwined with the development of Fort Stotsenburg. Not only were residences built, but also markets, sari-sari stores, a church and schools. In 1918, a teacher, Glaciano Cruz, went to Sapangbato and set up a school in the shop of Mr. Geirge Seltzer.

Civilian American families settled in Train Barrio, Hill Barrio and Veterinary Barrio, but they would often venture into the commercial area of Sapangbato to do their marketing and shopping in open-air tiendas that sold fruits, vegetables, meats, dry goods, and domestic products. On the other hand, the locals who were employed in Stotsenburg lived at the perimeter of the barrio closest to the camp, called the “civilian line”. In 1931, however, they were required to move further, to the barrio proper. Sapangbato’s proximity to the military camp caused it to be placed under constant surveillance by the U.S. military police, who kept watch on gambling and drinking activities.

At the height of the second World War, most of the buildings in Sapangbato were torched by the American military, with the exception of the school, the church and the market. Today, a site called “Grotong Hapon” can be found in Purok 6, near the cemetery, where Japanese soldiers who lost their lives in the last war lie at rest.

Several natives of Sapangbato have played crucial parts in the barrio’s long history. Gen. Lucas was the first and only Baluga to be appointed as a military head officer of Negritos by the commanding officer of Stotsenburg, giving him the rank of a general. Don Lorenzo Sanchez, for instance, sheltered Manuel L. Quezon in his home as the American forces pursued Aguinaldo and his party who had earlier sneaked into Angeles.

Similarly, Don Segundo Tayag opened his house to battle-weary revolucionarios, supplying them with food and clothes. It was said that Don Segundo gave up his bedroom to sleep on a bench outside, which caused him to fall ill of a respiratory disease that claimed his life. Of course, a modern day celebrity from Sapangbato is currently making waves in the U.S.and around the world as a member of the Grammy award winning hip hop group Black Eyed Peas: Apl. De Ap (born Allan Pineda Lindo Jr.).

With the re-development of Clark Air Base as a commercial business district with an international airport to match, Sapangbato continues to bustle with activity, as it did when Americans were still around--only this time, the barangay is moving forward with a livelier beat, in keeping with the quicker tempo of progress that the whole of Angeles now enjoys.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

*243. Rev. Msgr. GUIDO J. ALIWALAS, Missionary from the Mount

GUIDED BY HIS LIGHT. The very accomplished man of the cloth from Arayat, Rev. Msgr. Guido J. Aliwalas, enjoyed a long career in his chosen vocation, and was very involved in the affairs of the province--including a recall move against Among Ed Panlilio. Ca. 1950s.

Before his death on 25 May 2009, Rev. Monsignor Guido Jurado Aliwalas was one of the oldest living priests of Pampanga. He was born in Arayat town on 12 September 1916. After studying in the local schools, the young Guido answered his calling to be a priest and enrolled at the San Carlos Seminary. He was ordained on 29 June 1940, at the age of 24.

Fr. Aliwalas held a number of assignments, including Arayat, his native town. He is credited with advancing the cause of Marian devotion with the organization of the Legion of Mary in 1941. In fact, in the propagation of the Cruzada de Caridad y Buena Voluntad of thee lo Virgen de los Remedios that was conceived in the early 50s, it was Fr. Aliwalas and Fr. Quirino Canilao who fixed the schedule of the pilgrim visits of Pampanga’s patroness to different towns and barangays.

He was assigned in Minalin parish from 1958 to 1974, serving the town for 16 long years. He also became a member of the Knights of Columbus. In his senior years, he was an active campaigner of Our Lady of the Assumption Campus Ministry. The only controversial stand he took was when he joined 17 priest members of the Pampanga Prayer Warriors to support the recall move against the priest-governor of Pampanga, Ed “Among” Panlilio, in September 2008.

He lived in retirement for the rest of his life in Domus Pastorum, a home for priest at SACOP, Maimpis Village in San Fernando. His 2009 memorial homecoming was held at St. Catherine Parish in Arayat, where he was laid to rest at the Aliwalas Family Museum.