Tuesday, March 27, 2012

*287. LETTY ALONSO: The Kapampangan Kontrabida Beauty from Lubao

THE BEAUTY IS A BIDA. Leticia Johnson Arrastia came from the landed Arrastia-Salgado family of Lubao, of Spanish-Filipino ctock. The LVN star of the 50s became the wife of fellow movie star, Mario Montenegro and quit the movies soon after.

The ‘50s decade is regarded as the golden age of Philippine cinema—when the works and performances of Filipino producers, directors, actors and actresses animated the screens of theater houses, captivating audiences both here and abroad. Leaving their marks in Philippine cinema arts were Kapampangan artists led by Rogelio de la Rosa, the Best Actor of the 1959 Asian Film Festival, Manuel Conde, of “Genghis Khan” fame which made waves at the Venice Film Festival in 1952, pioneering director Dr. Gregorio Fernandez and alluring screen goddesses like Lota Delgado, Rosita Noble, Rosa Rosal, Lydia Montañez and Gracita Dominguez.

To this august roster of Kapampangan artists from this glorious decade, we add the name of Letty Alonso, the beauty from Lubao, who despite a short career in the movies, made her presence felt in a few films with her memorable and convincing performances, mostly as a beautiful but scheming ‘kontrabida’.

Letty was born as Leticia Arrastia y Johnson in 1932, the daughter of Esteban Arrastia y Salgado and Rosalia Johnson y Espinosa. Esteban’s father, Valentin Roncal Arrastia, was a Basque from the Navarra region in Spain. He had settled in Lubao to seek his fortune, and it was here that he met and married local girl, Francisca. Together, they successfully established various businesses from their vast land holdings that included sugarlands, rice fields and fish ponds. In no time at all, the Arrastias would become one of the influential and leading families of Lubao.

Her father, however, would die young at the age of 29. Growing up fatherless, Letty would be raised alone by her mother Saling, but surrounded with caring cousins, grandparents, relatives and friends of the large Arrastia clan.

The Arrastia women earned quite a reputation for their flawless mestiza beauty, which was validated early on with the victory of Juanita—Esteban’s older sister—at the Pampanga Carnival of 1926, where she was chosen as the Queen. Letty’s cousin, Beatriz, would become the mother of world-class socialite beauty Isabel Preyler, while another cousin, Ruby Arrastia would find fame in the U.S. as an actress-singer-dancer named Neile Adams---and the 1st wife of Steve McQueen.

At age 18, Letty caught the eye of , Dña Narcisa ‘Sisang’ de Leon, the matriarch-founder of LVN Pictures Inc., who was impressed with the Spanish-speaking beauty with high cheekbones, fine lips and straight legs. She immediately convinced her to be an actress. LVN Pictures, founded in 1938, was then one of the leading film studios of the country, with a proven track record as a builder of stars. Its stable of artists ranked among the best in the industry: Rosa Rosal, Rogelio de la Rosa, Carmen Rosales, Lilia Dizon, Delia Razon, Mario Montenegro. Soon, Letty became one of LVN’s contract stars, assuming the screen name of Letty Alonso.

Her first movie was ‘Bohemyo” released in 1951, playing the role of a villainess who intrudes in the love affair of Delia Razon and Mario Montenegro--who would later figure importantly in her life. So effective was her portrayal that she would be typecast as the perennial ‘kontrabida’ in her next movies: “Señorito” (with Manuel Conde), “Tatlong Labuyo” (again with Mario and Delia) and the romantic comedy “Batangueña” (with Jaime dela Rosa) all completed and shown in 1953. Letty would also be chosen as a celebrity endorser for such major brands like Cortal and Camay Soap, touted as “the soap of beautiful women”.

It was while with LVN that Letty met a fellow ‘artista’, the handsome Roger Collin Macalalag who was known to thousands of movie fans as Mario Montenegro (b. 1928/d.1988) . Born to a Filipino father and a French mother, Mario was a former U.P. student who had joined the Hunters ROTC Guerilla unit during the war. Discovered for the movies after the war, he had been cast in the World War II drama, “Capas”, filmed in 1949. He found fame in LVN costumed epics and historical films.

After their marriage, Letty retired from the movies to raise her children with Mario. A daughter, Honeylet, was a popular commercial model and occasional film actress in the early ‘80s. Honeylet’s own daughter, Valeen Montenegro Vicente, is also a budding young actress today.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


CAPITAN JUAN. Juan Gualberto Nepomuceno with 3rd wife, Eusebia de Castro de Miranda, in his golden years. He was the 1st municipal presidente of Angeles and the province's representative to the Malolos Congress.

The accomplished life of Juan Gualberto Nepomuceno foreshadowed the greatness of his descendants’ collective contribution in accelerating the growth of Culiat town, which, in their generation, they would see transformed into a vibrant city we call Angeles. Like his children, Juan Gualberto was born to lead. He possessed an enterprising spirit and was driven with a sense of purpose: to serve his kabalens and his beloved birthplace, a vision that would become a reality in his midlife.

Juan Gualberto was the third child of Manila-born Pio Rafael Nepomuceno and Maria Agustina Henson, a granddaughter of the founder of Angeles, Don Angel Pantaleon de Miranda. Pio, whose original roots were in Lucban, chose to settle and start a family in Angeles. It was here that Juan Gualberto was born on 12 July 1852 ( the feast day of St. John Gualbert), as was the same with his 5 other siblings: Ysabelo, Juliana, Ramona, Nemesia and Maria Graciana.

Juan’s father was so integrated with his adopted town that he even served as a gobernadorcillo of Angeles, beginning on January 1852. Only six months later, he would have Juan Gualberto, who, together with his siblings, grew up in the bale matua (old house) along Sto. Rosario Street, which had been built back in 1824 by his mother Agustina’s forebears, the de Mirandas.

At age 6, Juan lost his father, leaving his 30 year-old widowed (and pregnant) mother alone to raise the brood. Fortunately, the landholdings left by Pio provided her with ample support. Moreover, her mother Agustina was also named as an heir of a childless aunt, Dña. Carlota de Leon, who willed her house and its contents to her.

Juan Gualberto was 22 when he married Josefa Simpao Ganzon on 28 January 1874, in a wedding officiated by Fr. Guillermo Masnou. Their union would produce 6 children: Jose, Pio, Felisa, Maria Zoila, Maria Flaviana and Urbana. Five years into his marriage, Juan Gualberto was elected as gobernadorcillo of Angeles, just like his father before him. He served for two terms, 1879-1880, and around town, he was known as “Capitan Juan”.

On 22 October, 1885, Josefa died, making Juan Gualberto a widower at age 33. A little over a year later, he married Aurea Gomez Paras on 3 November 1886. (It is interesting to note that Juan’s eldest brother, Ysabelo, married Juana Paras, the younger sister of Aurea—making both couples, brothers and sisters-in-law as well! Six more children resulted from their marriage: Vivencia (died in infancy), Mariano, Juan de Dios, Ricardo, Gregorio and Catalina.

Angeles was caught up in the throes of the tumultuous Philippine Revolution in 1898, and when the Philippine Republic was proclaimed by Pres. Emilio Aguinaldo, Juan Gualberto found himself being named as the first Municipal Presidente of the town from September 1898-99. At the historic Malolos Congress, Juan Gualberto proudly stood as the official delegate of Pampanga province.

Fate dealt the family a cruel blow with the untimely death of Aurea of tuberculosis, day after the New Year of 1917; she was just 48. Juan Gualberto married for the third time, choosing a paternal second cousin, Eusebia de Castro de Miranda as his companion. Eusebia had been previously married to Jose Maria S. Revelino, a Spanish-mestizo. Juan would die of natural causes on 25 April 1923, and was buried the next day, after a solemn vigil. His remains were later transferred to the right wing of the Holy Rosary Church.

Juan Gualberto’s legacy of public service that was started by his father Pio, continued with his sons Juan de Dios and Ricardo, who both served as mayors of Angeles in 1922 and 1928 respectively. A grandson by his first wife, Francisco, was elected Angeles mayor in 1980 and later served as provincial governor. Francisco’s son in turn, Francis “Blueboy” Nepomuceno, is currently a member of the House of Representatives.

(Source: The Nepomucenos of Angeles City, by Marc Nepomuceno/ Singsing Magazine)

Monday, March 5, 2012


VENERABLE REVOLUCIONARIO. Emilio Dominguez, who rose to become a lieutenant who fought alongside Gen. Francisco Makabulos as part of the infantry brigade against the Spaniards, in his old age.

In 1996, when a call was sent out by Dr. Serafin D. Quiason, Chairman and Executive Director of the National Historic Institute for information on Pampango heroes and revolutionaries, the names of many illustrious Kapampangans from towns big and small, came to fore: Aguinaldo's officer, Isabelo del Rosario from San Fernando; Macario Yap (Arayat); Joaquin Gonzales (Apalit); Macario Bacani (Guagua); Cayetano Lopez (Magalang); Mamerto and Ruperto Lacsamana (Mexico); Tranquilino Arroyo (Candaba) , among many others. Yet, not one hero from Mabalacat was ever mentioned.

Do we have a local icon of heroism somewhere? A forgotten figure, perhaps, who deserves to be memorialized as one of Mabalacat's movers and shakers?

Surely, there are hundreds of Mabalacat Negritos who resisted Spanish dominion, but they remain anonymous to this day.

Local town historian and poet Querubin Fernandez cites a brave Mabalaqueno - Lt. Emilio Timbol Dominguez--who fought alongside General Francisco Makabulos in Tarlac as part of his infantry brigade against the Spaniards. In the same manuscript, he also mentions a Philippine-American War hero-- Captain Domingo Tanhueco Dizon, unit commander of the local Katipuneros, who led a group of Mabalaquenos and helped win the Battle of Camansi in Magalang. Tanhueco fled to Japan with Artemio Ricarte, when the Americans occupied the country, and died there in 1903.

Also during the revolutionary period, captured leader Bernardo Tanglao Sr. of Dolores, was made to suffer personal indignities for refusing to reveal the names of his companions who formed part of a contingent of Filipino freedom fighters.

Kudiaro Laxamana, an Ayta tribal chief and leader of the 55-155th Squadron, Northwest Pampanga Mountain District, distinguished himself by becoming a guerilla hero for his annihilation of 50 Japanese while harboring 10 U.S. airmen during World War II. Born in the foothills of Mt. Pinatubo in the Porac area, he rose to the rank of a Colonel, 13thAirforce, U.S.A.F, after having protected the life of Col. Gyle Merrill and Maj. Henry Conner Jr. of the 27th Bomb Group. He also served as a Vice President to Alfonso, King of the Negritos, who, himself was made an honorary U.S. Air Force Brigadier General #. His exploits were finally honored with a posthumous award on 28 January 1995 in Mabalacat. The plaque was accepted by his children Elena, Juanito and Indon Edwin.

Mabalacat Chief of Police Victor D. Medina, who originally hailed from Lara, San Fernando, served during the term of Mayor Jose Garcia in the 1930s. His battle with the Huks is legendary, earning the appellation "Sergeant York of the Philippines" with his sharp-shooting skills. An ambidextrous target shooter, it was said that he could shoot a coin in mid-air. In Barrio Dapdap, he gained prominence in dramatic fashion by killing 15 Huks and delivering their bodies in a gareta (bull cart) in front of the municipio.

Named by Gov. Sotero Baluyut as head of the elite Pampanga Police Force, he was sent on missions all over the province, killing notorious Huk Commander July, in the process. Unfortunately, luck ran out for Officer Medina when, on the eve of the town fiesta in 1952, he was gunned down in a restaurant while sipping his coffee.

Mabalacat's heroes may not be as well-known and as acclaimed as those of other towns, but their role in shaping our destiny and history cannot be denied. As ideals of patriotism and bravery, they stand shoulder to shoulder with the rest of our national icons, for they had the same aspirations, fought for the same cause and pursued the same dream for a free and peaceful Philippines.


CANDABA CLASS OF '48. Grade Two students of Candaba Central School, post-war batch 1947-1948.

On 21 August 1901, the Thomasites—a group of teachers recruited from America—arrived in Manila Bay, Philippines on board the transport U.S.A.T. Thomas with the intent of introducing a new system of public education in the country. Twenty five were fielded to the province of Pampanga, and three teachers made their way to Candaba town.

The Candaba Thomasites not only taught by example and trained local teachers, they were also instrumental in setting up schools. On 6 February 1902, they helped put up the Candaba Central School in the Poblacion at a cost of P1,000. The Candaba Central School was the predecessor of the Candaba Elementary School, which continues to be a primary institution of learning for the children of Candaba.

In 1908, under the municipal presidente Pedro Evangelista, barrio schools were established in Lanang and Bahay Pare. Due to the growing higher education needs of the town, intermediate schools (offering Grade V thru VII) were established in Barrio Salapungan and Barrio Mandasig.