Wednesday, December 25, 2013


BOOM-TARAT! Children make noise during the holiday season with a "kanyun kwayan", a cannon made from a sturdy bamboo post, fueled with calcum carbide and lit with kerosene to welcome the season with a bang. Photo from 1934.

Pasku na! For Christian Kapampangans, no other holiday has more meaning and merriment than the Christmas season. We usher it in with the traditional trappings of the holidays—lavish decorations with our colorful “parols”as outdoor centerpieces, noche buena fare consisting of the best in Kapampangan cuisine, generous aguinaldos and regalos in envelopes and wrapped boxes.

But the loudest welcome perhaps, comes from the sounds of Christmas that we produce—from the soaring voices of street carollers, the strains of commercial holiday songs blaring from the radio, to the burst of bamboo cannons and “turutut” (paper horns) that punctuate our New Year.

As soon as the “-ber”months come in, mood-setting music filled the air through familiar Christmas carols. As we didn’t have local carols, we took to singing traditional and popular carols from the West—O Holy Night, Jingle Bells, Silent Night, Santa Claus is Coming To Town, It Came Upon A Midnight Clear. There were a few Pilipino carols available, but we sang them with gusto anyway—led by “Ang Pasko Ay Sumapit”, a carol composed by Levi Celerio, based on the lyrics written in 1933 by poet Vicente Rubi.

Today, of course, we have a whole range of Kapampangan carols to choose from, courtesy of Mr. Marco Nepomuceno of Historic Camalig Restaurant, who, in 2005, produced the first-ever Kapampangan Christmas CD album, “A Camalig Christmas”, featuring both Kapampangan originals as well as local adaptations of all-time favorite carols, as performed by Jimming Bini and the Starlicks. “Joy to the World” became “Alang Kapupusang Ligaya”, while “Pasku Na” borrows the tune of “Jingle Bells”. Even “Angels We Have Heard on High”, of French origin, has been Kapampanganized into “Dios A Pekamatas”.

 For its part, Holy Angel University sponsored a competition of original carol competition in 2005, and the entries were compiled in a CD album entitled “The Kapampangan Christmas Album”. Performed by the HAU Chorale and Elementary Choir, the album features selections like “Pasku na, Magsadya Ta Na”, “Parul”, “Ing Panalangin Ku Ngening Pasku, “King Paskung Daratang”, and “Pascua N’Indispu”. 

Slowly, but surely, these new carols with traditional feel are finding their way into the repertoire of carolling groups. Carollers on the streets, armed with tansan (soda tin caps) tambourines and tin cans, systematically moved from house to house, in the hopes of making a few pesos in exchange for a Christmas carol or two.

Neighborhood competition among carollers was intense; talented carollers were rewarded with a peso or more, while bad ones were completely ignored. Carollers met with such reception would have the last retort, however, by chiding the residents with “Tenk you, Tenk you, ang babarat ninyo, tenk you!” (Thank you, for being so stingy).

Competing alongside carolling groups are the Drum & Bugle Corps from different barangays. In my place alone, Mabalacat, we have been regaled since the 60s by such musical bands as the San Francisco, Poblacion and San Joaquin Drum & Bugle Corps, with their lively, marching band re-arrangements of familiar Christmas songs.

The sounds of the holidays permeate the atmosphere till the days leading to the New Year, when joyful noise takes over –generated by “kalburo”-fed kanyun kwayan (bamboo cannons), turutut , matraca ( wooden noisemakers) and booming firecrackers of the most noisome variety—watusi, kwitis, perminanti, trayanggulu, Judas Belt, Sawa, SuperLolo, Lolo Thunder, Macarena, Marimar, and of late, My Husband’s Lover, Yolanda and Napoles.

For most Kapampangans, Christmas is not only the merriest, but also the noisiest and loudest—to give vent to our overflowing feelings of mirth and joy at the coming of the King of Kings--singing, shouting, yes, even screaming in our trademark over-the-top way—“munta ka Bunduk Arayat, at gulisak mu I Hesus, mibait ne”. (Go to the top of Mount Arayat, and scream out that Jesus is born!)

Masayang Pasku at Mainge a Bayung Banwa!!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

*356. Pampanga's Churches: SAN ANDRES APOSTOL CHURCH, Candaba

SAN ANDRES APOSTOL CHURCH. Candaba's center of worship, as it appeared around 1911-1912, from the Luther Parker Collection.

Watermelons, swampy lands, migratory birds—all these conjure images of one of Pampanga’s oldest towns during the wet season—Candaba, which is located on the plains near the Pampanga River, characterized by a large swamp in its midst. The “pinac”, formed by estuaries and rivers from Nueva Ecija, is a rich source of income for most of the people of Candaba, yielding fish, farm produce and the sweetest “pakwan” around.

 Centuries before, Candaba had also impressed the Spaniards for its flourishing economy, not to mention its antiquity, calling it “Little Castilla”. Augustinians quickly descended upon the wetlands to claim Candaba as house of their order in 1575, appending it to the Calumpit convent with Fray Francisco de Ortega as prior. Its first recognized cura, however, is Fray Francisco Manrique, who came all the way from the Visayas.

 The Bishop of Manila, Fray Domingo de Salazar, cause Candaba to become an important mission center for the evangelization of other towns like Arayat and Pinpin (Sta. Ana). A church of light materials, dedicated to the apostle San Andres, was erected and by 1591, a convent had also been built.

 As the town progressed, a stone edifice replaced the primitive church, built from 1665-69, under the helm of the dynamic church builder, Fray Jose dela Cruz. There is an account of a certain Fray Felipe Guevara building a grimpola and a campanario as early as 1875.

A later successor, Fray Esteban Ibeas, added the dome in 1878. He added bells from 1879-81, dedicated to San Agustin, San Jose, San Andres, Sagrado Corazon de Jesus and Virgen dela Consolacion. In 1881, Fray Antonio Bravo constructed the bell tower and added one more bell, dedicated to the Holy Trinity. All bells were cast by Hilarion Sunico of Binondo.

 By the time the “pisamban batu” was done, it measured 60 meters long, 13 meters wide and 13 meters high. The campanario was repaired in 1890. In 1897, parish duties were transferred to the Filipino secular clergy. The first Filipino priest to serve was Padre Eulogio Ocampo.

 In modern times, the church interior was damaged by a typhoon in the 60s, and was restored that same year. Previous to this, there are no records of damages caused by the acts of nature.

 Today, the church has a very simple architecture, with not much ornamental details. A series of columns and depressed arches define its façade, while its protruding triangular pediment echoes that pleasing plainness. The arcaded convent front features semi-circular arches. The Church of San Andres Apostol of Candaba observes the fiesta of its patron every year, on the 30th of November.

Monday, December 9, 2013


 ANDONG< DADING & A WEDDING. Wedding picture of Ricardo P. Rodriguez, two-term mayor of Bacolor in the 1960s,  and wife Zenaida D. Angeles, both from San Vicente, Bacolor. 

The large Rodriguez Clan originally came from Zambales and Bataan, but through marriages and exigencies of work, branches of the family spilled out into Pampanga, with Rodriguezes fanning out into Bacolor and San Fernando.

 Belonging to the Bacolor branch, is one of the most well-loved mayors the town has produced—Mayor Ricardo Rodriguez, of San Vicente, Bacolor. “Andong “, as he was called, was a descendant of Don Olegario Rodriguez, who settled in Bacolor and established a long line of Rodriguezes who were noted for both their affluence and influence.

 Ricardos’s parents were Marcelo Alimurung Rodriguez and Narcisa Pineda. The Alimurungs were an ancient family of Bacolor, and members of this family too were looked at as among the town elites. The Rodriguez-Pineda family, however, was of more modest means, however, with income derived from farming, enough to sustain Ricardo and his siblings, Carmelita, Angustia, Emilia, Norberto, Ricardo, Rosario and Conrado.

 On the other hand, his wife was the accomplished Zenaida “Dading”Angeles, the daughter of Mariano Miranda de los Angeles and Sixta Cajator Dizon. They were married at the San Guillermo Church and established their residence in San Vicente, raising a large brood of 10 children: Narcisa, Wilfredo, Cecilia, Genato, Manuel, Rico, Roy, Cynthia, Jose Ma. Raymundo and Francis. Ricardo left his work as a gentlemen farmer to enter politics in the 60s.

He was elected and proved to be a popular leader, serving the town of Bacolor for two terms. He was known for his road-building as well as infrastructure projects that included a hospital during his tenure. Unfortunately, he passed away in 1969, leaving a grieving widow to fend for her father-less children.

Her elder sisters, Aurora (wife of PASUDECO planter Gerry Hizon Rodriguez, a relative of Ricardo from the San Fernando branch) and Eufrosina, (wife of prominent lawyer Ciceron Baro Angeles and son of former governor, Pablo Angeles David), however, helped and guided her in raising them all successfully. Zenaida herself would pass way in the early 90s.

 Today, a hospital put up by purpose-driven Bacoloreños, erected a hospital to honor his nameand legacy: the Ricardo P. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


 THE EARTH TREMBLED, THE DAY TURNED INTO NIGHT. The fearsome volcano in calmer days, as it looked from  Fort Stotsenburg (now Clark Field) in the first two decades of the 20th century. The caption reads: "West End Stotsenburg, Showing Mt. Pinatuba (sic)".

 The onslaught of the twin catastrophes in the Visayas—first, the earthquake in Bohol, and then the powerful super typhoon Yolanda—brought back horrific memories of Pampanga’s own disaster that are forever etched in the minds of Kapampangans and in our province’s history. The images of utmost destruction and of hopelessness recall those of ours, which happened over 20 years ago, when Mount Pinatubo was roused from its 300 year- sleep after and erupted with all its fury in 9-15 June 1991, threatening to ravage everything in its path.

 To make things worse, a crossing typhoon (Yunya) dumped rain on the region, resulting in a rain of ash that covered all of Pampanga. It also loosened debris on the slopes of the mountain and depositing mud on the plains. Rivers and streams swelled with lahar and pyroclastic materials, which overflowed and engulfed whole towns, erased roads, vaporized trees, buildings and bridges. When the eruption simmered, Pampanga and neighboring Zambales and parts of Tarlac became virtual wastelands, with hundred and thousands of people displaced, and its economy shattered.

 But hardy Kapampangans allowed themselves only a short time for grief and despair. Days after the big bang, with Pinatubo still smoldering and with the earth still shaking, Kapampangans rolled up their sleeves to clean up their roofs and homes.

 Itinerant Negritos who had come down to the lowland for safety, walked around communities in droves, offering their services to clean galvanized rooftops, cut trees, sweep streets, clean mud-caked cars and dig up backyards and doorsteps. I remember employing a band of enterprising Aetas to clean my roof and its gutters, a job that was done quickly, thoroughly. 

The eruption had also destroyed Abacan bridge in Balibago—a vital link to Angeles where many employees from my town, Mabalacat, come to work. Foot bridges made of bamboo quickly appeared, which one can cross to get to the other side, where jeepneys for the city proper await. One could also opt to be ride an improvised cart, to be carried by paid lifters. For years, this became the mode of transport for many people.

 Enterprising minds put up backyard businesses that capitalized on the catastrophe. In Bamban, pumice stones ejected from Pinatubo were encapsulated in clear plastic and sold as souvenirs while lahar ash was molded into religious sculptures. Larger stone pieces were turned into garden sculptures that found their way in landscaping and gardening shops around the country. Bestsellers among Americans were the T-shirts that had silk-screened messages alluding to Pinatubo: “I Was There When Pinatubo Blew Its Top”, “We Have Ash Fall, But No Cash Fall”. Even a favorite watering hole on the red light strip was renamed “International Lahar Bar”.

Suddenly, there was a Pinatubo drink, a Pinatubo song, a Pinatubo this and that. Just when Kapampangans thought the worse was over, in came 1995 when the most destructive lahar inundation buried Bacolor, raising the town level 37 meters above sea level. The cascading lahar also came dangerously close to the cities of San Fernando and Angeles. Refugees relocated to the higher grounds of Mabalacat where resettlement centers had sprung up. To create a sense of familiarity, they named the streets of their new community after their own in Bacolor, in their hope to replicate and regain what they had lost.

 The cataclysmic Pinatubo eruptions in 1991 would have deep and far-reaching effects that would last for decades. No other natural disaster could compare to the extent and impact of devastation wrought on a province and its people. There are permanent marks and scars to remind us of that nightmare—the half-buried San Guillermo Church in Bacolor, the changed landscape of Bamban, the vanished rivers of Guagua and Mabalacat, and the building ruins of Clark Air Base.

 Pinatubo had united us, rallied us, transformed us into better people, wisened and toughened by our collective experience. One need only to look around us to see the milestones in the progress we have reached, from the day we decided to bounce back to rebuild our future. We have not just risen from our fall, but today, we, the people of Pampanga, stand proud and tall. The people of Yolanda-stricken Visayas will certainly do the same.

Monday, November 25, 2013

*353. Pampanga's Churches: STA. CATALINA CHURCH, Arayat

STA. CATALINA CHURCH, as it appears in 1911. The 3-level Renaissance-style facade gives it a signature look, that has earned a reputation as among Pampanga's most beautiful churches. Luther Parker Collection

The ancient town of Arayat rests on the foothills of Pampanga's mountain landmark, that has also come to be called by the same name. Its actual founding, however, is shrouded in mystery; with some sources naming either Prince Balagtas or his son, Araw--both Madjapahit Empire nobles, as the founder. But what we do know was Arayat was already a viable settlement as early as the 14th century, and 1571, it was one of the most important riverine towns of Pampanga, becoming a hub for trade and commerce.

The coming of Augustinians ushered in a brisk period of evangelization and, on 29 August 1590, Bishop Domingo Salazar approved a request to establish the first mission in the town, which was subsequently set up by Fray Juan de Valderrama. By 1600, the Arayat parish was already firmly established , under the ministry of Fray Contreras.

The early church was dedicated to Santa Catalina de Alejandria (St. Catherine of Alexandria), a 4th century virgin-martyr killed under the reign of Maxentius. Considered as one of the most important saints of the Medieval period, Sta. Catalina was also a popular Augustinian devotion.

The stone and brick structure was erected in 1753; cacnonical books indicate that the first baptism was conducted there in 1758, by a certain Fray Villalobos. The church was rebuilt by Fray Jose Torres starting in 1858. Fr. Juan Tarrero continued with the project only to become an unfortunate victim of the Philippine Revolution. It was finally finished in 1892, under the able supervision of Fr. Urbano Beduya, although several renovations continued through the first 2 decades of the 20th century.

The beautiful Sta. Catalina Church features a multi-levelled Renaissance style fachada. measures 70 meters long and 16 meters wide and stands12 meters high. It belongs to the parish of the Vicariate of Mary, Help of Christians in the Archdiocese of San Fernando. An image of its titular patron, Sta. Catalina, stands on the church portico. A separate antique image also resides in the main altar. Her  feast day is celebrated on November 25. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


WHERE EAT'S AT. The Pampanga High School canteen, located at the school grounds, was just a modest wooden structure built to serve as an eating area for students during their recess and breaks. Ca. Late 1950s

 Who can forget the old school canteen? The sound of the bell indicating the start of recess would have us scampering towards our school canteen—that ramshackle building that sold more than refreshments and snacks for hungry students, but also provided a casual place for lively discourses, from the trivial to the sublime, while partaking of cheap spaghetti, Chiz Curls and Sunkist in tetra-packs.

 The concept of a canteen was nonexistent in my elementary years. Always, we ate our food in the classroom, bought from student vendors (recruited from the Home Economics classes) who went from room to room selling kakanins like kalame, palitaw and mochi. Otherwise, we would buy snack items from makeshift stalls around the perimeter of our school, to be eaten within the school grounds during our break time.

 It was different when I set my foot in my new high school in the city—it had a separate structure for food and refreshments. Every 9:30 a.m., all hell broke loose in the mad dash to be first in line at the canteen—the sooner you were served, the more time you can indulge in eating and socializing. 

Oh yes, it was in the canteen that various clicque were formed and friendships forged for a brief 15-20 minutes, and one’s station in the school could be gleaned from the composition of students in one table. Nerds and runts would occupy one table, and the more boisterous ones in another.

 Our school canteen was managed by the family of one student, who happened to be a classmate, and it had the basic stuff we needed to satisfy our growing appetites. Manning the fort was the loquacious Mrs. Antonio, who exuded a Mother Earth-ly aura with her matronly girth. She could not keep still at her post, making sure everyone was served efficiently, promptly.

 A typical morning merienda included such choices as spaghetti with ketchup-y sauce laced with hotdog slices (my favorite!), recado-less pancit guisado, watery sampelut, siopao, assorted sandwiches (cheese pimiento was a staple) , Chippy, Chiz Curlz –which we downed with softdrinks and orange juices in triangular cartoons—plus candies galore. The scene would be repeated come lunch time, and the canteen would be full to the rafters by noon.

I shied away from the canteen at this time, preferring to eat my packed lunch elsewhere with my best friend. Our secret break spot was at the rear of the school, under a thick canopy of bonggabilya leaves. Here, hidden by the thick foliage, we could enjoy our lunch, wrapped in banana leaves, away from the bullies whose nasty habit it was to mooch for ulam! There was not a week that I did not have porkchop or fried chicken for lunch, for some reason, I never had vegetables.

 Since the break time was a full hour, students had more time to linger—perhaps to review Physics lessons, learn a few chords from the latest issue of Jingle Magazine, character assassinate a teacher, and for the more daring ones—sneak a few puffs of smoke.

 A more serious transgression done to the canteen was the constant disappearance of plates and utensils. I remember Mrs. Antonio making a plea to our class, to please, please return the plastic yellow plates lest she gives up the canteen. I don’t know if the plates were returned, but the Antonios operated the canteen till we all finished high school.

 The sound of the bell after an hour would indicate the end of lunch, and the start of the afternoon session, which would invariably lull students to sleep, including me. The saving race would be the 3:30 pm. bell, signalling our final trip to the canteen. I would buy only a few pieces of candy like Lipps and Vi-Va by this time, preferring to save my appetite for dinner.

 I continued to be a canteen habitué in my university years, even if the big canteens there were impersonal and cold. There were no Mrs. Antonios to warm you up with a smile and a “good morning”, only uniformed attendants who served then swiped your tables cleaned, then moved on to the next . The menu was more sophisticated, with fancy entries like “flying saucer”, “club sandwich”, “sloppy joe sandwiches”. But where, oh where is my “putung babi” and “sampelut”?.

 Then and now, school canteens continue to serve the same purpose for both idlers and socializers. For the latter, a canteen is a place to see and be seen, to display trophy friends, grab a bite--and attention. As for the bored and the lonely, here’s a friendly advice: ”If you have nothing to do, do it here—in your old school canteen!!”

Monday, November 11, 2013

*351. JESS LAPID: Guagua's Last Action Hero

LIPAD, LAPID, LIPAD!. Jess Lapid Sr., at the height of his career, ranked among the bigtime action stars of the 60s, led by Fernando Poe Jr. and Joseph Estrada. Photo from Philippine Free Press, Ca. 1964.

 “Divina Valencia, 
Stella Suarez, nagbu-burles” 
Sa ngalan ng pag-ibig, 
Fernando Poe’ng makisig, 
Pangalawa si Jess Lapid.” 

 In the more innocent days of the 1960s, children all over the country used to sing this ditty to the tune of the Beatles’ ”A Hard Day’s Night”, as a tribute to the local showbiz’ most-talked about stars. Divina and Stella were obvious picks as they were the leading names that paved the way for “bomba” films in the 70s. Rising star Fernando Poe, was already a name to reckon with in action films, and hot on his heels was Poe’s discovery, Jess Lapid, who was popular enough to earn a line in the lyrics of this nonsense song, which alludes to his handsome-ness, second only to Da King. Indeed, Jess Lapid’s star could have shown brighter in Philippine moviedom, had he not met an early and untimely death.

He was born, Jesus Lapid in 1933, in Guagua town; an older brother, Jose, is the father and grandfather of movie stars-turned politicians Lito Lapid (now on his last term as Senator), and son Mark Lapid (former governor of Pampanga and now TIEZA Head), respectively. Jess started as an extra in his first film from Premiere Productions, “Larawan ng Pag-Ibig” in 1961. He then shifted to being a stuntman, after finding out that they earned more than extras.

He rose to become the top stuntman of Premiere, often doubling for more established stars—riding horses, falling from cliffs, getting shot at by villains. He had the good fortune for doubling for Fernando Poe Jr., and soon, the two would become fast friends.

When Poe ventured into film productions, he made Jess one of the regulars in his films, giving him roles that required real acting, rather than choreographed stunt actions. Jess rose to the occasion and proved to be a convincing character actor. He tried him out in “Pasong Diablo”, in 1961.

 It was in the FPJ Productions, “Sierra Madre” (1963) that Poe decided to give Jess the full star treatment—from a more prominent billing to major publicity exposures. But it was Jess himself who pulled it off, by turning in a sensational performance that erased all doubts about his just being a “mere stuntman”.

 It was Tagalog Ilang-Ilang Productions picked him up and eventually made him into a superstar in the movie “Kardong Kidlat” (1964) which became such a smashing success at the box office tills. At the Globe Theater where the movie was launched, a long queue of movie fans lined up around the building just get get in and watch the talk-of-the-town film.

 1964 proved to be a bright and busy year for jess, appearing in movies like “Bilis at Tapang” with Romeo Vasquez and “Deadly Brothers” with Joseph Estrada. He co-starred with Vic Vargas in “7 Kilabot ng Barilan”. In 1968, Jess appeared alongside action movie greats Fernando Poe Jr. and Joseph Estrada in “3 Hari”, an FPJ productions offering.

 As he was raking it in, he invested in his own film outfit, Jela Productions, and began producing his own movies.

 He had just wrapped up the movie “Simaron Brothers”with Jun Aristorenas, when, on the night of 13 July 1968, he was shot to death at the Lanai Nightclub after an altercation between two groups of movie personalities. Persistent reports linked the incident to another Kapampangan actress, Nancy Roman, also his leading lady. A suspect, Mario Henson, gave himself up to the police, and at least one gunman from Angeles was implicated in the crime. Jess was brought to the National Orthopedic Hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival. He was just 35 years old when he passed away.

 “Simaron Brothers”was shown post-humously at the Globe Theater, and the blurb capitalized on his sensational death by touting his last movie as a “picture that will project the living image of Jess Lapid in the hearts of millions..”.

 As a belated tribute, nephew Lito Lapid appeared as Jess Lapid in the biopic “The Jess Lapid Story”, released in 1978. He also immortalized the iconic role of Leon Guerrero, first originated by Jess in the 1968 film, “Leon Guerrero: Laban sa 7 Kilabot”"

 Of his 3 children, one went on to follow in his footsteps. His namesake, Jess Lapid Jr. also became a movie actor, and a film and fight director. He appeared in a 1980 spin-off film that made his father famous, “Ang Bagong Kardong Kidlat”. Jess Jr. capped his career with a Best Supporting Actor award for the movie “Lumayo Ka Man Sa Akin” in 1993.

 The senior Jess can very well rest happy with the thought that the Lapid name, through his son, nephew and grandnephews, continue to contribute to the lively art of film-making in the Philippines.

Monday, November 4, 2013

*350. Shine Bright Like a Diamond: THE OCAMPO JEWELLERS OF ANGELES

GEM OF A MAN. Lawyer, banker, businessman, socio-civic leader, Mr. Ricardo Ma. Ocampo of Minalin, togther with his wife, Evansuida (nee Gueco), started the well-known Ocampo's, the jewelry and watch chain store that continues to operate today.

 For over sixty years, the name OCAMPO’s was synonymous to fine jewelry and quality watches. The name needed no other descriptor as almost all Kapampangans of good taste hied off to this shop to get the best imported wristwatches and the most stylish gold pendant necklaces, wedding rings, brooches and other jewelry pieces of superb value.

From a smalltown enterprise, OCAMPO’s grew to become a large, nationally-known enterprise, with branches and extensions all around Pampanga and even in the posh malls of Manila and Makati. Pampanga’s premiere jewellery store was founded by Atty. Ricardo “Rickie” Ma. Ocampo.

He was born in the town of Minalin on 23 October 1919, the son of Santiago L. Ocampo, a noted pioneer in jewelry merchandising and owner of a chain store of local jewelry stores. Ricardo’s mother, Felipa vda. De Ocampo, on the other hand, hailed from Guagua. For his primary education, Ricardo attended the Minalin Elementary School, before moving to Guagua National Institute. He then transferred to Pampanga High School, where he graduated in 1936.

Upon completion of his secondary school, he enrolled at the University of Santo Tomas and earned his Commerce degree in 1940. He then proceeded to take up and finish Law at Francisco Law Schoo, and passed the Bar Exams in the nick of time—just before the War. Ricardo sharpened his business acumen by assuming the managership of his father’s business, “Ocampo’s for Everything”, beginning in 1945.

With his marriage to Evansuida Gueco, daughter of Lorenzo Gueco and Saturnino Ocampo, he decided to venture on his own in 1947. Settling in the hometown of his wife, the couple put up Ocampo’s Angeles, which was primarily a small jewelry shop. To this shop, they eventually added jewellery services, a gift shop, a pawn shop, and an optical department. The Ocampos became direct importers of clocks and watch parts, which proved to be their bestsellers, after their jewelry products.

 As their fortunes grew, so too their social standing. Ricardo’s financial occupation was made busier with socio-civic activities. Ricardo became President of the One and Only Club, the Jolly Youngsters Club and Selegna Club. He also headed the popular Bato-Balani Club and Kundiman Club as Governor. Likewise, he was a lifelong member of the Angeles Jaycees, the Rotary Club of San Fernando and the Holy Name Society.

 Evansuida, on the other hand, honed her skills in the art and science of jewelry by enrolling in special gemology courses. As a gemologist, she earned international recognition for her jewelry expertise. The Ocampo couple would have four children, all daughters-- Corito, Divina, Evita and Finina, who grew up studying at the local Holy Family Academy.

 By the 1950s, OCAMPO’s would have lucrative branches in Angeles, San Fernando and Guagua, which encouraged customers to “Buy with Confidence”. The company logo incorporated images of a clock face and a gem—the banner products of their business.

 The 70s were a time of expansion and diversification to respond to the imperatives of the times. OCAMPO’s added household appliances to their product line, and put up a large warehouse-shop along MacArthur Highway in Balibago, a strategic location to capture both the local and large American base market. With the prominence of malls in the late 70s and 80s, branches of OCAMPO’s sprouted in Shoemart (SM) and Ayala Commercial Center, joining other Kapampangan-owned shops like those operated by the Dayrits (Miladay’s) and Fe Sarmiento-Panlilio (Fe Panlilio Jewellers).

 Just when things were going along very well with the Ocampos, a tragedy struck the family on 28 September 1983. Ricardo, Evansuida and their then 14 year old adopted daughter, Rosemarie Pineda, were attacked by their houseboy, Eddie Malonzo, at their posh Villa Teresa all-white mansion. The couple were killed, but their daughter survived the carnage which was reported in national newspapers.

 Despite the Ocampos’s tragic deaths, their legacy lives on in their shops which continues to operate today in Angeles and in Manila. It still enjoys a loyal following especially by a generation of Kapampangans who grew up wearing Ocampo’s wedding rings, gold chain necklaces and fine wristwatches, among others.

Monday, October 28, 2013


KAPAMPANGAN HIGHLANDERS. A Kapampangan belle and her tribe of kids pose for a souvenir photo while dressed in genuine Igorot attires. Lowlanders found the exotic costumes of the northern highlands attractive enough to be used as favorite dress props for photography.

 Baguio, the country’s summer capital, was developed by the Americans in the early 20th century as a mountain resort, a cool refuge from the oftentimes unbearable tropical climate they were unaccustomed to. Chinese and Japanese laborers were employed to build Kennon Road leading to the pine-clad city.

 It would soon become apparent that Baguio would bloom into a city unparalleled in beauty and natural charm. Daniel Burnham laid out the city and build the famous park that now bears his name. The Manila-Dagupan Railways made access to the highlands easier and it was just a matter of time that lowlanders would go to Baguio to find work and eventually, a new home.

 A lively building boom began immediately, peaking about 1915. At first, Japanese carpenters took an active part in the construction of the city. Sawmills were set up and these were manned and managed by Japanese settlers who invited relatives over to join them.

But in the 1930s, Pampanga carpenters gained more favour, as they were more adept in erecting houses of Spanish-Filipino style. Also, the Kapampangans charged fees that were more affordable. While the Japanese carpenters employed Ilocano, Ibaloy and Kankanay peons, the Pampanga carpenters brought in their own assistants, also from their home province. As fate would have it, it was the same Pampanga builders and their aides in the 1930s who went on to rebuild the devastated city of Baguio after World War II.

Many of these Kapampangans would fall in love in Baguio and eventually make it their home. Leogardo Mendoza, a Baguio resident since the 1930s, had a grandfather who was a maestro carpintero from Guagua. He took along his family in Baguio and Leandro’s parents went on to run baguio Theater and Bowling Alley along Abanao Street.

Some members of the Gosioco Family also had houses in Baguio and became permanent residents of the city in the 50s. As a child, I remember going to their popular general store located within Baguio market grounds, which carried everything from school supplies to Baguio sweets and souvenirs.

My uncle, Mateo Castro of Mabalacat, brought his young wife, Aurea Samson of Dau, to Baguio, and decided to settle there permanently. They made their home on top of a steep hill along Bokawkan Road, and their stylish bungalow would be a welcome home for their Kapampangan relatives every summer. As a teacher at St. Louis Boys’ High and later, a college professor at the Belgian-run St. Louis University, my uncle and his family found it easy to be integrated in Baguio society that was open and .

In the 60s and 70s, Baguio began attracting students as it grew to become a become a major center of education in the North. By then, it had become known as a university city, home to such fine schools as St. Louis University, Baguio Central University, University of the Philippines, University of Baguio, Baguio Colleges Foundation and even an agricultural school in La Trinidad.

My sister Celine would be the first of my siblings to go to Baguio for her college education at St. Louis University, and she would eventually get married to Ferdinand Hamada, whose forebears were among the first Japanese pioneers of Baguio. My brother Gregg and I would follow as well and it was always a delightful surprise to find many Kapampangans in my school, that included students from Sta Rita (Jeannie Saplala-Parker), Mabalacat (Robby Tantingco, Olga Hipolito) and Angeles (Lito Nievera, Rizal de Guzman, Ruby Pineda).

Just about the same time, Baguio developed a lively art scene, and artists from all over the country gravitated to the city, including Kapampangan painter, Ben Cabrerra (BenCab) and his wife Carolyne Kennedy. BenCab, now a National Artist, would found an art center called Tamawan Village, which houses a BenCab Museum, a 2000 square meter modern facility on a 4-hectare property beside the mountain town of Tadiangan. Today, it is a must-see destination for art aficionados.

 Baguio has lost much of its wonder and mystique in the past years, its green mountains studded with unsightly developments, with many of its heritage buildings like Pines Hotel, lost forever. It has also become overpopulated due to the influx of lowlanders and informal settlers. My last visit to the city of Pines was over 8 years ago, and although the city has dramatically changed, I was happy that I could still catch glimpses of its glorious, beautiful past, etched in the still warm and welcoming smiles of its hardy people.

Monday, October 21, 2013

*348. HILDA KORONEL: Kapampangan Actress, Cannes Sensation

HILDA SA IYO. Susan Reid, aka Hilda Koronel, at age 14. From a teen sensation to an actress of international repute.She took Cannes by storm with her intense portrayal of a daughter scorned in the 1975 movie, "Insiang".

The first time I beheld Hilda Koronel on the silver screen was in her launch movie, “Haydee”. I had lined up with my sister to watch this much ballyhooed Mars Ravelo-penned movie at the Rizal Theater in downtown Angeles one hot summer’s day in 1971, and it had been a box office hit of the season.

It was a love story between a Filipina fan, Haydee (played by Hilda Koronel) and an international combo star, Darwin Clark (Ed Finlan), who had come to Manila for a musical concert. I had read from my "Tin-Edyer Song & Show" comics that it was loosely based on the life story of Filipina Jinky Suzara and Gary Lewis, lead singer of the U.S. band, Gary Lewis and the Playboys.

I became an instant fan of Hilda Koronel, proud of the fact that she was Angeles-born, hence, a kabalen. I even took note of the fact that she was my age, just 4 days older ( she was born on 17 January 1957), and I vowed to follow her career and be her loyal fan forever. At her birth, she was named Susan Reid by her mother who hailed from the Visayas. Her father whom she never knew, was a Clark Air Base serviceman. As a waif, she lived in poverty, in the outskirts of the city.

All that would change when she was presented to producer/ starmaker Mrs. Emilia Blas of Lea Productions. At just 12 years going on 13, Susan already possessed a soulful kind of teenaged beauty that had attracted the attention of talent scouts and casters. It was said that Mrs. Blas did not have to give her a second look at the tall, 5’5” Pampangueña’s features: a bedimpled smile, an enchanting face, long black tresses. Mrs. Blas immediately took her under her wings and gave her the name, Hilda Koronel.

She invested in her promising discovery, enrolling her at Manuel L. Quezon University High School, and encouraged her to take drama, ballet, voice lessons and personality development. Hilda was cast in a bit role in the movie, “Leslie”, registering so well that the next inevitable step was a starring role in her launch movie, “Haydee”, a huge commercial success.

That same year, her dramatic skills were tested in the 1970 opus,”Santiago”. Her luminous performance was not lost in that year’s FAMAS—she was awarded a Best Supporting Actress trophy, the youngest winner ever, in the history of the prestigious award body.

However, the trend of the times were youth-oriented flicks and Hilda was soon appearing in formulaic lightweight hits like “Happy Hippie Holiday”, and recording silly ditties like “”Abracadabra Come Home”.

The turning point was when Director Lino Brocka took an interest in this talented girl and cast her in the 1975 classic, “Maynila: Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag”, opposite another discovery, Rafael Roco Jr. As Ligaya Paraiso, Hilda essayed the role of a girl forced to prostitute herself and give up everything, including her one true love, all because of a life of dehumanizing squalor. The movie won 6 major awards in that year’s FAMAS derby.

But it was in next year’s “Insiang” that Hilda’s star shone brightest and had everyone in showbiz talking. The story of a girl raped by her mother’s lover and exacting her revenge showed Hilda’s acting at her finest, earning her both a FAMAS and a Gawad Urian Award. Brocka’s acclaimed film went on to become the first Filipino film to play at the 1980 Cannes International Film Festival.

The response to this movie melodrama was thunderous, and all eyes in Cannes were, all of a sudden, on Hilda. She became the toast of Cannes, and her performance was raved about in magazines and newspapers, and her beauty even made the front pages of film periodicals. Hilda would become one of Lino Brocka’s favorite actresses, appearing in over ten of his films, including the trilogy, “Tatlo, Dalawa, Isa”, "Angela Markado" and "PX". 

Hilda’s career spanned over 4 decades, which would translate to over 45 films, three acting awards and 11 acting nominations. She was also a much-sought after model, and was once member of Rustan’s VIP Council and appeared as a Lux Girl. In between, shefound time to wear a bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in International Stduies from Maryknoll (now Miriam) College.

For a long while, Hilda was romantically linked with the late actor, Jay Ilagan, with whom she had a daughter, Leona. With the late Bambi del Castillo, she had another daughter, Isabel, while her marriage to Spanky Monserrat resulted in a son, Gabby.She has a second boy, Diego, with Dr. Victor Reyes. She also has two adopted daughters, Patricia and Ivy.

In May 2000. Hilda put her failed romances behind her and married a Fil-Am businessman, Ralph Dulay Moore, in Nevada., whom she had met in Greenhills earlier in 1998. In 2006, the Moores left the Philippines to settle permanently in Calfornia. In 2012, however, Hilda accepted a movie role and, in 2012, filmed Star Cinema’s, “The Mistress”, starring Bea Alonzo and John Lloyd Cruz, and directed by Olivia Lamasan.. Her comeback role would win her a Best Supporting Actress trophy at the 2013 Luna Award, proof that she has not lost her brilliant thespic touch.

My 14 year old “Haydee”has now graciously grown into a 56 year old grandmother of two, but Hilda continues to mesmerize, her name, still commanding awe and respect as the first Filipina to blaze the trail and make history in the premiere movie capital of the world that is Cannes. Together with Brocka, she has helped paved the way for a new generation of actors, actresses, directors and film makers who are now leaving their mark in international festivals around the world.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


TAWAG'S HOSTS WITH THE MOST.  The iconic tandem of Lubao-born Patsy and Lopito will forever be inextricably associated with the most successful talent show ever to air on radio and TV. Tawag ng Tanghalan produced a bumper crop of singing superstars like Nora Aunor, Novo Bono Jr., Diomedes Maturan, Edgar Mortiz--including Kapampangans Cenon Lagman and June Pena.

Before the Filipinization of ”American Idol”, “America’s Got Talent”, “The Voice” , “X-Factor” and all those stateside talent searches, there was the one and only “Tawag ng Tanghalan”, the first true national talent search conducted by the local manufacturing and marketing giant, Philippine Marketing Company or PMC. PMC had been producing staple products for Filipino families for years, such as Luto, Perla Soap, Dari Crème, Star Margarine and its banner brand, Purico.

When it was bought by the global company, Procter and Gamble, its new product offerings expanded even more to include icon brands such as Tide, Vicks, Camay, Safeguard and Mr. Clean Camay (Crest, Zest, Oil of Olay and Ariel would follow many years later).

 To promote its products to the mass market, PMC sponsored a nationwide singing talent search in 1955, with the intent of discovering a young amateur champion from the contests conducted through 7 radio stations and open auditions using 13 roving advertising trucks. Regional finalists, judged by a panel, were then transported to Manila for the national finals held at the capacious Manila Jockey Club to perform before a huge crowd.

In the end, a Spanish mestizo, Jose Gonzalez was adjudged as the first-ever Tawag ng Tanghalan champion with his song “Angelitos Negros”, followed by Angelita Espinosa, and the Montecillo sisters. Jose Gonzalez – who would later be known as Pepe Pimentel—received a cash prize, PMC products and a surrealistic trophy designed by artist Cesar Legaspi.

This marketing ploy proved to be effective for PMC that, when television became the next big thing in media, the company bought air time on Channel 3 and produced TV version of the same contest, which proved to be a long-running success, broadcasted from the radio and TV media from 1955 to 1972. There were to be 3 years (1966-69), that “Tawag” ceased airing, but the contest resumed in 1970, spawning artists like Novo Bono, Edgar Mortiz, Jonathan Potenciano and Nora Aunor.

Closely associated with its success where the hosts, Patsy and Lopito. Patsy Mateo of Lubao, spent her growing up years in Hawaii, but came back to pursue a career in stage (‘bodabil’) and film, during the Commonwealth years and after the war. “Tawag ng Tanghalan” would giver the opportunity to flaunt her Kapampangan-ness by breaking into the language at every opportunity—to tickle the audience, calm down contestants’ nerves, or even console losing singers who were dispatched home at the sound of a gong.

Patsy was not the only Kapampangan personality in “Tawag ng Tanghalan” as conetestants from Pampang regularly joined the weekly auditions. In 17 years of “Tawag”, at least two Kapampangans have brought home the Grand Championship trophy.

 Cenon Punla Lagman of Masantol, Pampanga was a fisherman-turned singer who wowed judges with his inimitable renditions of kundiman songs. At the age of 24, he won the “1960 Tawag ng Tanghalan Grand Finals” with his performance of “Ikaw Lamang ang Iibigin”, succeeding the very popular Diomedes Maturan.

The two ”Tawag” stars went on to co-star in the movie “Maturan and Lagman”, under VIN productions. Lagman, known as the “Prinsipe ng Kundiman” went to on to record under Mayon Records, popularizing songs like, “Pandora”, “Bakas ng Lumipas”, ”Bakit Di Kita Malimot” and “Salamat sa Ala-ala”. Later, he joined Alpha Records while raising his family in Las Piñas. He died on 25 May 2013.

 June Peña, the 1965 Grand Champion, is listed in the “Tawag” record books as having represented Dagupan, Pangasinan at the national finals. In truth, Peña comes from Barangay Batang 2nd, in Sasmuan, Pampanga. It so happened that while he was paying a visit to his girlfriend Helen in Dagupan, the “Tawag” auditions were also being held there. He signed up, won the Dagupan regionals and was whisked off to Manila where he bagged the major prize with the song "Autumn Leaves", succeeding Eva Adona. Peña still resides in Pangasinan today.

 Attempts at reviving “Tawag ng Tanghalan” began in the mid 1980s with a special “Reunion of Champions” telecast that gathered past “Tawag” champions. Abroad, especially in the U.S., the spirit of “Tawag” lives on in several singing competitions that have adapted the same contest title. It is almost certain that a Kapampangan Come audtion time, it is almost certain that a Kapampangan will join, make the cut and give the performance of his life. With music in his blood, he will find it hard not to respond to the roar of the crowd and answer the call of the stage—ang “Tawag ng Tanghalan”!.

Monday, October 7, 2013


EMPLOYEES OF NAR-MAN'S TAILORING, working overtime on Christmas Eve, 1948. The shop, established by Narciso Mangune of San Simon in 1932, was located along Azcarraga, cor. Misericordia St.

As a child, my clothes were almost always ready-to-wear, bought off-the-rack from bazaars and clothing shops that abound along Plaridel St. in Angeles. I and my brothers wore basic short pants in khaki, black and navy blue, which we matched either with a T-shirt or a hand-me-down polo salvaged from my Manila cousins. All other clothing pieces were sewn by my multi-skilled Mother who was quite handy with a sewing machine.

 By the time I got to high school, it was obvious that I needed better, more tailored clothes; beyond uniforms, I needed appropriate fashions for our teen socials, school activities like class parties and proms. So, my Mother sent me and my brothers off to a tailor in Angeles—Cong Peter—who had a shop right in his ramshackle house, just across Sacred Heart Seminary.

 For the longest time, Cong Peter designed and dressed us up in the latest styles of the day—from funky denim bell bottoms, bodyfit long sleeved shirts with standing collars, to snazzy gabardine coats that were perfect for our more formal senior prom. He was a master cutter par excellence, so much so that he found employment in Saudi, which left us briefly distressed. Where do we go now for our next set of clothes.

 Fortunately, every Pampanga town has many “sastres” of repute, known for their keen fashion sense as well as expertise in cutting and sewing. Before Cong Peter, there was a long line of master tailors who excelled in their trade and earned fame and fortune not only in their towns, but beyond the borders of Pampanga.

 In the peacetime years, young men of Minalin would hie off to Simon;s Tailoring, operated by master cutter, Martin Santos. For style-conscious Fernandinos, only the shops of Elpidio David (David and Fashion Tailoring), C. Hugo Gentleman’s Tailor Modernist and Vivencio Salas would do. Magaleños went to Narciso Suing’s “Gentlemen’s Tailor”to have their fittings while in Masantol, it was the “Sastreria de Julian Usi”.

 More enterprising Kapampangan tailors set their sights on the big city of Manila, which had a bigger, more sophisticated and therefore more moneyed clientele. Narciso Mangune of San Simon set up his “NAR-MAN’’s Tailoring” along Azcarraga corner Misericordia, in 1932, armed with a vow to his customers: “Nung bisa kang lunto maticdi at calang alangan lalu na qñg sociedad, ipatai yu ing quecong imalan qñg cabalitan a sastreria NAR-MAN’s. Sane ya at biasang taluqui qñg macapanaun a moda” (If you like to look dashing and without any awkward feeling in society, have your clothes sewn by the well-known NAR-MAN’s Tailoring. It is experienced and is up-to-date with the current fashions of the day).

 From Sasmuan, master cutter Jose S. Galang managed his own Galang Tailoring along 1122 Rizal Avenue. Just 5 stalls away was Alviz Tailoring, whose “clothing perfections” won First Prize at the 1933 Manila Carnival. Further down the road was Cura’s Tailoring, operated by I.D. Cura; it had a branch at Maria Clara St. Angel S. Domingo opened “The New York Modern Tailoring”at 1000 Magdalena St., Trozo in Tondo. His cabalen, P.S. Domingo, had his along busy Azcarraga (now C.M. Recto), fronting A. Rivera. Both came from Mexico.

 Lopez Tailoring, operated by a certain T.S. Lopez in Escolta enticed its customers with its time-honored philosophy: “Success is not’s perseverance and personal appearance. Wear custom made-to-measure clothes and have personal comfort and distinctive style”.

 The most impressive credentials seem to belong to Lorenzo V. Beltran, who owned and operated “Beltran’s Tailoring” on Echague. Beltran described himself as a “Sartorial Designer”, with over 18 years of experience in the tailoring profession. A Business Administration degree holder from the University of Manila, Beltran also bannered in his ads that he has travelled abroad for 3 year, and is one of the most up-to-date tailors in the city of Manila. The shop’s specialty was the “Evening Press”.

 In recent years, more famous Kapampangan-owned tailoring shops include Toppers of Manila, which was founded by Atty. Amado Carlos of Apalit. In the 70s, it was one of the leading men’s wear chain in the country, specializing in suits done in 24 hours, dress pants, vests, coats and barongs. It still is in operation today, with its main office in Quezon City.

 Fashion styles these days tend to be more casual, informal and laidback. Before, gentlemen shoppers would walk the Escolta strip in white Americana cerrada and straw hat while young Filipino swains dressed for the afternoon paseo at Luneta in smart sharkskin coats and tie. The demand for such styles may have waned, but tailoring shops continue to thrive in Pampanga towns, capturing a niche market of customers who want more than just signature brands—but accurate measurements, perfect fit, personalized, friendly service—all at an affordable price. Practicality—like quality-- never goes out of style.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

*345. Central Luzon’s Wellness Center: PAMPANGA GENERAL HOSPITAL

IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE? The staff of the Pampanga Provincial Hospital, San Fernando, Pampanga. Dated 4 December 1953.

When the Americans came to the Philippines, they found a country plagued by many tropical diseases, a population with a high mortality rate brought about mainly by poor public sanitation. Immediately, through the colonial government, through its Bureau of Health, embarked on a nationwide health program that included introducing waste disposal through sewage systems, community vaccinations and fumigations, and of course, the building of puericulture centers and hospitals.

 Pampanga’s premier hospital was inaugurated in 1931 as Pampanga General Hospital in Dolores, San Fernando. The spanking new 2-storey hospital was located about 2 kilometers from the heart of the capital town, and was considered as one of the most beautiful concrete buildings in the whole province. The modern hospital had a 50-bed capacity, but can accommodate up to 70 patients. It had separate wards for male, female and children patients. There was also a charity ward to treat indigent patients for free.

 The Pampanga General Hospital was well-equipped with the latest apparatus of the period, both in the operating room and in the clinical laboratory. Previous to this, Pampanga’s only other health facilities were the 20-bed Pasumil hospital in Del Carmen and a large puericulture center in Bacolor, thus, the opening of Pampanga General Hospital was most welcomed. It became Pampanga’s premier center of health and wellness, attracting patients from all over Central Luzon and improving the lives of millions, through the years.

 Today, the hospital has become part of the expanded Jose B. Lingad Memorial Hospital, named in memory of Pampanga’s former governor and congressman who was imprisoned and murdered during the Marcos regime. Since then, rival hospitals with leading edge medical facilities and services have sprouted in nearby Angeles City, but the provincial hospital continues to be a viable alternative especially to those who cannot afford quality medical care.

 In June 2013, however, the expansion of Jose B. Lingad Memorial Hospital was launched, with the groundbreaking of 2 six-storey obstetrics-gynecology, pediatric and medical arts building. With the new structure, the bed capacity is expected to double from its current 250 to 500. This was envisioned to be just a kick-off of a more ambitious, much extensive 4-year expansion program for the hospital, so it can deliver quality medical and health services that everyone in the region deserves.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

*344. PICTURE-PERFECT: The Kapampangan Eye Behind the Camera

CLICK NA CLICK! Ace photographer Ricardo Reyes Twaño of San Fernando, owner-manager of Twaño Studio, the capital town's leading portrait salon in the 50s.

 “Pretty as a picture!”
That’s how a person of impeccable looks is often described—no bad angles, beautiful, whether from a distance or up close. But in truth, it takes more than a pretty face to be “Miss or Mr. Photogenic”—it is oftentimes the discerning eye behind the camera that can make or break the picture-perfect shot.

Since the advent of modern photography, Kapampangans have developed an eye for this art, creating pictures that not only document and preserve the moment, but also tell stories, capture realities, instruct and inspire.

 One of the earliest Kapampangan ace photographer was the prodigious Jose Ma. Piñon whose studios churned out “carte-de-visite”—small visiting card portraits popularized by the Victorian age. Piñon also took photos of the historic events in Malolos aduring the years of the Revolution.

 In the first two decades of the 20th century, Pampanga’s most in-demand photographers were Ramon Dizon (1882-1956) and Julio Valenzuela (1883-1940), who had studios in Angeles. They did mostly portraits—from solo sittings to family and wedding entourages. They were part of  the large Nepomuceno and Henson clans (Valenzuela, by marriage to Nemesia Henson Nepomuceno)  so it was said that they never ran out of subjects to shoot!.

 In the Commonwealth years, Juan de la Cruz Studio, under the proprietorship of Rogerio Lagman, rose to national prominence after being named as the official photographer of the 1933 Pampanga Carnival and Exposition.

Salon photography was certainly elevated to high art by Pablo “Bob” Razon who established a photo shop near the Manila Grand Opera along Avenida in 1946. His first patrons were Americans and their girlfriends; they could not pronounce his nickname “Pabs”, so they called him “Bob’s”, and the rest is history. Bob photographed presidents, moguls and mavens, socialites and royalties, celebrities and scions, with a long, successful career that ended only with his death in 2013. Today, he is acknowledged as the undisputed “Dean of Philippine Portraiture”.

Less well-known, but certainly just as skilled was Ricardo Reyes Twaño (b. 1922) of San Fernando. He was trained in Manila studios where he photographed personalities from Hollywood stars (John Wayne, Cyd Charisse, Harry Belafonte), statesmen (he photographed Pres. Carlos Garcia and family) plus scores of local showbiz celebrities, from Nida Blanca to Susan Roces. He set up the Twaño Studio right next to Pampanga Hotel which enjoyed quite a large patronage, especially from students amd American servicemen.

Selegna is perhaps Angeles’ most iconic photo studio run by the Pamintuans. The "home of glamour, haven of distinction" has been in service for over 60 years; its main shop was originally located along Henson St., with a branch at Sto. Rosario St. In the 50s, it specialized in glamourized portraits, family pictures, baby portraits and class pictures, with free panchromatic make-up.  Today, Selegna continues to be favored by students for their yearbooks, debutantes, prom queens and kings as well as newlyweds.

Romeo V. Vitug of Guagua began a career in journalism as a photographer for many publications like The Sunday Times Magazine. His photos were often used as covers in the tumultuous ‘70s. From photography, he shifted to cinematography and earned awards for his work in many Philippine movie classics that include Brocka's "Tatlo, Dalawa, Isa", "Atsay", "Wanakosey", "Bituing Walang Ningning", "Pagputi na ang Uwak, Pag Itim na ang Tagak", and "Madame X".

In the 80s, the place to go for picture and video documentations was Mukha Photography. It was put up by Rolly Baron (his mother comes from Dau), who dropped out of Ateneo to pursue his love of photography. His first successful offerings were portraits in either color or black and white, mounted on boards. He branched out to event coverages—weddings, baptisms, debuts, reunions—which made Mukha Photography a national name.

Never has photography in Pampanga seen livelier times than now, with more and more Kapampangans taking up the camera in the hope of following the footsteps of Holy Angel alumni Yen Baet. Her husband started her interest in photography and she surprised everyone by winning First Prize in a contest sponsored by National Geographic. Today, she is ranked as one of the world’s top ten travel photographers.

Another award winner is Ruston Banal Jr., who placed third at the World Photography Organization’s Sony World Photography 2013 contest with his work, "Kuraldal". He describes his works as "visual anthropology", with focus on people and social atmosphere where culture and heritage revolve".

Then there’s Angeleño Jason Paul Laxamana, who made a big leap from photography to film, megging the acclaimed, “Babagwa” for the 2013 Cinemalaya Film Festival. It has since made the rounds of moviehouses worldwide.

Cameras have gone digital, making photography so simple for everyone to do—no more films, no more developing process, no more waiting—just point and shoot. What has not changed is the perceptive eye behind the camera, who sees more than a subject in front of him, but a picture-perfect story about to unfold.

Monday, September 16, 2013


THE RAIN STAYS MAINLY IN THE CENTRAL PLAINS. The Philippines is a flood-prone country and not even its central plains are spared from inundation, Pampanga included. In 2013, the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) identified yesterday 223 barangays in 14 towns and one city of Pampanga as high-risk areas for floods.

Pampanga has a long history of flooding owing to its proximity to great rivers and waterways. Which means that every wet season, low-lying towns get submerged, precipitating calamities of unimaginable proportions. Indeed, Pampanga’s townscapes have been permanently altered through the years because of great floods. Magalang, for example was founded by Augustinians in 1605 at Macapsa. Because of the Malong uprising, it was moved to San Bartolome in 1734. But the great flood of 1863 caused by the overflow of the Parua River destroyed the town, and Magalang had to be re-established again in Barrio San Pedro in 1863.

 The location of the town of Minalin was also adjusted by the founders of the town, who had originally reserved a place called Lacmit, renamed as Santa Maria. Lumber had already been stacked to erect a church there, when flood waters overran the new town and swept away the logs to another site called Burol. There, the church was finally built to mark the new town. Because the site moved, the community was named “Minalis”, subsequently changed to “Minalin” due to a clerical error made by town head, Diego Tolentino.

 The famous Candaba Swamp located southeast of the great Pampanga River catches much of the river overflow and the flood water that comes down from western Sierra Madre. The 250 square meter basin is under water for most of the wet season (July-September), and dries up during summer.

 Floodings of the Pampanga River Basin were recorded in July 1962, May 1966, May 1976, October 1993, August 2003, August 2004, late September-October 2009, and August 2012. The catastrophic flooding that occurred in September 2011 caused by Typhoon Pedring nearly swallowed the Province of Pampanga as well as southern Bulacan.

 But in recent memory, nothing compares to the 1972 flooding that inundated almost all of Central Luzon. So extensive were the floods that they covered 14 provinces in Ilocos, Pangasinan, Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog provinces and Manila. The Pampanga River Basin and the Agno River Basin converged over Tarlac, making the Central Luzon and Pangasinan plains one whole waterworld from July to August of 1972.

 When then -President Ferdinand Marcos made a report to the nation, he announced, “For the first time, the waters of Manila bay linked up with those of Lingayen Gulf..”. Seen on the map, Central Luzon looked like it was about to be engulfed by the China Sea.

 To make matters worse, alarmists began spreading news of doom and gloom: that Laguna Lake and even Taal lake were on the verge of overflow; and that Angat and Caliraya, the fearful reported, were close to bursting.

 So devastating was the calamity that international aid poured in to help and save the people in the country’s richest agricultural region. The Philippine Marines, under the command of Col. Rudyardo Brown, were deployed to the worst-hit provinces—Pampanga and Bulacan—to distribute relief goods and assist the sick, feed the hungry and pluck the homeless, often found clinging on trees and swimming alongside floodwater debris. Schoolchildren gave part of their allowances—from 50 centavos to 1 peso—to help raise funds. Student groups volunteered to deliver relief packages in flood-stricken areas, while medical students and interns ministered to the sick.

 They say that the recent floods spawned by the monsoon and typhoons were the worst to hit the country, all wrought by global warming. That may be so, but for Kapampangans who survived and who lived through those 40 days of deluge, the great floods of Central Luzon in 1972, have no parallelm wherem as one magazine reported, “it was as if the heavens had fallen on the Philippines, and instead of fire and brimstones, came down water, water everywhere."

Monday, September 9, 2013

*342. NANCY ROMAN: Magalang’s Sweet Young Thing of the Movies

SWEETIE-SWEETIE STAR. Nancy Roman was born as Alice Hollingsworth in Magalang, daughter of American Reston and Edelina Hollingsworh (nee Indiongco). She was a staple of :The Nite Owl Dance Party" on TV, before she was discovered for the movies, where she was known for her sweet, almost pristine image.

The first time I saw Nancy Roman on screen was in the very popular movie, “Darna at Ang Babaing Tuod”. She played the role of the sweet, goody-goody Angela, rescued by Darna (Eva Montes) from her evil sister-turned tree monster, Lucy (Gina Alonso).

It was easy to figure out who was the bida and the contrabida—their names gave everything away: Angela/Angel vs. Lucy/Lucifer. All thoughout the movie, Nancy Roman looked and played her part perfectly, what with her virginal mestiza features, pure and untainted. To think she came into prominence by being a regular presence in the rowdy, teen-oriented TV music cum dance show, the Night Owl Dance Party in the mid 60s, hosted by Lito Gorospe.

 Nancy was born as Alice Hollingsworth, the daughter of American Reston Hollingworth and Edelina Indiongco of Magalang, Pampanga. Her father died young, and her mother married a second time to Crisanto Garcia, a union that resulted in four more children—a girl and 3 boys. The television industry was but a fledgling business in the 60s, but it was attracting the attention of a young audience.

Channel 11’s Nite Owl Dance Party was one such hit program that catered to the yeah-yeah generation’s interest in combo music and dance. The show’s big attraction was the search for Miss Nite Owl Dance Party and the young Alice gamely joined, in the hope of winning a prize for the family. This exposure led to her being discovered for the movies by Ben Feleo, who introduced her to the producers at Ambassador Productions.

At age 16, she was cast in her first movie, “Batangueno Brothers” as the tomboy sister of the leading lady, Chiqui Somes, who played opposite Zaldy Zshornack. Though the film was not a hit, she was noticed by producers of People’s Pictures who offered her a 5-year contract, beginning with “Ang Batikan”, where she supported Celia Rodriguez and Maggie de la Riva. Secondary roles continued for Nancy in the popular “Lagalag” movie series.

 But her biggest break was in the aforementioned classic “Darna at ang Babaing Tuod” (1964), where her screen presence was duly noted by movie fans. In her next movie, Captain Barbell, she was elevated to stardom.

 When People’s Pictures concentrated on its cinehouse business, Nancy was released from her contract and turned freelancer, allowing her to do more movies and earn more. She also tried to step out from her goody-two shoes image by appearing in other movie genres—she sang alongside another Kapampangan ingénue, Helen Gamboa, in “Yesterday”.

She also starred in the youth-oriented “Swinging Jet Age” and the action-packed “Zaragoza” were two films done for Regina Productions. In the latter film, Nancy was paired with a kabalen, Jess Lapid. She would be linked romantically with this Porac native who was, at that time, making a name for himself in local Western and action movies.

Unfortunately, Jess Lapid was killed in July 1968, and her name was dragged into the tragic incident, tainting her sweet image. It was rumoured that the upcoming action star was killed because of her. Nancy had to lie low because of the Lapid case, but remembered her co-star with fondness. “He was such a very good fellow, thoughtful and considerate”, she mused, “I am very thankful for the good deeds he did for me.There will be no other man like him”.

 Her last movies were done in 1970: Servillano Zapata and Counter Attack. After that, she faded from the limelight and moved to the U.S. Though she never achieved the heights of fame that her fellow Magaleña, Liza Lorena (Elizabeth Jolene Luciano Winsett) accomplished, Nancy's image as a young, sweet ingenue who can never do wrong, endures on screen and in countless "Darna" re-runs on television.

Monday, September 2, 2013

*341. DR. BIENVENIDO S. GONZALEZ: University of the Philippines' Two-Time Kapampangan President

DR. BIENVENIDO S. GONZALEZ: Two-Time President of the University of the Philippines from the prominent Gonzalez family of Apalit that includes Joaquin Gonzalez, Augusto Gonzalez and Bro. Andrew Gonzalez. ca. 1934.

 When Dr. Bienvenido Sioco Gonzalez assumed the presidency of our esteemed state university in 1939, he accomplished many firsts---the youngest head to be so named at just 46 years old, and the very first alumnus to do so. He made history again in 1945, when he was reappointed, making him the only president to hold two terms.

Gonzalez was born on 22 November 1893 in Apalit, Pampanga, the son of Don Joaquin Gonzalez and Dña. Florencia Sioco. His father had been the rector of the Universidad Literaria de Filipinas, a school of higher learning founded by Philippine president Emilio Aguinaldo in Malolos. He was one of the earliest graduates of agriculture at the University of the Philippines in 1913.

After his collegiate studies, he earned a scholarship at the Wisconsin State University, as one of the first batch of Filipino pensionados. There, he obtained his Master of Science in Agriculture in 1915. Gonzalez further took doctoral courses at the John Hopkins University, before returning home to the Philippines. He was immediately recruited as an Assistant Professor of Animal Husbandry at his alma mater, a post he held for 6 years. He quickly rose in rank, first promoted as a department head and later, Dean of the College of Agriculture in 1928.

Back home in Pampanga, he put his agricultural expertise to good use, becoming a sugar planter like his father before him and a businessman. He served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Pampanga Sugar Development Co., (PASUDECO).

In 1939, he broke barriers by being installed as the sixth president of the University of the Philippines, amidst opposition due to his “non-intellectual” animal husbandry background. But he rose above all these, lobbying for the opening of a College of Nursing, the founding of the UP Carillon and the use of Tagalog as a national language.

The war disrupted 6-year term and, rather than serving under the Japanese rule, he stepped down from his post, to be replaced by Antonio Sison, until the Liberation. He reassumed the Presidency in 1945 amidst the ruins and reconstruction following the War. But he forged ahead, making a very crucial decision to move major school operations from the damages Padre Faura campus to the new, but distant and empty Diliman area, a vast 493 hectare property donated by the Tuason family. He successfully obtained Php 13 million from the U.S. War damage Commission which he used to rebuild a new University of the Philippines campus.

The very vocal Gonzalez persevered and succeeded in concretizing his vision for the University despite media criticisms and differences with then Pres. Elpidio Quirino. For instance, he disapproved an honorary degree that the government want conferred on Indonesian President Sukarno. He openly welcomed Quirino’s staunchiest critic, Claro M. Recto, as a speaker at one commencement exercise. He also spurned an offer to become a Cabinet Secretary under Quirino’s administration.

As a final straw, he resigned from his post in 1951, to be succeeded by another Kapampangan, Vidal A. Tan. Gonzales was married to the former Concepcion Rafols. A daughter, Eva, followed in his footsteps by also becoming a professor at the U.P. He died on 30 December 1953.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

*340. Dr. Coconut: CONRADO S. DAYRIT M.D

DOCTOR OF RESPECTED GUIDANCE. A cardiologist, pharmacologist and educator, Dr. Conrado Singian Dayrit from San Fernando, was later known to champion the health benefits of coconut, leading people to give him that monicker. His son, Manuel, became a Health Secretary during GMA's term. Ca. 1957.

 As a child, I was afflicted with all sorts of ailments of the serious kind—asthma, pneumonia, respiratory infection, and the worst of all—rheumatic heart disease. I remember missing school for weeks every year, due to my condition, and I still recall the worried looks on my parents’ faces as they shuttled me from one doctor to another. I was always on the edge every time we made those trips to Manila in the 60s because I detested being pricked by needles by nurses, and being poked by stern-faced doctors alone, in their cold examination rooms.

 One doctor stood out, however, for his warm and welcoming presence. He had an office at the new Polymedic Clinic back in the late 60s (now Dr. Victor Potenciano Polymedic Hospital), and I vividly recall our first visit there—because we had to take an elevator—my first ride ever. When I met him, he spoke to me in a calm, unhurried voice and he took his time with me, explaining the tests he would do, assuring me that the electrocardiogram session was not going to be painful at all. Most of all, he would confer with my parents in Kapampangan after, and their conversations would include a lot of family talk in between.

 I would hear later from my mother that Dr. Conrado Singian Dayrit was our Del Rosario “kamag-anak”, so that put me at ease even more. I was also told he was an accomplished doctor, one of the most capable in the country. Sure enough, over the years, I would hear more of Dr. Dayrit and his medical legacy which included being a pharmacologist, heart specialist, medical professor and naturopath.

 He was born on 31May 1919 in Manila, to parents Conrado Sr., (formerly with the Bureau of Public Instruction) and Eufronia Singian. A true-blue Atenean all throughout his elementary, high school and college days, he enrolled at the University of the Philippines and earned his medical degree in 1943. That same year, he passed the board as a topnotcher and was immediately employed as assistant professor at U.P. College of Medicine.

 In 1946, he was named International Fellow in Pharmacology by the Kellogg Foundation and stayed in the U.S. for 2 years. He took his postgraduate studies at the University of Michigan Medical School and the Cornell University Medical College.

 When he got back to the Philippines, Dr. Dayrit resumed his teaching at U.P. In 1955, he was named Officer-in-Charge of the U.P. Department of Physiology. Due to his work at the Philippine General Hospital as a physician to outpatients with cardiovascular problems, he was inspired to found the Philippine Heart Association and served as a member of its Executive Committee from 1952-1958. He has also been a member of the Asian Pacific Society of Cardiology, the Cancer Society, the Manila Medical Society.

 An tireless researcher, Dr. Dayrit has authored many scientific articles on such areas of interest as cardiology, pharmacology and medical education. He made a study on the “bangungot” phenomenon, as well as various papers on heart disease, its medical and surgical treatment as well as the pharmaco-dynamics of various drugs.

His research papers --over 70 of them--have earned for him many awards, including 1st and 2nd prizes for the 1954 and 1955 Manila Medical Society Research Award for Basic Science and Clinical Researches and Best Papers Read at the 49th Annual Meeting of the Philippine Medical Association. He was cited as “The Most Outstanding Young Man In Science” by the Sunday Times Magazine in 1955. In 1977, he was honored with a Gregorio Y. Zara Award in Applied Science by the Philippine Association for the Advancement of Science.

He held many important positions that included the presidency of the Federation of Asian Scientific Academies and Societies and of the Philippine National Academy of Science and Technology. He was named an emeritus professor of pharmacology at the University of the Philippines College of Medicine. He would also be a recipient of the Republic Cultural Heritage Award.

 Dr. Dayrit married the former Milagros A. Millar of Lucena, Quezon. They settled in San Juan and raised 5 children: Manuel, Conrado III, Antonio Fabian, Eduardo and Rafael. Eldest son, Manuel, also a doctor, became our country’s Secretary of Health from 2001-2005, under the term of Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

 Later in life, Dr. Dayrit championed the medicinal values of coconut and its by-product, virgin coconut oil especially on its efficacy on HIV, which started a national craze for naturopathy. Quite unexpectedly, our paths would cross again when he was invited to grace the launch of a new coconut based-cooking oil, the advertising of which I handled.

The venerable doctor, now over 80 years old, still commanded respect and awe for his profound knowledge on cardiovascular health. I shyly re-introduced myself to him in Kapampangan and namedropped my parents’ names and my Del Rosario surname, briefly recounting how I became his patient. He broke out in his trademark grin and answered back in crisp Kapampanga, “A wa, kakilala ke I Ma mu, ampo reng Del Rosario, kamag-anak mila..komusta naka?”. That acknowledgement certainly made my day.

 Dr. Conrado S. Dayrit passed away on 5 October 2007, at the very same hospital where he had his clinic for many years.

Sunday, August 11, 2013


ALAK,BABAE, SUGAL. A staged picture of showing the different vices of men--women, alcohol, gambling. Kapampangans had their share of woes and troubles brought about by these abominable excesses. Ca. 1920s.

Kapampangans certainly left indelible impressions on foreign observers and travellers who came to our isles in the 19th century, prompting them to write not just about their virtues, but also their vices, which paint a bi-polar picture of our character, and a culture of extremes that shaped traits and habits that lingers to this day. 

 Writer and traveller Jean Mallat, noted in his opus “The Philippines: History, Geography and Customs” that “the most estimable indios are those in the provinces of Pampanga, Cagayan, Pangasinan, Ilocos and Cebu. They are almost generous, courageous, industrious and capable. Their defects are incessant deceit, and an unbridled passion for gambling, and especially cockfights.” 

 Cockfighting or sabong had always been the traditional gambling sport of Filipinos since the 16th century. Chronicler Antonio Pigafetta wrote about the sport in his “First Voyage Around the World”, noting that the “natives keep large cocks which they never eat, but which they keep for fighting purposes. Heavy bets are made on the upshot of the contest..”. 

 So valued where the fowls that it was said that when a Filipino’s home caught fire, he rescued first, his rooster, then his wife, and children. In 1771, the arch-episcopal palace in Manila ordered the secular clergy to “strive to banish the sport of cockfighting , not sparing any effort to do this..”. Similarly, Gov. Gen. Simon de Anda attempted to ban cockfighting to avoid the upsurge of thefts and robberies—to no avail. 

 After all, by 1779, the game was contributing significantly to government revenues, with earnings of over Php 30,000, even during time of War. As such, sabong operators were given permits to operate even on Sundays. Kapampangans took to the sports like crazy, and their shady reputation as bigtime sabungeros with political clout still prevails to this day. Almost every Pampanga town have their own coliseums, but specially Guagua, Mexico, Lubao and Bacolor are considered as sabong centers of the province today. 

 After cockfighting, the colonial government added in 1849, the loteria (lottery) as an official means to keep the coffers of the government full and to keep the Filipinos hopeful for a richer life. Before that, card games were all the rage in the archipelago, that included “panguingue”, a form of rummy originally from Mexico and “monte”. Then there was the “cuajo”, which was noted to be “favorable among Pampangos”. 

 But nothing was more popular than ”jueteng”, an illegal numbers game that originated in China and which caught on in the province like wildfire. Easy to play, one need only to call on a “kubrador” discreetly as he trod the neighborhood street. One then places a bet (as low as 10 pesos) on a chosen pair of numbers from 1 to 37. 

 Pampanga has often been described as “the Vatican of jueteng”. This was spurred by a political scandal in June 2005 in which relatives of then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo were suspected to have received pay-outs from jueteng operators, led by Bong Pineda of Lubao (husband of incumbent governor) and an alleged jueteng kingpin in 5 regions of the country. 

 Before the advent of San Miguel Beer and “markang demonyu”, Kapampangans in Minalin, and Sasmuan were already making native liquor of all sorts, like tuba and lambanug, all from coconut. Chinese distillers, however, proved to be master mixers, using Pampanga’s molasses from pilones. They supplied outlets with their intoxicating firewater, animating Kapampangans’ social sprees while dazing minds. In the 1930s, one can go to Salva’s Canteen in Angeles to buy all kinds of liquor, including whiskey and beer. 

 The illicit sale of liquor became widespread when the American population in Clark started to grow. A “Rum Row”existed in Clark as early as the 1930s, in which local entrepreneurs made rum for illegal sale to Americans. Homesick military men, out for a cheap, good time, took to heavy drinking, often resulting in some unfortunate accidents. For instance, on the night of January 23, 1938, five drunk officers figured in a car crash that resulted in the death of four; only the driver survived. Where wine is, a woman can’t be too far behind. 

 The lure of the flesh was another “evil” that Kapampangans find irresistible. A safe destination to meet girls in the Commonwealth years was the Amusement Palace Cabaret, operated by Juan Cortez in Angeles, which would soon be a hotspot for carnal knowledge. One of the rites of passage male teens dare to undergo is to hie off to the notorious “Area”, a place where one can have himself devirginized in a jiffy. Angeles was once described as “an amazing pattern of brothels, gin mills and dance halls” , during the heyday of Clark. 

Things appear to be unchanged if one were to believe eyewitness online accounts: ”Balibago is a non-stop drunken revel 7 days a week, every day of the year. Recreational sex is the sport of choice. If you are looking for a new friend for the night, you can almost certainly find a young lady to suit your taste..” 

 Alak, babae, sugal. For many Kapampangans, life is too short to go without a bisyu. Lead him not into temptation…he will find his way.

Thursday, August 1, 2013


THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE. A new mom bottlefeeds her baby, who is all swaddled in clothes, as was typical practice in the 1920s.

Birthing rituals are rooted in many cultures, and in Pampanga, there are folk beliefs and practices attendant to the delivery of a baby and his period of infancy and many more traditional customs observed in this important life event.

 An expectant mother, for example, is discouraged from eating twin bananas, as this may result in the birth of twin babies. A mother should also finish the food on her plate so that everything will come out during delivery, leaving her womb clean. If someone ate her leftovers, he will suffer bouts of sleepiness and drowsiness at work. Cutting her hair during pregnancy is not also advisable as the baby will be prone to baldness.

To avoid a difficult delivery, a pregnant woman should not have her house remodelled during her term and should avoid watching scary movies, lest her baby is aborted. Nor should she wear tight clothes so as not to deform the fetus. Participation in funeral activities is also a no-no. It is believed that both mother and child’s well being were dependent on the kinds of food she eats during her term.

To promote healthy eating, she should eat a diet of rice, monggo beans, raw eggs (for strength during labor), pigs tail ( for fetal movement) and kalamunding, a local citrus, so that her baby will have a flawless complexion. Scratchy root crops like taro or gabi should be excluded from her diet because it would cause her perineal area to itch.

 A child’s gender was determined by the way the mother looked during her pregnancy. If a mother’s tummy was set high and is pointy, the baby will be a boy. If a mother looked beautiful all throughout her term, the baby will definitely be a pretty baby girl. Pre-natal care rituals were the domain of women, and during health screenings, an infanticipating mother was often accompanied by a female family member rather than her husband. In rural areas, women turned to the local comadrona (midwife) or a female hilot to assist in the delivery.

 To ease a woman’s labor, windows and doors were flung wide open. A bath before delivery is thought to facilitate the birth of a child. In one barrio of Guagua, relatives of a woman about to give birth make noises (shouting, beating tin cans and exploding firecrackers) to help expel the baby faster. Children born on a Sunday were favored with a rich, long life. They were thought to be safe from from drowning and hanging. Those born on midnight, old folks say, will be brave, while those who come inot the world at the break of dawn will have short tempers.

 In the first few months of his life, a baby was looked after and doted on unlike any other. If a baby suffered from hiccups, a water-soaked cotton ball was placed on his fontanel to relieve him. A baby’s sneezing fit foretell the coming of rain. To keep him from harm’s way, babies are kept in the house in the belief that they are not yet fully protected. It is not good for a visiting person to praise a baby as this is thought to bring “usug” ( a spell of bad luck), making him cranky and sickly. To ward off “usug” and evil elements, a dot of red lipstick is dabbed on a baby’s forehead.

 A baby had to be baptized in the first six months of his life. In Mexico, Pampanga, the baby is brought to the church by a group of boys and girls, borne on a gareta (carabao cart), accompanied by a band. All expenses are paid for by the godparents. During the christening of a child, the godfather must give money to the “hilot”; otherwise the baby will always be afflicted with sore eyes.

 Bringing a baby into this world entails responsibilities that can often test the mettle, patience and endurance of parents. But for a Kapampangan mom, a baby is the center of her universe; fulfilment comes from raising him, nurturing him, watching him grow. It is a 24/7 role that she has come to embrace, and if there ever was a slogan to capture this unconditional maternal commitment, it’s got to be this—with apologies to Gerber’s-- “Babies are our business…our only business!”.