Wednesday, June 12, 2013


ESCUELA PRACTICA DE ARTES Y OFICIOS DE BACOLOR. The newly reconstructed trade school, as it appeared in 1909. Damaged during the Revolution, the school was rebuilt using funds donated mostly by the native elite of the town. Today, Don Honorio Ventura Technological State University is a premiere technological university of the region. Luther Parker Collection, 1909.

While the Americans are recognized for reforming Philippine public schools, the Spaniards are credited for founding the first trade schools of the country, starting with the vision of Augustinian P. Juan Zita to help young but underprivileged youths of Bacolor. Bacolor’s elite, led by Don Felino Gil, donated the land and raised funds for the establishment of a school devoted to manual training and education. Thus was opened the Escuela Practica de Artes y Oficios de Bacolor, in 4 November 1861.

Initially, the school offered courses in carpentry, furniture making, ironworks and other practical arts, until the operations were interrupted by the Philippine Revolution. The school was converted to an ammunitions plant that supplied the Republican army with guns and bullets. The school sustained heavy damage as a result.

The school reopened in 1905 as Bacolor Trade School. Now under the Americans, the school underwent major reconstruction from 1906-07 at a cost of Php 12,000. At the grand inauguration of the new edifice, distinguished guests like former Gov. Ceferino Joven and Acting Director G.N. Brink, plus prominent members of both local and the American community graced the occasion that culminated in a lavish ball.

American instructors were at the helm of the school, teaching carpentry, wood craft, furniture making, weaving and embroidery. It was once again renamed to Pampanga Trade School in 1909. In 1911, the school observed its 50th anniversary, a milestone that was marked with yet another festive celebration held on 4 November.

A secondary curriculum that included Building Construction for boys and Domestic Science for girls was offered in 1922. Recognized as a regional trade school and renamed as Pampanga School of Arts and Trade, it added technical education courses in 1957. Pres. Diosdado Macapagal signed a decree in 1964, officially changing the name of the school to Don Honorio Ventura Memorial School of Arts and Trades (DHVMSAT) in honor of philanthropist Don Honorio Ventura, a native son of Bacolor who once helped Macapagal financially as a struggling student.

In 1978, under provincial governor Estelito P. Mendoza, the school became a state college. Curricular expansion led to the offering of courses such as Industrial Education, Engineering, Architecture and Home Economics. Masteral degrees were likewise offered in such fields as Public Administration, Education, Educational Management as wells as a Doctorate in Education in 2003. 

In June 2009, a house bill sponsored by Congressman Aurelio D. Gonzales, Jr.that called for the school’s conversion into a technological state university was passed and approved, that paved the way for the passage of a Senate Bill sponsored by Sen. Lito Lapid. On 9 December 2009, then Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed Republic Act 9832, finally declaring the school as Pampanga's first and only state university—the Don Honorio Ventura Technological State University.

From its humble beginnings, DHVTSU has grown by leaps and bounds, yet it continues to hold fast to its original mission envisioned over one hundred and fifty years ago--to keep the flame of technology alive so it may be used to improve lives, and enrich the future.


LIVING IN A “SONIC BOOM” TOWN. An FW-640 plane lands in Clark, one of the "guardians of Philippine defense". 1959.

In the days of Clark, not so long ago, we, from Mabalacat, would find ourselves being rudely waken and shaken up at odd hours of the day by the loud and intense aerodynamic noise created by jets flying overhead. Our roofs would rattle, dogs would bark, chickens would cackle and our ears would be attacked by the unbearable noise generated by these bad-ass birds taking off from Clark. To this day, many can't forget those noisy days of yore, prompting even top Kapampangan artist, Andy Alviz, to immortalize the jet plague that rocked Mabalacat in one of his songs.

Mabalacat was in the direct path of these various aircrafts—F-4, F-5, F-18s fighter jets mostly—and especially in the Vietnam years, the noise pollution they created was a major economic bane to the town. They were the reasons, local folks say, why the egg industry failed to prosper in Mabalacat as no hen could produce eggs under such noisy, disturbing nerve-wracking conditions.

The noise barrage from Clark’s aircrafts intensified even further with the launch of the Cope Thunder program, introduced by Brig. Gen, Richard G. Head in 1976. It was an immersion exercise conceived to give all American air personnel stationed in Asia their first taste of combat in a realistic training environment. The program was initiated in Clark, which meant the participation of hundreds of planes in the simulated air combat exercises. The take-off point these aircrafts was, of course, Clark.

The low-flying, high speed military jets produced ear-shattering noises that became even louder as the aircraft increased its speed. The density of the air at low attitudes heightened the deafening roar of the jets. Over the years, MabalaqueƱos learned to live with the sonic booms that occasionally cracked glass panes, shook windows and doors, interrupted afternoon naps and terrified babies. Surprisingly, other than these mishaps, there were no major incidents reported all throughout the time the Americans were in Clark—not until 2 May 2002.

That morning, a Philippine Air Force F-5 fighter jet, manned by Capt. Daniel Teodoro Policarpio of Basa Air base, crashed into a residential areas in Mabalacat, Pampanga, killing the pilot instantly and injuring at least 10 people. The plane—acquired from the U.S. way back in 1965—was about to land at Clark Air Base, when it exploded—with most of its parts crashing at the Mabalacat Elementary School, and the rest of the debris, strewn around populated areas of barangay San Joaquin.

Injured on the ground were MabalaqueƱos Jess Rivera, Junior de la Cruz (janitor of the school) and a certain Virginia Garcia. The school and some houses were also razed and damaged. As a result of the ill-fated crash, Air Force Chief Benjamin Defensor grounded the 9 remaining F-5 fighter jets of the Philippine Air Force.

The hasty departure of the Americans in 1991 due to the Pinatubo eruptions have not completely silenced Mabalacat skies. For one, the regular RP-US Balikatan joint military exercises call for air combat simulations which necessitate the launching of fighter planes, Phantom jets, choppers, ABDR birds and what have you-- at some given time in the year.

The opening of the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport has also resulted in the influx of commercial airlines, increasing air traffic and noise over Pampanga’s newest chartered city. Though the problem today is not as pronounced, Mabalacat is still susceptible to the “necessary inconveniences” of being a travel hub. Still, pardon the puns, it is hope that Mabalacat will rise above the din, as it soars to become Pampanga’s next ”sonic boom” city.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

*332. Hands on the Future: LEARNING THE INDUSTRIAL ARTS

OUT ON THE FARM. Young farmers pose for a pcture before the Domestic Science building of Mexico Elementary School. Ca. 1920s.

In revamping the curriculum of Philippine schools, emphasis was given by American teachers to subjects called Industrial Education (for boys) and Domestic Science (for girls).

To improve the basic motor skills of children, schools started offering vocational and manual training, teaching boys handicrafts, carpentry, weaving, toymaking and gardening.

On the distaff side, girls were trained on home arts that included sewing and embroidery,  marketing, cooking and house cleaning (yes, there is a systematic process in waxing and buffing floors!).

I was one of the hapless students of the 1960s who took up this required subject at Mabalacat Elementary School, which was quite an ordeal to finish. First, I was never handy with tools, and second, I hated gardening under the hot sun. I was eventually exempted from the subject because of my fragile health, but relief would not come easily; I was cross-posted in the Home Economics class of the girls where I ended up peddling snacks from room to room.

 Students have no one to blame but Harvard graduate Fred W. Atkinson, who, in 1902, was appointed as General Superintendent of Public Instruction in the Philippine Islands by Gov, Gen. William Howard Taft. The 35 year old former high school principal quickly reformed the school system—imposing the use of English as the language of instruction, the importation of teachers (known today as Thomasites), and of course, the integration of industrial and domestic arts in the elementary level curriculum.

 As was expected, the importance of the subject was lost on Filipino parents who sent their children to school—in the first place--to save them from a life of hard, manual labor. Unpopular with teachers, Atkinson was dismissed and was assessed as a failure. He was replaced by David Prescott Barrows who included the education-deprived barrios in his goal to develop a ‘cultured peasantry’. He re-skewed the emphasis on academic subjects, like Reading, Writing, Grammar and Spelling. He argued that manual training will only chain Filipinos to a life of peonage.

 But of course, Industrial Arts continued to be taught in primary schools all the way to the 70s and 80s. Manual training subjects became less and less laborious, in the case of needlework and drafting. Garden plots gave way to new school wings and Home Economic buildings were either knocked down or adapted for re-use as spare classrooms, until the subject of practical home arts was no more.

 My manual dexterity has not improved a bit in my use of a simple coping saw and hammer. Nor am I exactly a green thumb today. But for sure, the training has given me a better appreciation of the skills and efforts of people who use their hands for a living—from the anloagues, pandays, masons, cocineras, modistas and bordaderas of yesteryears to the talented Kapampangan furniture makers, culinary masters, potters, parol makers, and landscape gardeners of today. In their deft hands, they shape the future of our commercial, industrial and agricultural progress.