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.