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.