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 fa├žade, 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 Bacolore├▒os, 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.