Wednesday, January 29, 2014

*361. MANUEL ABAD SANTOS: The Fighting Mayor of Angeles

GO FIGHT! The fighting-est mayor of Angeles, Manuel Abad Santos, known for his mettle,  unflinching conviction and his will to serve, this despite a physical handicap. 1965 photo.

 Dubbed as Angeles’s fightingest mayor from the day he was elected in 1951, Manuel Abad Santos is best remembered as a town leader who stood firmly on one leg and a crutch, sticking firmly to his principle of standing up for the common good of his people.

 That, however, is no wonder for this selfless and fearless town executive, descended from illustrious Kapampangan patriots and leaders. Born on 26 March 1907 to parents Irineo Abad Santos of San Fernando and Teofila Dizon of Angeles, Manuel counts the late martyr-jurist Jose Abad Santos and the great people’s leader, Pedro Abad Santos as uncles.

 He grew up in comfortable surroundings—his family were operators of the first moviehouse in Pampanga. His primary education began at the local Angeles Elementary School, then enrolled at Pampanga High School in San Fernando for his first three years of high school. Manuel then transferred to Ateneo de Manila for his senior year. But an unfortunate incident in 1926 would leave him physically maimed for the rest of his life. While in a San Fernando entertainment place, he was caught in a gunfire started by a PC trooper who suddenly went on a shooting rampage. He lost his left leg in that carnage.

 Once recovered from his wounds, however, he went back to Ateneo and earned a pre-law degree, an Associate in Arts which he finished in 1927. Manuel, however, opted to work right after college, joining his parents in expanding their burgeoning moviehouse business by adding on two more: Cine Eden and Marte, which became well-known centers of showbiz entertainment in 50s Angeles.

 He married Leonarda Atienza of Capas, Tarlac, and their union was blessed with a large brood of 8 children: Manuel Jr., Hollanda, Immaculada, Irineo, Manolita, Antonio, Pedro and Filipinas. In later years, two of their children (Hollanda and Irineo) would be connected with the management and operation of the Angeles Telephone Co.; two boys took up medical studies (Manuel Jr. and Pedro), while another son, Antonio finished Law.

 He was already in his mid 40s when, in 1951, he joined the political fray. Running as a minority candidate, he won the mayorship of Angeles by a landslide, signalling the beginning of a long and fruitful career.

 In 1955, he replicated his monumental victory at the polls, winning a second mayoral term. This time, however,, his term was marked with bitter and contentious moments with Clark Field and local socio-civic groups.

 In 1956, the Clark commander, Col. Karl Barthelmess declared Angeles ”off limits” to military personnel, owing to intimidations allegedly made on servicemen by the local police. Accusations flew back and forth, but even with the ban hurting the local economy, the mayor could not be cowed. “Sovereignty”, he said, “could not be had for a couple of greenbacks”.

 In another separate incident, the local Jaycees took offense to a billboard put up by the Mayor which proclaimed his accomplishments. This cause a rift between the mayor and Jaycee members who also happened to be important businessmen—movers and shakers of the town’s economy.

Indeed, this mayor proved once again his pluck and mettle as “the only one-legged mayor of the Philippines and the one with the most kick inspite of his handicap”. He would continue running the affairs of the town with nationalist zeal, and for him, no other accomplishment can be greater than protecting the rights of the people to the best of his ability.

“The greatest good for the greatest number”, was the principle he lived by, maintaining that the welfare of his people is above the law. Manuel Abad Santos was succeeded by his nephew Rafael del Rosario after he finished his term in 1959.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


ARO, KATIMYAS NA NITANG LALAKE! A man from Sta. Ana, curiously dressed in women's clothes and with a head covering to match, strikes a pose between two ladies. Ca. 1930s.

A few years back, I was leafing over my Apung Tiri’s old expense ledgers dating back from the 1940s. Apung Tiri was my grandmother from my father’s side whom I have never met (she died in 1952, before I was born), and she was known for being fastidious about household expenses, writing down every money spent, every debt paid, and every cash advanced.

 Several entries in her journal piqued my interest especially those parts that mentioned her payments to “Juan Bacla”, apparently a tailor who made pants and shirts for Apung Tiri’s boys, sons Manuel, Mateo and Gerardo, my late father. Descriptive labels appended to people’s names were commonplace in the old days, and I remember people in the neighbourhood called Inggong Taba, Tsoglung Intsik and Rey Duling.

I was not prepared to see a “Juan Bacla” in my Apu’s old ledger, for I thought people then were not as open with their sexual orientations, making me wonder if “Juan Bacla” was already as swishy and as flamboyant back in the ‘30s as today’s Vice Ganda.

 As early as the 19th century, however, gayness was known and observed in the Philippines; a Spanish photographer, Felix Laureano, even shot a photo of a gay lavandera in the company of 3 washerwomen, He writes of the photo: mentioned “Three dalagas and a tao, sitting on the green grass beside the river and washing clothes, their minute feet being lapped by the crystal clear current. The tao, who can be identified by his manners, is binabayi, agui, and has the balutan of dirty clothes near him.”

 “Binabayi” was a general term to describe effeminate people—and at one point, even our national hero, Jose Rizal was labelled as one. “Bakla”is another appellation, but its deeper meaning is “to weaken”, hence a line in a Pasyon describes “si Kristo ay nababakla..”.

 In Minalin, there is a quaint festival involving cross-dressing—the Aguman Sanduk (Fellowship of the Ladle) . Started in 1934 by a group of drunken Minalin revelers who thought of a way to brighten up the New Year. The macho men dared each other to dress up in women’s clothes and parade on the main street. The culminating activity was the election of the Aguman muse—the ugliest of the cross-dressers. The honor of becoming the first queen went to husky Hilarion Serrano, who oldtimers remembered as “pekamatsura, maragul atyan, and delanan ane lupa” (the ugliest, pot-bellied, termite-ridden face).

 The celebration was capped with cultural activities “crissotan”competitions, and partaking of “lelut manuk”(chicken porridge). It is remarkable that the participants are all hot-blooded, heterosexual males. In the ensuing years, the Aguman Sanduk has grown even wilder and more daring: men and boys go on a beautifying frenzy: unabashedly donning blonde wigs, putting on fake lashes and mascaras and wearing brassieres in preparation for the New Year’s Day parade.

 On that much awaited day, the men in their micro-minis, sequinned evening gowns and outlandish costumes turn on their coquettish charms as they take to the streets—walking, dancing, sashaying in a spectacle in transvestism that would put any Miss Universe contestant to shame. On the sidestreets, the women cheer their men, husbands, sons and fathers as the freaky procession of pulchritude wends its way around town.

 Kapampangans have embraced this unique festival to this day, an original cultural tradition that pays tribute by poking fun at the ideals of machismo and beauty melded together in one celebration—two qualities that are valued by Kapampangans like no other. But Aguman Sanduk may also be looked at as a festival of liberation from gender discrimination and repression, expressed in gay abandon for all the world to see and eventually, accept, the way Kapampangans have.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

*359. 1965 Miss Press Photography: ELVIRA PAMINTUAN GONZALES

THIS GONZALES GIRL. Budding beauty Elvira Pamintuan Gonzales, in her early years in showbiz. She held many beauty titles but nothing as precious as being the mother of 1993 Miss Universe finalist Charlene Gonzales.

Elvira Gonzales, the beauty queen-turned actress who would one day become the mother of another world-class beauty, Charlene Gonzales, was born on 27 September 1947 to parents Perfecto Gonzales and Aurora Pamintuan.

The Pamintuans were a large Kapampangan clan with Angeles origins, to which Elvira belonged. The Pamintuans, under the patriarch Don Florentino Torres Pamintuan, were an influential family in Pampanga, and their historic mansion still stands today, the site of the inauguration of the first Philippine Republic.

 The Manila family of Elvira, however, was more modest; she and her parents resided in busy Sta. Cruz, along G. Camarines street. Elvie’s beauty was apparent at a young age, and she wasn’t even 16 when she joined a beauty tilt sponsored by the biggest dance program on television in 1963—Dance-O-Rama. She clinched the title and was soon on her way to collecting more beauty crowns.

 She signed up for the 1st ever Bb. Pilipinas Beauty Pageant in 1964 and when all the votes had been counted, she found herself in third place, behind Kapampangan winner Myrna Panlilio of San Fernando. After the contest, she went back to school at the University of Santo Tomas.

 Elvie was again, prevailed upon by her friends and talent agents to enter the 1965 Miss Press Photography of the Philippines, a nationwide competition launched by the leading association of photographers in the country. Previous winners and candidates had used this pageant as a stepping stone to greater fame in showbiz, like Mila Ocampo (Snooky Serna’s mother), Cynthia Ugalde (she would later win Miss Philippines and compete in the 1962 Miss International) and Helen Gamboa (another Kapampangan who would rise to stardom as a song-and-dance star of the ‘60s). This time, Elvie surprised everyone—including herself—by romping off with the crown.

 Feeling more prepared, she decided to join again the premiere beauty search for the Philippine representative to the Miss Universe, that same year. By then, Elvie was 18 and a 3rd Year Foreign Service student at the University of Manila. Competition, however, more was formidable at the 1965 Bb. Pilipinas, with Ilongga beauties prevailing, led by eventual winner Louis Vail Aurelio. Still, Elvie placed a respectable 5th.

 It was only a matter of time that the movies beckoned, and in 1967, she was signed up to do a lightweight movie that was right down her alley, "Together Again", with Rico Roman, supporting Nida Blanca and Romano Castelvi. This was quickly followed by “Let’s Go Merry Go Round” and "Crackdown". The next year, she had two movies released, “Hari ng Slums”and “Siete Dolores”. It was in showbiz that Elvie met the current toast of action movies, Bernard Bonnin (b. 8 Sept. 1939/ d. 21 Nov. 2009). The handsome Negrense had originated the role of “Palos” in 1961, for which he became well-known for. He would do a string of “Palos”movies and even a counterpart “Palos” TV series as late as 2008.

 Elvie and Bernard were soon married and two children were born of this union: Richard Bonnin and Charlene Mae. Their marriage ended when the children were still young, and Elvie married again, this time, to Jose Vera-Perez in civil rites, in 1972. She then retire from showbiz permanently, didviding her time between the Philippines and the U.S.

 In 1993, daughter Charlene came home to join the Bb. Pilipinas Beauty Pageant, the same contest Elvie competed in, 28 years before. Charlene was the same age as Elvie when she copped the plum title of Bb. Pilipinas-Universe. At the Miss Universe tilt held in Manila that same year, Charlene paid homage to her mother Elvie and her legacy of beauty that she too had pursued with more success. She placed among the Top 6 finalists, in the contest won by India’s Sushmita Sen. Today, the Gonzaleses are settled contentedly in retirement in the U.S. Charlene, Elvie’s daughter, Charlene, is married to to movie hearth throb Aga Muhlach, and is a is a proud mother of two.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


WE THREE KINGS OF ORIENT ARE. Young boys play the roles of the gift-bearing Three Kings (or more accurately, the 3 Magi or the Wise Men) in a Christmas school play. Ca. 1920s.

As Filipinos, we pride ourselves in having the longest Christmas season in the world—a period that begins with the 1st day of Simbang Gabi on December 15, and ending officially the liturgical holidays on the Feast of the Three Kings, January 6. It is also known as the Feast of the Epiphany, marking the appearance of Jesus to the Gentiles as represented by the three royals—who wereactually not Kings, but Magis or Wise Men.

 As a school kid in the 60s, I always looked forward to my over-extended vacation for it meant not just weeks of do-nothing days, but it also gave me more chances to receive gifts!! As every ninong and ninang knows, the Aldo ning Atlung Ari gives them the last opportunity to dispense gifts and Aguinaldo to their ina-anaks. The long holiday gives them no excuse to be remiss in their gift-giving duties, lest they are branded as “kuriput” or “makunat”.

 Indeed, it was not just Santa Claus who was looked at as the official purveyor of gifts; the Three Kings too, were regarded in Spain as bearers of generous treats and gifts. After all, the three made the long travel to Bethlehem to present the newborn Jesus with gold, myrrh and frankincense, thus, starting a tradition of gift-giving.

 This tradition is still alive and well in Madrid, where the arrival of Melchor, Gaspar and Balthazar from the East was eagerly awaited by children. Melchor was depicted as a hoary man with a long grey beard while Gaspar was known as the ‘white one’ with his closely-cropped blonde beard. Balthazar, the lord of treasure, was known for his swarthy complexion.

 On the eve of their feast day, the 3 Kings take to the streets of Madrid, accompanied by a cavalcade of soldiers in a parade full of Oriental fantasy, pomp and splendor. The evening procession begins at Retiro and circles the residential areas where kids have placed their shoes on the window sill, in hopes of having them filled with presents the next day. This tradition has caught on in some provinces in the country, particularly in Nueva Ecija where the Three Kings are the acknowledged patrons of Gapan. Children also leave their shoes out so that they will be filled with money or candy. In America, the shoe has been replaced with stockings. 

Club EspaƱol, an organization of civic-minded Spanish-descent members and Hispanophiles, has also helped perpetuate this custom in the Philippines by holding its own “Dia De Los Reyes”, capped with a festive parade of the 3 Kings distributing presents to indigent children.

 The Feast of the 3 Kings has been moved to the first Sunday of January, which caused the instant shortening of the Philippine Christmas break. The present generation barely knows the significance of ”Aldo Atlung Ari”, and elsewhere in the country, it has become a hybrid celebration, known also as “Pasko ng Matatanda”, a day to pay respect to senior citizens.

In Pampanga, the Kuraldal—the famous dancing fiesta of Sasmuan in honor of its patroness, Sta. Lucia-- coincides with the Sunday feast of the 3 Kings, hence the event has been termed as “Kuraldal Atlung Ari”. Also on this day, childless couples in Sasmuan went to church to ask for the gift of fertility so they could have offsprings. For oldtimers though, the spirit of this feast lives on as they still wish one another with the now-incongruous greeting-- “Happy 3 Kings!”—consistent with the observation that holidays are "more fun in the Philippines!".