Tuesday, February 18, 2014


CAPAMPANGAN CONCORDIANS. Kapampangan internas of La Concordia College, most from well-known families of the province, are shown in this 1928 photo at the school grounds.

 In the 20s and 30s, class pictures were taken and classified not just by grade levels or sections, but also by the provinces from where the students came from. This custom of regional classification arose at the same time as school clubs were being formed based on one’s provenance. In the early days of the U.P. , there were officially-recognized clubs such as the Pampanga High School Club, which counted as its exclusive members, only PHS alumni.

 I have seen many group pictures bearing captions as “Seminaristas de la Pampanga”, “Pampango-Speaking Students at Philippine Normal School”, and most recently, this snapshot of a bevy of young Kapampangan ladies, identified as “Pampangueñas at Concordia”. This picture, which dates from 1928, not only identified the La Concordia students by number, but also the towns from which they originated.

 Colegio de la Inmaculada Concepcion de la Concordia was a school founded by Dña. Margarita Roxas de Ayala in 1868, built on her estate located on Pedro Gil in Paco. She donated this land for the erection of a girl’s school which was run by the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. The school, with its initial staff of “imported”teachers, attracted students like Rizal’s sisters—Olimpia, Saturnina and Soledad, and other children of prominent families, from nearby provinces, Pampanga included.

 This photo shows young Kapampangan “internas” (student boarders) whose surnames reveal their privileged background. Detached from the comforts of their homes and familiarity of families, these girls were sent to Manila, with their board and lodging paid for monthly by their parents, with the goal of giving them proper education, befitting young women of their generation.

 So, whatever happened to these La Concordia Girls of 1928. I tried my best to find out what happened after their school years in one of Manila’s elite girls’ schools, guided by the names written on the back of the photo.

Fil-Am Barbara Setzer (1) and her younger sister Estela (15) were both from Angeles. Their parents were George Seltzer, and American, and Maria Dolores Lumanlan, who were married sometime in 1912. All 6 children (including Mercedes, Frank, John and Clara) were born in Angeles. Barbara was their second eldest, born on 4 December 1912. She died in San Francisco, California. Benita Estela Seltzer or Estela (born 21 March 1918) was just 10 years old when this picture was taken; she too, moved to the U.S. when she came of age.

 Catalina Madrid (2) is listed as having Macabebe as her hometown while Girl #3 is unidentified. Another Macabebe lass is Gregoria Alfonso (10); Alfonso descendants continue to reside in the town to this day.

 Araceli Berenguer (4) comes from the prominent Berenguer family of Arayat; she has three other kabalens in this photo, Maria Tinio (16), Flora Kabigting (6) with a familiar surname now associated with the halo-halo that made the town famous, and Rosario Dizon (13), who grew up to be a national Philippine Free Press Beauty of 1929.

 Little is known of Salud Canivel (5) who is from Candaba as well as Girl No. 14, identified only as Natividad R. Margarita Coronel (7) comes from the well-known Coronel family of Betis, Guagua. After La Concordia, she went to the University of Santo Tomas, where she excelled in Botany. A rare angiosperm she collected in Betis in 1934 is included today at the UST Herbarium. 

Loreto Feliciano (8) and her younger sister, Luz (17) are natives of Bamban, Tarlac. Loreto is better known as the wife of the late Robert ”Uncle Bob” Stewart, the pioneer TV broadcaster who founded DZBB Channel 7, and host of the long-running TV show, “Uncle Bob Lucky 7 Club ”. 

The Nepomucenos of Angeles are represented by cousins Pilar (9) and Imelda (12). Feliza Adoracion Imelda Nepomuceno (b. 29 Nov. 1912) was the daughter of Jose Fermin Nepomuceno with Paula Villanueva. She married Dr. Jose Guzman Galura later in life. 

Her first cousin Pilar, (Maria Agustina Pilar Nepomuceno, b. 13 October 1911) was the daughter of Geronimo Mariano (Jose Fermin’s older brother) and Gertrudes Ayson. As Miss Angeles 1933, Pilar represented the town in the search for Miss Pampanga at the 1933 Pampanga Carnival and Exposition. She later married Dr. Conrado T. Manankil and a daughter, Marietta, also became Miss Angeles 1955.

 What we know of their later lives as adult women suggests that they did fairly well, making good accounts of themselves as mostly successful mothers and homemakers. But in 1928, they were just a bunch of young Kapampangan La Concordia interns, bound together by a common tongue and culture—sweet and giggly as all other typical girls of their age---with the prospects of the future still far, far away.

Monday, February 10, 2014

*362. MUSICUS: The Sound of Our Fiestas!

MAJOR, MAJOR, MAJORETTES. Lovely Kapampangan majorettes pose for a shot before joining the local 'musicus' in their rounds around the town, lending a festive air to Pampanga fiestas. ca. 1950s.

It’s our Mabalacat city fiesta as I write this article---and it’s a pity that I am not there to enjoy the festivities, not to mention the colorful sights, smells and sounds that accompany the yearly February 2 proceedings. You just know it’s fiesta season when blue and white buntings start lining the streets and tiangge stalls begin popping up along the church perimeter, offering all sorts of goods, from the useful to the bizarre.

 But nothing says “fiesta” more than the presence of music-making bands—“musicus”—staples of every fiesta, in every town and barrio of the Philippines. With their gleaming brass horns, cymbals, lyres, trumpets, drums and bugles, uniformed band members--preceded by a bevy of pretty, baton-twirling majorettes—are always a striking sight when they take to the streets, making stirring melodies as they march, with a bit of choreography on the side.

 Evolved from the roving “musikung bumbung” (bamboo bands), today’s bands drew early inspirations from the acclaim gained by the Philippine Scouts Band at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904. The band was the largest at the fair, and it had a large repertoire of 80 pieces, against Fredric Sousa’s 65. “They were good and had temperament which the other bands lacked”, wrote one visitor.

 Needless to say, they took the world’s fair by storm, often performing in drills with “Little Macs”—young Macabebe veterans who enlisted for service to fight for the Americans in the Philippine-American War. Certainly, the incredible feat of that Philippine band helped fuel interest back in the islands for organized bands.

Just 4 years after that U.S. triumph, the Philippines had its own national fair—the Manila Carnival—and in 1909, the band from Angeles outplayed its rivals to clinch first place in the musical band competition. It was during town fiestas, however, that local bands gave rein to their musical creativity.

In the Betis fiesta of 1959, a local band—Banda 46—was tasked to march around the town starting on the fiesta eve, from 3 a.m. to 5 a.m.— to rouse people from their sleep—for a period of nine days! The day was capped with musical duel between bands---Serenata ning Musicus—in which Banda Sexmoan 12 played against Banda Sexmoan 31 at the church patio in a test of musical endurance and bravado.

 On 29 December, an exhibition was staged by a bevy of band majorettes, displaying their dancing and baton-twirling skills while band members in their gala uniforms played their best. On the fiesta day itself, 12 bands paraded along the streets, with some, invited from different provinces: Banda Baliwag, Banda Cabiao 96, Banda San Leonardo, Banda Bocaue, Banda Sexmoan 31, Banda Sexmoan 12, Banda Pulilan, Banda Candaba, Banda Duat Bacolor, Banda San Antonio Bacolor, Banda 48 Betis, Banda 26 Betis and the 600 Clark Field Air Force Band thru the courtesy of Mr. Salvador Pangilinan.

The bands then converged to escort the carrozas of the town patrons for the grand procession. The 1939 Lubao town fiesta from 4-5 May, was also made exciting with the presence of 3 “musicus”: Banda Lubao, Banda Sinfonica (Malabon) and Banda Buenaventura (Baliwag). The 3 bands were gathered at the municipio before they set out for the Poblacion, treating Lubeños to a musical extravaganza never before seen in the town.

 A 1946 fiesta souvenir program from Sta. Rita detailed also the arrival of 3 bands that played on the eve of the fiesta, the first one held after the Liberation: Banda Sta. Rita, Banda 31 from Sexmoan and Banda San Basilio. The next day, May 22, they gave it their all at the Serenata ding Banda de Musica. Even a small barrio could very well afford to pay a local “musicus” to lend gaiety to its fiesta.

In 1957, Valdes, a barrio of mostly agricultural families in Floridablanca, had two bands performing for their May 19 fiesta: the popular Banda 31 of Sexmoan which delighted residents in Gasac and Talang, and Banda Juan dela Cruz which came all the way from Cabiao, Nueva Ecija, to play at Looban and Mabical. On May 18, Saturday, a free concert was mounted featuring the two bands, highlighted by a military drill.

 I just can’t imagine a fiesta without a “musicus”. Bands just don’t set the stage and the mood for a celebration. But long after the food, the drinks, the rides, the sideshows and the baratilyos are gone, it is the voice of the band that will live on—inspiring, rousing, uplifting airs, that may as well be the theme music of our joyous lives!