Friday, September 23, 2016

*408. Comedy Through Word of Mouth: APENG DALDAL, San Luis, Pampanga

PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS. Apeng Daldal (real name: Serafin Gabriel), left us in stitches with his distinctive oral features--and his gift of non-stop gabbing. Fan photo, 1967.

In the days of black and white TV, “Pinilakang Tabing” was a must-watch program every afternoon, for it afforded me to watch 50s’ and fairly-recent 60s movies without going to a theater.

I’ve always been partial to fantasy films, and I remember enjoying “Silveria”, “Anak ng Bulkan”, “The Magnificent Bakya” and Pomposa, Ang Kabayong Tsismosa”. 

 But the one that left the most impression was “Magic Bilao”, an improbable story about a “bilao” that functioned pretty much like a magic carpet, taking anyone who stands on the woven winnowing basket, on an unexpected, marvelous joyride.

 With Apeng Daldal as its reluctant high-flying passenger, the magic bilao helped solve a barrio crime, and saved the day for lovebirds, Dindo Fernando and Rosemarie.

To me, it was Apeng Daldal who stole the show, playing Rosemarie’s brother, Tonio—who, with his thin, gangly frame and mile-long teeth sticking out from his wide mouth, turned out to be the hero of the story. The comedian earned his screen name from his funny oral/dental features, which he used to the hilt by being a motormouth with a high-pitched voice.

 He was born as Serafin Gabriel in the town of San Luis, Pampanga on 12 October 1928. At an early age, he moved to Manila, and despite his skeletal built, found work as a Divisoria kargador. Of course, he didn’t last long, so he tried his hand at working in the bod-a-bil, from the 40s-50s. He had a comedy group called “Top Three” (along with Mar Lopez and Bebing Santos) which drew crowds at the Manila Opera House.

His stage success paved the way for a TV career, starting with the 1961 noontime show “The Big Show”, supporting Cris de Vera, Sylvia La Torre and Oscar Obligacion. Apeng Daldal’s gift of non-stop gabbing and witty ad-libbing had audiences laughing for more, and soon, he was being cast in movies.

His debut was in the Susan Roces starrer, “Libis ng Baryo” (1964), that was followed by appearances in "Bandong Pugante" and "Babaing Kidlat". Sampaguita Pictures gave him his break, third-billed in 1964 production “Magic Bilao” after Rosemarie and Dindo Fernando. The comedy-romance-fantasy formula was perfect for Apeng and the movie was the takilya buster for 1965. The same concept was used in his next flick,”Walis ni Tenteng”, that practically retained the previous stars with Blanca Gomez and Bert Leroy Jr. thrown in. Again, the movie about a skinny sweeper and his magic broom was another monster hit for Apeng.

 Apeng Daldal—now regarded in the same breadth as A-lister funnymen Chiquito and Dolphy, was rewarded with a lead role in “Maskulado”, (also in 1965), pitting his physique against the buffed leading man, Arnold Mendoza. He worked almost nonstop, completing film projects like “Tatlong Mabilis” (1965), “Mistiko Meets Mamaw” (1966), “The Pogi Dozen”(1967), ”The Son of Dyango Meets Dorango Kid” (1967) and another comedy-fantasy film, “Baticobra at Flying Salakot”(1974).

The final decades of his life were spent working in different capacities for TV, radio and films. The creative Apeng wrote scripts for various TV comedy shows like “Ayos Lang, Pare Ko” (1972) and penned the story for the film “Dobol Dribol” (1979). He was heard on radio singing novelty songs ( "Pandanggo ng Aswang", "Hoy Mamang Kaminero") , while headlining 70s-80s gag shows like “Super Laff-In”, “Trio Los Bobos” and “Cafeteria Aroma”. His last film was the Eddie Romero-directed action-fantasy, “Kamakalawa”with Christopher de Leon and Tetchie Agbayani, released in 1981.

Afflicted for years with emphysema, he passed away on 9 February 1992. He was survived by his wife Elma Modesto and 8 children. Watching Apeng Daldal’s old movies on youtube today, you can say this Kapampangan was born with a funny bone in his mouth.

My Idol Comedian, Apeng Daldal:
Apeng Daldal,

Friday, September 16, 2016


FISH BE WITH YOU. A belle and her bangus, on the way home from the pampang. Fisheries remain to be an important industry for Kapampangans living in the delta region, c.1915.

Being in the central plains of Luzon, people are sometimes surprised to know that Pampanga, too, has a fishing trade, an industry  associated with coastal places like Navotas, Malabon, and the Visayan islands.

Actually, Pampanga has an area that is heavily watered by the great Pampanga River and its tributaries. In the delta towns of Guagua, Lubao and Sasmuan, as well as in the low-lying towns of Masantol, Macabebe, San Luis and Candaba, fisheries is a source of livelihood.

Fisherfolks catch fish either by the traditional method of setting traps in the water or by building fish ponds, which are a common sight in Macabebe and Masantol, where they are diked and seeded with fingerlings.

Upon maturity, the fish are harvested by letting the waters spill out. Large fishponds also served as swimming holes and picnic sites in the 20s-30s, as they not only had picturesque locations but they also provided an unlimited number of fish for food. Unfortunately, ponds have also become contributors to the worsening of the flood situations in these areas after the silting of major estuaries caused by the Pinatubo eruption. Fishponds have also been blamed for the disappearance of mangroves since their proliferation beginning in the 1970s.

In Candaba,  depending on the season, the swamp serves a dual function. During summer, it is used as an agricultural field to plant rice, vegetables and grow watermelons. But when the wet season arrives and rainwater fill the swamp, it turns into a lake teeming with bangus (milkfish), tilapia, paro (shrimp), ema (crab) and bulig (mudfish). (Tip: the Friday Candaba Market in Clark is the go-to place for the freshest catch of fish, shrimps, crabs, eels and other crustaceans).

 “Asan” is the Kapampangan term for “fish”, but today, when people ask “Nanung asan yu?”, they also mean “What’s your food?”—whether your “ulam” (viand) be made of meat or vegetable. “Masan” is a verb meaning “to eat”, it is specific to eating cooked fish or meat, thus, “masan asan” is “eat cooked fish”. There is hardly a difference between “asan” and “ulam”, as used today, which underlines the importance of fish in the life of the Kapampangan.

 While today’s Kapampangan is familiar with fish like itu (catfish), kanduli (salmon catfish) , sapsap (ponyfish) and talangka (small crabs), our old folks knew other kinds of fish with fascinating names that may sound alien to our ears today. A goldfish was called “talangtalang”, while a “pacut” is a small crab. Another name for kanduli is “tabangongo”, a “talunasan”, an edible eel. A “palimanoc” is a ray fish, a “tag-agan”—a swordfish, and its small look-alike is called “balulungi”, 

Our contribution to the culinary world include fish-based treats that include “burung asan” (using bulig),”balo-balo” (using tilapia, gurami and shrimp), and “taba ning talangka”. We also have our delectable versions of sisig bangus, pesang bulig and rellenong bangus. During Lent, we prepare sarsiado, escabeche, suam a tulya, and seafood bringhi. In our fiestas and holidays, we serve fancy fish dishes like Pescado el Gratin, Chuletas (fish fillet), and Pescado con Mayonesa. For many Kapampangans, there’s never a day without fish on the table.

 “Nanung asan yu?”

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


TOGETHER IN ELECTRIC DREAMS. The Mabalacat Hydro-Electric Plant in Sitio Bana, Dolores Mabalacat, harnessed the power of Mascup River to generate electricity. It was founded by former municipal presidente, Marcelo Tiglao. Late 1920s. Picture courtesy of Lord Francis Musni.

On the way to my elementary school, I would pass by a white building which,  I was told was where our town electricity and ice came from. Every day, “Mabalacat Hydro-Electric Plant” would sound off its siren to mark the start, the middle, and end of day, scheduling our lives, signaling us Mabalaqueños when to go to work, take a lunch break and when to go home.

Such was the power of that hydro-electric plant, and that power would become more apparent when I got home. Even if we had only about 5 kinds of appliances that used electricity—a 10 year-old black and white TV, a 2nd hand ref, a jetmatic water pump, 3 stand fans and my father’s Victrola radio phono—we used them a lot, day in and day out. At a flick of a switch, we could turn day into night, be refreshed, amused by comedy shows, and entertained by music and news.

It’s hard to believe that generations long before us have lived without the convenience of electricity and have survived. I often wonder what that “aha” moment felt, when electricity finally came to light up their world, literally.

 It was the capital city of Manila that first saw electric light in 1878, when Ateneo student Anacleto del Rosario paraded an electric lamp during the inauguration of the Carriedo waterworks. In 1890, Thomas Houston Electric Co. installed Manila’s first electric street lights in Escolta. It was in 1892 that the very first electric company—La Electricista—was set up along Calle San Sebastian (now Hidalgo St.) and started providing electricity three years later. Meralco (Manila Electric Railroad and Light Company) would follow in 1903.

Despite its proximity to Manila, it would take two decades before Pampanga could have its own power plants that could generate electricity from such sources as coal, natural gas, oil and later, renewable energy.

 On 10 July 1923, enterprising couple Don Juan and Dña. Nena Nepomuceno opened their Angeles Light and Power Plant, a year after their ice plant venture. It cost Php 72,000 to put up, a big amount at that time, but the couple carried on with their ambitious project. It is said that when the plant engineer turned the switch on, the city was flooded with bright lights that was met with great rejoicing. The roosters crowed and the church bells pealed as children came out to play in the streets.

The plant survived the trying wartime years when electricity had to be rationed off, as well as a fire which decimated the offices in 1945 and of course, the eruption of Pinatubo in 1991. Now known as Angeles Electric Corporation after its incorporation in 1959, it is the third largest electric company in Luzon. Some portions of Mabalacat, Bacolor, and Porac are supplied by AEC.

Not long after, the San Fernando Light and Power Company was established in 1927. It partnered with AboitizPower in 2009 enabling it to supply renewable energy to its residential, commercial and industrial customers. Aside from providing services to the city of San Fernando, SFELAPCO has consumers in Floridablanca, Bacolor, Guagua, Lubao and Sto. Tomas.

Mabalacat used to have its own electric plant owned by the Tiglaos that used the run-of-the-river hydroelectric technology to generate power. In this case, the source of water flow is Mascup River which the Tiglao family owns, located in sitio Bana, Dolores. Incidentally, the family also owned a popular river resort there. Later, it was known as “Hijos de Marcelo.Tiglao Hydro-electric Plant” and it continued to operate until the Pinatubo volcanic eruption buried the river completely in 1991. In 2006, a coal-powered plant was put up in the same town, known as the APEC (Asia-Pacific Energy Corp.) Station.

Today, most of Pampanga’s electric power is distributed to towns through the Pampanga Electric Cooperative distribution centers (PELCO I, II, III).

 Technology has grown by leaps and bound in ways that we can imagine, giving us countless gadgets and gizmos like microwave ovens, computers, tablets, cellphones, electric ranges and cars, electric this-and-that. It is almost impossible now to live unplugged. Only brownouts and long power outages serve to remind us that people once lived without or had limited access to electricity. Just like in the old days, we take out our candles, draw water from hand pumps, and tune in to Ingkung’s scratchy-sounding battery-run transistor radio to find out when power will be restored!

Monday, September 5, 2016

*405. LILIA DIZON: Kapampangan Bathaluman

BOMBSHELL BATHALUMAN. Lilia Dizon , who originated  'strong Filipino women roles' on the silver screen is of Kapampangan-American descent.

Today, Lilia Dizon is known as the mother of actors Christopher, Pinky and Lara Melissa de Leon. But she, too, had her time in the spotlight; she was also an actress of note, known for portraying strong bombshell beauties on the silver screen, a sharp departure from the 'pa-sweet' and demure Filipinas whose presence predominated local movies.

She was born in 1931 as Claire Strauss, the only child of German-Jew Abraham Strauss with Kapampangan Regina Dizon. Her father left the family for the U.S. in 1940, but then the war broke, preventing him from coming back. Claire was left with her mother in the Philippines to fend for themselves in Baguio.

At the height of the Liberation, she and her mother escaped the carnage of Baguio by walking all the way to La Union. From there, they proceeded to Manila to start life anew.  At age 15, Claire started performing at the Lotus Theater as a singer. The next year, she was discovered for the movies by writer-director Susana de Guzman--and became known to a legion of movie fans as Lilia Dizon.

Her first lead role was in the 1948 film, “Kaaway ng Babae,” where she had to act like a man in a very physical role that required a lot of running, At 17, she married director and actor Gil de Leon, sixteen years her senior. She made her mark portraying strong women roles in movies like “Sandra Wong,” “Kandilerong Pilak” (Asia’s Best Actress award in 1954), and "Bathaluman” with Mario Montenegro, a role that showed her Juno-esque figure at its most beautiful.

After her 18 year-marriage ended, Lilia left for the U.S. in 1966 to join her father in California and acquired her American citizenship. She made amends with Gil before he died, and after his demise, Lilia married Antonio Abad, a match that produced 2 more children, Antoinette and Corrie.

She would resurface in 1974 to appear with son Christopher in the award-winning Brocka film, “Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang” which would catapult her son to fame. She could not re-establish her career though, as her two young children left behind in the U.S. needed her care. Now divorced, the tough Kapampangan bombshell of the 50s is back to being Claire Strauss and is a doting grandma to fifteen grandchildren.