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!

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