Wednesday, November 30, 2016


PAMPANGA COLLEGE STUDENTS. Attending an educational workshop in Baguio. 1920s.

 The Kapampangans, during the Spanish colonial period, were a favored lot, primarily for their ready assistance to Spain in their military exploits. The rewards of loyalty included the giving of privilege to children of Kapampangan principalia to study in exclusive Spanish schools in Manila.

 In the 17th century, schools such as the Colegio de San Jose and Colegio de San Felipe de San Asturias began admitting Kapampangan students. Secondary level education in Manila schools, like San Juan de Letran and Ateneo de Manila, were preferred by Pampanga’s elite in the 19th century, as they carried more prestige.

 A small number of Kapampangans went on from secondary schools to higher schools of learning for their college degrees. Local choices included University of Santo Tomas, Ateneo and the Dominican run-Letran. A few Kapampangans like Jose Alejandrino of Arayat, managed to study abroad; he went to school in the 1890s at the University of Barcelona in Madrid (along with Rizal, del Pilar and Luna) and finished chemical engineering in Belgium.

 With the coming of the Americans, education became an important concern of the colonial government. Significant reforms were instituted—three levels of education were established: . Elementary (four primary years and 3 intermediate years), Secondary (4-years of high school) and College. New schools—from vocational to business, agricultural to normal--were opened in cities and provinces. This paved the way for more educational opportunities for college-age students. Some of the most important colleges and universities were founded during the American rule.

 As Pampanga’s economy boomed, the province drew closer to the sphere of Manila and affluent Kapampangans adjusted by becoming more cosmopolitan in behavior and outlook—and a college degree became every parents’ dream for their children.

 Early on, Kapampangan showed a relatively high commitment to advanced education. Kapampangan students with teaching ambitions flocked to the Philippine Normal School when it opened in 1901. In the first decade of the founding of the University of the Philippines, a substantial number of Kapampangans enrolled in courses from Medicine, Pharmacy, Nursing, Music, Law, Education with Liberal Arts and Fine Arts.

 Beginning in 1903, students who excelled academically, were given U.S. government scholarships, and were sent to America as “pensionados”, to specialize in their fields of studies. The first batch included 3 Kapampangans—Jose Sanvictores, Miguel Nicdao, and Joe Espiritu. In the 2nd batch of 18 scholars were future justice and hero Jose Abad Santos; future Pampanga governor and civil engineer Sotero Baluyot who studied in Iowa; future solon Fabian de la Paz of Macabebe, who was enrolled at the Western Illinois State Teachers’ College; and medical student Gervacio Santos Cuyugan, who would become one of Pres. Quezon’s personal physicians.

 As more colleges and universities were established in the capital city-- University of Manila (1914), Philippine Women's University (1919), Far Eastern University (1933)—local private schools also sprouted in Pampanga which would eventually become centers for tertiary education.

Guagua National Institute (now college), founded in 1919, offered first year subjects in Junior Normal and Associate in Arts beginning in 1939-40. Holy Angel Academy (1933 now Holy Angel University) became a college in 1948 when it opened its College of Commerce 1948, followed by Liberal Arts and Education.

 In the post-war years, Republic Academy (now Republic Central Colleges) was founded by the Lazatins and became a full-fledged college in 1947 with the opening of its Normal and Education programs. Meanwhile, University of the Philippines put up its Clark Field branch in the 1950s to serve both American and Filipino students wishing to earn college diplomas.

 Assumption College (now University) opened in 1963 with initial A.B. Arts, BS Commerce, and BS Education programs. Angeles Institute of Technology (now Angeles University Foundation), which began as a technological school in 1962, would achieve university status after just 9 years of operation.

 Schools with history-- like the Bacolor School of Arts and Trade (1861) and the Magalang Farm School (1885)-- have metamorphosed into full-service universities—now known as Don Honorio Ventura Technological State University and Pampanga Agricultural State University.

 Our local colleges and universities have also become more competitive with Manila schools. Premium courses like law, medicine and its allied sciences, and highly specialized courses in engineering, are available locally. Linkages with Manila and international corporate partners have made on-the-job training abroad possible. Their graduates have also been doing well in professional board exams, with consistently high passing rates.

But in the end, easier access to education means merely a foot in the door to the future. On the part of the college student, it takes a firm hold on one's dream and the will to succeed.

Monday, November 21, 2016


TAKING CENTER STAGE. Compania Crispelita actors and singers set the mood for their performance with a rousing song number for the barrio audience of Lanang, Candaba. 1957.

Candaba, one of Pampanga’s ancient towns, represent the lowest point of Central Luzon. It is also a good distance away from the capital and commercial cities of San Fernando and Angeles, and from the 1930s to as recent as the 1950s, the town remained far removed from other Pampanga communities. Trips to Candaba were compounded by its marshy terrain, floods and the presence of Huk lairs in the area which made travelling difficult and hazardous.

 Candabaweños, despite this isolation, looked to the occasional fiestas for entertainment, as movies could only be watched in distant urban towns. In some places, the only tenuous link which they have with the stage is the obsolete moro-moro and the dying zarzuela. On this account, artistic and enterprising locals started putting up dramatic troupes, beginning in in the 1920s and which flourished till the post-war years.

 These theatrical groups or companies, went from barrio to barrio to show off their wares, a motley group of actors, musicians, directors, designers and technicians, to stage plays on makeshift stages before enraptured village crowds.

 One of the earliest groups, was the Compania Ocampo, organized in 1923 by Isaac C. Gomez and Doña Concepcion Ocampo y Limjuco of Candaba. Gomez, a prolific poet who even competed against Crissot, wrote his 5-act opus, “Sampagang Asahar”which dealt with the prevailing tenancy problems of the province. He became the resident playwright and director of the company for five years, and the group succeeded in restoring public interest in drama.

Compania Ocampo remained active in the mid 1950s, mounting regular shows often in the town plaza with komedyas and contemporary zarzuelas. Members then included Pons Amurao, Esting Tungol, Curing Mallari, Andres Balagtas, Flor Garcia, and the Manapuls. Providing healthy competition was Compania Paz, a zarzuela company founded by Judge Florentino Torres in the early 1920s.

 In 1961, the eminent writer Jose Gallardo of barrio Gulap, Candaba with Andres Balagtas revived the Compania Ocampo. After the demise of Reyes in 1967, Gallardo reorganized the theatrical group again under his own name. The Martial Law curfew imposed in 1972 made it difficult to stage evening performances, so the group was disbanded.

 In the mid 1950s, the artists of barrio Lanang, led by the noted Candaba poet Jose Pelayo, orangized themselves into a dramatic troupe known as Compania Crispelita. It soon became a village institution, with its travelling shows all around the province.

In December 1957, the company gave a command performance of their play entitled “Calbario ning Ulila” (Calvary of an orphan). The story touched the heart strings of Lanang’s drama fans, as the story was something they have seen in the group’s rehearsals, and, in many ways, actually lived—the tyranny of rich landlords, the oppression of peasants , and the final triumph of good versus evil.

 The show, directed by Agripino Suba and assisted by apuntador (prompter) Jose Pelayo, and Hugo Ocampo, drew crowds from neighboring barrios. Before an enthusiastic audience, the thespians could not, but give an inspired performance. Providing the musical background was a live band of musicians who also got their share of audience appreciation.

 “Our severest critics”, Director Suba said, “are in our own village and if we got their nod, that means we will be welcomed anywhere.

 The era of traveling theater companies is long gone, but the people of Candaba can take pride in the fact that, for a few decades, Candaba’s peripatetic theater groups broke barriers of distance and access to bring their art to their fellow Kapampangans. The era of companias may be long gone, but the legacy of performances of these Candaba artists, playwrights, poets, directors, musicians and stage hands, will always be remembered.

Drama in Candaba, The Sunday Times Magazine, 29 Dec. 1957,pp. 15-19. 

Cabusao, Romeo C. Candaba, Balayan ning Leguan. pp. 344-345. 

Zapanta-Manlapaz, Edna. Kapampangan Literarture: A Historical Survey and Anthology. Ateneo de Manila University Press, Quezon City, Manila. 1981.pp. 25-26 

Lacson, Evangelina. Kapampangan Writing: A Select Compendium and Critique. 1984

Wednesday, November 16, 2016


BLACK IS THE COLOR. Two African-American cavalry men, known as "Buffalo Soldiers" at Camp Stotsenburg, ca. 1918-20.

During the Philippine-American War that lasted from 1899-1902, the United States sent regiments of African-Americans as reinforcements to help fight the Filipino “insurrectos” led by Emilio Aguinaldo.

The 9th and 10th Cavalry that had previously fought native Americans in the last Indian Wars, earned the nickname “Buffalo Soldiers”, possibly because the soldiers’ curly hair looked similar to a buffalo’s dark mane, and their aggressiveness was likened to that of a ferocious bison. The Buffalo Soldiers later came to include the 24th and 25th Infantry, which also had all-black members.

There were over 5,000 Buffalo Soldiers that arrived in the Philippines, and hundreds were stationed in Camp Stotsenburg and in towns like Magalang, from where they got their marching orders. A few soldiers have notable experiences and stories to tell, relative to their assignment in the Philippines, and Pampanga, in particular.

 African-American soldier Richard Johnson, arrived in Stotsenburg in 1916, as a member of a medical unit of the 9th Cavalry. It was the 4th time that Corporal Johnson was sent to the Philippines; his first was as a 19-year old enlistee in 1899.

While in the camp, Johnson brought attention to the deplorable conditions there, which posed many health risks to soldiers, particularly, malaria. He also wrote about the poor living conditions of soldiers, in which he noted that married men below the rank of a staff sergeant had to build their own living quarters made of bamboo—at their own expense!

His observations paved the way for the next commanding officer of the camp to institute drastic measures to improve the “old and decrepit camp”. Johnson would have a long career in military service and would later write his memoirs about his U.S. Army life from 1899 to 1922.

 Perhaps the most written about African-American soldier was the deserter, Corporal David Fagen, of the 24th Infantry. On 17 Nov. 1899, Fagen defected to the Filipino army because he could no longer stand his sergeant’s constant harassment. He sought refuge in the areas around Mount Arayat, which were guerrilla-protected. For his dauntless courage, he was promoted to captain by Gen. Jose Alejandrino in 1900. Such was his popularity that Filipino soldiers often referred to him as “General Fagen.”

 His most daring exploit was the capture of a steam launch and its cargo of arms, while on the Pampanga River. Fagen earned notoriety in the U.S. press and was described by the New York Times as a “cunning and highly skilled guerilla officer who harassed and evaded large conventional American units.” It took a Tagalog bounty hunter, Anastacio Bartolome, to end his daring run, who delivered his severed head to American officers, after he and his men supposedly killed him while Fagen was taking a river bath.

But the Buffalo Soldier with the most fascinating story to tell, is Ernest Spokes of Chattanooga, Tennessee. To escape oppressive racism in the Deep South, Stokes volunteered for the Spanish American War.

After training at the Presidio Army Camp in San Francisco, Stokes was shipped off to the Philippines in 1898. But even in a foreign land, Spokes continued to face discrimination in the hands of his white superiors who often assigned him at the frontline. Nevertheless, he performed his duties well and became a sergeant in his unit.

 The Buffalo Soldiers formed a bond of kinship with Filipinos which incensed their Caucasian superiors, who, incidentally, referred to both groups as ‘savages”. They came to understand the cause of the Filipino fighters against the U.S. so, they refused to shoot them in their encounters.

After the war, many of these soldiers, who had come to love the people and their culture, opted to remain in the Philippines. By 1921, about 200 men of the 9th Cavalry had married Filipino women—and one of them was Ernest Stokes.

 Stokes first fell in love with a Nueva Ecijana from Peñaranda, Maria Bunag, whom he married in 1902, a union that produced three daughters-Felicia, Teodora and Dominga. The years after Maria’s death in 1917 were a sad and troubling period for the black Filipina sisters, who were abused by relatives. 

But in 1923, Stokes met the vivacious Roberta Dungca, a 16 year old illiterate girl from Angeles, where his base was located. Despite their age difference, Roberta was charmed by Stokes who spoke fluent Kapampangan (he also knew Tagalog, Spanish and a bit of Chinese). Their marriage was facilitated when Stokes was caught kissing Roberta—a no-no in the local courtship tradition.

Stokes and his young bride left for the U.S. in 1928, where they settled in West Oakland, California. Roberta raised her three stepdaughters as if they were her own. The couple would have no children of their own, but they adopted the daughter of Teodora, They also got reacquainted with former Buffalo soldiers and socialized with their Filipina wives.

 Stokes, who spent 25 years of his life in the Philippines, died in February 1936, at around age 66. Roberta would marry a second time, to Manuel Unabia. Buffalo Soldier Ernest Stokes is buried in the Presidio in San Francisco, the same place where he started his military career.

Today, a monument stands there to honor the memory of these volunteers who ventured to an “unholy war of conquest” across the seas , only to find their own hearts conquered by Filipinos whom they had sworn to fight.

(Richard Johnson): 
American Voices of World War I: Primary Source Documents, 1917-1920, By Martin Marix Evans p. 1,”Prelude to War”.
Clark Field and the U.S. Army Air Corps in the Philippines 1919-1942, Richard B. Meixsel, New Day Publishers © 2002 
(David Fagen): 
Hidden Heroism: Black Soldiers in America's Wars, By Robert B. Edgerton,”The war to Save Humanity”,p. 57. 
(Ernest Spokes): 
 The Woyingi Blog Buffalo Soldiers in the Philippines: A Filipina American Grandaughter remembers her African American Grandfather 
Voices of the Asian American and Pacific Islander Experience, Volume 1, By Sang Chi, Emily Moberg Robinson, p. 233-235 
Filipinos in the East Bay, by Evelyn Luluguisen, Lillian Galedo,p.15

Friday, November 4, 2016


LORD OF THE LANDS. Spaniard Jose Puig,  a successful owner of  a milling business and a 
 dealer of sugar milling machiinery, owned and operated the vast Hacienda Puig in Pampanga.

In the economic heyday of Pampanga brought about by its lucrative sugar industry, scoress of Kapampangan landowners raked in untold wealth from the fat of their lands. Prominent names like Mariano Pamintuan (Angeles), Jose L. De Leon, Roman Valdes (Bacolor) Augusto Gonzales, Manuel Escaler (Apalit), Jose Maria Panlilio (Mexico) , Vicente Lim-Ongco (Guagua) and Manuel Urquico were top on the list of the province’s richest and most influential hacienderos.

 Joining them were a small group of Spaniards who took residence in Pampanga in the 1800s, after the government lifted a ban against living in the provinces. They acquired lands, became agriculturists and founded viable extensive estates. (The Chinese showed no interest in land speculation, opting to engage in commerce, manufacturing and processing of products.)

 A list of landowning Spaniards from 1887-1888 included about 58 names—fewer than those in Negros, possibly because Pampanga landowners tended to hold fast to their lands, thus creating difficulties to outside investors. Many of these Spaniards also appeared to have leased their property than personally run the affairs of their land. At the turn of the 20th century and into the early years of American regime, the list of prominent Spanish sugarland owners include the following:

The Arrastias. The patriarch of the Arrastias of Lubao was,Valentin Roncal Arrastia, a Basque from Allo, Navarra, Spain, who went to the Philippines to seek his fortune. He, not only found wealth in the country, but also a Kapampangan wife—Francisca Serrano Salgado of Lubao. The couple’s consolidated properties included their vast hacienda planted with sugar and rice, as well as flourishing fish ponds that provided a luxurious life for their 9 children. Befitting their stature, the Arrastias built a magnificent residence sometime in the first two decades of the 1900s, fronting the Lubao municipio. 

The Gils.  In the 1850s, the colonial government allowed the selling of lands to Spaniards and one beneficiary was Spaniard Felino Gil. He turned his land parcel of over 530 hectares into the Hacienda Mamada de Pio. Gil was first of many generations of his family to settle in their Porac hacienda. While other Spaniards sold off their lands to natives who divided them into smaller portions. But Spanish settlers in towns like Lubao, Floridablanca and Porac retained their large estates, some as big as 1000 hectares. The Gils remained in Porac for a long time, including a nephew from Valencia, Spain-Rafael Gil.

The Puigs. Spaniard Jose Puig, who has been accumulating lands for over years, established a profitable sugar milling business and the selling of agricultural equipment back in the 1890s. He became a well-known dealer of steam mill machinery, which he also leased out to farmers. He is credited for the shift into steam milling by many Pampanga farmers. Puig remained a farmer in the province after the arrival of Americans. Other Puigs like Francisco Puig continued the landowning tradition by acquiring 51 hectares of rice and sugarlands. A daughter of Don Honorio Ventura married a Puig and settled in Barcelona.

The Toledos. By 1854, Roberto Toledo had amassed large tracts of agricultural lands in the Porac-Lubao-Floridablanca area, which he rented out. His son, Roberto Jr. managed to increase the landholdings to over 3,000 hectares. He become one of the most progressive sugar planters in Pampanga. The Toledo estate was not spared from the violence in the late 1930s that rocked Pampanga’s sugar areas, which caused landlowners to form an association to protect their interests. The Toledos and their casamacs settled for a 50 centavo increase –raising their pay to 2 pesos per ton, for every cane delivery to Pasumil.

 The Valdeses. Hacienda del Carmen was founded in Floridablanca by Capt. Basilio Valdes of the Spanish Navy, who married a Manileña mestiza, Francisca Salvador. The agricultural lands were later managed by his children, led by Benito Salvador Valdes, a doctor, who was a classmate of Jose Rizal at the Universidad Central de Madrid in 1885. During the Revolution, Valdes was imprisoned in Fort Santiago for charges of complicity. Later, Benito Salvador became the director of San Juan de Dios Hospital in 1900. With first wife, Filomena Pica, he had a son, Dr. Basilio J. Pica Valdes who became the president of Hacienda del Carmen, aside from being Quezon’s Chief of Staff and defense secretary. The place where their tenants lived and work was named Barangay Valdes.

 Other known Spanish landlords included Don Ricardo Herreros (who owned an 81 hectare sugarland), Vicente Borrero, Julian Blanco, Manuel Fernandez, Juan Landaluce, Dolores Lombera and Emilio Borrero.

 The days of those grand Spanish-owned haciendas are now long gone—the properties sold by the original owners’ descendants, subjected to land reform, or redeveloped as residential subdivisions.

Vestiges of Spanish colonial power and presence could still be seen in some parts of Pampanga—the Pio Chapel and the manor of the Gils remain in Porac looked after by caretakers, and barangay Valdes continues to thrive in Floridablanca. The fabulous Arrastia mansion has been sold and relocated to Bataan as part of the Las Casas de Acuzar heritage resort. Finally, Kapampangans could re-claim and live on their lands again.

John Larkin, The Pampangans / Sugar and the Origins of Modern Philippine Society
Sugar News 1925 ed.