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.
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.