Thursday, January 21, 2016

*395, THE MANY MARIES OF MABALACAT

MIPMU KA KING GRACIA. The ivory image of the Virgin carrying the Child Jesus, is displayed on the feast day of the Purification, February 2. The image is made to hold a candle on this day. Photo:Jude Belnas.

Mabalacat, formerly my town—and now a city—will celebrate its annual fiesta from February 1-2. All the festivities will revolve around our parish church, Our Lady of Divine Grace, which had its beginnings in the year 1768, although a more realistic date is around early 1830s. The Estado General of 1879 reports that the parish was elevated to a vicariate status under the titular patronage of  Nuestra Snra. De Guia most probably in 1836 .

There is a slight confusion as to who the real town patroness is. February 2, the traditional date of the town fiesta (piestang balen), is actually the Feast of the Purification of Our Lady or Nuestra Señora de Candelaria (also the patroness of the towns of Silang in Cavite and Jaro, Iloilo, where an ancient stone image of the Candelaria is venerated by the residents). There is, in fact, an old ivory image of the Virgin in the Parish, which is made to look iconographically like the Virgen de Candelaria by having her hold a candle. Surprisingly, this image is not displayed on the main altar.

However, a bell in the church tower dated 1846, has an inscription indicating that the church is dedicated to “Nuestra Señora de Grasia”( as spelled).  The Augustinians have always had an early devotion to the Nuestra Señora de las Gracias (Our Lady of Graces) and it is sure that they propagated this devotion among  Mabalaqueño converts; they had first established an original shrine in Guadalupe, which also shares our city’s fiesta date.

To add to the confusion, the feast of our Lady of Grace is observed every June 9 (piestang patron) according to the Catholic calendar. As late as 1930s, church records show that processions to our Lady of Grace were still being held in June, the expenses shouldered by a devout woman from Dau, Dña. Cecilia Samson.

There now seems to be a practical explanation to this date change, as explained by oldtimers. In the olden days, they recount, it was very inconvenient for the townsfolk to negotiate the dirt roads just to attend church service during June—the onset of the rainy season. So, a mutual agreement was reached between the townsfolk and the parish priest to move the date to February, when the weather was drier and better.

February 2 marks the date of the Purification or the Feast of Candlemas, to mark the obedience of Mary to the Mosaic law and the meeting of Her Child Jesus with the old man Simeon. By this event, Mary is known under the title Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria and is depicted as cradling the Child Jesus while holding a candle. The day is observed with the blessing and distribution of candles to be carried lighted in procession, a symbolic representation of the truth proclaimed in the Canticle of Simon: Our Lord is the “Light for the revelation of the Gentiles”.

The image of Our Lady of Divine Grace enshrined in the main altar was adapted by Fr. Felipe Roque  from a similar image venerated in the Capuchin Church of San Giovanni Rotonda, Foggia, Italy (home of the famous stigmatist-saint Padre Pio) which he had previously visited. There is a twin image in Popayan, Mexico with the same title and representation. Traditional iconography shows the Blessed Mother seated on a throne with the Infant Jesus on her lap, arms raised in blessing.

The title “Our Lady of Grace” today  is interchangeably used with  Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, as seen  in a vision by St. Catherine Labouré in 1830. A pre-war photo of the church interior shows a standing statue Mary in the main altar, circumscribed by 12 stars and topped by a large “M”,  consistent with the iconography of “Virgen de la Medalla Milagrosa”.

No matter the many titles, devout Mabalaqueños will always refer to their beloved Mary as “Apung Gracia”, who, through all these years, has showered their homes and their families with blessings and graces, while under the mantle of her protection.

Masayang piyesta  kabalen!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

*394. Cuts Like A Knife: AVELINA TEODORO, PAMPANGA'S YOUNG MURDERESS, 16

A CASE OF BACK-STABBING.. The cold-blooded murder of Constancia Pineda was perpetrated by her neighbor and supposed-friend, Avelina Teodoro of San Fernando. Both were just 16 years old. Inspite of her youth, Avelina was meted out a life sentence. From Graphic Magazine, Dec. 1929.

Poring over the files of some of the most sensational crimes of the past decades, I could not help but notice the involvement of Kapampangans in several high-profile cases—both as victims and perpetrators. I was horrified at the 1964 kidnapping of Maryknoller Cosette Tanjuaquio of Guagua in the hands of Orador Pingol and Nomer Jingco, who hid her in a pit for 83 days, and appalled at the still- unsolved "chop-chop" murder of Lucial Lalu of Candaba. Then there’s Jaime Jose, son of a prominent Kapampangan doctor, who was electrocuted in 1972 along with 2 others, for the crime committed against actress Maggie dela Riva’s virtue.

 Going back even further, I dug up a 1929 news report of a gruesome murder committed by a Kapampangan. It was shocking enough that the offender was a woman, but worse still that she was but a girl of 16!

 The full account on a December issue of Graphic Magazine reads as follows:

Sixteen year old Avelina Teodoro, of San Fernando, self-confessed murderer of her classmate, Constancia Pineda, also 16 years old, broke down when the sentence sending her to prison for life was read to her. Last September, Constancia’s body was found on the grounds of the Arayat Elementary School, pierced with a score of knife wounds. 

After some difficulties in the tracing of the murderer, the fingerprints on the body and the blood stains on Avelina’s clothing and books point out to the author of the crime. At first, Avelina denied the crime, pointing to Hilario Lugtu as the murderer, but confronted with the clues discovered, she confessed to the crime.

 What drove Avelina to kill her classmate? What was the motive? Was she really capable of murder? 

There were so many information gaps in the news report that I did more sleuthing and searching for facts about the 86 year-old case. Surely, all the characters of the case have passed on, but my curiosity had to be satiated.

 An online search yielded a transcript of an appeal filed by the defendant-appellant Avelina Teodoro with the Supreme Court on 12 August 1930. The documentation carried details of the crime, as the court reviewed the sentence imposed by the Court of First Instance of Pampanga on Avelina-- life imprisonment, plus P1,000 indemnity to the deceased's heirs for the crime of murder.

 It appeared that Avelina had indeed held a grudge against Constancia—she had been spreading shameful rumors about her, and opening her letters without her permission. This, Avelina confided to Hilario Lugtu. Avelina alleged that Lugtu told her that “he will take care of Constancia”. Allegedly,  Lugtu also asked Avelina to take Constancia to the closed Anderson Intermediate School. It was inside the toilet of the school that Constancia’s body was found with 37 stab wounds on her body. 

Two witnesses however, provided unimpeachable eyewitness accounts to the events leading to the murder. The first, Crisanto Reyes, testified that on 19 September 1929, appellant Avelina borrowed his single-edge penknife, which matched the size of the wounds on Constancia’s body. The same knife was later found in the possession of Avelina.

 More damaging was the testimony of witness Maximo Bundoc, who saw Avelina and Constancia on the day of the murder. He heard “the smaller girl” Constancia saying “In this world there's no devil like one's neighbor." This, she repeated to Avelina, “the bigger girl”. Complaining of a stomach ache, Avelina convinced Constancia to go inside the water closet of the school. It was the last time Bundoc saw the “small girl” alive , for the next day, her body would be discovered.

 This testimony of Bundoc corroborated the defendant Avelina's admission that she, herself,  was with the victim on the day of the crime. It was likewise shown that a finger of the defendant's left hand had become stained with Constancia's blood, and that her notebook had also been stained. Avelina was also seen walking hurriedly away from the crime scene, and when she was arrested by the Chief of Police Mutuc, bloodstains were noted on her dress.

 The Supreme Court upheld the decision of the lower court without modifications for the crime of murder. It also upheld the imposed penalty of  medium degree as fixed by the law, because the culprit was a woman—life imprisonment. The judgment appealed from was affirmed, with the costs of both instances against poor Avelina.

 Thus ended the sad, sorry tale of the young Kapampangan murderess, Avelina Teodoro, who tried to get away with murder, but got life behind bars instead.