Sunday, November 23, 2008


STAR-CROSSED LOVERS. A happy ending to Erlinda Bautista and Silvestre Lansangan's tempestuous romance. Their love story captivated a whole town for its sheer drama, so much so that the lovestruck duo were known as Mabalacat's "Romeo and Juliet". 1949.

(The story of star-crossed lovers Erlinda Castro Bautista and Silvestre Malit Lansangan is one for the books; in fact, it’s the stuff TV telenovelas are made of. So much so that the story was used for a "Ms. D." episode aired on 12 August 1998, over GMA Channel 7, from a letter sent by daughter Lily. This account was directly taken from the Golden Wedding anniversary invitation sent to us by the family, who are direct relatives. The great grandfather of Erlinda, Isidoro Castro is the elder brother of Gerardo Castro Sr., my paternal grandfather. )

Erlinda (Linda) and Silvestre (Beting) first met in May 1949, during a town santacruzan where Linda was the Reyna Elena. Silvestre was quickly smitten by the young queen and Erlinda, too, succumbed to her feelings. So, on June 14, 1950, on her 14th birthday, Erlinda went to hear mass and never came back home, having eloped with Beting.

Apung Coring (Linda’s mother) was against Bet, because her daughter was too young to get married. Her parents tried to convince their daughter to come home with them and forget about Beting, but being head over heels in love with him, she refused. Her parents were very disappointed such that they decided to send her to jail for disobedience. There, the Chief of Police, an uncle, took her under police custody but gave her special treatment, apparently because she was not a criminal. She stayed there for 21 days.

At the back of the Municipal Jail, there was window to Linda's cell. Beting secretly saw his beloved Linda by climbing the back wall and peering through this small window. To this day, Beting often wonders how he could have climbed the prison wall that was so high and forbidding.

Their love story made them popular in Mabalacat, so much so that the people made this line for Linda: "Tadtaran daku man mapinu, ing mitalamsik a daya kang Bet ya pa murin." (Even I were finely chopped, my blood that spatters will still be for Bet).

Eventually, her parents had her released from jail and she was sent to Marikina where her paternal relatives resided. There, Linda was enrolled at Cubao Elementary School. Beting, who was so much in love with her, didn’t stop looking for her, a search that lasted for a month. It was at Cubao Elementary School that Beting finally saw Linda, as she was getting ready for the flag ceremony. Linda skipped her class and sat down with Beting to discuss their relationship and their plans.

It came to a point that one day, Linda stuffed her school bag with clothes, a suspicious act that was not lost on her Lolo Pedro, who had been keeping an eagle eye on her. She told her Lolo, a former Katipunero, that she was going to school. In fact, she was again, plotting to elope with Beting. The couple were already on a bus when Lolo Pedro appeared at the station, brandishing a bolo, and demanding that the two alight from the bus. Their plan was once again, thwarted.

Her Lolo Pedro reported this to her parents. But this time, realizing the depth and sincerity of their love, Linda’s parents gave their blessings to the couple. Linda and Beting were married in San Juan Church and were blessed with 4 children: Joel, Rod, Elvis and Lily, all married with children. The Lansangans now all reside in the United States.

Monday, November 17, 2008


DAMULAG POWER. Perhaps, the cheapest- but not necessarily the fastest--way to go around Fort Stotsenburg in the 1st decade of the 20th century was to take a carabao cart ride, like these what these two adventurous Americans did in 1915.

Caroline S. Shunk was the wife of army officer Col. Shunk stationed at Camp Stosenburg from 1909-1910. In 1914, she published her memoirs (“An Army Woman in the Philippines”) based on letters that described her personal experiences in the country, with some interesting references to Dau, her life in the camp and its environs. Excerpts from her book are as follows:

On the train ride from Manila to Dau:
“The small porters gathered up our packages (for in this hot country, we do not carry anything) and we entered the train, which looked exactly like a child’s toy—an absurd little affair….After dark, we had to change cars at a small town. The low, one-story station was covered with vines and flowers, and small Filipino boys, clothed only in thin shirts, climbed nimbly to the car windows, offering tan-san water for sale….The road is rough, ad we were knocked about, my precious Paris hat getting a new shape with every bump. After two hours, Lieutenant R_____ pointed to a dim light near the sky-line, which marked the station where we would take a wagon for Camp Stotsenburg”.

On Negritos:
“The Negritos are said to be the first inhabitants of the islands, and a great number of them live right at our back doors, in the grim-looking mountains behind the post…These savages bring the beautiful air-plants into camp, tied with bamboo and slung from their shoulders to sell to the Army people. These plants, of the orchid variety, are found in tall trees, and one sees them hanging from the roofs of almost all the porches—a graceful fringe of green”.

On her household helps:
“House-boy No. 1 is a treasure. At 7 o’clock, our dinner hour, he comes softly to the porch corner from which we watch the sunset and announces something which menas, “SeƱora, dinner is served”. He looks like a hired mourner at a funeral, dressed in crisp, white clothing…He serves quietly and well. The light from a Chinese lantern swaying from an arch of woven bamboo makes fitful shadows on the bare rafters. Lizards run down the wall to catch the insects attracted by the lights, great June-bugs buzz noisily about, and, coming too near the table, are deftly caught by the “boy” who takes them out to carry home later for “chow”…

Rickety train rides? Balugas peddling plants and other stuff? Efficient base workers? Bug-eating Kapampangans? Somehow, these things Mrs. Shunk wrote about still sound oh-so very current and familiar.After nearly a century, nothing has changed, indeed!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

*112. DR. BASILIO J. VALDES: Fortune Helps the Brave

GAMES OF THE GENERAL. Basilio Valdes was a doctor first, but also earned recognition as a military man, business man, medical instructor and a government executive. This picture of him was taken during the Manila Carnival of 1921.

Physician, Professor, General, Chief of Staff, Businessman, Cabinet Secretary. These are but a few of the many roles Dr. Basilio J. Valdes would play in his checkered life. The good doctor would make a name for himself as one of the most accomplished personalities ever to emerge from the Commonwealth years, dedicating his life to government, military and civic service with uncommon drive and distinction.

While Basilio was born in San Miguel, Manila on 10 July 1892 to Benito Salvador Valdes and Filomena Pica, the Valdeses have deep roots in Floridablanca, Pampanga. His father, a classmate of Rizal in Madrid was also a physician. The Valdeses led peripatetic lives, which explains why young Basilio spent a number of years in different schools here and abroad. He started his primary grade in La Salle, Barcelona then continued this in San Beda from 1901-1903. He then went to La Salle Hong Kong, the Ameircan School in Manila, Pagsanjan High School and Manila High School—all in a span of 8 years.

Largely influenced by his father, he enrolled in Medicine at the University of Santo Tomas and graduated with honors in 1916. Immediately, he plunged headlong into medical service,treating all his patients with respect and fairness, and adapting a personal motto—“Audaces Fortuna Juvat”—Fortune helps the brave. While in practice, he also became a professor of Physiology at his alma mater and published medical papers.

Driven to serve beyond his country, he joined the French Army as a medical volunteer, then the U.S. Army as a surgeon from 1917-1919. He labored in Europe as part of the American Red Cross mission during the war years, while studying health conditions in Czechoslovakia and Lithuania. Later, he would apply this new knowledge when he organized foundations devoted to the care and treatment of infantile paralysis patients.

Thus began his second career in military service. When he came back to the Philippines, he became a medical inspector for the Philippine Constabulary for 8 long years (1926-1934). He was also the Chairman of the Board of Medical Examiners from 1928-1932. In 1932, he was named acting Commissioner of Health and Welfare.

President Manuel L. Quezon appointed him as Chief of Staff of the Philippine Constabulary and Philippine Army in 1939, elevating his rank to a general (he would rise to become a Brigadier General). Two years later, Basilio was appointed as Secretary of National Defense—the country’s third. To expand his military education, he attended the Command and General Staff School in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, graduating there in 1943.

During the Japanese period, he served under Pres. Jose P. Laurel as Secretary of Public Works. Basilio was even busier when the war years ended, becoming a president many times over for various medical associations, war veteran groups, health societies and civic clubs like the Manila Lions. In the 1950s, he was also the President of Hacienda del Carmen of Floridablanca, Pampanga. From his community of tenant-farmers, barrio Valdes was formed.

The good doctor married Rosario ‘Bombona’ Legarda whom he met during the 1921 Manila Carnival. She had been a princess in the court of the Carnival Queen, Carmen Prieto, whom Basilio escorted. The couple was childless, but had an adoptive daughter. Dr. Basilio J. Valdes died on 26 January 1970 after a long and fruitful career, and a life favored no doubt, by fortune.

(*NOTE: Feature titles with asterisks represent other writings of the author that appeared in other publications and are not included in the original book, "Views from the Pampang & Other Scenes")

Monday, November 10, 2008


KAMIKAZE PILOT. As seen on Dec. 1944 at the South Airfield I of Clark Air Base, by artist-historian Daniel Henson Dizon. Original pencil illustration, Alex R. Castro Collection.

As World War II drew to a close with imminent American victory, Japan's military planned its ultimate mission even as American forces were landing in Leyte. On October 19, 1944, Japanese Vice Admiral Takajiro Ohnisi arrived in Mabalacat and, meeting in the house of Marcos Santos, enjoined the naval air force soldiers of the 201st Air Group to sacrifice their lives for the glory of Japan through suicide attack units composed of "Zero aircraft fighters" and 250 kilogram bombs.

The way it was planned, the aircraft with the pilot on board was to crash-dive into an American carrier.Thus was born, in San Francisco, the "Kamikaze" (Divine Wind) suicide missions which took the lives of 1,228 brave young Japanese pilots by the end of the war. Colacirfa Hill (Dona Africa's Hill) in Tabun was turned into a Kamikaze command post .

The very first Kamikaze unit organized was known as Ohimpo, and to this unit belonged Japanese Lt. Yukio Seki. In the book The original choice had actually been Naval Academy graduate Naoshi Kanno, but he was away from Mabalacat. In his stead, Seki was nominated and after hearing his mission, he remained silent then said "You must let me do it".

The first kamikaze planes took off on 21 October 1944 from the Mabalacat West Airfield ( located in a place called Babangdapu, Tubigan.) Hampered by thick clouds, the planes returned only to regroup again on a lonely, dusty sugarcane field in Barangay Cacutud. Here, Lt. Seki, along with others, took off and headed for Leyte Gulf on October 25, 1944 at 7:25 a.m. for what was to be his last flight.

In an hour, Lt. Seki was dead, having crashed his plane on the American aircraft carrier , Saint Lo during the battle of Samos. He thus became the first Japanese kamikaze pilot to give up his life for his motherland. Before he made that fateful trip, he wrote: "Fall, my pupils, my cherry blossoms, just as I will fall in this service of our land".

American liberators assumed that the suicide planes were flying from Northern Luzon, but postwar interrogations of Japanese pilots revealed that they had, in fact, flown from Clark Field, thus making it appear they were attacking from the north. In all, kamikaze pilots sank 34 and damaged 288 warships, causing the loss of 5,000 American lives.

The Kamikaze Marker was erected in Barangay Cacutud in 1975 through the initiative of local historian-writer-painter Daniel H. Dizon. Partially buried in lahar in 1991, it was replaced with a new peace memorial, inaugurated in October 2001. In 1998, Mabalacat was declared a “City of World Peace” by the Great Buddhist Bishop, His Eminence, Ekan Ikeguchi in an effort to promote peace and goodwill between Japan and the Philippines. A 12-foot Buddha was donated by the Japanese people, and in return, a “Goddess of Peace Shrine” was established by the Mabalacat Tourism Office at the Lily Hill in Clark Field.

On October 24, 2004, a life-size fiberglass gold statue of an unnamed Kamikaze pilot was unveiled at the Japanese War Memorial, eliciting cries of outrage and disgust that saw print on national dailies. Local tourism official Guy Hilbero, the proponent of the controversial project, maintains that the statue “is not a memorial glorifying the Kamikaze pilots” but its aim is to promote peace “using the lessons of war”.

Concerned individuals think otherwise. Col. Rafael Estrada, 87, founder of the veterans group Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor says, “The site is where the Kamikazes were born. That is a historical fact. I have no problem with that, but to mark it with a full size statue of a Kamikaze pilot, is in my opinion, not right”.

Dr. Benito Legarda Jr., of the NHI said the denial of glorifying the pilots were hollow. “The purpose of the Kamikaze was precisely to prolong the war, our country’s occupation by a brutal and still unrepentant invader”. Legarda calls it a “monument to servility”. However, despite such misgivings and howls of disgust, there has been no organized protest against the statue. Hilbero maintains that the statue should be seen as a symbol…”a symbol for all that is wrong with the war. The point being that no one wins”.

(*NOTE: Feature titles with asterisks represent other writings of the author that appeared in other publications and are not included in the original book, "Views from the Pampang & Other Scenes")

Thursday, November 6, 2008

*110. MOURNING MORTALITY, Kapampangan Style

LAST LOOK. A prominent Kapampangan is laid to rest in Guagua amidst grieving relatives and loved ones. Black was the traditional mourning color, and a black streamer was placed in the front of a house to signify death in the family. Children were carried across the coffin to prevent the dead from haunting them. Dated 1938.

All Saints’ Day (Todos Los Santos on Nov. 1) and All Souls Day (Nov. 2) used to be 2 distinct observances until somehow, they merged as one. When campo santos (cemeteries) began being built outside of the town, folks found it convenient to divide their pious duties: Nov. 1 was devoted to grave visits while Nov. 2 was reserved for church rites.

Death came early for Filipinos in the 19th century; life expectancy was just about 35 years. Life, was indeed precious, which was why, death was considered major rite of passage, with ceremonies and post-mortem practices created around the inevitable.

· A funeral has to take place within 244 hours of a person’s death.
· As soon as a person dies, his body is bathed, dressed and laid on a bed decorated with black

(if dead is an adult) or white (if a child) hangings.
· Friends and relatives prepare gown for burial, including the wreaths. The immediate family does not participate.
· Young men and women watch over the dead at night, entertaining themselves with card games and bugtungan or bulaklakan.
· Burial is escorted by a band, but not always.
· After the burial, praying continues during the 3rd (atluan), 9th (siaman) and 1st year anniversary (lukasan).
· A person who is fond of wearing perfume will decay faster in the grave.

· Pieces of red cloth hung around the house will ward off the spirit of the dead.
· Mirrors should be covered, lest the spirit of the dead reappears.
· A rosary held in the hand of the departed should be broken, to symbolize the breaking of the circle of life.
· The souls of children who die before they are baptized will drift in the skies forever.
· The soul of a dead wife will appear on the wedding night of the widowers’s next marriage.
· On the 3rd day after the burial, a seat is reserved at the dining table in which ash covered with caracaricucha leaves is served. On the 9th evening after burial, instead of ash, relatives must now put food on the plate of the deceased and pray for the repose of his soul.
· A person who is fond of wearing perfume will decay faster in the grave.
· The bed of someone who has died should be taken out of the house, through the window, to discourage the souls from coming back.

· A dream in which one loses a tooth.
· Howling of a dog in the vicinity of a sick person.
· A crowing hen at night. To prevent death, the hen must be killed.
· Appearance of a black moth
· Hooting owls means the death of a pregnant woman.
· Newlyweds should pass the threshold at the same time; otherwise, the one who comes in ahead will die.
· Children singing in the street pre-figures a funeral procession.
· Putting 3 lamps on the dining table.
· Mound of earth growing under the house.
· Taking a bath during the eclipse.
· A coffin with room to spare.