Tuesday, December 16, 2008

*120. Pampanga's Cities: ANGELES CITY

WHO'S MINDING THE MUNICIPIO? Angeles officials in front of the historic town hall which has now been converted into a museum. Dated 13 Dec. 1956.

The premiere city of Angeles owes its beginnings to an illustrious San Fernando couple who had the will, the foresight and an adventurous spirit to develop a large expanse of neighboring wild, untamed land called Culiat, named after a vine that grew densely in the area. Thus, in 1796, Don Angel Pantaleon de Miranda and wife Dña. Rosalia de Jesus, together with their partner farmers, armed only with a few farm tools and an image of the Virgen del Rosario, ventured forth to claim and clear the new frontier.

The land prospered under their guidance, and in 1810, the couple built a Santuario for the celebration of a Holy Mass. A chaplain, P. Juan Zablan of Minalin, was appointed by church authorities in 1812, but the administration still depended on San Fernando. Culiat progressed as its population increased, and the founding couple thus sought to establish a town detached from San Fernando. Their efforts bore fruit on 8 December 1829 with the official recognition of Culiat as a new town of Pampanga.

A new name was bestowed upon the town—Angeles—in honor of the Los Angeles Custodios, protectors of the patroness, our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary. But the name also pays tribute to the founder, Don Angel, a former gobernadorcillo, now the acknowledged father of a new town. Ciriaco succeeded his father, serving as the 1st ever gobernadorcillo in 1830.

There was no stopping the growth of Angeles thereafter. A more spacious church replaced the old Santuario in 1833, and in the same year, the Casa Tribunal was erected. The town’s territorial boundaries—which initially included the barrios of Sto. Rosario, San Jose, Amsic, Santol, Cutcut and Pampang—expanded to include 7 barrios of San Fernando: Cacutud, Capaya, Mining, Pandan, Pulungbulu, Sapa Libutad and Tabun. Three barrios were ceded by Mabalacat to Angeles: Balibago, Malabañas and Pulung Maragul. Mexico gave up Cutud. Population increase necessitated the creation of more barrios: Sto Domingo, Anunas, Sto. Cristo and San Nicolas. With the relocation of the market, Tacondo, Sapangbato and Talimunduc started to be populated.

During the Philippine Revolution, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo transferred the seat of government to Angeles, and it was here that the 1st anniversary of the Philippine independence was celebrated. The town fell to the American forces on 5 November 1899, after a drawn-out battle. The U.S. Army set up their post in Talimundoc, but relocated to Sapang Bato, a place that had better sawgrass for their horses. This expansive place would later be transformed into Fort Stotsenburg, and later, Clark Air Base in 1908.

During the 2nd World War, Stosenburg was carpet-bombed, totally destroying America’s air might. Angeles fell to the Japanese on New Year’s Day in 1942, and Angeleños were witnesses to the Death March of over 50,000 prisoners who passed their town. The liberation of the Philippines signaled a new ear to Angeles, rising from the ashes of the war to become Central Luzon’s premiere city on 1 January 1964, under Republic Act No. 3700.

From thereon, Angeles grew at an exponential rate, thanks in part to the presence of Clark Air Base which provided employment to many Kapampangans, but also spawned businesses of every conceivable variety to cater to the needs of thousands of Americans living in the city. Foremost among this was the entertainment industry, and for years, Angeles was associated with honky-tonk bars, prostitution dens, strip clubs and sleazy joints, and this image as a sort of a wild cowboy town persisted till the '90s.

But in 1991, the Senate vetoed the extension of U.S. military presence in the Philippines, but it was the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo that hastened the closure of Clark. Two years after the cataclysmic disaster, Clark re-emerged as a special economic zone, and once again, Angeleños worked hard to put the city back on its feet and its progress back on track.

Present-day Angeles, with its 33 barangays, lives up to its name as a premiere city-- home to many burgeoning industries and export businesses like furniture, metal crafts, houseware, garments and handicrafts. The Clark Freeport Zone is the site of the city’s emerging technology industry, with multinational call-centers establishing their bases here. An international airport now serves as a major transport hub for the country. Spanking modern malls, commercial infrastructures and efficient expressways now dot the Angeles landscape, and a cultural renaissance is happening right in the heart of the city. Which leads many an Angeleño to believe-- that the holy guardians of their beloved city never sleep.

(*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, December 15, 2008


FEAR THIS FISH! Drowning deaths of people were often attributed to the sirens of the deep, who seduce swimmers to their watery doom. Mermaids also inspired this photo studio to offer fantasy pictures such as this, through the clever use of painted scenography. 1920s.

The most effective way to silence crying, bickering and unruly Kapampangan children was for parents to warn them of creatures coming to take them away if they don’t hush up. “Eka mainge…migising ya ing kapri! Kunan naka!” (Don’t be noisy, you’ll rouse the ‘kapre’ and he’ll spirit you away!) was the usual warning needed for kids to behave and toe the line.

The Kapampangan underworld is replete with mythical denizens conjured hundreds of years ago by our anito-worshipping ancestors. Pagans believed in the concept of enchantment and magic—"manuple", was a term given to those who bewitched people. A more specific term is ‘uclub’—a witch or a sorcerer. A variant is an ‘ustuang’, an enchanter who works his magic at night. Someone under a witch’s spell is ‘megaue’, while a baby can also be a victim of ‘asug’, stricken with colic caused by someone taking fancy on a child.

“Eme atuan”, is also a warning given to kibitzers who stare at people without reason, lest they are afflicted by the evil eye. “Meyatu” is a term for anito possession, so a person taken over by a spirit is often zombie-like and lifeless. It is best to let him be, or else, his condition may worsen.

A person who believed in such diabolical elements is a “magmantala” and from his superstitious beliefs came such creatures of the night like imps (duendi), fairies (diuata), goblins (patianak), elementals (laman labuad) and a cigar-smoking giant sprite who resides in mango trees called ‘kapre’ (derived from the Arabic word ‘kaffir’, a non-believer of Islam, to which the dark-skinned Dravidians belong).

A "kularyut", on the other hand, is an ancient dwarf that haunts forested places; one such kularyut was supposed to inhabit the bamboo groves on both sides of Sapang Balen in Mabalacat. Sightings of this wrinkled, long-haired dwarf have been reported since the 1960s. It was last seen reportedly by a group of squatters who fled the place in fear. Good-humored town people observed that it took a kularyut, and not an act of law, to finally eject the illegal squatters.

Old folks also believed in people endowed with supernatural powers like the "mangkukulam" (a spellbinder), "manananggal" ( a winged creature characterized by a long tongue and detachable torso) and a "mambabarang" ( a person who wields power over insects). To ward off the threats of these beings, one can forestall the impending evil they are about to cast. “Sungal” is foreshadowing evil, hence, a form of counterforce. By firmly addressing witches with the words –“Sungal da ca!”, the spell is rendered useless.

Instrumental to our persistent belief in supernatural creatures is our over-imaginative entertainment media, which, over the years, has created more fantasy creatures both good and evil--from Dyesebel, the mermaid with a human heart, the human arachnid Gagambino to snakeman Zuma--these beings continue to reinforce our belief in the existence of higher powers, the better to scare us, delight us and indulge our innate curiosity for the odd, the strange and the frighteningly bizarre.

(*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". The author wishes to thank Singsing Magazine for most of the information needed for this article)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

*118. Bale Matua: THE MORALES MANSION, Mabalacat

GRAND DESIGN. The Morales Ancestral Mansion, built by the Atty. Rafael Morales of Mabalacat, for his bride, Belen Lansangan of Sta. Ana in 1924, utilized the artistry of Betis craftsmen and master carpenters.

Along Vicente de la Cruz St., (formerly, Sampaguita St.) parallel to the busy Sta. Ines exit of the North Expressway, lies an imposing mansion that dominates the quiet, provincial air of this narrow barrio road. This is the 2 –storey Morales ancestral house, an 84 year-old stone and wood structure with an architectural style that harkens back to the days of bahay na bato, yet infused with geometric, floral and art deco elements considered “moderne” in those times.

The fleur-de-lis accented wrought iron grilles fencing the house bear the initials of the owner, Don Rafael Morales y Guzman, the youngest son of the town’s principalia, Don Quentin Morales and Dña Paula Guzman. Actually, it was Don Quentin who built the house, commissioning Betis carpenters and carvers under the supervision of Felix Guiao, who himself, was a self-taught woodworker. Upon finishing his advanced law studies at Georgetown University, Don Rafael married Belen Lansangan of Sta. Ana, and settled in this house fit for a king on a sprawling 2,000 square meter property.

From the outside, the pastel green and white Morales house has a linear, simple grandeur—from its straight, solid façade to the tin cutwork that lines the roof’s edge. The geometric feel is broken only by sparse classic elements like the pierced vents in the eaves done in floral patterns. The high windows are notable for their rare frosted white and cobalt blue glass panes, which were fully closed with persianas or louvres when sunlight becomes too harsh. During Mabalacat’s sizzling summers, the ventanillas underneath are slid open to let in more air.

The floor plan follows an inverted F-shape, long and linear, but full of open space. A concrete stairway lads you to the upper floor where the Moraleses took residence. The date of the house’s construction—1924—is part of the wooden cutwork above the double doors fitted with amethyst-colored glass knobs. The Morales fortune was built on agricultural lands and this important aspect of the family history is immortalized in the ornate arch in the ante-sala. The arch carries exquisite carvings of farming icons—a plow, bundles of rice stalks, harrow—arranged almost like parts of a family crest. To the right are the living room quarters including the high-ceiling bedrooms, topped with transomes or air vents to circulate air from room to room.

The expansive dining room features an old-fashioned banggera, where table ware and glasses are left to air-dry. This area of the house figured prominently in the 1972 shooting of the Vilma Santos-Dante Rivero-Charito Solis war-themed movie, “Mga Tigre ng Sierra Cruz”. A utility wing is conjoined with the dining area. A small veranda and the white-tiled bathroom are found here, complete with claw foot porcelain tubs and modern plumbing. Space flows from one room to another leading you to the kitchen and semi-enclosed azotea with stairs that you down almost down the Sapang Balen bank.

In its prime, the Morales mansion was furnished with the latest furniture from the House of Puyat: 6-footer book shelves to hold Don Rafael’s legal tomes, tryptich tocador, plateras and a hat and cane stand. In the ante-sala, the portraits of the family forebears, Apung Palu and Apung Quintin, cast their steady gaze on arriving visitors. A life-size wedding picture of Don Rafael and Dña Belen was the focal point of the living room. A large mirror with elaborate etched designs also was hung there.

The well-tended gardens were lush with rosals, palms, San Francisco, agave and other succulents. Kamias, mango and acacia trees provided fruits and shady canopies all year-round. As late as the 1970s, reunion parties, soirees and basketball games were held in the courtyard and the wide cemented grounds.

When the only two daughters of Don Rafael relocated in Manila, the house was left in the care of relatives and a succession of caretakers. The Castros, first cousins of the Moraleses, resided in the house at various times in the 1950ws, 1970s throught the 1980s.

Sadly today, the Morales mansion is in a state of disrepair, further aggravated by the Pinatubo eruption, the ravages of time and the occasional neighborhood thievery. Whatever was left of the heirloom pieces, the heirs have spirited away to Manila. Even the carved arches have also been dismantled for keeping as architectural relics.

The subdued opulence of the Morales ancestral house and its attendant history may now be a thing of the past, but for the many who still live in this quiet Sta. Ines neighborhood and walk its narrow street, it still exists, albeit dimly, a landmark symbol of wealth and refinement from a genteel era now long gone.

POSTSCRIPT: In late October 2008, the heirs allowed a number of missionaries from a religious order to use the old mansion as their residential headquarters. The house, heavily vandalized by former squatter tenants, is now undergoing restoration--to make it more liveable.

(*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, December 8, 2008

*117. MOST REV. ALEJANDRO OLALIA D.D., 1st Archbishop of Lipa

BISHOP FROM BACOLOR. Most. Rev. Alejandro Olalia, Kapampangan. Bishop of Tuguegarao and the 1st Archbishop of Lipa, Batangas.

The Catholic Church hierarchy in the Philippines is peopled with many Kapampangan religious leaders who are noted for their pioneering spirit and missionary zeal. The first names that come to mind are Cardinal Rufino Santos of Guagua, the 1st Filipino prince of the Church and Archbishop Pedro Santos of Porac. But equally outstanding was the life of another Kapampangan priest who also rose to become an archbishop of note: Most Rev. Alejandro Olalia.

The future church leader was born on 26 February 1913 in the town of Bacolor. He studied at the Bacolor Public School and attended San Carlos Seminary (1930-36), from where he finished his priestly studies. Sent to the Gregorian University, he was ordained a priest at age 27 on 23 March 1940 at the Pio Latino American College. Two years later, he obtained a Licentiate in Canon Law. He then hied off to the United States as an exchange priest, where he served in a Georgian parish. On 18 May 1944, he earned a Doctorate in Canon Law from the Catholic University of America.

Upon his return to the Philippines on 4 February 1946, he was assigned to be the Assistant Parish Priest of Tondo. In September of 1947, Fr. Olalia was named as the private secretary of the Archbishop of Manila. His leadership qualities earned him an appointment as Coadjutor Bishop of Tuguegarao and Titular Bishop of Zela on 2 June 1949 at the age of 36. A scant two months after, he was ordained as bishop on 25 July 1949. The next year, he succeeded the Dutch-born Bishop Constancio Jurgens C.I.C.M., who served Tuguegarao for 22 long years.

From Tuguegarao, the bishop was assigned to Lipa in Batangas in 1953, replacing then Bishop Rufino J. Santos, who was elected as Archbishop of Manila. The reverend was noted for being a good manager of the church, often conducting business even in full Prelate regalia. He was also noted for being an open-minded religious, “who accepted all good things that came to the Philippines, including the Cursillo”. He was the first to support the SOS Children’s Village in Lipa, a haven for abandoned and orphaned children—a revolutionary concept at that time, established in Lipa in 1967.

It was during his term that the Diocese of Lipa became the tenth Archdiocese and Ecclesiastical Province as decreed by Pope Paul VI on 20 June 1972. He was likewise elevated to the rank of an Archbishop. Archbishop Olalia would stay at the diocese for 20 years, until his death on 2 Jan. 1973, not quite 60 years old.

(*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")


SHINING, SHIMMERING, SPLENDID. Maitinis in Mabalacat. A lantern and religious float competition highlight the Christmas celebration of this Pampanga town. 2006.

The holidays are once again upon us, and as always, the Pampanga landscape is alit with its most brilliant contribution to the festivities of the season: the Christmas parul or lantern. And the place that started it all—San Fernando-- has not just become the province’s premiere city, but has also rightfully earned the title of “The Christmas Capital of the Philippines”, what with its long tradition of creating the most colorful, most dazzling and largest paruls in the country.

The lantern, of course, represents the Star of Bethlehem that lit the night when Jesus was born. They have always been part of ancient history, used both for rites and everyday use. The Chinese caught fireflies and put them in transparent paper container to help light their way. The Japanese had their own crinkled paper versions while the Indians made star-shaped lanterns to celebrate the Diwali Festival. But nowhere in the world can one find holiday lanterns of the most mesmerizing variety than in Pampanga, giving rise to a renown industry that has produced that distinctive ‘parul sampernandu’.

It is said that the Pampanga lantern tradition originated in Bacolor during the La Naval festivities. Cross-shaped, candle-lit lanterns often accompanied images in processions of old. The tradition may have spilled over to neighboring San Fernando in 1904, to where the capital was transferred from Bacolor. According to local historian Mariano Henson, Angeles residents were already processing their La Naval image accompanied by white papel de japon lanterns as early as the 1800s. Lanterns from Angeles, however, remained small. There were even unusual fish lanterns with movable fins and tails, perhaps a way of impressing lubenas (procession) audiences.

The traditional Pampanga lantern is small; it was only in the 1960s that the proportions grew larger in San Fernando, perhaps to signal a barangay’s growing prosperity and attract more crowds. Kalburo (calcium carbide) replace candles as a lighting medium, and later, car batteries. The simple 5-pointed, bamboo-framed lantern evolved in the hands of skilled and inventive Kapampangan parul makers. Mario Datu of Del Pilar is credited with using an iron wire framework for the lantern body. A certain Mr. Linson popularized the use of layered cardboards to give a lantern a 2-dimensional carved look—“dinukit a parul”.

A rotor system also replaced the more primitive “kalakati” method (where an iron rod was run against a row of nails) of making the lights dance and twinkle, an innovation introduced by Crising Valencia. Here, a rotating tin cylinder covered with tape is manually turned to create the characteristic kaleidoscope play of lights. Today, in the annual Ligligan Parul (Lantern Contest), big generators are used to turn lanterns into psychedelic supernovas that light up to the beat of music.

The main parts of a typical San Fernando lantern include the lantern center, called tambor. From this center radiate the siku-siku, or right-angled designs that define the star shape of the lantern, the puntetas or rays, while the palimbun—circular trims—line the outer rim. Enlarging these parts create the giant parul, which may attain dimensions from 20-40 feet, and which need from 3,000 to 5,000 bulbs to light. But in December 2002, 100 craftsmen created the world’s largest lantern in San Fernando—a Christmas parul with a diameter of 26.8 meters (almost a hundred feet) built at a cost P5 million, sponsored in part by Walt Disney TV.

Our holidays in Pampanga may never be “white”, but with our local paruls illuminating our nights, all our Christmasses are sure to be merry and bright.


(*NOTE: Many thanks to Joel Pabustan Mallari for much of the research information needed for this article. 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")

Sunday, December 7, 2008


GRASSHOPPERS, ANYONE? A market vendor sells grasshoppers by the basket. These edible insects could be cooked adobo-style, or even made into fancy chocolate-dipped desserts. Kapampangans took a liking to insects like durun, salagubang and kamaru, and were regularly included in their meals. Ca. 1915-20.

What’s cooking in a Kapampangan kitchen?
Chances are, the lady of the house is whipping up a feast of Kapampangan haute cuisine fit for royalty. For the perfect pagtuan (lunch) fare, it could be oxtail kari-kari, a peanut-based stew of meat, assorted vegetables with nutty sauce thickened with ground rice. Or it could very well be kilayin, mostly chopped liver and meat dish seasoned with oil and soy sauce. Laga was the classic chicken and beef soup dish, boiled in its own broth, and generously crammed with potatoes, repolyo (cabbage leaves) , sayote (chayote) and whole onions.

If it was fiesta, she could be preparing adobo, menudo, asado and bringhi—our pungent version of paella—and the ubiquitous pancit in its many forms—palabuk, luglug, bihun. Then she would have ended the festive menu with delicately sweet desserts with French and Spanish sounding names—turrones de casuy, sans rival and marzipan.

The other side of Kapampangan cooking features the exotic and the unique—from the noxious-looking buro ( a dipping sauce made from fermented rice that has often been likened to a cat’s vomit), spicy sisig to the betute (stuffed frogs) and kamaru (mole crickets). This contradiction is the result of a cycle of feast and famine in Pampanga. Though naturally rich, the province’s history has had painful episodes of hunger and destruction, caused by revolts, conscriptions, floods and volcanic eruptions.

The inventive Kapampangan cook therefore created dishes with whatever was available to him—even if it came from the unlikeliest sources and the ugliest of creatures. The leafy maligoso (bitter weed) that grows practically everywhere, can be made into a hearty soup with kamote (sweet potato) and tinapa (smoked fish) thrown in. It had to be savored sip by sip as the soup has a characteristic bitter taste that you’ll either love or hate. Young bamboo shoots, the heart of a banana plant, the stalks of apung-apung plant—all readily available for the picking in the backyard or on the roadside--can easily be transformed into delicious lagat (chopped veggies) dishes.

The insect world for instance has contributed a lot of dishes for the Kapampangan table. Salaguinto, salagubang (Japanese beetles) and lipaktung (field crickets)—like the more famous kamaru—are cooked adobo-style, with soy sauce, oil and chopped tomatos, sans their wings and carapaces. I remember, as a kid, I used to fill up softdrink bottles with these beetles that densely populated our relative’s tall sampalok trees from across our house. All we had to do was shake the trunk or the branches, and the insects would come falling down. A morning’s catch is more than enough for a fine insect lunch. Durun (grasshoppers) were prepared the same way, but for very rare occasions, the dried, elongated bodies were dipped in thick, gooey chocolate until they hardened, and then preserved in jars as exotic desserts.

Frogs or tugak are another source of Kapampangan delectation. Skinned, with their heads and stomachs removed, they make excellent recados for soups. Or, one can stuff these amphibians with ground meat and deep-fry them as “betute", a more popular mode of preparation. Today, one would still occasionally find frogs for sale at the local market, sold by the dozen--they are sold with their webbed feet impaled in barbecue sticks. But with rivers drying, frog fishing is slowly becoming a lost art.

Dog meat has always been associated with the Kapampangan menu, but this is not accurate. This may have been due to the ”dugong aso” attribution to Kapampangans to describe their so-called treachery when Macabebe soldiers gave up Aguinaldo to the Americans. The Igorots have long taken to dog meat and at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904, they were required to kill dogs for show—and eat them. Long before them, however, the Chinese have been feasting on man’s best friend for many centuries.

Kapampangan farmers at one point, were also into field mice, fattened by their daily palay meals and sugarcane. With this kind of diet, daguis pale were considered clean and fit to be grilled, fried or cooked adobo-style. And yes, eating field mice was thought to be effective against galis (scabies).

The best way to a man’s heart, they say, is through food—and it doesn’t take much to please a Kapampangan’s. If a Kapampangan were to compete in the TV extreme series “Fear Factor”, I am sure he will win the eating challenge hands down. Crawling, slithering, croaking, wiggling, chirping, barking—no matter what the source of the meal is—as long as it’s tasty, flavorful and filling—the dauntless, adventurous Kapampangan will eat it all!

(*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")