Monday, July 30, 2012


 WELCOME TO MY INNER CIRCLE. Members and visitors of "El Circulo Fernandino", the premier social club of San Fernando, Pampanga. Dated 27 July, 1946.

The organization of social clubs flourished during the American regime as Kapampangans gained wealth and prominence in society. These elite clubs provided young people to meet others of equal stature, and soon, joining these uppity groups and participating in their activities and amusements were all the rage among young, upwardly mobile Kapampangans.

The oldest and most well-known among these groups was El Circulo Fernandino, a socio-civic club which celebrated its 92 years of existence in 2012. It was formed around 1920, counting San Fernando’s crème de la crème as its initial members. It actually evolved from an even older group, La Gente Alegre de San Fernando (The Merry Folks of san Fernando).

 While El Circulo Fernandino staged many events to raise funds for its socio-civic projects, it was most well known for its annual balls that were legendary for their opulence and ostentation. Members dressed to the nines to attend the glittery dance affair—with women decked in their best gowns and expensive jewelries while the menfolk came in americanas, dinner jackets and coat tails.

Indeed, the balls of El Circulo Fernandino became the benchmark of other groups such as the Kundiman (Angeles), the Young Generation (Macabebe), Mountainside Club (Magalang), Maligaya (Floridablanca) and Thomasian (Sto. Tomas) which organized the annual Sabado de Gloria ball. The balls were capped by the formal rigodon de honor, with dance pairs chosen from Pampanga’s upper crust.

The fabled balls and receptions of El Circulo Fernandino ceased with the coming of the War, but resumed, albeit with much austerity, immediately after the Liberation. The social dances and activities resumed but in 1987, they came to a sudden stop. The Pinatubo eruption all but erased the remaining interest in social groups such as El Circulo, as the city’s future was thrown into uncertainty by the catastrophic volcanic eruption.

In 1997, under the presidency of Engr. Angelo David and Dr. Leticia Yap, El Circulo Fernandino was revived, only this time, it was re-configured to become a foundation. As a consequence, El Circulo became a more socially-involved group rather than an elitist club, in response to the imperatives of the times. For instance, in the 2012 reception ball under presidents Oscar Rodriguez, Divine Tulio and Coritho Panlilio-Lim, gathered friends and members to help raise funds for its projects like the Php 2.7 million greening of the Jose Abad Avenue, anti-poverty and education enhancement programs. Heroes Hall, the venue for the high profile affair, was renamed as Él Circulo Fernandino Mini-Convention Center in honor of Pampanga’s most esteemed social group.

Monday, July 23, 2012

*303. Pampanga’s Churches: SAN PEDRO APOSTOL CHURCH, Apalit

APLIT, APALIT! A religious procession, possibly to mark Corpus Christi, wends its way to the courtyard of San Pedro Apostol Church of Apalit. Ca. 1927. 

The bordertown of Apalit, founded by Augustinians in 1590, is built on swamplands by the banks of the great Pampanga River. Its first rudimentary church was probably started by Fr. Juan Cabello, who served the town on several occasions between 1641-45. A new church was also begun by Fr. Simon de Alarcia of stone and brick, which was never completed.

The foundation of the present church was laid by Fr. Antonio Redondo, the town’s parish priest who had it built for P40,000 following the plans of a public works official, Ramon Hermosa. For seven years (1876-1883) and under Guagua foreman Mariano Santos, the “pride of Pampanga, an indelible tribute to Fr. Redondo and the people of Apalit”was built and inaugurated in a series of ceremonies on 28, 29 and 30 June 1883.

The good father actually saved P10,000 as he paid the workers from his personal funds and astutely bought the materials himself. When the masons ran out of sand and bricks, Fr. Redondo would solicit the assistance of the town people by asking the sacristan to ring the bells. This way, he gathered enough volunteers to haul in sand from the river.

The completed church measures 59 meters long and 14 meters wide. Dedicated to the town patron, St. Peter,the church is built along neo-classic lines, with a graceful rounded pediment marking its façade, topped with a huge rose window—in contrast to the simple Doric pilasters and the two rectangular bell towers with pagoda roofs.

Its signature dome rises to about 27 meters and is supported by torales arches, with openings to light the church. Protective grills capped the doorway as well as the 3 circular rose windows on the church front. The church interior was decorated by an Apalit native, a pupil of the Italian painter Alberoni.

The feast of San Pedro or “Apo Iru”, is celebrated with ardour every June 29, including a raucous fluvial procession (“libad”) along Pampanga River. The seated ivory figure of “Apu Iru”—an antique ivory representation of the apostle attired as a Pope—is transferred from its Capalangan shrine to the Church, where it stays during the fiesta days until it is brought out for the annual “limbun”. From there, the beloved Apu is installed on a water pagoda for the traditional river festivities, a unique honor given to their patron who has given much to Apaliteños—a town, a home, a church and a colourful history.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

*302. BOTTLED FRESHNESS: Pampanga's Soda Pop Industry

YUNG MAY PULP BITS SYEMPRE! Thirsty Filipinos take a break at a soda stand with a sip of Royal soft drink. in Mandarin Lemonade flavor. The Kapampangan counterpart was the Reyna softdrink of the Nepomucenos. Later, Royal filed a case against the makers of Reyna for alleged copyright logo infringement. Ca. late 1920s-early 30s.

Pampanga’s Soda Pop Home Industry The pause that refreshes for most Filipinos in the early 1900s meant taking a sip of cool mineral water bottled from such places as Los Baños, Majayjay, Daet and Sibul Springs. Water from Los Baños, already a favorite resort at that time, was loaded with medicinal minerals like magnesium and sulphates and was deemed perfect for cooling and for reinvigorating the body. It was bottled by Isuan, which was to become a leading softdrinks factory in Manila during the peacetime era. Aerated water was also made by pharmacists along Escolta, another precursor of drinkable soda.

The introduction of more appealing soda drinks changed the way Filipinos refreshed themselves. Brands like Coca-Cola (concocted by Georgia pharmacist John S. Pemberton and sold at Jacob’s Drugstore in Atlanta in 1886) and Pepsi-Cola (formulated by Caleb Bradham of North Carolina in 1898) found their way in Philippine homes during the American Period, sold exclusively in café and ice cream parlors like Clarke’s. The invention of the crown cap by William Painter in 1897 further revolutionized the bottling industry. A beverage called “Tan San” was marketed in the Philippines by Clifford Wilkinson in the 1900s, giving us a new term for metal crown caps.

 Soon, Philippine soft drink dealers and makers sprouted all over the country to give imported brands some competition. In the Binondo-Sta. Cruz area, Sosa Street became the center of the softdrink trade, with scores of soda dealers lining the road, offering cool sips like Dry Ginger Ale, Tru-Orange Squeeze, Lemonade, Orangeade, Singapore Sling and Root Beer—all from Isuan Inc., which had established a large plant in Paco. During the Commonwealth years of the Manila Carnival, Isuan came out with a special “carnival”line of flavors: Orange, Strawberry, Grape, Chocolate and Sarsaparilla. By then San Miguel Brewery along Aviles St., was already marketing Royal Softdrinks.

Just before the war, Balintawak became an enclave for many soft drink factories, churning out Dalmar, Ang Bayani, Imperial H Soda, Malayan and Sinukuan Beverages. But brands were also made outside of Manila: New Banahaw (Batangas), Kasikatan (Biñan, Laguna) and Dainty (Manaoag, Pangasinan), Mabuhay (Bataan).

 In Pampanga, soft drink making became a backyard industry for some enterprising Kapampangans. Juan D. Nepomuceno and wife Teresa Gomez of Angeles, already successful with their ice plant and electric power plant business, ventured into soft drinks making with the launch of their Reyna and Aurora brands in 1928. Reyna Softdrinks was available in orange, strawberry, cream soda and sarsaparilla flavors. It came in green bottles imported from Belgium, crown-capped and labelled manually with paper labels by the Nepomuceno househelps and their children. It sold at 5 centavos, even if the customized embossed bottles alone cost 8 pesos to produce!

Despite being a losing business proposition, the soft drink was awarded first prize in the 1933 Pampanga Carnival fair and Exposition. San Miguel Brewery, makers of Royal Tru-Orange later filed a complaint against the Nepomucenos for the logo similarities between “Reyna”and “Royal”, which had similar typefaces, leading to consumer confusion and lost market shares for the brewery brand. The case was settled out-of-court with the re-spelling of “Reyna”into “Reina”, using an adjusted font.

 Aurora, on the other had, was a price brand, sold at 2 centavos each. It was available in the same flavors, with sarsaparilla as the best seller. Both bottled sodas were distributed in Pampanga and Bataan outlets. The business faltered and eventually closed during the War. In Guagua, La Familia Soft Drinks was positioned as a drink perfect for the whole family, and came in green embossed bottles with paper labels. It was another popular drink during the Commonwealth period and was even advertised in local papers.

Today, there is virtually no trace of Pampanga’s soft drink home industry, except for an occasional collectible local bottle and ads on trade papers and vintage dailies. The small-scale business had all been swallowed up by corporate giants like San Miguel, The Coca Cola Bottling Company and Pepsico, which have modern bottling and distribution plants in San Fernando. The resilient Kapampangan however, continues to cool the neighborhood with such alternative refreshments as homemade halo-halo, ice candy, ice buko, gulaman at sago-- true to the soft drink slogan, “Thirst knows no season”.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


HERITAGE HOUSE. The Pamintuan Mansion once had Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo as its resident. It was here on 12 June 1899 that the first anniversary of Philippine independence was marked, with Pres. Aguinaldo, Del Pilar and other military heroes in attendance. Yearly, the city stages a re-enactment of that historic celebration.

One of the signature landmarks of the city of Angeles is a residential home, a house of memory and history that stands along Sto. Entierro Street, just 2 blocks away from the ancient Sto. Rosario Church, itself a revered structure with a many storied past. This is the Pamintuan House, built sometime in the 1890s by the patriarch, Don Mariano Pamintuan for his son Florentino Torres Pamintuan (1868-1925), who earned his fabulous fortune from his vast agricultural lands.

The biggest and most beautiful house in Angeles sits on  a prime location in the town’s residential district. Here, Don Florentino settled with wife Mancia Sandico Pamintuan (1865-1905) and his family of four children: Jose Ma., Mariano, Paz, Caridad and Natividad. Don Florentino would marry a second time after his wife’s death, to Tomasa Centeno, who would give him 11 more offesprings.)

 One entered the mansion through a grand entresuelo, from where one climbed a massive stairway of solid Philippine hardwood. Upon reaching the landing, the opulence of the house becomes even more apparent: from its metal ceiling with distinct pukpok (repousse) floral designs to the ornamental arches, buttresses and calado (fretwork) transoms.

 The mansion featured modern amenities; it had running water in the bathrooms and kitchen that was hand-pumped from a well and stored in a large water cistern atop another tower. Rooms were illuminated by liquid petrol lamps, lit by the male househelps nightly with the help of ladders. Later, chandeliers replaced these traditional lights with the coming of electricity to the town. The latest furniture pieces were ordered by the Don for the house. The baby’s room was furnished with wooden cribs and the walls lined with expensive ivory santos and other religious statuaries who kept watch over the children. Carved beds, dining tables and chairs filled the rooms, while the walls were adorned with family pictures kept in art nouveau frames.

 Two separate spiral staircases led to a rooftop tower that doubled as a veranda, from where one could take in the fresh air and view the distant townscape. From there, once could descend down the backyard via a two-pronged staircase, leading one to the garden profuse with flowers and fruit-bearing trees. In the capacious garage were stored the carruajes (carriages) and the quilez, a square-shaped rig with seats on both sides, drawn by a horse.

 The House of Pamintuan took on a significant role during the Philippine Revolution when Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo moved the seat of the new and fragile Philippine Republic from Nueva Ecija to Angeles in 1899, for purposes of military expediency. Gen. Antonio Luna reconnoitered the town and chose the Pamintuan House as headquarters for the First Philippine Army. Don Florentino, a member of the Revolutionary Committee, not only opened his house but also took in Aguinaldo, who took temporary refuge in the spacious and sturdy structure. His aide-de-camp, Manuel L. Quezon, on the other hand, stayed in the house of Angeleño, Don Lorenzo Sanchez.

 On 12 June 1899, Emilio Aguinaldo, President of the new Philippine Republic celebrated the 1ts anniversary of Independence by staging a stirring celebration in the area. From one of the secondary windows, Aguinaldo watched a parade of gallant Filipino soldiers under the command of his youngest general, Gregorio del Pilar. Also present were Tomas Mascardo, Francisco Makabulos and the Luna brothers, Jose and Joaquin. In that momentous event, the Philippine tri-color was waved from the window of the Pamintuan house, certainly, a proud moment for the hundreds of Kapampangans who attended the rites—a first in Philippine history.

 When Aguinaldo fled Angeles, the advancing Americans took over the place and the Pamnituan House was commandeered by Gen. Arthur McArthur for his headquarters in 1901. With Aguinaldo’s capture, a period of peace settled over the Islands and the Pamintuans returned to take up residence in their still-beautiful house. Here, they hosted socials and received visitors—including Frank Murphy, the Governor General of the Philippines in the 1930s.

 World War II saw the Japanese invasion of Pampanga; Fort Stotsenburg was carpet-bombed and a regiment of the Japanese Cavalry occupied the imposing mansion. Upon Liberation, the house was rented to the USO, an organization that provided entertainment to American servicemen, and was converted into a clubhouse briefly, until 1947. The following year, the house was leased to a Chinese who transformed it into the Angeles Hotel.

 In 1959, the prime property was sold to Pedro Tablante, but the family never resided in the mansion. Instead, the house was leased to the local government in 1964, becoming an annex of the city hall. When the Central Bank of the Philippines was looking for a suitable location for its regional cash and clearing unit, it considered the historic house as a possibility.

As luck would have it, the Angeles Historical Society (led by its president, Mr. Josel Suarez, Daniel Dizon, Josie Dizon, Bette Nepomuceno, Marc Nepomuceno, Gil Lim, Rosalie Suarez, Racquel Villavicencio and other members ), in conjunction with the National Historic Institute, was looking for a sponsor to preserve the place. The groups met with then Central Bank Governor Jaime Laya, and an agreement was reached with the Central Bank to acquire the property from the Tablante-Tungol family in 1981, with a provision for the buyer to preserve the house, even if it was meant for adaptive re-use.

Work began in 1993 and, on January 4, the Central Bank Regional Cash and Clearing Unit began its operations in the distinguished 19th century Pamintuan House, where patriotic Kapampangans once lived, heroes once walked and where a piece of history was created.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

*300. High Society Star: YOLANDA MARQUEZ

WHEN MARY WAS YOLANDA. The Fil-Mexican beauty, Yolanda Marquez, who made a name for herself both in Philippine showbiz and later, in Manila's high society, had a Kapampangan father, born in Macabebe. Ca. 1930s.

She lived a long and fruitful life, finding fame in two different worlds: as Yolanda Marquez, she made waves as a pre-war movie star on the silver screen. As Mary Prieto, she became a celebrated personality in Philippine high society, becoming a classic icon of style and grace.

Yolanda Marquez was born on 1 January 1920, in San Francisco, California, the daughter of a Kapampangan father from Macabebe, lawyer Generoso Hernandez. Instead of focusing on a career in Law, Generoso pursued his first love—music—and soon, he found himself working the jazz circuit in America.This led to his meeting with a Mexican beauty—Marina—credited by daughter Yolanda as a major influence in her life.

Yolanda grew up in California and was schooled in San Diego. She made an important decision at age 14, opting to come back to the Philippines to stay in Macabebe, her father’s hometown. It was here that she met her father’s cousin, the celebrated Miss Pampanga of 1926, Rosario H. Paganiban. Rosario had been married a few years with the established director, Vicente Salumbides, and had even acted in his movie productions. She lost no time in opening doors for the young Yolanda so that she could explore a career in the movies. Her first movie was Milagro ng Nazareno from Parlatone Films, where she co-starred with Angel Esmeralda (Nepomuceno). It was an unprecedented success and Yolanda was on her way.

Surprisingly, her output over a period of 2 decades was limited to just 9 film appearances, but those were enough to propel her to national fame. Add to that her talk-of-the-town Americana ways—she was the first Filipina actress to don shorts and slacks on the celluloid screen, considered daring in those times. Soon, she was starring opposite major stars like Rogelio de la Rosa (“Sanggumay”), Leopoldo Salcedo (“Magdalena”), produced by Nick Osmeña and Amado Araneta, Ely Ramos (“Madaling Araw”, “Dahong Lagas” from Sampaguita Pictures), Rudy Concepcion (“Gabay ng Magulang”, “Walang Tahanan”), Carlos Padilla, Ernesto la Guardia and Teddy Benavidez.

Yolanda found herself becoming an A-lister in the movie industry. She developed her sense of proper decorum and style while working as an actress, as studio heads trained their artists by giving etiquette lessons and dressing them up in the latest outfits created by current designers. Like all actors, Yolanda’s career was put on hold by the War, with the family leaving Manila to seek refuge in Macabebe. But when the horrors of the war started to wane, Yolanda came right back in the swing of things.

Resuming her celebrity life, she continued to hobnob with the glamorous, the influential, the rich and famous. In 1944, she met a dashing basketball star from La Salle, Leo Prieto (later a PBA Commissioner), who was swept off his feet by the beautiful Yolanda.. They became man and wife, settled in Forbes Park and remained married for 65 years, (ending only with the Philippine Basketball Association commissioner’s death on 7 April 2009).

Post-War, Prieto took to the theater to fulfill her passion for acting, joining the Manila Theater Guild and appearing in such productions as Auntie Mame. Teahouse of the August Moon and 40 Carats. In the next '60s decade, Prieto reinvented herself and joined the elite Karilagan Models that included Conchitina Sevilla, Joji Felix Velarde, Gloria Romero, Chona Kasten and Barbara Perez. She performed alongside them in fashion shows abroad, walking the runways of the 1964 World’s Fair.

Later, Prieto took her knowledge of social graces and style to good use by becoming a member of the faculty of the popular personality development school, John Robert Powers Philippines. She taught etiquette, art of conversation, deportment and conduct to students, composed mostly by young, married women.

Back at home in Makati, Prieto ran the household with flair and efficiency, while also involved in charitable and religious activities. Though a widow, she continued to be active, writing her biographical book, “No Regrets” in 2009. The guiding light of grace and style succumbed to complications due to pneumonia on 11 June 2010, leaving behind her children, Leo Jr., Mike, Marylou, Tony and a host of grandchildren.