Friday, October 14, 2005

The lantern industry of San Fernando: Pampanga's model for "One Town, One Product"

PIA Press Release

San Fernando, Pampanga (16 September) -- See a parol or Christmas lantern, think of Pampanga! This has been the case for sometime now but the lantern makers of San Fernando and the city government want bigger things for the lantern industry.

Seeing its big potential waiting to be tapped, the lantern industry of San Fernando had been identified as the model for Pampanga's One Town, One Product (OTOP) program, a significant part of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's ten-point agenda.

Indeed the parol industry has come a long way but it can go a longer and better way towards fueling economic activity, not just in Pampanga, but in the whole of Central Luzon.

Best lantern makers
Roland Quiambao wears several hats - chair of the City Arts and Culture Council; chair of the recently formed Lantern Makers Association of San Fernando. He is also a major awardee twice over - Most Outstanding Fernandino in the field of arts and culture in 2004; Kabuhayan awardee in 1998 presented to him by then President Fidel V. Ramos in Malacañang.

He had done a variety of jobs before he concentrated on his true love - lantern making. He worked as an OFW for three years in Dubai; he came home and became a jeepney driver, In between, he was a "musikero" - playing the trumpet in cultural shows. His musical experience started at the University of the Assumption in San Fernando where he enjoyed a scholarship by virtue of his being a member of the school rondalla. He graduated with a degree in Commerce which he finds useful in his prosperous lantern making business.

Much farther back, Roland started at lantern making at age 10, assisting and learning from one he considers the master, the late Mario Datu, the sole record holder of winning the annual parol contest for nine consecutive years, a record unbroken to this day.

Roland and several others learned the ropes from Mang Mario. They apparently learned very well since he and his peers eventually became winners of the annual lantern contest, alternately winning over one another, to this day.

Big break from lahar
Roland started his lantern business in 1986 but his big break came in late 1995. In October that year, a big lahar flow hit San Fernando suddenly and hard. A month later, just before a Christmas which would be understandably bleak, then San Fernando Mayor Reynaldo B. Aquino asked Roland if he could decorate the city streets with Christmas lanterns as an attempt to brighten up the place and buoy up the sagging spirits of the residents.

"Tinanggap ko ang challenge, kahit hindi ko tiyak kung kaya ko," Roland admitted.

But he rose to the challenge, beyond anyone's expectations! The sight of his lanterns adorning the streets and major spots in the city certainly gave the weary residents a reason to smile and find new hope in the future. This opened up doors of bigger opportunities for Roland, opportunities which he enjoys and nourishes to this day.

In 2003, he was a recipient of a Php200,000 loan under President Arroyo's One Barangay, One Product program. This was a "no collateral, no interest" loan amounting to one million pesos and given to a group of five entrepreneurs, each getting Php200,000. It was given through the city government under the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) assistance program of the President. Roland started paying this loan every month without fail in 2004 and shall have been paid in full in October 2006.

He has also formed a tie up with television stations who have their backdrops and other set décor done by Roland. His continuous innovation and attempts to revolutionalize lantern making has paid off. Even during the off -Christmas season, he gets orders for various lantern-like décor such as the ones found in his workshop cum residence in Barangay San Felipe- butterflies, plants, flowers, fruits.

"One should not limit himself to the traditional but instead, continue to explore new ideas, improve their products," Roland advises new entrepreneurs not just in the lantern industry but in any field.

He has also been joining the annual Likha ng Central Luzon (LCL) held every October at SM Mega Mall, even providing for free the main décor of the event. In return, he gets free space or a stall where he displays and sells his products. Through the LCL, he has also attracted the interest of foreign clients who have become his regular customers.

He has come a long way from the time when he would offer his services/products to would be clients, they now come to him and he could hardly cope with all the orders that pour in. He has 30 regular workers and sub-contracts to 60 others in San Felipe and neighboring barangays.

LGU factor
Apart from implementing the loan assistance program to SMEs, with the assistance of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the local government of San Fernando has been a big help, writing to other LGUs and corporations, offering the lantern makers' services to decorate their municipalities.

They are currently working on major support activities for the lantern makers and other entrepreneurs. One is the Christmas lantern strip which the Lantern makers Association is putting up from October 15 to December 31 this year. The venue is a 5000 sq m.vacant lot owned by businessman Eddie Chua who offered it for free use of the project. It is strategically located along the Gapan-San Fernando-Olongapo (GSO) Road, very near the Paskuhan Village.

The city government shall put up the stalls which the association members could pay back once or twice later. Or, better still, if the corporate sponsors that the LGU has approached agree to shoulder expenses for the stalls, much better for the lantern makers! They would just have to pay for their electric bills but even this would be negotiated with the San Fernando Electric and Power Company; if discounted rates could be given,! No let up in the city government's support for the lantern makers.

It will also try to work out the possible transfer of the Paskuhan Village's management to the city government. According to Fer Santos of the City Tourism Office, they could do much for the huge yet, largely unused Paskuhan Village, also along the theme of San Fernando being the country's Christmas capital.

But whatever the outcome of these plans, the city government is serious about maintaining, even upping, the quality of San Fernando products, lanterns or otherwise. They plan to come up with the quality seal on all local products to ensure that indeed, "Gawang Fernandino, Gawang Filipino" is world class!

Gearing up for Ligligan Parul
The Lantern Makers Association of San Fernando has only 17 members presently. The city government is encouraging other makers to join the association knowing that there is strength in an organized act.

Roland Quiambao can attest to this, and so does Daisy Flores, secretary of the association. Organized only in May this year, the members have felt the vibrancy of being in an association. They are very much into the thick of the preparations for the planned Christmas fiesta strip starting in mid-October.

Within their ranks, there is also specialization. There are production people doing the creatives - designing and execution of the lanterns, like Roland Quiambao. There are members who focus on the commercial side, the marketing of their products, like Daisy Flores. This way, there is specialization and focus, according to Roland.

But Daisy has started producing her own lanterns and she finds a new excitement in it. In fact, she is challenged by the fact that she and her workers shall decorate the streets of Angeles City and Mabalacat this Christmas.

Roland's Christmas décor, as in the past years, shall be seen in Parañaque, Quezon City, and the Ortigas area. Their production usually starts in March, during the off season, to make it in good time for their regular orders.

Roland is busy with San Felipe's entry to this year's giant lantern festival which they call "Ligligan Parul" in Kapampangan. While his entry remains a secret, he gave away enough clues for one to conclude that it is going to give other entries a run for their money. His concept is timely, relevant and universal - proof that Roland is committed to revolutionizing the lantern making industry in San Fernando.

What sets San Fernando lantern craftsmen from those in other places is the cultural depth that lantern making has reached in their consciousness. They have a history of the origins of parol making, culled from the stories from the folks of old; when the candle was used to light the path of a procession during the nine consecutive novena nights before Christmas. How the intricate designs and technically simple, straightforward parol of yore evolved into the less ornate designs yet highly technical features of the modern Christmas lantern.

A giant lantern has an average of about 2,500 to 3,000 light bulbs and costs anywhere from Php300, 000 to Php500, 000. The high cost of producing an entry to the contest is partly subsidized by the city government and assisted by other sponsors. The play of color, lights and music and artistry during lantern festival night makes a spectacle of the grand scale.

A trophy and prestige are the stakes in the annual lantern festival. Roland is a candidate for the grand slam win this year so that he would get the revolving trophy coveted by all the barangays entered in the contest.

An added incentive is the possibility, nay probability, of having the winning entries displayed at the United Nations Headquarters and other lanterns hanging at New York's 5th street, again through the efforts of the city government of San Fernando in coordination with the officials of the Philippine consulate in New York.

Continuing partnership
Even with the current energy crisis and the call of the government for conservation measures, the lantern makers have more job orders than they could handle. Christmas has such a magical pull among Filipinos that they would not pass up an opportunity to light up their homes and streets, whatever the state of the world's energy supply.

The continuing partnership among the lantern makers, the city government of San Fernando, the DTI and other support groups augur well for the future of the lantern making industry in San Fernando.

Fer Santos of the city tourism council summed it up beautifully when he said "as long as may Pasko, may parol". Since Christmas is forever, it is safe to say that San Fernando's parols will remain in demand and that the talent and craftsmanship of Roland and other lantern makers shall live on in their heirs from family and friends and neighbors. (PIA-MMIO

Monday, May 09, 2005

San Fernando's bells sing again

Since the Philippines is a Roman Catholic country, church bells have played a big part in its history. Primarily used to call the faithful to prayer, the tolling of church bells has also been used as heralds of good news, marking times of celebration or announcing the arrival of visiting dignitaries, as gestures of honor or sadness, marking the passing of a prominent citizen for example, and as presages of disaster, forewarning the townsfolk of things such as great fires that were fast spreading or invading troops ready to wreak havoc. It was said that the boundaries of a parish were defined by how far the sound of its bells could reach. And thus, church bells also united each Filipino community.

The church bells of the 250-year old City of San Fernando, Pampanga are no exception. This is why concerned civic leaders, hearing the waning peal of the centuries-old bells of the City’s Metropolitan Cathedral, sought to revive old memories by bringing the church bells back to life.

The San Fernando, Pampanga Heritage Foundation, Inc. was formed on July 31, 2003 as a contribution to the heritage conservation and cultural revival campaign of the City of San Fernando. It’s founding trustees include Chairman Levy P. Laus, President David L. Jimenez, as well as Senen P. Quiambao, Antolin P. David, Antonio O. Koh, Quirino T. Kehyeng, and Ivan Anthony S. Henares.

It was during one of its initial meetings some time in the latter part of 2003 that the bell project was brought up by Chairman Levy P. Laus and historian Ivan Anthony Henares. After preliminary conversations with Cathedral Rector Msgr. Cenovio M. Lumanog, it was discovered that the three remaining centuries-old bells were in a bad state – two were cracked and no longer functional while the largest produced a bad sound as a result of wear and tear due to the many years it had been in use. There was thus a need to replace them soonest and a meeting was set with the Archbishop Paciano B. Aniceto, D.D. to propose the project.

The church bells project actually struck a chord with the members of the young foundation. Laus himself remembers going up the belfry as a young kid growing up in San Fernando. And hearing the bells peal again would elicit good memories and call the San Fernando community back to its roots.

Upon the recommendation of Prof. Regalado Trota Jose of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, it was decided that new bells would be purchased. According to Jose, marks on church bells such as cracks and bullet holes are part of its history. Thus, instead of “restoring” church bells, they should instead be decommissioned and displayed in a prominent place, as a tribute to their historicity.

For the new bells, the group contacted the Philippine agent of Petit en Fritsen b.v. Holland, a foundry that has been manufacturing bells since 1660. Although there were some initial problems, funding the bells was a breeze thanks to the generous donations of four families. The total cost of the three bells ordered amounted to a little over two million pesos. The largest of the bells, which weighed half a ton, was funded by Levy P. Laus and family. For the second bell, Msgr. Lumanog solicited the support of the Singian-Lazatin family, descendants of Don Serfain Lazatin and Doña Encarnacion Singian, who immediately obliged knowing the significance of this historic project. The cost of third bell was divided among the families of Antonio O. Koh and Senen P. Quiambao.

Each bell contained 20 percent tin, half a percent of lead, 1.5 percent zinc, antimony with iron and the balance of some 78 to 80 percent in copper. The clapper is made of construction steel and the clapper balls of manganese bronze, a metal softer than the bells themselves. It is said that the reason bells in the Philippines easily crack was because of the fact that their clappers were made of the same metal or one that was harder.

With the bells ordered and scheduled to arrive in December 2004, plans were made for their inauguration. To make it meaningful, the foundation decided to coincide the first pealing with the first simbang gabi on December 16, 2004. And to even make it more meaningful, the foundation invited none other than Her Excellency President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as guest of honor. And to ensure her attendance, members of the foundation trooped to the White House in Clark during one of the president’s visits on November 13, 2004 to personally hand her the invitation. The president immediately obliged.

On December 6, 2004, the bells finally arrived at the Manila International Container Port in North Harbor. As part of the ceremonies to welcome the bells, members of the foundation and other guests, who rode to Manila in CarWorld’s brand new Rosa van, were personally seen off by City Mayor Osacar S. Rodriguez. At the port area, Msgr. Lumanog, and SFPHFI trustees Laus, Jimemez, Kehyeng, Quiambao and Koh welcomed the arrival of the bells, with the assistance of Deputy Collectors of Customs Mssrs. Ronnie Silvestre and Philip Bartolome.

The following Monday, December 8, 2004, the three bells were blessed in solemn ceremonies by Archbishop Aniceto together with all the parish priests of San Fernando, the trustees of the foundation, the donors and their families, as well as city officials lead by Mayor Rodriguez. And finally, as had been planned, President Arroyo led the inauguration of the new church bells during the early hours of December 16, amid a lot of fanfare and celebration. After the inauguration, a traditional Kapampangan breakfast was served at the Plaza Vidal de Arrozal in the City Hall of San Fernando.

The centuries-old church bells were housed at the side of the Cathedral in a bell house donated by the San Fernando Jaycees Senate. This was blessed and formally turned over to the Archdiocese on March 8, 2005, which coincided with the induction of new officers of the San Fernando Jaycees Senate together with the San Fernando Cabalen Jaycees.

As the SFPHFI puts its first project to a close, it looks forward to more projects that aim to preserve and promote the rich history and heritage of the City of San Fernando, Pampanga.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Jose Abad Santos: An apotheosis


JOSE Abad Santos was a victim of a wanton war, a pitiless destruction. Like the many other victims, he died in the service of his country. Unlike most of them, however, he chose his manner of dying. And unlike most of them, he could have lived had he wished to. But he preferred to die; his death has now become one of the glorious epics of our age.

At the outbreak of the war, Jose Abad Santos was an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court; he had been continuously serving in that capacity since his appointment on June 18, 1932, interrupted only when he was drafted by President Quezon as Secretary of Justice from December 6, 1938 to May 23, 1941. On December 24, 1941, he was appointed Chief Justice. Concurrently, he performed all the functions pertaining to the Department of Justice, pursuant to Executive Order No. 396, issued on the same date of his appointment. In accordance with the said order which reorganized the Executive Department of the Commonwealth, Chief Justice Abad Santos was also designated acting Secretary of Finance, Agriculture, and Commerce. President Quezon later took him to Corregidor with Vice President Osmena, General Basilio Valdez, Major Manuel Nieto, and Father Pacifico Ortiz. While there, Abad Santos assisted President Quezon and the Commonwealth officials with him in disposing of and securing the funds of the Government that were deposited in the vault in Corregidor.

At the inauguration of President Quezon for his second term on December 30, 1941, Chief Justice Abad Santos administered to him in Corregidor the oath of office. Together with Quezon and his party, he stayed in Malinta Tunnel until February 22, 1942, when he left with them by submarine for the Visayas, arriving in Occidental Negros two days later. The presidential party shuttled from place to place as a precautionary measure, sojourning first at Talisay in the home of Governor Lizares and from there to the Del Rosario hacienda. Then they moved to a place called Buenos Aires and later to the government sugar mill at Binalbagan. Cognizant of the risk and difficulty of moving in a big group the party split two ways, the Chief Justice staying most of the while with Vice-President Osmena.

Jose Abad Santos was in bad health at the time. He was suffering from asthma. Nevertheless, although physically unfit for strenuous duty, he did not relax in his work. He continued indefatigably to discharge the duties of his triple position, i.e., Chief Justice, Secretary of Justice, and Secretary of Finance, Agriculture, and Commerce over the unoccupied territory. The departure of President Quezon for the United States via Australia in the latter part of March 1942, multiplied not only the tasks of Abad Santos but also the dangers to which he was exposed. The President offered Abad Santos the choice to go with him or to remain in the Philippines. Indeed, the thought of America with its promise of haven at the time of great danger could have enticed the mind of an ordinary man. But Jose Abad Santos was not the common run of men. He told President Quezon: "I prefer to remain, carry on my work here, and stay with my family."

There has been much controversy as to who was appointed by President Quezon to represent him in the Philippines. During the occupation, not a few designing men presumptuously claimed the honor. President Quezon is dead and his lips are forever closed. Nonetheless, he wrote a letter dated March 17, 1942, addressed to Chief Justice Abad Santos. The letter settles the question and belies the claims of opportunists. It reads in full:

March 17, 1942

My dear Chief Justice Santos:

In addition to your duties as Chief Justice and acting Secretary of Finance, Agriculture, and Commerce, I hereby designate you as my delegate with power to act on all matters of government which involve no change in the fundamental policies of my administration of which you are quite familiar. Where circumstances are such as to preclude previous consultation with me, you may act on urgent questions of local administration without my previous approval. In such cases, you are to use your own best judgment and sound discretion.

With reference to the government-owned corporations, you are also authorized to take such steps as it will protect the interest of the government either by continuing, curtailing or terminating their operations as circumstances may warrant.

Sincerely yours,

The responsibility placed upon Abad Santos was enormous. But he proved equal to the situation. The many years of service to his credit were more than ample preparation of the trust suddenly reposed upon him. At this juncture it is proper to digress and trace briefly his early life.


Jose Abad Santos was born in San Fernando, Pampanga, on February 19, 1886, the sixth of the ten children of Vicente Abad Santos and Torribia Basco. When only eighteen years old, he went to America as a government pensionado to complete his education. He studied for sometime in the Santa Clara College at San Jose, California, and then enrolled at Northwestern University where he obtained the degree of Bachelor of Laws. He pursued further studies in the George Washington University, where he was granted the degree of Master of Laws. Upon his return to the Philippines, he became on December 1, 1909, a clerk in the Executive Bureau with a salary of P960 per annum.

On July 31, 1914, he was appointed assistant attorney of the Bureau of Justice, after which he became attorney for the Philippine National Bank. He was the technical adviser and ex-officio member of the first Independence Mission to the United States in 1919. In 1922, he served for three months as Under-Secretary of Justice, immediately after which he became the Secretary. Because of the Cabinet crisis under the Wood administration, he resigned on July 17, 1923. In 1926, he headed the Philippine Educational Mission to America. He resumed in 1928 the Justice portfolio under Governor-General Stimson, which position he occupied until his appointment to the Supreme Court on June 18, 1932.

Jose Abad Santos devoted the best years of his life to the public service. He was President of the Philippine Bar Association and of the Young Men's Christian Association, member of the Abiertas House of Friendship, educational adviser of the Columbian Institute, and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Philippine Women's University. He was actively identified with the Protestant movement of the Philippines and was prominent in Masonic circles.


And now we go back to the last days of this great man. The nature of his position necessitated communication with the capitals of the different provinces not yet under enemy control. Therefore, he had to travel by ferryboat and car through the length and breadth of Negros, Iloilo, and Cebu. On Ascension Day, April 11, 1942, while traveling somewhere around Carcar, Cebu, with his son, Jose Jr., Colonel Valeriano of the Philippine Constabulary, and some enlisted men, he and his party met truckloads of soldiers. Unaware that the enemy had landed in the vicinity, they stopped the trucks, thinking all the time that the passengers there were USAFFE soldiers. Finding out too late that the soldiers were Japanese, Jose Abad Santos and his companions calmly went down from their cars. They were ordered to surrender. Upon inquiry, Abad Santos identified himself as the Chief Justice of the Philippines. The Japanese confiscated the pistol of Colonel Valeriano and those of the enlisted men. The captives were then taken to the Japanese concentration camp in Cebu City. For the first time, the Japanese learned that Abad Santos was actually the head of the Commonwealth Government. Evidently, because of the importance of their prisoner and fearing rescue or escape, father and son were moved from one camp to another. The senior officers of the Japanese Army in Cebu, General Kawagutsi and Colonel Kawakami, "played the role of high priest and Pontius Pilate," respectively, towards Jose Abad Santos. For almost twenty days, he was subjected to gruelling and mortifying inquisition. The exact nature of the investigation is still shrouded in secrecy. Jose Abad Santos Jr., the only available witness was never present on the spot whenever his father was interrogated. One significant remark, overheard by the son from his father on one occasion, revealed the man's indomitable courage and unflinching loyalty to a cause he served long and well. He said: "I cannot possibly do that because if I do so I would be violating my oath of allegiance to the United States." What the Japanese asked him to do is still a matter of conjecture. Previously, however, he had been asked to contact General Roxas somewhere in Mindanao who up to that time had not yet surrendered. In all probability, the Japanese wanted him to induce General Roxas to surrender. Apparently, the very idea was revolting to Abad Santos' conscience. There is ground to believe that this demand prompted the utterance of those brave words of defiance by a prisoner in the face of his captor. That refusal cost Jose Abad Santos his life.

On or about May 1, 1942, father and son were taken from Cebu to Mindanao on a Japanese transport which formed part of a convoy sent on a military expedition to Mindanao. They landed at Parang, Cotabato, under fire from the USAFFE. About this last portion of their fateful odyssey, Jose Jr. relates:

"We were placed together with the troops in one of the landing barges. While we were moving toward the beach, the USAFFE force entrenched on the shore were firing at the landing barges. At that moment, I recall that my father was standing straight and the Japanese shouted at him: 'Hey! You get down!' and they signalled him to lie low. I also told him but he had an indifferent attitude at that time. After landing, we hiked for about three hours through mud and heavy luggage until we reached the Constabulary barracks at Parang. After one night in Parang, in the afternoon they placed us in a truck. We were not able to proceed farther that day because they had not cleared up the other parts to which they were supposed to be headed."

On or about May 4, 1942, they reached Malabang. For three days father and son were confined in a school house. For three days, they waited for further developments, doing nothing but read whatever they could get hold of.

The fatal stroke of fate was slow in coming. But slow as it was, there was that tragic inevitability, that powerful surge of destiny noticeable even from the dry, humid air of that summer afternoon. At approximately two o'clock in the afternoon of May 7, 1942, the Japanese interpreter, Keiji Fukui, went to the Chief Justice to summon him to the Japanese Headquarters. After a few minutes, Jose Abad Santos returned and called for his son. Both went into a small hut nearby and there the father stoically informed his son: "I have been condemned to be executed." Thereupon Jose, Jr. broke down and wept. But the father smilingly and affectionately reproved the son: "Don't cry. What is the matter with you? Show these people that you are brave. It is a rare opportunity to die for one's country and not everybody has that chance." What brave words, what sublime soul was thereby revealed by their utterance!

After exhorting all of his family to live up to his name, father and son said a short prayer. In final parting they embraced each other. And in a few minutes the son heard a volley of shots. Jose Abad Santos was dead, martyr to a very worthy cause.

No less than an enemy, the Japanese interpreter who witnessed the execution, admired the courage and stoical unconcern with which Jose Abad Santos confronted his end. Pointing out later to the son the father's grave Keiji Fukui remarked: "Your father died a glorious death."

Ostensibly, Jose Abad Santos was executed upon the imputation of having been responsible for the destruction of the bridges and other public works in Cebu. The charge was entirely unfounded, nay malicious. But he was never given an opportunity to disprove the accusation. In truth, the acts imputed to him had nothing to do with his duties; he was a civilian and it is too well-known that demolition activities more properly belonged to the military.

The Filipino people and the rest of the world stand aghast at the horror of such brutal sadism. Caught in the cruel circumstance of a violent war, Abad Santos was too rare a man to have been sacrificed at the altar of human destruction. But irreplaceable and rare as he was, his very act of supreme dedication has consigned him to immortality. Jose Abad Santos stands now as a towering monument to the idolatrous devotion of our people to the ideals of democracy, justice, and liberty: a shining obelisk that rises to the altitudes of the skies.

Human justice may not be able to devise a means to avenge fully the crime committed by the Japanese murderers. But at this time, our concern is not so much any more to return in retribution whatever injustice may have been committed; but more, we are interested to perpetuate the things for which he died. For only in doing so may we hope to justify his supreme love to the Fatherland.

[This Biography was awarded the first prize in the Jose Abad Santos Biography Contest, sponsored by Justice George Arthur Malcolm, who founded the College of Law of the University of the Philippines in 1911, a Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines for many years, who was the professor of the author in Legal Ethics, when Justice Malcolm returned to the Philippines for the last time to teach that subject in the College of Law, of the University of the Philippines, open only to senior law students in the College of Law of the University of the Philippines in 1948-1949 and awarded a first prize of P200.00 plus an exemption from thesis for the graduation, and a grade of "1" in Legal Ethics. Justice Malcolm, after teaching this class of the author, left for the United States where he died soon after.]

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Ka Luis M. Taruc (June 21, 1913 - May 4, 2005)

This biographic sketch was taken from the Aldo ning Kapampangan 2001 Souvenir Program. December 10, 2001 was the first time I got to meet Ka Luis. We were both Most Outstanding Kapampangan Awardees that year, he for social justice and I for youth leadership. Despite our close to sixty-six years age difference, I learned a lot from Ka Luis during the few times we met or spoke with each other on the phone. We have indeed lost a great part of our history.

Luis Taruc
Social Justice

The great patriot and former Huk Supremo Luis Taruc at 88, is a picture of a man who never yielded to foreign aggression.

Luis Taruc of San Luis, Pampanga is not only an important historical figure in the province but of the nation as well. Accounts of his contribution to the Filipinos' endless fight for freedom and his achievements in promoting social justice, as champion of the common man, are countless, if not unequaled.

As the founder of the Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon (Hukbalahap) who fought the Japanese invaders, he helped the smooth and speedy liberation of the country from the alien forces.

History reveals that the great majority of Philippine people mounted a remarkably effective resistance to the Japanese occupation, particularly through the leadership of Luis Taruc.

Investigations after the war showed that 260,000 Filipinos had been actively engaged in guerilla organizations and an even larger number operated covertly in the anti-Japanese underground.

The largest guerilla organization, Hukbalahap (People's Anti-Japanese Army) had armed some 30,000 guerillas who controlled most of Luzon.

The cornerstone of Luis Taruc's movement was land reform, as well as industrialization.

A US Army study corroborated this idea, saying that Huks' "main impetus was peasant grievances, not Leninist designs."


Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Rebuilding a legacy of heroism

Last Easter Sunday, March 27, 2005, I had the distinct pleasure of being invited by Ka Luis Taruc to the join him during the 63rd anniversary celebration of the HUKBALAHAP which was held in Tulaoc, San Simon, Pampanga. It was during this assembly that he handed me a copy of a letter he sent to the Securities and Exchange Commission passing on the Pedro Abad Santos Memorial Foundation (PASMF) to our care.

Indeed, it is sad that he may never witness our dreams and aspirations see light. However, I firmly believe he will always be with us in spirit as we continue to enlighten our countrymen on the importance of a strong sense of nationalism in each Filipino, for us to become a truly progressive nation. We need not die for our country like Pedro and Jose Abad Santos. But like them, we can be noble and true to the fiery spirit of heroism by simply being proud to be a Filipino!

It was the dream of Ka Luis, through the PASMF, to repurchase the Abad Santos property in Barangay San Jose, City of San Fernando, and rebuild the house that once stood there as a testament to the heroism of its former occupants. Help us achieve that dream. He is in the ICU right now and his life support has been removed. Let us pray for him.

Ivan Anthony S. Henares
3 May 2005

March 16, 2005

Mga Iginagalang kong Komisyonado ng
Securities and Exchange Commission-SEC

Ito po ay sinadya kong nabalam na pag-uulat sa inyo. Atas ng mga sumusunod na mga Dahilan:

Una, hanggang sa huling sandali, ngayon na nga, naghanap – naghintay at umasa ako na may magpapatuloy sa pagpalawak ng PEDRO ABAD SANTOS MEMORIAL FOUNDATION, sa halip na ito ay isara, at ihinto na lamang. Ang dakilang ala-ala at Kabayanihan: nila Josa Abad Santos lalupa ni Pedro Abad Santos, kanilang pamangkin si Agapito Abad Santos del Rosario dapat maidikit sa ala-ala ng bawat salin ng ating lahi.

Pangalawa, Umaasa po ako sa inyong unawa at makatarungang pagpapala sa katandaan ko (92 years old) na ang buhay na lubhang maralita, walang gamit na sasakyan, walang mautusan upang umasikaso sa mga dapat gawin ugnay sa Foundation (PEDRO ABAD SANTOS MEMORIAL FOUNDATION).

Pangatlo, Ngayon pong nakakita – nakatagpo ako ng isang organisasyon na handang magpatuloy sa Foundation (PASMF) ay sina Ivan Henares, at Fernando Santos – coordinators ng iba’t-ibang grupo sa City of San Fernando, sa tulong ng City Mayor Honorable Oscar Rodgriguez, nakikiusap po ako sa inyo, tulungan sana ninyo sila na gawing madali at maayos ang pagpapatuloy nila sa Foundation (PEDRO ABAD SANTOS MEMORIAL FOUNDATION) – upang ang kadakilaan nila Jose at Pedro Abad Santos, ay manatiling maalab sa isip at puso ng Sambayanang Pilipino.


Chairman Emeritus – HukVets
Commander in Chief
HUKBALAHAP (1942-1945)

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Off the beaten track in San Fernando

Most tourists have only visited the elegant and well-preserved heritage houses of San Fernando. But as seen from the list below, there are a lot more gasping for attention and possible conservation and adaptive reuse. Maybe you or your organization could adopt one of them.

Here are photos of some of heritage structures in San Fernando. Many of them like the Train Station and PASUDECO, are in need of revitalization for them to be tourist worthy.

Heritage conservation is a norm in other countries here in Southeast Asia. Check out the website below. First on the list is an ordinary looking warehouse which served as the offices of the Sarawak Steamship Company. This "useless" old structure was converted and is now making money since it houses a restaurant, fastfood chain and convenience store. How we wished Filipinos also thought the same way! If they are proud of that in Kuching, imagine what could be done with PASUDECO? In the adjacent lot alone, it has a number of wooden structures (former staff houses) which could be converted.

Friday, April 15, 2005

San Fernando: a city rich in architectural heritage

The City of San Fernando Heritage District covers the historic core of San Fernando, including Barangay Santo Rosario and parts of Barangays San Jose (Panlumacan), Santa Teresita (Baritan), Lourdes (Teopaco), Del Pilar, Santa Lucia and Santo Niño. The important sites in this area are the following:

Churches and other Religious Structures

Cathedral of San Fernando (A. Consunji Street, Barangay Santo Rosario) The first structure of wood and thatch was built on the current site by the Agustinian friars in 1755 under the patronage of San Fernando III, King of Castille. On October 17, 1757, towsfolk petitioned the governor-general for exemptions from tribute to enable them to build the church and convent. It was transferred to the care of secular priests in 1788. The construction of the present church started during the same year under the supervision of Fr. Manuel Canlas, its first secular cura parroco, and a committee composed of the principales of the town led by then gobernadorcillo Don Bernabe Pamintuan. Construction was completed in 1808 and was rededicated to the Assumption of Our Lady. Italians artists Giovanni Divella and Cesare Alberoni were said to have been commissioned to paint the trompe l’oeil ceiling murals.

President Emilio F. Aguinaldo and his cabinet viewed the Philippine Revolutionary Army from the windows of the convento on October 9, 1898. The church and convento were burned by the Philippine Revolutionary Army on orders of Gen. Antonio Luna, on May 4, 1899. It was again destroyed by fire in 1939, and later restored by architect Fernando H. Ocampo.

Church of San Vicente (Barangay Calulut) – heavily damaged by renovations

Virgen de los Remedios Church (Barangay Baliti) – damaged by recent renovations

Heritage Houses

Hizon-Singian House (A. Consunji Street, Barangay Santo Rosario) Built in 1870 by the couple Don Anacleto Hizon, gobernadorcillo of San Fernando from 1877-1879 and 1886-1887, and Victoria Singian de Miranda y de Ocampo. Inherited by their daughter Victoria Hizon y Singian who was married to Godofredo Rodriguez y Yabut from Bacolor. It was occupied during the 1896 revolution by Spanish General Antonio Ruiz Serralde, appropriated by the Japanese Imperial Army to serve as a military hospital and barracks from 1943 to 1944, and served as headquarters of American General Walter Krueger of the 6th American Army during the liberation period until the end of 1945. Inherited by their son, the late Gerry Catalino Rodriguez Y Hizon, former president of the Pampanga Sugar Development Company (PASUDECO), who was married to Aurora Angeles.

This bahay na bato of the Spanish colonial period was declared a Heritage House by the National Historical Institute on 27 January 2003 by virtue of Resolution No. 4, S. 2003.

Henson-Hizon House (V. Tiomico Street, Barangay Santo Rosario) Built by the couple Saturnino Henson y David, gobernadorcillo of San Fernando from 1882-1883 and 1896, and the first tesorero municipal from 1900-1902, and Maria Lacson. Inherited by their eldest daughter Juana Henson y Lacson who was married to Florentino Hizon. Inherited by their son Vicente Hizon y Henson who was married to Concepcion Dizon y Dayrit. Inherited by their son Vicente Hizon y Dizon who was married to Anastacia de los Reyes. Purchased by the couple Pablo Panlilio y Dayrit and Dolores Arguelles.

This bahay na bato of the Spanish colonial period was declared a Heritage House by the National Historical Institute on 27 January 2003 by virtue of Resolution No. 3, S. 2003.

Lazatin House (A. Consunji Street, Barangay Santo Rosario) Built in 1925 by the couple Serafin Lazatin y Ocampo, sugar farmer and former president of SFELAPCO, and Encarnacion Singian y Torres. It was appropriated by the Japanese Imperial Army during the Second World War to Serve as a residence of the 14th Army Commander of the Japanese Imperial Army, General Masaharu Homma, in San Fernando, Pampanga.

This ancestral house, which exemplifies the architecture prevalent during the American colonial period was declared a Heritage House by the National Historical Institute on 27 January 2003 by virtue of Resolution No. 6, S. 2003.

Dayrit-Cuyugan House (MacArthur Highway, Barangay Dolores) Built in 1920 by the couple Joaquin Dayrit y Singian, sugar farmer, and Maria Paz Cuyugan y de Leon. Inherited by their eldest daughter Luz Dayrit y Cuyugan who was married to Ulderico Rodriguez from Bacolor.

This ancestral house, which exemplifies the architecture prevalent during the American colonial period was declared a Heritage House by the National Historical Institute on 27 January 2003 by virtue of Resolution No. 5, S. 2003.

Consunji House (A. Consunji Street, Barangay Santo Rosario) Residence of the presidente municipal of San Fernando during the Philippine Revolution, Don Antonio Consunji y Espino.

Tabacalera House (A. Consunji Street, Barangay Santo Rosario) Built by Tabacalera owned by Don Ramon Lopez. The first floor of the house served as the office of Tabacalera. The property was owned by Simeon Ocampo. During the Japanese Occupation, it was sequestered by the Japanese Imperial Army together with other residences in San Fernando, and served as the headquarters of the Kempeitai. Its current owner is Marco Lazatin.

Hizon-Ocampo House (A. Consunji Street, Barangay Santo Rosario) The first residence of Anacleto Hizon and Victoria Singian de Miranda, it has inherited by their daughter Leoncia Hizon who was married to Basilio Ocampo, gobernadorcillo of San Fernando. Among their children was renowned architect Fernando H. Ocampo.

Santos-Hizon House (A. Consunji Street, Barangay Santo Rosario) A turn-of-the-century Victorian-style house was built by the couple Teodoro Santos and Africa Ventura, it was later purchased by Maria Salome Hizon, a volunteer of the Red Cross during the Philippine Revolution. The property was acquired by her brother Ramon Hizon and is currently owned by the heirs of his son Augusto Hizon.

Pampanga Hotel (A. Consunji Street, Barangay Santo Rosario) Residence of Asuncion Santos, daughter of Don Teodoro Santos, Sr. (Dorong Tola), who married Andres Eusebio. It was the first site of the Pampanga High School when it first opened in 1908. Later became the site of the Harvardian College and the Pampanga Hotel and Panciteria, now Pampanga Lodge and Restaurant.

Singian House (A. Consunji Street formerly Sto. Niño Viejo, Paroba, Barangay San Juan)

Ocampo House (A. Consunji Street formerly Sto. Niño Viejo, Paroba, Barangay San Juan)

Santos Cuyugan House (A. Consunji Street formerly Sto. Niño Viejo, Paroba, Barangay San Juan)

Archdiocesan Chancery (A. Consunji Street, Barangay San Jose) This former residence of Luis Wenceslao Dison and Felisa Hizon was designed by Arch. Fernando H. Ocampo and completed in the mid-1930s. It was later purchased by the Archdiocese of San Fernando, Pampanga and is now being used as the Archdiocesan Chancery.

Cuyugan-Baron House (Cuyugan Road, Barangay Del Pilar) Residence of Vivencio Cuyugan y Baron, it was sequestered during the war and served as the Municipal Hall of San Fernando during the Japanese Occupation.

Dayrit-Galang House (A. Consunji Street, Barangay San Jose) Built by the couple Florentino Singian Dayrit and Juana Gatchalian Galang, among their children was Amando G. Dayrit, a popular pre-war columnist known for his Tribune column “Good Morning Judge.”

Santos-Miranda House (A. Consunji Street, Barangay San Jose) Built by the couple Teodosio Pekson Santos and Josefa Panlilio, it was purchased by the Miranda family.

Bamba House (Levi Panlilio Road, Barangay Sta. Lucia)

Sengson House (Levi Panlilio Road, Barangay Sta. Lucia)

The Chalets of Teopaco Subdivision (Barangay Lourdes) During the American colonial period, Teopaco Subdivision became the new residential area of San Fernando. The area was badly-damaged as a result of the 1995 floods. Several chalets still stand in the area despite the fact that street level has rose by at least one meter.

Aquino House (Barangay del Rosario)

Government Buildings, Schools, and Hospitals

Municipio of San Fernando (A. Consunji Street, Barangay Santo Rosario) The first casa municipal was built in the present site in 1755 out of stone and thatch. Burned by the Philippine Revolutionary Army on orders of Gen. Antonio Luna, on May 4, 1899. The building was again reconstructed in 1917 during the term of municipal president Antonio Abad Santos. Again burned during the Japanese invasion of the town, the municipal government was temporarily transferred to the residence of Vivencio Cuyugan in Barrio Del Pilar. After the war, the present City Hall of San Fernando was reconstructed using the original adobe stonework.

Pampanga Provincial Capitol (Capitol Boulevard, Barangay Santo Niño) Seat of government of the Province of Pampanga, the original building was constructed shortly after the provincial capital of Pampanga was transferred from Bacolor to San Fernando in 1904. Annexes were added before the war. It was the site of a major battle between guerilla forces and the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II.

Presidio (Artemio Macalino Street, Barangay Sto. Niño) Among the buildings built in 1907 when the property of the current Provincial Capitol was acquired. It used to house the courts of Pampanga before serving as the Pampanga Provincial Jail.

Provincial High School Building (Capitol Boulevard, Barangay Santo Niño) - heavily damaged by looters. Completed shortly after 1910 it served as the main building of the Pampanga High School until 1935 when it was transferred to its present site. The building was then used as an annex of the school. It also served as the site of the University of the Philippines Extension Program in San Fernando, Pampanga until floods hit San Fernando in 1995.

Beginnings of the Pampanga High School could be traced to the Eusebio Residence located near the town plaza of San Fernando where classes first began in 1908. Due to the lack of students, it was unable to form a senior class until 1911-1912. Its first principal was Mr. John W. Osborn. The school was later moved to this building near the Provincial Capitol in order to accommodate more students.

Pampanga High School Building (High School Boulevard, Barangay Lourdes) The current main building of Pampanga High School was completed in 1935. It follows Standard Plan No. 20 of Gabaldon schoolhouses and was restored as part of the Heritage Schoolhouse Restoration Program of the Department of Education and Heritage Conservation Society.

San Fernando Elementary School (B. Mendoza Street, Barangay Santo Rosario) Built in 1907, the main building of the San Fernando Elementary School follows Standard Plan No. 20 of Gabaldon schoolhouses.

Old St. Scholastica’s Academy (Pedro Abad Santos Road, Barangay Sta. Teresita) The former building of the St. Scholastica’s Academy of Pampanga, the third Benedictine school in the Philippines. Formerly known as the Assumption Academy, it was established in June of 1925 in the house of the Singian family. The first high school was eventually added. In March of 1930, the first secondary graduates of the Assumption Academy were presented.

Due to the large number of enrollees, and the zeal of its biggest benefactor, Monsignor Prudencio David, the school was relocated to its second site in 1931, and ownership of the school was passed on to the Benedictine Sisters in 1938. With the outbreak of World War II, the building was used as a military hospital. In 1966, the school was renamed St. Scholastica’s Academy of Pampanga. The school was transferred to a bigger site in 1972, leaving the old building without occupants.

Pampanga Provincial Hospital (Barangay Dolores) Built during the American colonial period, it is currently part of the Jose B. Lingad Memorial Regional Hospital.

Virgen de los Remedios Hospital (A. Consunji Street, Barangay San Jose)

Commercial Structures

The Arcaded Shop Buildings of Consunji Street - 1950s (Barangay Santo Rosario)

Industrial Structures and Sites

San Fernando Train Station (Barangay Santo Niño) Inaugurated by Governor-General Eulogio Despujol and Bernardino Nozaleda, Archbishop of Manila, on February 23, 1892. Jose P. Rizal debarked from the station on June 27, 1892 and again the next day en route to Bacolor. During the Death March in April 1942, it was the ending point of the 102-km Bataan Death March, from which Filipino and American prisoners-of-war were carted to Capas, Tarlac en route to their final destination, Camp O’Donnell.

PASUDECO Sugar Central (Capitol Boulevard, Barangay Santo Niño) In January 1918, a group of prominent Kapampangans gathered at the home of Gov. Honorio Ventura in San Fernando to form an organization that would construct a native-financed central. These included Jose de Leon, Augusto Gonzales, Francisco Liongson, Serafin Lazatin, Tomas Consunji, Francisco Hizon, Jose P. Henson and Manuel Urquico. The organization was formally incorporated in April 1918 as the Pampanga Sugar Development Company.

Finished in March 1921, the PASUDECO Sugar Central was the first Filipino-financed sugar central in Pampanga. Built through the initiative of the Pampanga Sugar Development Company, it was constructed by the Honolulu Iron Works. Its existence became a catalyst for the exponential growth of San Fernando, the capital of the rich sugar-producing province of Pampanga.

On July 12, 1939, tragedy struck when Jose de Leon, Augusto Gonzalez, and Constabulary Captain Julian Olivas were gunned down at the administrative offices of PASUDECO. At that time, de Leon and Gonzalez were the two richest men in Pampanga and the biggest PASUDECO shareholders. Together, they had made the central perhaps the most successful and progressively operated one in the archipelago.

Today, the PASUDECO Sugar Central stands as a testament to the resiliency of the Kapampangans as a people and their continuous drive towards progress and development. Indeed, the City of San Fernando and the entire Province of Pampanga owe a lot to the PASUDECO Sugar Central.

PASUDECO Staff Houses and Commissary (Capitol Boulevard, Barangay Santo Niño) Several wooden staff houses and commissaries of PASUDECO still stand in the lot adjacent to the sugar central.

The San Fernando Water Reservoir (Barangay Lourdes) Referred to as the “Leaning Tower of San Fernando” the San Fernando Water Reservoir was built during the term of municipal president Jose M. Valencia sometime in the 1920s. It was catapulted to national attention when several local government officials tried to lobby for its demolition. As a result of joint efforts of the City Tourism Office and the Heritage Conservation Society among others, a win-win solution was reached between the heritage advocates and the barangay officials.

The Sugar Pugons (Greenville Subdivision and Barangay Quebiawan)

Calulut Train Station (Barangay Calulut) – heavily damaged by illegal settlers. This wooden station was built during the American colonial period as an additional station along the Manila-Dagupan Railway.

Baluyut Bridge (Gen. Hizon Avenue, Barangay Santo Rosario) - bombed in WWII. Formerly know as Puente Colgante. Reconstructed in 1896 using iron and stone. Destroyed during the Philippine-American War in 1899. Reinforced concrete arch bridge later designed by Sotero Baluyut for his Bachelor’s thesis in the University of Iowa in 1909.

Witness to the historic events of the Philippine Revolution, Philippine-American War and World War II. Renamed the Sotero Baluyut Bridge in honor of his contributions to the province and the country, serving as governor, Secretary of Public Works and the Interior, and Senator.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The impact of San Fernando's heritage conservation program

In the belief that heritage should be used as a tool towards progress, the City Government of San Fernando enhanced the poblacion area which was still suffering from the effects of the 1995 devastation. And with competition from nearby shopping malls like SM City Pampanga and Robinsons Starmills, the poblacion needed a new environment to remain alive and bustling. And that new environment was the revival and restoration of the old heritage structures which eventually became new attractions for the City.

Of the proposed projects in the original City of San Fernando Heritage District Development Proposals of 2001-02, several projects were already implemented and completed such as the restoration of Baluyut Bridge in February 2003, the installation of period lamp posts and sidewalk pavers along Consunji Street, the restoration of the City Hall of San Fernando in October 2003 and the Clock Tower in February 2004. An imposing thirty-foot bronze monument by renowned artist Abdulmari “Toym” Imao, Monumento Fernandino, was also inaugurated in December 2004 which now serves as a landmark welcoming visitors to the poblacion.

The history of the City is also depicted in artworks found in the City Hall of San Fernando such as the Pasbul ning Kasalesayan, the main entrance of the City Hall, which has five bas-relief panels depicting different historical and cultural scenes, as well as images and symbols of the City; and the imposing 14 feet (average height) by 48 feet (total length) staircase mural, depicting the history of San Fernando. At the center of the City Hall Compound is the newly-constructed Plaza de Arrozal, named after the first gobernadorcillo of San Fernando in 1755, Don Vidal de Arrozal. City Historical Markers have also been installed to mark heritage and historical edifices. People can now read the history behind each building or residence as they pass by.

On legislation, the ordinance creating the City of San Fernando Heritage District and its governing body proposed in May 2002 was unanimously approved by the Sangguniang Panlungsod in February 2004 further increasing the socio-cultural impact of the heritage conservation aspect of the program, which will definitely bring back the former elegance of the poblacion in the coming years.

The immediate changes seen in the poblacion in just a period of one year (February 2003 to February 2004) were praised by several sectors in the City. Together with the current heritage conservation legislation as well as other pending heritage-related ordinances in the Sangguniang Panlungsod, these were indeed moves towards a higher level of consciousness and political maturity on the part of the City Government as a whole. As a result, several of the candidates for local chief executive in the coming elections have included arts and culture in their proposed programs of governance.

These observed changes will also serve as a measure for the next administration. The concurrence of the business community in the belief that heritage must be used as a tool for progress is seen in an August 2003 column of Ram Mercado in SunStar Pampanga entitled “Levy Laus’ quest for a new leader.” Mercado writes, “With its achiever mayor on the way out in 2004, a replacement of City Mayor Rey Aquino is the biggest problem confronting San Fernando residents.” Pampanga Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chairman Levy P. Laus was quoted to saying “It’s a tall order finding the mayor’s successor.” Mercado adds, “But LPL is dead serious in the search for a new city mayor who will lead Fernandinos to the future, move the city to its premier status as a first class community, and retrieve its lost glory as the economic and cultural center of the emerging Kapampangan megalopolis. Laus said a master plan, based on the storied culture and past history of San Fernando, with a perspective of forward-looking initiatives, is the collective dream of Fernandinos.”

The cityhood anniversary celebrations also featured more cultural and historical activities, as well as new festivals. In 2003, the theme of the 2nd Cityhood Anniversary Celebrations was “Panyulung ning bukas, balikid king milabas” which means “moving forward by looking back at the past.” This year, the 3rd Cityhood Anniversary Celebrations had the theme “City of San Fernando: Celebrating 250th years of history and progress.” Two ideas are always seen side by side, the past and the future, since the City at present sees its past as an instrument in achieving a great future.

In the social context, the program uplifted and continues to elevate the spirits of the residents of San Fernando, most especially the senior citizens who are delighted to see that the current generation of Fernandinos has learned to value the legacies left behind the past. Local and national media have become partners in relaying to the public the status of the different historical sites, and problems encountered along the way so that citizens become emotionally involved in the plight of the remaining architectural heritage of the City. These include the looting of the old Pampanga High School building in May 2003, the public disappointment on the negligence which resulted to the fire which gutted Abad Santos Hall, one of the four Gabaldon schoolhouses in the City, in October 2003, and the latest being the proposed renovation of the Pampanga High School Main Building in March 2004, which all came out in the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

This vigilance in the protection of the heritage of the City is a strong indicator of the effect of the program on the identity and sense of pride of the Kapampangans in San Fernando.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

The rationale of preserving San Fernando's heritage

Preserving Heritage for Progress


The year 1995 was a demoralizing one for San Fernando. The Municipality was hit by floodwaters and lahar from Mount Pinatubo leaving the town submerged for several weeks. In following years, aggravated by the annual floods, there was rampant destruction to property, with it the architectural heritage of the City. Progress also posed a threat. But the climax of this destruction was the loss of one of the symbols of San Fernando’s rich history, the Abad Santos Ancestral House.

The property was privately owned. At that time, the Municipal Government did not have the funds to purchase the property because it was still facing problems brought about by the annual floods. Despite the strong efforts of the Municipal Government to lobby for funding with the NHI, DOT, the National Centennial Commission, and other agencies; the effort was rendered helpless in saving the structure from the demolition ball. The experience left a thorn in the soul of the Fernandino culture and spirit.

Architect Augusto F. Villalon, in his regular Philippine Daily Inquirer column on heritage conservation, described clearly the problems which the urban renewal program of the City Government of San Fernando, Pampanga wants to address: “Driving through the center of San Fernando in Pampanga last week was depressing. The place was another of those generic, typical, nondescript Philippine cities. All around us was the same urban chaos that the Filipino now takes for granted. It must have become a national karma, our turning the opposite way to avoid seeing the dismal conditions that we are forced to live in. In San Fernando, absolutely no clue exists of its former grandeur; no hint is present of the special quality of life that its residents are supposed to enjoy. But things aren’t that bleak. San Fernando Mayor Reynaldo B. Aquino is carrying out a recovery program. He seeks to recapture the city’s former glory as the capital and as a center of excellence of Pampanga.”

To add to the problems was the fact that Kapampangan and Fernandino culture was fast disappearing because of the close proximity of San Fernando to Metro Manila. There was also a lack of local cultural and historical awareness among the citizens. Few knew that many of the local personages made contributions which changed the face of the entire nation. Moreover, no one realized that the City would be celebrating its 250th founding anniversary in 2004. Thus, there was a need to strengthen local history and culture, and honor the many unsung heroes of the City.

After 1995, it was an upward battle for San Fernando. Mayor Rey B. Aquino was just a few months in office. And for the next three years, it was a struggle for survival. The three years which followed was a struggle for progress and cityhood. And when it became a City in 2001, the next three years became a struggle to save the very heart and soul of the City, its rich history and heritage. That is when the urban renewal program of the City on the lines of heritage conservation and cultural revival became most relevant.

This program has several objectives, among which includes the preservation and restoration of the architectural heritage of the City as well as ensuring its protection for future generations of Filipinos, increasing the awareness and knowledge of its citizens on local history and culture, honoring the unsung heroes of the City, strengthening advocacy among all sectors to ensure that the Abad Santos experience will not happen again, and finally, creating an identity for the City in order to unite its citizens through its rich history and culture.

In the same column of Architect Villalon, his last statement regarding the proposed Kapampangan Cultural Center at the Pampanga High School Building could very well speak of the objectives of the entire urban renewal project of the City. He writes, “The project seeks to keep the San Fernando story alive before what little is left of the town sinks into the lahar that covers most of the city. It keeps the hope that heritage will be rediscovered and conserved for the future in San Fernando.”

In order to achieve its objectives, the urban renewal program reached out to all sectors of society. From young students in the different public and private schools to senior citizens who really wanted to see the heritage preserved as a legacy for all, to the various civic, professional, sectoral and religious organizations, the local media, and the business community, the program tried to affect the way of thinking of each Fernandino. The fact that the program raised the very consciousness of each Fernandino about his cultural heritage makes this program noteworthy given the uncontrollable circumstances the City had to face.

It did this through actual large-scale restoration projects to small but meaningful cultural activities and competitions. Aggressive historical research is also ongoing to bring back to life unknown facets of the local history. Several executive orders and ordinances were also released to reinforce this cultural revival in the City. But most significant of these strategies was the commissioning of Palafox Associates to create an urban renewal master plan on the lines of heritage conservation. And in just a span of a few months, several of the proposed projects were implemented and completed.

Note: The program "Preserving Heritage for Progress" of the City Government of San Fernando, Pampanga was among the Top 10 Best Practices for 2004 of the League of Cities of the Philippines, and the twelve Trailblazing Programs of the Galing Pook Awards 2004.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Preserving Heritage for Progress


The City of San Fernando, Pampanga, home of the world-renowned giant lanterns, is one of only two cities in the Province of Pampanga, and serves as the provincial capital and regional seat of government of Central Luzon (Region III). Located 67 kilometers north of Manila, 16 kilometers south of the Clark Special Economic Zone, and 50 kilometers east of Subic Bay, San Fernando is composed of 35 barangays with a land area of 6,774 hectares, and a population of 221,857, with a “third class city” income classification.

At the heart of Downtown San Fernando is the historic poblacion, replete with remnants of the rich architectural heritage and history of the City. These architectural legacies, together with the endangered intangible culture of the City, are the focus of the urban renewal program of the City of San Fernando which began on August 2, 2001 with the creation of the City of San Fernando Historical and Cultural Society under the Office of the City Mayor. In line with a popular salawikain which goes “Ang hindi lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan,” the City firmly believes that its history, heritage and culture are vital tools in the advance towards further progress.

“Preserving Heritage for Progress” transcends the sectoral boundaries as the program tries to reach out to all 221,857 residents of the City of San Fernando as well as the approximately 1 million transient workers who earn a living within the City limits. All these people are the beneficiaries of this program which endeavors to raise the consciousness of each individual and the entire community as a whole, by increasing their awareness on the importance of preserving the architectural heritage of the City and promoting local history and culture as instruments in the drive for genuine progress and development.

Note: The program "Preserving Heritage for Progress" of the City Government of San Fernando, Pampanga was among the Top 10 Best Practices for 2004 of the League of Cities of the Philippines, and the twelve Trailblazing Programs of the Galing Pook Awards 2004.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Protecting San Fernando's Heritage

It was a painful lesson for San Fernando. Way back in 1999, the City of San Fernando lost one of its most important heritage houses, the Abad Santos House. Ironically, Fernandinos remained silent. No one fought to save the house, apart from the Office of the Mayor, which found itself powerless amidst the bigger threat of lahar.

The second residence of the Abad Santos siblings, children of the couple Vicente Abad Santos and Toribia Basco, in that house at one time or another lived: Pedro (founder of the Socialist Party of the Philippines and Assemblyman); Jose (Secretary of Justice, Justice of the Supreme Court, Patriot and Martyr); Antonio (Municipal President of San Fernando); Quirino (Municipal Councilor of San Fernando) and his son Quirino, Jr. (Associate Justice of the Court of Appeals and Secretary-General of the House of Representatives); Salvador (Associate Justice of the Court of Appeals); and Agapito del Rosario, son of their daughter Emilia, (Mayor of Angeles, Patriot and Martyr). It was an abode where great people once lived. And nothing was done by San Fernando or even the national government to save it.

San Fernando has to learn from this experience before more of these structures are lost. That is why the City of San Fernando Historical and Cultural Society, together with the City Government of San Fernando, had pushed for the creation of the City of San Fernando Heritage District since 2001. This heritage zoning in San Fernando was already enacted through City Ordinance No. 2004-003.

In 2003, the National Historical Institute acceded to our request to send a survey team to San Fernando to determine which sites could be considered for national recognition. Among those which were considered top priorities for markers were the City of San Fernando itself, the Cathedral of San Fernando, the old Pampanga High School Building, the San Fernando Train Station, PASUDECO, and several heritage houses. To date, four heritage houses have been declared by the NHI; the San Fernando Train Station was declared a historical site as well.

We call on the Sangguniang Panlungsod to continue helping us in this effort. More local legislation is needed to protect the poblacion area. It is ironic that several members of the Sangguniang Panlungsod are even first to call for the demolition of a heritage structure, the 83-year old San Fernando Water Reservoir. Nothing out of the ordinary and leaning precariously as it may seem, the said water tower is part of the San Fernando story and an integral part of its industrial heritage.

As we safeguard our historical structures, we must also ensure that any new building put up must not destroy the beauty of these old edifices. Many heritage conservationists complain that the trend in Filipino architecture, for quite a while now, is designing new buildings without taking into consideration its surrounding structures. Thus, almost all the time, modern-looking buildings destroy the elegance of areas dotted with century-old houses. Why not make even just the exterior of these new buildings look old? Or at least exist in harmony with old edifices that surround it?

The sad news is that San Fernando can no longer be declared a national historical landmark. And the reason behind that is that fact that there are already so many alterations, unsightly buildings sprouting here and there, destroying the elegance of our historic core. We may not be a Vigan, but if heritage conservation was done early on, we could have found ourselves at the level of other heritage towns such as Taal in Batangas, Silay in Negros Occidental, and San Miguel de Mayumu in Bulacan.

The town of San Fernando was founded in 1754. Last year, in 2004, we celebrated our 250th founding anniversary. Another celebration was the centennial of the transfer of the capital of Pampanga from Bacolor to San Fernando in 1904. And many activities were lined up to commemorate these events. But that is not enough as more heritage sites need to be protected for future generations of Filipinos. And the success of these endeavors will mainly rely on the amount of support that Fernandinos are willing to give to keep the culture and history of the City alive.

The business community could also make projects of their own, to revitalize our historic core. The Pampanga Lodge, for example, could be converted into a first-class bed and breakfast facility. In fact, cultural tourism is the trend in other countries. The PASUDECO Sugar Central could improve its facilities in order to be an educational destination as well. If done, students as far as Manila could be invited to visit, in order to learn how sugar is made, as well as the history of sugar farming and its contribution to the province and the nation. A museum could even be created to augment these educational trips.

The San Fernando Train Station could be converted to a Death March Museum and Memorial. It is ironic that when American veterans fly back to the Philippines, they visit Bataan and Capas, but rarely pass by San Fernando, despite the fact that it was a major transit point. And this is mainly because the train station was left to rot.

That is why we laud the efforts of the Foundation for Lingap Kapampangan, Inc. for their efforts to restore the old Pampanga High School Building, to become the future Kapampangan Cultural Center. In fact, once completed, the Museong Kapampangan in Clark will be transferred to this historic building.

Currently, the Heritage Conservation Society is restoring another Gabaldon school building, the current Pampanga High School Main Building along High School Boulevard as part of the Heritage Schoolhouse Restoration Program of the Department of Education.

Monuments, fountains, and small parks can also be erected around the historic core. And we thus call on the city's architects, artists and landscapers to assist us by offering their services and help us actualize these dreams. In the end, all these projects cannot be realized without funding, so we call on all civic groups such as the various Rotary Clubs in San Fernando, the Cabalen Jaycees, Quota International Pampanga, Soroptimist International Pampanga, Homeowners Associations and other professionals groups, to help by adopting a project. Some have already adopted projects and have in fact completed them such as the San Fernando, Pampanga Heritage Foundation, San Fernando Jaycee Senate and the Council of Women. We hope more would follow suit.

Finally, the celebration of our heritage will not be complete without awareness among Fernandinos of our rich cultural and historical heritage. We thus call on the ordinary citizen to join our efforts even just by understanding and learning what our City has stood for during these past 250 years. Only when we look back and value our rich history and heritage can we finally make real our vision of a progressive city that will be a catalyst for development in Central and Northern Luzon, and a major contributor to the global community.