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.