Saturday, August 26, 2006

Wings over the Candaba Swamp

By Bayani San Diego Jr.
Inquirer
Last updated 01:29pm (Mla time) 08/23/2006

“Heaven on earth” was how RPN 9 cameraman Ralph Runez described the Candaba Swamp and Wildlife Preserve in Pampanga, where he saw thousands of wild birds the first time he visited the area in February this year.

Runez journeyed to the 70-hectare nature reserve with colleagues from the non-government organization, Kaakbay (Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan) Citizen’s Development Initiatives Inc. including executive director Alain Del B. Pascua and deputy executive director Orlando V. Balbido.

“He never imagined that a place like Candaba existed in the Philippines,” Balbido recounted. “In Manila Zoo, you’d see these birds in cages. But not in Candaba, where over 90 species of migratory, endemic and resident birds congregate.”

Visiting bird watchers and naturalists have visited Candaba—which was declared a bird sanctuary in 2004—reporting sightings of birds such as Garganey, Egret, Chinese Pond Heron, Siberian Rubythroat, Peregrine Falcon, Grass Owl and the Kingfisher.

These migratory birds fly thousands of kilometers, across continents and seas, to spend the winter months in the Philippines.

According to Pascua, the 2006 Asian Waterbird Census recorded “more than 11,000 birds and more than 80 species in Candaba in only three hours of counting.”

Runez, a Caloocan-based cameraman, was there to witness the event.

“He was in awe,” Pascua recalled. “The time of our visit was the peak of migration. There were 11,000 birds in Candaba. He was surprised, but also frustrated because we didn’t bring a zoom lens for close-up shots of the birds.”

Soon after that initial visit, Runez became a “committed” member of Kaakbay, an NGO that aims to protect the bird sanctuary.

“He was brought in by his good friend and fellow cameraman Rene de los Santos when we decided to make a documentary on the birds of Candaba,” Pascua explained.

The 15-minute documentary titled “Wings in the Water: The Birds in Candaba Swamp” was among the 16 finalists in the second Moonrise Festival of environmental films, ongoing at the Gateway Cineplex in Cubao, Quezon City this August.

Jolly person

Balbido described Runez as a jolly person always cracking jokes. He was also soft-spoken and unassuming, according to fellow videographer Rocky Sison/

But when it came to work, he was a no-nonsense person. “He wasted no time and put all his knowledge, skills and even resources into our project,” Pascua said. “At first, we were embarrassed because our organization lacked funds and we didn’t have the money to pay a professional cameraman like him.”

To everyone’s surprise, Runez volunteered his services and equipment as videographer and film editor. “He used his own video camcorder, a Canon XL1, when we shot for four days in Candaba. He had his personal computer upgraded so he could edit the documentary at home,” Balbido said.

Those crucial days of editing the documentary solidified the group.
“We edited the docu for five days nonstop and without sleep. It was during that time that we got to know Ralph better,” Balbido said.

Nominated docu

“Photo finish kami; we finished editing and submitted the docu only three hours before the Moonrise festival’s deadline on June 30,” Pascua said.

The group’s hard work paid off when the docu was nominated in the Best Cinematography and Special Citation for Rivers and Lakes categoriesl.

Runez was credited as videographer along with De los Santos and Sison. Although the docu didn’t bring home any award, the group felt like winners “because we were all first-time filmmakers, and we pulled it off,” Pascua said.

On July 26, during Kaakbay’s “critiquing night,” the group decided to make improvements on the docu. “The group gave the assignment of implementing the changes to Ralph,” Balbido said. “He became our group’s official technical person.”

Tragedy

“He edited out the shaky footage; he put in bird calls and natural bird sounds,” Pascua said.

In fact, Runez was “working on the documentary all through the night until the dawn of July 28—the day he was murdered,” he recalled.

“He took a break from editing to withdraw P35,000 from a Metrobank branch in Lagro, Quezon City. He was going to lend the money to a friend,” Balbido said.

On his way home to Caloocan, Runez was accosted by robbers who shot him twice.

“He was declared dead on arrival at the Tala Hospital,” Pascua said. “Ralph was only 35 years old.”

Although suspects in Runez’s murder have been arrested, his friends and colleagues could only hope “that justice would be served in Ralph’s case because a policeman had been implicated.”

“At his wake, his 4-year-old son Rafael looked as if he was oblivious that his father was gone,” Balbido said.

Determined to pay homage to Runez. Kaakbay gave a special screening of “Wings in the Water” last Aug.19 at the Gateway Cineplex. “He will forever be a part of Kaakbay. Rocky reedited the ending to include a tribute to Ralph,” Balbido said.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Mountain of myths

Ever since I can remember, Mount Arayat has been my one and only constant visual reference of Pampanga. It was the mountain of my childhood, the mountain I passed by thousands of times each morning in my daily commutes to Angeles, and in my college years -- the mountain that signalled to me “You’re almost home”, as I rode a Philippine Rabbit bus from Baguio. Indeed, the ancients considered old bunduk Alaya the navel of the earth, from which all directions, all movements of the Kapampangan universe were reckoned. Arayat was, and still is Pampanga’s most famous landmark, a twin-coned mountain that dominated our eastern landscape rising in solitary majesty from the flatlands unlike the Zambales mountain range—although Pinatubo took a bit of the limelight away from her with its 1991 eruption.

Nevertheless, Arayat was the original, a 3,564 foot high natural wonder that inspired the many myths and stories I heard with fascination in my youth. In the turbulent 70s, I found quiet entertainment in my Classics Illustrated fairy tale comic books which recounted immortal tales of Greek gods and heroes. In my child’s mind, Arayat became my Olympus, the abode of gods and the scene of their thousand and one adventures. Early on, we thrilled to the tale of the Kapampangan sun god Sinukuan who was supposedly imprisoned in a cave sealed with a “white rock” visible on the mountain side. (The “White Rock” became a bastion for Kapampangan revolucionarios in our wars with Spain, America and the Japanese). If Olympus had Vulcan working in the bowels of the mountain, we had our own fabled Sinukuan trapped inside Arayat’s belly. On car rides to Manila, we would actually inspect the white speck on Arayat from afar, although the resolution of the legend was never clear to us. There was also a vague story about an ancient battle between Apung Pinatubu and Apung Sinukuan, with the two giant creatures engaging in a rock-throwing fight that went on for days.

Another Sinukuan also figured in a legend that will rival that of Mariang Makiling. Mariang Sinukuan, it is said, was in fact, Maria Makiling’s sister who made Arayat her home. She made the forest primeval thrive with fruit-bearing trees which she cared for daily. A person who eats the juicy fruit is liable to get lost forever in the woods.It is also claimed that one can see from atop the mountain the silhouette of Mariang Sinukuan in quiet repose.

My imagination often ran wild when it came to musings about the day when Arayat would blow its top. Would it be something like the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius which swallowed whole towns as recounted in my Classics Illustrated comic book “Last Days of Pompeii?” In actuality though, Arayat is quite an extinct volcano whose last eruption was over 500,000 years ago. But then again, the Pinatubo eruption, dormant for over 600 years, is a grim reminder of the fickleness of Mother Nature.

In the 1950s to the 1970s, Arayat took on another unflattering monicker—Huk Mountain, a lair of communist activities and a hideout for the country’s peasant rebels. But it quickly shed off this image with the establishment of tourist-friendly ecopark---the Mount Arayat National Park in Barrio San Juan Baño, which boasts of natural pools, refreshing springs, picnic areas and mountain trails. To this day, Arayat is a favorite haunt of mountaineers and campers. Within its forest sanctuary are animals like local civet or musang, wild boar, monkeys and rarely-seen birds like the delectable pasdan.

Like Mount Banahaw, Arayat too has a mystical side for it is in her foothills that Rizalistas gather every December to honor the national hero in quiet ceremonies. The cult was brought to Arayat by the late Apo or Mahal na Inang Birhen Sinukuan in 1947, acknowledged as Rizal’s female incarnation. An earlier cult leader, Felipe Salvador, who established “Santa Iglesia” in the 1890s in Apalit and who organized a peasant guerrilla warfare against the Americans, relocated his church to Arayat as well. It comes as no surprise that Leo Parungao, a former press secretary and journalist known for his paranormal research and writing is from this town.

To remind myself how beautiful Pampanga is amidst the rising concrete jungles and the crowded megamalls that are threatening to cover our landscape, I need only to drive through Clark and exit through the Mabalacat or Main Gate, look through my car window where I can have a grand view of my mountain of legend and lore, of my past and present, the enduring symbol of all things Kapampangan: Arayat!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Giant Lantern Festival 2005

Here are some of the lanterns from the Giant Lantern Festival in 2005. The first one is that of Barangay Sto. Rosario which won top honors...





For more information on the festival, click here.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Nicolasa Dayrit Re-interment Ceremonies [September 9 to 10, 2004]

Here are some videos of the re-interment ceremonies and military honors for the remains of revolutionary heroine Nicolasa Dayrit held on September 9 to 10, 2004...

Military Ceremonies on September 10, 2004




Arrival Honors on September 9, 2004

Friday, June 23, 2006

A Petition to the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines: Please Stop the Further Defacing of Philippine Heritage Churches

Most Reverend Eminences and Excellencies:

Almost every town in the Philippines has at least one church built during the Spanish colonial period, all of which are inherent parts of the architectural heritage of Filipinos and stand as testaments to the excellence and creativity of Filipino artisans and craftsmen of yesteryears who labored to create these works of art.

These properties of the Filipino people are under the custodianship of the Roman Catholic Church and their representatives in the Republic of the Philippines.

It must have come to your knowledge that several parish priests have taken it upon themselves to modernize and renovate heritage churches under their care without proper consultation with conservationists or representatives of agencies mandated to protect cultural and historical heritage. In their desire to "leave their mark" on the churches, parish priests have caused irreversible damage to our old churches during their short stints in their parishes.

Sadly, there have been instances where parish priests sold off priceless antiques and other church property to unscrupulous antique dealers and collectors to fund these renovations, with the treasures of the Church ending up in homes and other private collections.

In many occasions, the renovations are costly and unnecessary, and at times ostentatious. Priests and parish pastoral councils have undertaken and continue to undertake large-scale fundraising campaigns for these renovations when such funds could be put to better use, especially in a Third-world country such as the Philippines.

The funds could instead be directed toward the three-fold pastoral program of action of the CBCP, to build character, capability and community. Instead of spending on renovations, the various parishes could use the funds “to empower those who are needy to construct a better future” by supporting “social action programs, training programs and institutions, research centers, schools, charitable agencies and organizations, religious orders and congregations, lay organizations and movements, Basic Ecclesial Communities,” that would “help people grow in capacities, such as the capacity to govern themselves, the capacity to develop their abilities, the capacity to find meaningful and fruitful employment and work, the capacity to care for our environment, the capacity to make leadership accountable.”

We, the undersigned petitioners, thus urge the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to protect the cultural heritage of the Philippine Catholic Church from further damage by ordering the immediate stop to all ongoing and proposed renovations to heritage churches that have not been approved by the CBCP Committee for the Cultural Heritage of the Church or reviewed by representatives of agencies mandated to protect cultural and historical heritage.

We also urge the CBCP to declare all Catholic churches in the Philippines fifty years or older as part of the cultural heritage of the Church and create a comprehensive list of all these churches for the information of the Filipino people and to aid the CBCP Committee for the Cultural Heritage of the Church in monitoring the said churches.

It should also empower the CBCP Committee for the Cultural Heritage of the Church by giving it the sole authority to approve any restoration, construction or further improvements of heritage churches, with the aid of representatives of agencies mandated to protect cultural and historical heritage, and the power to order the halt any restoration, construction or further improvement that it deems damaging to a heritage church.

Finally, we urge the CBCP to adopt a policy of frugality with the renovation of churches. It would be best to channel the funds for unnecessary renovations to the pastoral program of action of the CBCP.

---

To sign the petition, visit http://www.petitiononline.com/cbcp/

Thursday, June 15, 2006

War museum at train station eyed

http://www.sunstar.com.ph/static/pam/2006/06/15/news
By Albert B. Lacanlale

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO -- A granddaughter of a war veteran is sharing the City Government’s enthusiasm to convert the old San Fernando Train Station in Barangay Sto Niño here into a World War II museum.

Indira Manaay Kane, descendant of a soldier who died in the hands of the Japanese soldiers at Camp O’Donnell Concentration Camp in Capas, Tarlac, said the train station is rich in history.

“Though it had been historically significant even before World War 2, it played a crucial role in the history of WWII because it is where the Death March ended, and where the hell trek to Capas, Tarlac started,” Kane said.

The train station, historical accounts say, was where Dr. Jose P. Rizal disembarked on June 27, 1892 to recruit members of the La Liga Filipina.

On April 9, 1942, Gen. Edward P. King surrendered the Luzon Force in Bataan to the 14 Imperial Army under the command of Lt. Gen. Masaharu Homma. The surrendered men were ordered to gather in Mariveles, Bataan.

The Filipino and American soldiers were then forced to form columns of 100 to 400 men. These columns, guarded by Japanese soldiers, were forced to march to the train station in San Fernando, Pampanga.

The first two columns began the march on the evening of April 9 and the last column left Mariveles on April 16, 1942.

This march was to be completed in two phases: first, was from Mariveles to Balanga, Bataan; second, from Balanga to San Fernando, Pampanga.

This forced, four-to-six-day march was later memorialized by the name “Bataan Death March,” which for Filipinos and Americans symbolizes the greatest example of patriotic sacrifice, heroism and man’s inhumanity to man.

Upon arriving at the train station in Barangay Sto. Niño, the malnourished, dehydrated and diseased men collapsed from exhaustion in the area around the train station. Many citizens of San Fernando risked their lives, in full view of the Japanese, by attempting to give the Marchers food and water.

Most of the marchers ere kept in those open fields over night -- many died there. The next day, they were packed like sardines into steel box cars for their train ride to Capas, Tarlac.

Although the end of their journey was Camp O’Donell in Capas, the marching portion of the Death March ended in San Fernando.

“I believe that if we enforce that part of history in the minds of our people, we don’t only re-educate them, we are also making them aware of its importance, thus, we can get their support for this project,” Kane said, referring to the idea of housing WWII memorabilia in the train station.

Recently, the National Historical Institute (NHI) declared the train station as among the country’s protected historical sites.

“We need to develop the train station as tourists get to visit it all year round. Its preservation is a must. There are lots of WWII veterans here and abroad who are supporting this project so there is a need to make the people of Pampanga aware about it,” Kane said.

Kapampangans told to unite in nation-buidling

http://www.sunstar.com.ph/static/pam/2006/06/15/news

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO -- The local citizenry and all Filipinos were urged Monday to unite in order to achieve the freedom and prosperity for which thousands of Filipino revolutionary forces have laid their lives in the struggle for sovereignty against the Spanish colonizers.

This call for unity was aired by officials all over the province during their respective celebrations of the 108th Philippine Independence Monday.

At the Capitol, provincial executives said the people must be more nationalistic to realize unity, peace and development for the Filipinos, while at the City Hall, the Independence Day celebrations served to heighten the nationalism and patriotism of the government officials for the interest and welfare of the Filipinos.

In Angeles City, city officials said it is only through unity that the bickering among political forces would end and allow real economic progress to set in.

The Independence Day celebrations in the City of San Fernando started with a flag raising ceremony and the releasing of white doves in front of the City Hall, led by Mayor Oscar S. Rodriguez, Vice Mayor Edwin Santiago and councilors.

In his speech, Rodriguez reiterated the sacrifices of our heroes, who gave their lives for us to attain freedom.

“Many people forget these sacrifices that our heroes did for us to be free — a privilege they themselves did not enjoy at the hands of oppressors,” Rodriguez said.

This was then followed by a parade of floats together with students carrying flags who were accompanied by their teachers from Barangay Dolores to the Pampanga Sports Complex.

Among the guests during the parade were former tourism secretary Gemma Cruz Araneta, who is now the chairwoman of the Heritage Conservation Society; and Tofa awardees Eddie Chua and Ivan Henares.

Angeles top city councilor Vicky Vega Cabigting, meanwhile, said during Angeles City’s Independence Day celebrations, that if each and everyone of the Filipino people would continue to strive to become good citizens, the country would eventually realize the aspirations for sovereignty of Filipino revolutionary soldiers who shed their blood against the Spanish regime and later, the American forces.

The Kuliat Foundation Inc. (KFI), Angeles City’s keeper of historical and cultural heritage, also highlighted the city’s role in the revolution against the Spaniards and subsequently the Americans in a reenactment of the first anniversary of the Declaration of Philippine Independence at its actual site — the Pamintuan Mansion in Barangay Sto. Rosario.

Carmen McTavish, KFI president, said the foundation is committed to continue the annual reenactment to increase everyone’s awareness of city’s role in Philippine history, with the Pamintuan mansion serving as the headquarters of revolutionary forces and being the seat of the short-lived First Philippine Republic.

KFI presented the reenactment in cooperation with the Angeles City Tourism Office (Acto) headed by Ethel Galang.

Galang said the event highlighted the shining moment in Philippine history when Angeles was in the center of the struggle of the revolution.

Galang said actors from the local theater group The Academy’s Theater Ensemble (Tate) of The Academy of Performing Arts, composed the cast

“The Pamintuan Mansion, where the Central Bank Clearing House is presently located, is the very place where the said first and only celebration actually happened. The mansion became the general headquarters of Filipino Revolutionary Forces, and the seat of the first but short-lived Philippine Republic,” Galang said.

“The historical mansion was recently given its due recognition by the National Historical Institute, when its temporary stone marker was placed,” she added.

Meanwhile, the local government unit of Guagua, in observance of the Independence Day celebration, also held a civic military parade which coincided with the unveiling of the monument of the late President Diosdado Macapagal.

During the program,” 2nd District Representative Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo called for unity to obtain a strong republic.

“We must be united as one and work for peace, progress and prosperity for us to move as one nation towards a stronger republic,” the young Arroyo stressed.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Lack of support frustrates foundation

http://news.inq7.net/regions/index.php?index=1&story_id=78117

By Tonette Orejas
Inquirer

ANGELES CITY, Pampanga -- Officials of a foundation organizing commemoration rites for the first and last anniversary of Independence Day here held by the short-lived first Philippine Republic said they were frustrated by the national government’s lack of recognition of the event.

Despite invitations, no representatives from the executive, legislative or judicial departments had graced the reenactment of the June 12, 1899 episode at the Pamintuan mansion here since its centennial, according to Jose Paras Jr., Kuliat Foundation Inc. vice president and museum curator.

Paras said the events had remained local occasions although the National Historical Institute (NHI) installed a marker at the mansion in 2004.

The NHI recognized the mansion as the general headquarters of Filipino revolutionary forces led by Gen. Antonio Luna and the seat of the First Republic and a presidential palace.

It was President Emilio Aguinaldo who led the celebration of the first anniversary of the declaration of independence in Kawit, Cavite, on June 12, 1898. Generals Gregorio del Pilar of Bulacan and Manuel Tinio of Nueva Ecija led the Army parade.

From one of the windows of the stately European-style Pamintuan residence, Aguinaldo was said to have waved the original flag sewn in Hong Kong and raised during the Kawit rites.

However, the event turned out to be the last celebration because the republic started to crumble, leading to the eventual capture of Aguinaldo by Americans in Isabela province on March 23, 1901.

Paras said Aguinaldo regarded the 1899 rites significant.

A copy of an English translation of his speech that day quoted Aguinaldo as describing the event as a commemoration of the “greatest event in our political evolution.”

“[It was] the date on which the [Filipino] people, thirsting for liberty, justice and the exercise of their proper rights, thronged to Cavite, to carry out this highly patriotic manifestation, the beginning of a new era of progress and well-being for our idolized country, to the cry of ‘The Philippines free and independent,’” said Aguinaldo.

“The Philippines is for the Filipinos,” he said.

Luna protected the seat of the republic by putting up a defense line in the towns of Sta. Rita, Porac, Magalang, Mabalacat and Angeles.

These areas were secured by 25,000 soldiers with about 10,000 riflemen protecting Angeles as American forces captured Malolos in Bulacan and advanced toward San Fernando, Pampanga, according to local historian Daniel Dizon, 76.

The mansion served as headquarters of Gen. Arthur MacArthur until after the Filipino-American war in 1901.

“We are frustrated. Our national officials have given no value to this event when there are so much proof about its historical importance and to think that President Macapagal-Arroyo hails from Pampanga. We don’t know their reasons for not coming. We hope it’s not [because of] indifference,” Paras told the Inquirer on Thursday.

“We’re still not losing hope that they would come. Their presence is a statement that the 1899 event is just as important in the struggle for freedom,” he said.

The mansion still stands intact because the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, through its former governor, Jaime Laya, rescued it from dilapidation as well as sale by the heirs.

In 1976, the BSP spent P25 million to buy the lot and restore the house, said Dizon.

The BSP uses the mansion as an office, lending it only to the foundation every June 12.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

HAU stage country’s oldest zarzuela

The Center for Kapampangan Studies of Holy Angel University will present Ing Managpe on May 27, 2006 at the HAU Main Building quadrangle.

The Kapampangan zarzuela written by Mariano Proceso Pabalan Byron of Bacolor, Pampanga was the first zarzuela ever written in any Philippine language. It is older than Severino Reyes’ Walang Sugat and Crisostomo Soto’s Alang Dios, the best known Tagalog and Kapampangan zarzuelas, respectively.

The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Filipino Heritage Festival, Inc. headed by Ana Maria “Bambi” Harper, are co-sponsoring with the Center the production of Ing Managpe.

The play was first staged at the Sabina Theatre in Bacolor on September 13, 1900. Its original music, composed by Amado Gutierrez David and the first published by Cornelio Pabalan Byron on May 19, 1909, has been reconstructed for this revival production by Stan Palma, a scion of the popular Palma clan of Bacolor.

Ing Managpe revolutionized Philippine theatre at the turn of the century by introducing the theme of Filipino family and using drab domestic setting, instead of the usual European pomp and pageantry of colonial zarzuelas. The play’s plot revolves around the domestic quarrel between Doña Juana and Don Diego; a subplot involves their maid and househelps. The title, which means “The Patcher,” refers literally to the name of a dog and figuratively to the character who patches the feud.

The cast and crew of the zarzuela is composed of HAU students: Remijia Lacson (Doña Juana), Edgar John Ocampo (Don Diego), Rona Reyes (Sianang), Roillingel Calilung (Fermin), and Daniel Madlangbayan (Pablo). The play is directed by Michael M. Manabat and Peter Joseph “PJ” B. Nepomuceno, the the newly designated University Special Projects Officer. Their adviser is Ms. Erlinda Cruz, also an officer of the Center.

The play starts at 6 PM. Admission is free.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The ‘Parthenon’ gets a facelift

http://news.inq7.net/regions/index.php?index=2&story_id=70904

By Tonette Orejas
Philippine Daily Inquirer

THESE buildings are called the Gabaldon. Three, perhaps more, generations of Filipinos learned the Three Rs (reading, ’riting and ’rithmetic) in what are now regarded as the “Parthenon” of the golden years of Philippine public education system.

The structures count by the thousands and are spread out all over the archipelago, with some towns or cities having two or more.

Almost a century since Assemblyman Isauro Gabaldon of Nueva Ecija in 1907 authored Act 1801 that set aside P1 million for their construction, the buildings—many of them run down by time, the elements, looting and neglect—are enjoying a restoration boom with a strong thrust for conserving the original, functional design.

Yale graduate William Parsons, the consulting architect of the Bureau of Public Works from 1905 to 1914, designed the school buildings that were later named after Assemblyman Gabaldon.

The Department of Education and the Heritage Conservation Society (HCS) are leading efforts through the heritage school building restoration program.

“Pioneering” is how architect Augusto Villalon of the HCS calls the partnership.

The idea, Villalon said in a recent column in the Inquirer, came from former Education Secretary Armand Fabella, and was pushed by his successors, the late Br. Andrew Gonzalez FSC and Edilberto de Jesus, as well as Undersecretary Juan Miguel Luz.

The program has completed the restoration of the Rizal Elementary School in Bacolod City, the Pampanga High School in the City of San Fernando in Pampanga, and the Baguio Central School in Baguio City, according to HCS member Ivan Anthony Henares.

Up for restoration are the West Central Elementary School and its adjacent home economics building in Dagupan City, said Henares, who has created a web log or blog (gabaldon.blogspot.com) to link individuals, groups, institutions and donors to the effort.“The sheer number of Gabaldon schools all over the country and the lack of funds to restore these buildings would not make it possible to include all in the program,” he said.

Heritage resources
The buildings are “an inherent part of our country’s heritage resources,” he said.The project has the support of the locals.

In Naga City, Councilor Lourdes Asence has authored a proposed ordinance that seeks to create a task force for the preservation and restoration of all historical structures, including six Gabaldon buildings in that city and in Camarines Sur.

In Bohol, the provincial government spent P2.5 million in 2004 to repair some of its Gabaldon buildings.

In their respective websites, historians in Infanta, Quezon, and in Leganes, Iloilo, have cited the history of their towns’ Gabaldon buildings and their impact on the people’s education.

Party-list Rep. Florencio Noel (An Waray) has filed House Bill No. 4392 proposing the rehabilitation and repair of Gabaldon school houses nationwide to “preserve their historical significance and to address the need for more school buildings.”

History
Some have indeed etched their place in history.

For instance, the Gabaldon building in Dagupan became a temporary residence of American Gen. Douglas MacArthur during World War II, according to Carmen Prieto, chair of the city’s heritage commission.

Others served as hospitals, town halls or evacuation centers in times of war and calamities.More importantly, it was in the rooms, libraries and wide grounds of the Gabaldon buildings that American and Filipino educators helped unlock the potentials of students, many of them poor.The Pampanga High School, for one, nurtured many of the country’s leaders like the late President Diosdado Macapagal (Class 1929).

But perhaps one of the most poignant memories of the Gabaldon and a vivid description of the edifice comes from one who passed through its halls.

Former Quezon Board Member Frumencio “Sonny” Pulgar, in his website, said that as a student, he was a habitué of the “Gusaling Gabaldon” or “Bagong Iskul,” the elementary school in his hometown of Calauag.

“For me, Gabaldon was the biggest edifice I had ever seen and played in,” he said.“True, it is not a multistory structure; in fact, it’s a mere one-story affair, but I looked at it with awe. Its ceiling was high, about five meters. I thought giants walked through the corridors of Gabaldon. It had a long five-tread flight of stairs leading to its elevated portico, which we used as stage on special occasions,” he said.

The Gabaldon’s center rooms were divided by a collapsible wooden partition that could be folded and converted into a pavilion, he said.

“Gabaldon’s windows were huge … The windows were sashed and made of latticed capiz-tagkawayan. Its façade had those Romanesque Doric-like pillars I’d seen only in pictures like the Parthenon,” Pulgar said.

“Its rooms were big and wide, with lauan floors. Its doors were imposing and made from thick and heavy narra. It had a cavernous silong (basement)—home of the kabag (bats), ahas tulog (snakes), alupihan (centipede) and giant rats. Though it stank in there, we used it as (a) hiding place whenever we were late in flag rites,” he said.

The Gabaldon buildings are “attuned to the tropics,” Villalon noted.

Breezy and cool
“The building is breezy and cool. Being inside the restored building today proves that old-style tropical architecture is still the best for our climate,” he said.

There’s a practical sense to ongoing, albeit slow, efforts.

“Instead of being rendered obsolete, old structures can still be recycled for modern academic uses,” Villalon said.

“By restoring classrooms, the DepEd drives home the lesson that patrimony lives and continues to be relevant to our lives. Classes in heritage classrooms provide experiential learning on patrimony with a stronger impact than textbook instruction,” he said.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Pampanga High School soars above lahar

After that anxious wait, the restoration of the Pampanga High School main building, a Gabaldon schoolhouse built in the early 1930s, is finally complete. As always, members of the Heritage Conservation Society trooped to the inauguration and turnover ceremonies. And since this time around, the event was in my own turf, I was the designated driver... hehe! In the group was HCS president Gemma Cruz-Araneta, restoration architects Toti Villalon and Melvin Patawaran, Carmen Prieto of the Dagupan Heritage Foundation and myself.

With a current enrollment of 11,000 students, the Pampanga High School is the biggest public high school in Pampanga. Its early roots can be traced back to 1902 when the Americans established the first high school in San Fernando. But due to the lack of students who made it to senior year, students were forced to finish their secondary education elsewhere. So it was not until 1912 that the first class graduated from the Pampanga High School.

The restored main building is actually the second one since there was an earlier Gabaldon building completed around 1908 together with the Pampanga Capitol building. When the current building was completed in 1935, the older structure was reused as an annex. From 1980 up to 1995, it was used by the University of the Philippines Extension Program in San Fernando, Pampanga. What remains of that historic structure today is a result of the merciless looting and pillaging by some public officials. It stands as a harsh reminder of how badly certain leaders value their own heritage.

But even the newer Gabaldon almost became a victim of well-meaning but misinformed efforts of certain indiviuals and groups. Good thing the Department of Education, through Undersecretary Mike Luz, intervened and saved the structure from a merciless renovation, including it in the DepEd-HCS Heritage Schoolhouse Restoration Program.

Today, it stands as a testament to how heritage should and could be conserved. The Pampanga High School itself is a monument to the many leaders it molded, most prominent of which is former president Diosdado P. Macapagal of the Class of 1929. As a young kid, I was already familiarized to this outstanding group since my grandfather, Mariano D. Santos, his sister Felicidad, and their first cousin renowned pre-war journalist Amando G. Dayrit, were all members of the Class of 1929. And my lolo always beamed with pride when he showed us photos of himself together with the former president. A sampling of PHS' prominent graduates can be found here.

After the program, the group proceeded to Betis and Bacolor to visit their heritage churches. And our visitors were not disappointed. PHS photos courtesy of Arch. Melvin Patawaran.

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