Friday, July 07, 2006

Pampanga: Protecting San Fernando's architectural heritage

The past three days have been dedicated to meetings and surveying of the heritage sites of San Fernando. We are one in a rare breed of cities in the country which are agressively pursuing heritage conservation. On Wednesday, we met with representatives of the San Fernando, Pampanga Heritage Foundation, Filipino-American Memorial Endowment, American Chamber of Commerce, Battling Bastards of Bataan and the Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor regarding the plans of the city to restore the San Fernando Train Station and to open a Death March memorial and museum in the site.

For those who are not yet aware of the significance of the said train station, it was the ending point of the long 102-kilometer walk from Mariveles, Bataan in April 1942. At the station, thousands of Filipino and American POWs were stuffed like sardines into box carts and transported to Capas, Tarlac. Anyway, expect more updates but the biggest hurdle is the slow response of the Philippine National Railways Corporation which is the owner of the said property.

Yesterday was my rest day. I spent my 27th at home sleeping. Hehe! I decided that the best way for me to celebrate was to give myself the rest I badly needed.

Today, a survey team of the National Historical Institute arrived to inspect more houses for possible declaration. San Fernando is trying to increase its number of declared structures and glad to say, all the other house owners have already given their consent and are excited about the possible declaration. For one, the city will soon be granting real estate tax exemptions to all heritage house owners to encourage them to preserve their homes.

Among the strongest contenders is the Singian House which was built in the mid-19th century. It could in fact be the oldest surviving house in San Fernando. The house is very well-maintained by its current owners. If it was indeed built in the 1850s, I suspect its original owner was Don Bernardino Singian de Miranda, a former gobernadorcillo of San Fernando from whom many of San Fernando's prominent families trace their roots. Don Bernardino is the grandfather of eminent pre-war surgeon Dr. Gregorio Singian.

Beside the house is a really large camalig which is very well-preserved also. Structures like these form part of the industrial heritage of the city and are a rarity nowadays.

Another strong contender is the charming Victorian-inspired Hizon House along Consunji Street. It was built by Don Teodoro Santos, Jr. and Dona Africa Ventura and later purchased by Maria Hizon who served as a nurse in the Philippine Revolutionary Army. It is currently owned by the heirs of her nephew, Don Augusto Hizon.

There are more candidates in the list. But it's all up to the NHI Board which has the final say. This however may take longer than it used to since I heard the board rarely convenes for meetings. Sigh!

I guess that's it for now. To learn more about the heritage sites in San Fernando, click here.


  1. Anonymous12.7.06

    Go, go, go San Fernando!;o)

  2. Hi tokayo! Let's do a go, go, go Binondo as well! :)

  3. Anonymous20.7.06

    Hi Ivan,

    I would like to invite you sana if you can join us with a few travel bloggers from pinoytravelblog to a culinary tour of Pampanga. Can you help us with our itinerary and be one of our tour guides also?

    thanks a lot! Are you free on aug. 12?


  4. Hi Anton! Thanks for the invitation but I already have an appointment on the 12th. Your tour is basically a culinary tour of Angeles City. The Fields Avenue/Balibago area offers a wide range of international cuisine.

    If you're after traditional Kapampangan, we've got a lot of places in San Fernando that you can visit such as Everybody's Cafe which serves exotic Kapampangan foods such as buro with hito (fermented fish paste with catfish), betute (deep-fried frog stuffed with pork), camaru (fried cricket adobo), dumara (wild duck adobo) or pindang damulag (carabeef tapa). Also in their menu are pako salad, calderetang baka, morcon, chicharon bulaklak, tortang bangus, inihaw na hito or bulalo soup.

    Fusion Kapampangan is also available. Care for a Kapampangan pizza at the Camalig? They call it Doy's Delight and it's the regular pizza with longganiza, salted eggs and pickles for toppings. The combination seems wierd but it tastes like heaven!

    If you're the type who's willing to splurge, then schedule a private dinner at Claude Tayag's at P1800 per head minimum of 12 pax.

    Anyway, it's in the post...

  5. Anonymous13.6.08

    Dear Ivan:
    I have started a correspondence with Toto Gonzales who advised me that “Ivan Henares is a full-blooded “Fernandino,” a remarkable scholar, and knows Everything about Old San Fernando, Pampanga.” I’ve also been writing to Alex Castro.

    I have been attempting some research about my wife’s family — specifically my mother-in-law. The first anniversary of her death is this week and, while I was reflecting on the impact that this wonderful woman had on my life and while remembering the trip that my sons and I made to Manila to attend her funeral last year, I was poking around the Internet looking for any information about her. It’s my intention to make my sons as aware as possible of their Philippine heritage. While reading your blog, I stumbled across a picture of what I believe is the first house of my wife’s grandparents in San Fernando, Pampanga.

    I was married to Cecilia Africa Revilla Santos, Ceil was the middle daughter of Ernesto V. Santos and Teresita Revilla. Ernesto was known to everyone as “Gatas” or, more simply, “Gats.” Gats was from Mabalacat, Pampanga. His parents were Don Teodoro and Africa Santos who first lived, I believe, in San Fernando. My wife was named after her paternal grandmother, Dona Africa. Gats passed away in February 2001. My beautiful wife passed away a couple of months later that year in May.

    Formal, individual photographic portraits of Don Teodoro and Africa hung on the walls of my in-laws’ sala in their home in Horseshoe Village, QC. The portrait of Dona Africa was striking: She was posed full-length in an elaborate ethnic butterfly dress alongside an intricately carved “narra” wood chair. She looked expressionlessly directly into the camera. She appeared regal and imposing.
    During long after-dinner conversations, Gats and Tessie used to tell many stories about life in the PreWar Philippines. Both Tessie’s parents died during the Japanese occupation. I distinctly remember stories about his Dad taking a China clipper sailing ship to California to where he attended school at UC-Berkeley graduating with the class of 1899. Both Gats and his brother, Ted, also attended school in the States.

    I drove up to Mabalacat and San Fernando many times with Gats to visit his farm and, while we drove, listened to stories about his childhood in the famous house in Pampanga that was built on the hill next to the Kamikaze airfield. Gats said that the house was destroyed during the war. It was sort of a family joke because one of Gats’ nephews spent a fortune digging up the surrounding fields on the advice of a fortune teller who told him that General Yamishita’s treasure was buried somewhere nearby the old house.

    Unfortunately, all of the pre-war photos of the house were lost during the war.

    Ivan, can you provide or point me to any information about Gats and his parents? Do you know of any resources where I might find an old picture of the house?

    Maraming Salamat,
    Michael Girman
    Cresskill, NJ

  6. Please visit the Center for Kapampangan Studies in Holy Angel University. Its director Robbie Tantingco is from Mabalacat. You can e-mail him at Information on them should also be on the book of Alex Castro.

    The Pampanga Hotel in San Fernando was the residence of Asuncion Santos, a daughter of Don Teodoro Santos, Sr. (Dorong Tola), who married Andres Eusebio.


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