Showing posts with label Central Luzon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Central Luzon. Show all posts

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Bataan: Kilometer Zero and Freeport Authority of Bataan in Mariveles

The Freeport Authority of Bataan (FAB) in Mariveles, Bataan is working on rehabilitating its old tourist facilities. I visited early this year to help give suggestions. I also checked out the nearby attractions, the most popular of which is Kilometer Zero of the Bataan Death March.

Kilometer Zero is the starting point of the Bataan Death March. There are actually two of them, the one in Mariveles, and another in Bagac. The memorial in Mariveles is marked by a bayonet thrust to the ground. A few years ago, the Filipino American Memorial Endowment installed new kilometer posts from Mariveles to San Fernando, Pampanga and Capas, Tarlac, including one for Kilometer Zero.

Two large historical markers installed by the National Historical Commission in 1967 recount the ordeal of the Filipino and American prisoners of war. I felt that the park needed to be rehabilitated though and the landscaping professionalized. The standards of local government landscaping in the country are simply horrible. We really need to invest in proper landscaping in major urban centers as well as tourism attractions, parks and open spaces.

Unfortunately, I had to rush back to Manila. So I wasn't able to visit the nature attractions of FAB which I hope to see in a future trip.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Pampanga: Giant Lantern Festival 2010

Better late than never! Congratulations to Barangay Santa Lucia for winning the Giant Lantern Festival 2010. They beat defending champions Barangay Dolores who placed second this year. Completing the top three is Barangay San Nicolas.

It's actually very difficult to judge the competition. But I guess the winners were quite obvious this year. I felt though that we need to jazz up the music next year for better audience impact. It should be a mix and remix of Christmas, pop and traditional music. It's also weird that some entries had similar music for the first round. I hope they become more creative next year and invest on the festival pieces.

See you all at the Giant Lantern Festival 2011 on December 17, 2011!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Pampanga: Augusto P. Hizon House in San Fernando now a Heritage House

Last Friday, the historical marker of the Augusto P. Hizon Heritage House was unveiled by representatives of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), City Government of San Fernando, Pampanga, and the Hizon Family. The house was declared a Heritage House by the NHCP on July 21, 2010 bringing the number of NHCP-declared houses in San Fernando, Pampanga to five.

This turn-of-the-century Victorian-style house was originally owned by 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 P. Hizon.

Heritage updates from San Fernando
As local citizens continue to oppose the construction of an SM mall along San Fernando's heritage street, here is some good news. The Pampanga High School Building or former UP San Fernando is currently being reconstructed. More than a century old, it was the very building where President Diosdado P. Macapagal finished high school in 1929. Once completed next year, it will house the Museong Kapampangan.

Funds have also been approved for the restoration of the San Fernando Train Station. Work on the station will begin in early 2011. It will house a Death March Museum and World War II Memorial once completed.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Abra: Tayum Church, Bangued Cathedral & the Gabriela Silang Monument

Abra was the first province on my recent 1800-kilometer around North Philippines. I left Manila the previous evening and arrived in Abra just in time for sunrise. The roads were in relatively good condition and the views of the mountains, rice fields and the Abra River were picturesque.

Welcoming the visitor is a tunnel that was cut through a mountain. Above the tunnel entrance is the seal of Abra. Right beside the tunnel is a monument of Gabriela Silang. But I decided to stop on the way back since it was still a bit dark.

My first stop for the day was the Tayum Church, a National Cutlural Treasure. Tayum is about 10 minutes away from Bangued. Mass was still ongoing when I arrived.

According to the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the Tayum Church or Church of Santa Catalina de Alejandria was built in the 19th century by the secular clergy among the Christianized Tinguians. Notice also the convento which is actually across the church.

From Tayum, I motored back to Bangued to visit the Bangued Cathedral. On the way, I was pleased to see some ancestral houses still standing. Many of these houses are made of brick, both first and second floors.

The Bangued Cathedral is also relatively preserved. Right beside it is its old convento which is now a school. But there is another church worth visiting and this is the Bangued Cemetery Chapel. Unfortunately, it was locked. So I wasn't able to see the interior.

On the way back down to Ilocos Sur, I stopped by the Gabriela Silang Monument in San Quintin. As we all know, Gabriela Silang was an insurgent leader who led the Ilocano freedom movement after the assassination of her husband Diego Silang on May 28, 1763. She was captured and executed by the Spanish on September 29, 1763.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pampanga: Save the San Fernando Heritage District!

At the heart of downtown San Fernando, Pampanga is the historic poblacion, replete with remnants of the city's rich architectural heritage and history. These architectural legacies, together with the intangible culture of the city, are the focus of the urban renewal program of the City of San Fernando called Preserving Heritage for Progress. In fact, the program was recognized as one of the Top 10 Best Practices of the League of Cities of the Philippines, and a Trailblazing Program of the Galing Pook Awards both in 2004.

In 2006, the Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines (ATOP) selected the program as the winner of the Heritage Tourism Award of the Best Tourism Practices – Special Award Category "in cognizance of the innovative and valuable effort, passion and commitment of the City Government to ensure the protection and promotion of the City's priceless architectural heritage by restoring and preserving the same for the benefit of the future generation of Fernandinos and the Filipino people."

In line with a popular salawikain "Ang hindi lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan," San Fernando firmly believes that its history, heritage and culture are vital tools in the advance towards further progress.

In 2004, the historic core of the city was declared the City of San Fernando Heritage District through a city ordinance. Several of the structures have been declared by the National Historical Institute as part of our national heritage. While all heritage structures are protected by the ordinance.

Most of the structures are concentrated along Consunji Street, Tiomico Street and Capitol Boulevard. These include the Metropolitan Cathedral of San Fernando, San Fernando Train Station and Death March Marker, Pampanga Capitol and Provincial Jail, and the Lazatin, Hizon-Singian, Consunji, Ocampo, Henson-Hizon, and Hizon Houses among many others. Four houses are already declared by the National Historical Institute as Heritage Houses.

Then there's the PASUDECO Sugar Central along Capitol Boulevard. It stands as a testament to the resiliency of the Kapampangans as a people and their continuous drive towards progress and development. An inherent part of the heritage district of the City of San Fernando, this storied structure, a fine example of industrial heritage, is ripe for adaptive reuse and conservation. This proposition yearns for an architect or urban planner with the vision, imagination and genius to incorporate this historical structure into the 21st century community that will be built around it.

Unknown to many, the town proper of San Fernando may be the only city in the country where motorized tricycles are prohibited thanks to the political will of its leaders throughout the years. You can in fact, still enjoy a kalesa ride around the old quarter. Why not take a journey back to San Fernando's storied past with a visit to the city's heritage district?

The city is very historical in fact, it has a large assemblage of markers from the National Historical Institute. I've counted eighteen markers so far. Later this year, markers for the Pampanga High School and Hizon House will be installed bringing the count to twenty.

Just a few days ago, I got a text message from Dom Martin Gomez inviting me to lunch since they plan to reconstruct and restore another Hizon House which will add luster to the heritage district.

There is no doubt, the citizens of San Fernando indeed value the city's architectural heritage. Which is why news of an SM City San Fernando to be built right smack in the center of the heritage district will be met with stiff opposition. I was told the mall is going to be built along Consunji Street, between PNB and Pampanga Hotel, all the way to V. Tiomico Street.

I was all praises for SM when they built SM City Pampanga away from the poblacion. I can't understand why they have to build another one in our historic downtown area. Right now, I'm already thinking about the damage the proposed five or six-floor mall building will do to the cultural landscape of San Fernando. It will tower over the Cathedral! The height alone will destroy the character of the district. The idiots!

For the love of Philippine heritage, will SM please find another place for their mall (as if they don't have enough already). Stay away from our heritage district please!

Save the City of San Fernando Heritage District! No to SM City San Fernando in our heritage district!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Pampanga: Outlet shopping at Robinsons Starmills Pampanga

Those who've been to the U.S. should be familiar with outlet shopping. Outlet malls are usually out-of-town and people drive there to shop at these outlet malls. They usually sell clothes and other items from the last season at really attractive prices. If you still don't know, there's an outlet mall here in the Philippines in San Fernando, Pampanga. I'm sure we pass by Robinsons Starmills Pampanga all the time we use the NLEX not realizing it's actually an outlet mall.

Well-known brands like Mango, Guess, All Flip Flops, American Rag, Adidas, Nike, Space, Plains and Prints, Mogao and Collezione are just some of the notable brands which have outlet stores there that give really hefty discounts. For the ladies, dresses at Mango could go as low as Php350!

And while at Robinsons Starmills, don't forget to visit Fiesta Kapampangan. Unlike the usual mall food court, Fiesta Kapampangan offers mainly Kapampangan cusine which I'm sure you'll all enjoy. I'll talk about this in another entry.

How to get to Robinsons Starmills
Robinsons Starmills Pampanga is located at the San Fernando Exit of the NLEX. If taking public transportation, Victory Liner has a terminal at the mall itself. Buses will drop you off at the rear entrance. For other bus companies, most buses that go to Olongapo pass by San Fernando. You can ask the driver to drop you off at the San Fernando Exit.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Bataan: Anvaya Cove in Morong, Bataan

Last month, I got the chance to visit Anvaya Cove in Morong, Bataan. While the group left early in the morning, I had to finish some meetings in the office. So I said I would follow.

I missed the tour of the Anvaya Beach and Nature Club and the Nature Camp. But I arrived just in time for the spa treatments at Veda Spa! The spa facilities are one of the best I've seen in the country. Plus the massage treatment was really refreshing. Too bad we only stayed for a night.

Dinner, plus breakfast and lunch the next day was at Bamboo Cafe. I particularly enjoyed the Asian inspired buffet lunch which featured dishes from Japan, Korea and other Asian countries.

While Anvaya Cove is mostly a residential area, there are rooms, lagoon terraces and suites which you could book at. But you'll need to know a member to be able to make a reservation.

We got to explore the development the next day, particularly the residential areas which I found really classy. Before leaving, we were given the chance to walk around the beach and the pool area. I wasn't able to stay for long since I had to catch a graduation in Tarlac where I was commencement speaker.

Anvaya Cove
(02) 8415769 / 8485000

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Pampanga: Easter Sunday salubong, pusu-puso and sagalas of Santo Tomas

On Easter Sunday, the neighboring towns of Santo Tomas and Minalin are the center of activities in Pampanga. Aside from being Easter Sunday, it's also the town fiesta of Santo Tomas. The town celebrates its fiesta on Easter Sunday rather than on the July 3 feast day of St. Thomas the Apostle.

The night before, a rigodon de honor used to be performed at the Sabado de Gloria Ball called the Thomasian. I remember dancing the rigodon in the 2002 Sabado de Gloria Ball. Sadly, they stopped doing it about two years ago because no one was willing to be hermano and hermana mayor due to the costs that accompany it. While it was still being held, Thomasian was the longest continuously organized rigodon de honor in Pampanga. The oldest surviving rigodon tradition in Pampanga, the El Circulo Fernandino, was not held from 1987 to 1996.

According to Robby Tantingco of the Center for Kapampangan Studies, "The most elaborate salubong are held in front of the churches of Sto. Tomas and Minalin. Shortly before the break of dawn, the brass band plays and an all-girls' choir sing Alleluia as the two santos are positioned face to face. The angel does not immediately appear; instead, she is hidden inside a pusu-pusu (heart-shaped giant banana flower) which opens in five stages, one layer of petals at a time. Each opening is accompanied by the band playing and choir singing which prolongs the whole ceremony. After the salubung (also called pusu-pusuan in these parts), the people go inside the church for the Easter Mass.

"In Sto. Tomas, another quaint tradition follows after the Mass: a group of well-dressed girls and the partners dance and sing, and throw petals on the path of the carroza bearing the statue of the Risen Christ accompanied by a violin. This ritual is called Sagalas."

Later at noon, the Pakbung Hudas festivities are held at the church patio. I missed the Salubong or Pusu-pusuan, as well as the Sagalas. But I just had to write about it to complete this series on Pampanga Holy Week practices. Thank you to the Center for Kapampangan Studies for the video screencaps.

Pampanga: Santo Entierro carrozas and Good Friday processions of Pampanga

Every Good Friday, the Santo Entierro or Apung Mamacalulu are brought out in grand carrozas called calandras for the Good Friday procession. Here are photos of some of the Santo Entierro carrozas or calandras of Pampanga. It's a work in progress so I'll be adding photos and descriptions as I receive them. Thanks to the Center for Kapampangan Studies for providing some of the photos including this one of the Guagua carroza being prepared for the Good Friday procession.

ANGELES: Alex Castro shares that Angeles has its own Apung Mamacalulu or Santo Entierro owned by the Dayrit clan. This image figured in a controversial 1929 Good Friday procession that ended in its kidnapping. It took a Supreme Court decision to resolve the issue of its ownership.

ARAYAT: According to Toto Gonzalez, the Arayat Good Friday procession is lovely and beguiling with antique candlelit carrozas and old, archaic-sounding Kapampangan religious music. A burol or wake for the Santo Entierro commences after the procession at the Spanish colonial era chapel of the Medina-Samia-Santos family a few meters from the church. This last until 11:30 p.m.

BACOLOR: The Bacolor Santo Entierro is owned by the Joven-de Leon clan. It most probably had belonged to Don Juan Joven and Dona Geronima Suares. It was buried by lahar in 1995 and was dug up the same year. It was kept until 2004 when it was restored by Tom Joven who is now the caretaker of the image.

GUAGUA: The Guagua Santo Entierro in the main photo is owned by the Infante-Velez clan.

MABALACAT: The Apung Mamacalulu of Mabalacat has its own chapel beside the Mabalacat Elementary School. It is believed that the image originated from Mexico. It belonged to Doña Vicenta Dizon who was married to Don Juan Rivera. The couple were childless so the calandra was passed on to the Rivera-Serrano family. Preparing the image for the procession is a community affair, done during the morning of Holy Thursday. The carroza is ornamented by mother of pearl flowers and silver symbols of the passion of Christ.

SAN FERNANDO: Above is the Santo Entierro of San Fernando. This is a fairly recent postwar calandra.

SANTA RITA: The Santa Rita Santo Entierro is owned by the Miranda-Maglalang clan.

SASMUAN: The Sasmuan Santo Entierro is owned by the Mercado family.

According to Toto Gonzalez, the five most beautiful calandras of the Santo Entierro in Pampanga are Santa Rita (Miranda-Maglalang), Arayat (Medina-Samia-Santos), Sasmuan (Mercado), Guagua (Infante-Velez), and in recent years, with all the improvements made by the formidable Tom Joven, that of Bacolor (Joven-de Leon). He adds that also beautiful, although simple, are the mid-1800s calandras of San Luis, Minalin, Santa Ana, Mexico, Mabalacat, Candaba, and Apalit. Those of Lubao, Magalang, Angeles date back to the turn of the 20th century. The calandras of San Fernando and Macabebe are fairly recent. He hasn't seen those of Masantol, Porac, and Floridablanca though and we look forward to his reviews. While many of the calandras date from the 1800s, many of the images of the Santo Entierro are from the 1700s.

Toto further notes that the only existing calandras in other provinces that can compare with those of Pampanga are: Vigan, Ilocos Sur; Lingayen, Pangasinan; Baliuag, Malolos and Barasoain, Bulacan; San Pablo (originally from Santa Cruz, Manila), Binan, Pila, Paete, and Pakil, Laguna; Lipa, Batangas; Carcar, Cebu; Molo, Iloilo City; Bacolod and Talisay, Negros Occidental and Mambajao, Camiguin.

If you have photos or stories of other Santo Entierro carrozas in Pampanga, please feel free to share them at

Monday, April 05, 2010

Pampanga: Pasyon Serenata in (Maligaya) San Basilio, Santa Rita, Pampanga

After the Good Friday processions, we returned to San Basilio, Sta. Rita, Pampanga to listen to the Pasyon Serenata. But this time, we proceeded to Maligaya Street which is also in San Basilio, which has its own Pasyon Serenata.

As I mentioned previously, the Pasyon Serenata is a variant of the pabasa, with two sets of accompanying singers and marching bands playing alternately in what is called a sagutan. It's held in the evenings (usually 8 p.m. to 12 midnight) of Holy Thursday and Good Friday in two locations in Barangay San Basilio, Sta. Rita, Pampanga. The previous night, we watched the one beside the San Basilio Chapel.

Parking and maneuvering is a bit difficult in Maligaya since the street is very narrow. Anyway, we sat down for quite a bit but suddenly felt the exhaustion from all the traveling. So we called it a night quite early.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Pampanga: Easter Sunday Pakbung Hudas tradition in Minalin & Santo Tomas, Pampanga

Firecrackers on Easter Sunday! In the towns of Minalin and Sto. Tomas, the Pakbung Hudas (explosion of Judas) tradition is still held every Easter Sunday. We drove to Minalin to catch the Pakbung Hudas festivities at 9:30 a.m. and proceeded to Sto. Tomas to catch theirs at 12 noon.

Pakbung Hudas is an event wherein an effigy of Judas Iscariot, stuffed with firecrackers, is lit up in front of the church patio for a big bang to start the Easter Season. The firecrackers are so positioned so that the effigy moves horizontally counter-clockwise then clockwise, then vertically clockwise and counter-clockwise before finally exploding.

For some reason, they want to change the name to Pakbung Kasalanan or Pakbung Satanas with the effigy representing sin or  in particular, the seven deadly sins. But I think changing the name will change the story behind the tradition. You could still say Pakbung Hudas and explain that the effigy represents sin. Oh well!

I liked the Judas effigy in Minalin which was very colorful and folksy. The one in Sto. Tomas wasn't decorated though.

Since Easter Sunday is also the town fiesta of Santo Tomas, there are a lot of activities during the day. After the Easter Mass in the morning, sagalas paraded around town. They also had a palaro for the children. The agawan buko was quite intense!

Anyway, it took them quite a while to set-up the effigy which they lit up at about 12:30 p.m. Indeed they celebrate Easter in Pampanga with a big bang!

Pampanga: Salubong procession on Easter Sunday and the colorful pusu-puso

The Salubong is a Filipino tradition done early in the morning of Easter Sunday, wherein the images of the Risen Christ and Sorrowful Mother symbolically meet in a pre-dawn procession. While many parishes have moved it to late Saturday night for convenience, the real traditional Salubong happens right before dawn.

I was actually wondering if the pusu-puso was still being used in Pampanga. I should have asked. Anyway, I watched the Salubong in San Fernando late Saturday night which was quite simple.

The Bacolor salubong or pusu-pusuan was also at midnight and they used the pusu-puso! The photo above is from Tom Joven.

The next morning, I proceeded to Minalin and Santo Tomas to witness the Pakbung Hudas Easter Sunday festivities. And lo and behold, the opened pusu-puso were hanging from the church gates! The Salubong in Minalin was at 4 a.m. while the one in Santo Tomas was at 5:30 a.m.

The puso-puso is a fine example of folk art used for the Salubong. It's basically shaped like a bud with several layers of petals made out of cardboard, papel de hapon and crepe paper. Hidden above the pusu-puso is a little girl dressed as an angel. The veiled image of the Sorrowful Mother is brought under the pusu-puso.

Layer by layer, the pusu-puso opens, raining petals and confetti on the images of the Mater Dolorosa and Risen Christ. With the opening of the last layer, doves fly out and the little girl, who sings Regina caeli, laetare, alleluia (Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia), is lowered on a swing just right over the head of the Mater Dolorosa so she could take off the veil. Once the veil is removed, fireworks are lit, the marching band starts playing and the crowd applauds. The Easter Season has begun.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Pampanga: Good Friday Santo Entierro procession in Bacolor, Pampanga

Indeed, the phoenix has risen from the ashes. I decided to watch the Good Friday Santo Entierro procession in Bacolor, Pampanga by chance since there was no Good Friday procession in Guagua this year due to ongoing road construction around the center of town. It was very encouraging that the Bacolor procession is back to its old grandeur.

Over a decade ago, Bacolor was buried by lahar from Mount Pinatubo. It was a great loss for Pampanga being the province's former capital and heritage town. But one thing I like about Bacolor is the resiliency of its culture. One of the first things they raised from the buried town, even before rebuilding schools and other structures, were their monuments. The three ornate retablos in the half-buried Bacolor Church were also dug up and restored to their original glory.

It was 8 p.m. when I arrived at the Bacolor Church (Update: It now starts at 5 p.m.). The Good Friday Santo Entierro procession had not started yet since people were still lining up to venerate the crucified Christ. The halls of the church reverberated with the solemn Stabat Mater performed by local musicians and singers of a town which was once the center of arts and culture in the province. It was a very touching scene.

The procession begun with 152 pasos in black cassocks and white mozzettas, their faces covered by black veils and with wreaths on their heads, carrying symbols of Christs death and messages from Jesus' passion and death in various languages that included Kapampangan, English, Latin, Spanish and even French.

This was followed by one of the grandest Santo Entierro carrozas in the entire country. I found out that the carroza actually belonged to our family, the Joven-de Leon clan of Bacolor, and I was invited by my cousin Tom Joven (who is very much responsible for restoring the grandeur of Bacolor's church, Good Friday procession, and many more town traditions) to join the carroza for the procession.

The saints of the passion story beginning with San Pedro, and scenes from Christ's passion came in next. Although Tom told me that previously, the tableaux only came out during the Holy Wednesday procession since the Good Friday procession is a funeral participated in only by the carrozas of the individual saints. In fact, some of the tableaux carrozas, like those of the Valdes clan, only come out for Holy Wednesday.

No doubt, the Bacolor Good Friday Santo Entierro procession is one of the best examples of a traditional Filipino Holy Week procession. It's quiet and solemn. And there's no pipe-in music and prayers blasted through sound systems in the carrozas, just the voices of small groups sincerely praying the rosary along the way. The carrozas are elaborate, grand and elegant. There were no pick up trucks, owner jeeps or cars in the procession. If you want to witness a traditional Good Friday procession, I highly-recommend that you visit Bacolor, Pampanga.

At the end of the procession is the Mater Dolorosa. She is preceded by the angelic voices of a local choir and musicians who play various versions of the Stabat Mater. A solemn drum beat reminds us that this is actually a funeral dirge.

As the Mater Dolorosa returns to the church, her carroza is brought face to face with the carroza of the Santo Entierro in front of the gates of the church, a symbolic positioning signifying the Sorrowful Mother mourning over her Son.

Other processions worth visiting in Pampanga are the ones in Santa Rita, Guagua and Sasmuan. I haven't seen the one in Santa Rita and plan to witness that next year. In Guagua, I remember they had violinists who accompany the Sto. Entierro and Mater Dolorosa. The violins are something that disappeared in San Fernando after the change of priests.

As I previously mentioned, it's sad that these priests forget that they stay only in a parish for a few years. And yet some go on the rampage and destroy architecture and traditions that have been there even before they were born. Even the traditional order of carrozas of the Good Friday procession in San Fernando had been changed in deference to the whims of the new rector. I hope things go back to normal soon!
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