Bacolor

ROADSIDE WORKSHOPS. It was a searing summer weekend when I stepped out from a provincial bus prematurely on my way to Betis to the dusty road of Bacolor in Pampanga. What prompted me to halt the bus driver and walk under the fierce midday sun and inescapable dust were the life-sized statues that lined the woodcarving workshops clustered along the main highway.

There I imagined how this place must have looked like when Mount Pinatubo erupted in 1991. Dormant for 600 years, the notorious volcano ejected volcanic material of Biblical proportions that altered weather patterns worldwide and literally obliterating several towns in Zambales, Tarlac and Pampanga from the map including the historic town of Bacolor.

HALF-BURIED CHURCH. The town of Bacolor have seen better days. Being an ancient town said to be founded by a group of immigrants from Sumatra led by cannon maker Panday Pira and then first and oldest town in Pampanga that was founded by the Spaniards, its old culture is legendary. As described by friar Juan de Medina to be the best pueblo in all the islands with the best meadows for cultivating rice, wealthiest and best-dressed inhabitants, and a celebrated church of stone and brick with a famous crucifix.

The church of San Guillermo Ermitaño was built in 1645 on a land donated by a wealthy landlord named Guillermo Manabat. It became the center of the mission with Betis, Macabebe, Apalit, and Candaba as its visitas. With the eruption of Mount Pinatubo, the church is buried up to one-half with its main entrance lost to lahar.

VILLA DE BACOLOR. I entered the church through a door which was formerly the upper window and walked on new concrete floor under layers of lahar beneath it. Its old convent houses the church museum of old religious statues and narratives on the town’s days of glory during the colony’s war with the British. From 1762 to 1764, Bacolor was the seat of a colonial government in exile of Governor Simon de Anda.  With the town’s role in the reclaiming of the colony, the King of Spain gave the town the title Villa de Bacolor and honored with bearing the royal motto Non Plus Ultra.

By the 19th century Nothing Greater has rivaled with the royal town. It was a wealthy center for commerce in Pampanga and a capital for culture with its zarzuela groups and its writers of Pampango Literature, foremost were revolutionary leader Juan Crisostomo Soto and Proceso Pabalan. This cultural tradition continues to this modern times when the half-buried church, its ancient bell tower, and woodworking workshops were used as backdrop for different sorts of film and television shows.

WOODCARVING TRADITION. Just like its Tagalog cousin Paete in Laguna, Betis is historically the chisel town of Pampanga until the onslaught of the Pinatubo eruption when the Kapampangan woodcarvers went out of business and moved to Bacolor in the recent years. Betis is still known for its ornate European carvings on furniture and Bacolor for santo-making.

Back to the dusty highway I almost forgot about the scorching afternoon sun as I strolled leisurely and in amazement seeing the life-sized statues in wood and concrete casually displayed on a single file in storefronts. I entered one random woodcarving workshop to another so I could avoid totally getting sunburned and see the woodcarvers’ activity.

BUSY SHOPS. Woodcarving workshops in Bacolor hummed with activity. Inside the busy shops the sound of chisel-tapping and fine wood dust fill the air. Here I observed the step-by-step process and stages of sculpture from the carving from a block of wood with a rough sketch and the careful detailing using medium and fine chisels to the smoothing and sanding and applying of encarna.

Encarna is another set of process in finishing a sculpture from applying escayola or gesso as primer to spraying paint. The role of the encarnador is to apply details using a fine paint brush to make sculpture life-like. The term ecarna is from the shorten Spanish word encarnación which means to become flesh.

SANTO-MAKING TRADITION. The santo-making is folk art that survive the Spanish colonial period. The Spanish friars introduced the craft of carving religious icon and statuary from hardwood by showing the natives religious images from printed reproductions of prayer books and estampitas and teaching them the rudiments of carving.  The santos were important teaching and visual aids used by the friar missionaries in spreading the Catholic faith.

Though Lent is the busiest season for the santo carvers of Bacolor, wood carving and restoration is a year-long labor. In workshops busy with activity, the wood carvers were kind enough to allow me to observe and talk to them while they work on repairing heirloom santos and creating new ones for the processions around the country for the Holy Week and year-round fiestas. In one of the stores, I was led by its owner to their warehouse where I gasped in awe at an army of santos in a bodega-like dungeon awaiting to be mounted in altars or on carrozas.

VISUAL FEAST. Santo-making traditions has contributed extensively to the artistic tradition of the country. The sculptures in Bacolor are mostly Baroque and Classical reproductions  that were copied from European images of saints, angels, and the Virgin Mary as seen in the works of Isabelo Tampigco and Maximo Vicente.

It is a visual feast to find pieces with unusual themes and were guided by the sculptor’s personal feelings and imagination like a Roman bust made of santol wood and a santo head that upon close inspection it has a semblance to the face of the sculptor who made it. When I asked the sculptor, kayo po ba ito? He just smiled and confidently uttered ako yan!

EPILOGUE: RANDOM SHOT. Summer is my favorite season for photography using my simple, uncomplicated point-and-shoot camera. Without filter and special lenses and a little adjustment in brightness and contrast, random photos turn out golden, crisp, and dramatic like this cherub’s face hand-carved from cement I found casually laid on a table at a santo-maker’s workshop in Bacolor, Pampanga.

-1 May 2017 | Feast of San Jose

Published in: on May 1, 2017 at 9:18 am  Leave a Comment  

Angeles Pampanga

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Angeles was formerly called Barrio Culiat, after the vines that grew abundantly in the area at the time when the first settlers founded the town is now the city’s old district. Spanish-period structures particularly along its oldest streets –Santo Rosario and Santo Entierro are preserved today as delicate reminders of events in Philippine history.     

 

Historic Camalig Restaurant

It was lunch time when we arrived in Angeles City. We went to the Camalig, a restored Spanish rice granary along Santo Rosario Street to sample Armando’s Pizza

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Built in 1840 by the town’s first mayor Don Ciriaco de Miranda primarily as a shed made of light materials, it was restored in the early 1900s to it present form by the post-colonial mayor Capitan Juan Nepomoceno

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The father of the current owner Armando’s Pizza, the late Armando Nepomoceno inherited the 150-year old building thus Historic Camalig Restaurant is also billed as “The Home of Armando’s Pizza.” 

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While waiting for our orders to be served, we toured the old Camalig to view its gallery of ancient photographs of early Angeles personages and exhibit of relics from a bygone Angeles town. Surrounded by rustic old-world Filipiniana, we enjoyed our Armando’s Pizza served warm in a traditional bilao.

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Miranda House 

Along Santo Rosario Street is the home of Don Angel Panteleon de Miranda and wife Doña Rosalia de Jesus. The couple led their followers from burgeoning city of San Fernando to settle in what is then a forested area they established as Culiat in 1796. By the end of the 19th century, Barrio Culiat has become a prosperous town. 

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In 1824, the couple built their house made of stone and wood. During the Philippine-American War 1899, the Miranda House served the headquarters of the retreating forces of the Revolutionary Government. 

 

Holy Rosary Parish

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In 1830, the Augustinians renamed Culiat to Angeles after the name of its founder who “paid from his own purse a part of the expenses of the construction of the church” and also as way of custom its patron: Los Santos Angeles Custodio, The Holy Guardian Angels. 

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The present Renaissance-style stone church was built through polos y servicios or forced labor under the Spanish government. It was completed in 1896 which at that time, the church is the tallest in the whole of Pampanga. The twin belfries where used as watchtowers by Filipinos during the Philippine-American War.   

Enshrined in the main altar is the image of the Nuestra Señora de Santissima Rosario de la Naval.  

 

Old Municipal Hall 

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Across the church is the old municipal hall. Constructed in 1922 during the term of Mayor Juan Nepomoceno, the building today houses the Museo Ning Angeles. Unfortunately, the museum was closed during our visit. 

                                                     

Bale Herencia 

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A two-story ancestral house, Bale Herencia was used as a residence, Catechism school, office of a town councilor, mini-casino and then commercial establishment. Today, it serves as venue for formal events and art exhibits.  

 

Pamintuan Mansion 

During the Philippine-American War, Angeles was where the president of the fledging Philippine Republic, General Emilio Aguinaldo set up his traveling government. The Pamintuan Mansion was his official residence in Angeles. 

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It is in this mansion where Aguinaldo watched from the second storey window while waving the original Philippine flag a grand parade in celebration of the first and only anniversary of the shirt-lived republic. Today, the mansion houses Central Bank’s regional clearing office. 

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On our way back home after our half-day Pampanga road trip, I can’t help but notice the majestic Mount Arayat overlooking vast emerald green rice fields. 

This concludes our Pampanga road trip. Click here for Part I –Betis, Part II –Bacolor, Part III –San Fernando Heritage Disctrict

San Fernando Heritage District

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As we veered away from NLEX entering San Fernando City, we were greeted by two gigantic malls that stood like sentinels along Jose Abad Santos Avenue (formerly Olongapo-Gapan Road). As the provincial capital of Pampanga, San Fernando has its share in Philippine history. Remnants of a long and colorful past are still intact particularly in the barangays of Sto. Rosario, San Jose and Sto. Niño

The Metropolitan Cathedral of San Fernando

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 We’ve learned from our travels that one of the best ways to discover a historical district is to visit its church. On the site of the Metropolitan Cathedral of San Fernando, a wood and thatch church was built by the Augustinians in 1755 under the patronage of King Fernando III of Castille. In 1880, the church was rededicated to the Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion

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During the Philippine Revolution of 1898, President Emilio Aguinaldo viewed the Philippine Revolutionary Army from the church’s convent. On May 4, 1899, the church and convent as well as the first Casa Municipal located in front of the church were burned under the orders of General Antonio Luna. Another fire destroyed the church in 1939.

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The current church was designed by Fernando H. Ocampo, the same architect of the reconstructed Manila Cathedral in Intramuros. In 1948, it was elevated to a Cathedral when it became the seat of the Diocese of San Fernando. 

 

Sotero Baluyot Bridge  

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Across the Cathedral next to the Municipio is the Baluyot Bridge. Formerly known as Puente Colgante, the iron and stone bridge was destroyed during the Philippine-American War in 1899. An arch bridge of reinforced concrete designed by Sotero Baluyot replaced the old bridge. It was bombed during World War II and has been restored. Today, the bridge is a historic landmark in the city. 

In San Fernando: A City Rich in Architecture Heritage, fellow blogger Ivan Henares provides a comprehensive guide about the history of ancestral houses clustered along Consunji Street and surrounding streets. Taking a calesa in front of the old Pampanga Hotel, we turned to V.Tiomco Street for the Henson-Hizon House.

 

Henson-Hizon House 

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The Henson-Hizon House is a Spanish colonial period bahay-na-bato built by the couple Don Saturnino Henson y David, who was gobernadorcillo of San Fernando and first tesorero municipal and Maria Lacson

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Next to the house is a monument dedicated to the heroic efforts of Nicolasa Dayrit-Panlilio of helping the sick and wounded Filipino fighters during the Filipino-American War. She also became instrumental in neutralizing the dispute between Generals Antonio Luna and Tomas Mascardo.

 

Lazatin House

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At the corner of Consunji Street, the Lazatin House stands regal. Built by sugar farmer and former president of SFELAPCO, Don Serafin Lazatin y Ocampo, the ancestral house exemplifies the architecture prevalent during the American Period. During the Second World War, it served as residence of the 14th Army Commander of the Japanese Imperial Army, General Masaharu Homma.

 

Consunji House

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Next to the Lazatin House is the residence of Don Antonio Consunji, Gobernadorcillo of San Fernando in 1892, who was removed from office by Spanish authorities because of his presence during the visit to San Fernando of Dr. Jose Rizal. Don Antonio became presidente municipal of San Fernando during the Philppine Revolution from 1898 to 1899. 

 

Tabacalera House 

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The Tabacalera House has been declared as an important heritage edifice of San Fernando City. Built for Don Ramon Lopez, the ground floor housed the offices of the Tabacalera. The house was later purchased by Simeon Ocampo. The Japanese Imperial Army appropriated it to serve as headquarters of the Kempeitai (Japanese Police) from 1943 to 1944. 

 

Hizon-Ocampo House 

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Leoncia Hizon inherited the house from parents Anacleto Hizon and Victoria Singian de Miranda. She married Basilio Ocampo, gobernadorcillo of San Fernando. Among their children was famous architect Fernando H. Ocampo

 

Santos-Hizon House 

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A distinctly Victorian-style house, the Santos-Hizon House was built by the couple Teodoro Santos and Africa Ventura. It was purchased by Maria Salome Hizon, a volunteer of the Red Cross during the Philippine Revolution. The house is currently owned by the heirs of her brother.

 

Hizon-Singian House 

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The Hizon-Singian House was the second house of couple Don Anacleto Hizon and Victoria Singian de Miranda y de Ocampo. During the 1896 Revolution, the house was occupied by Spanish General Antonio Ruiz Serralde. It was appropriated by the Japanese Imperial Army to serve as a military hospital and barracks from 1943 to 1944. The house also served as headquarters of American General Walter Krueger of the 6th American army during the liberation period until 1945.    

 

Cuyugan-Baron House 

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In Barangay Del Pilar is the Cuyugan-Baron House. 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.

 

Dizon House

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Currently owned by Archdiocese of Pampanga, the Archdiocesan Chancery was the former residence of Luis Wenceslao Dizon and Felisa Hizon. It was designed by architect Fernando H. Ocampo and was completed in the mid-1930s. 

 

Pampanga Provincial Capitol 

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The original building of the Pampanga Provincial Capitol was constructed shortly after the seat of government of the province of Pampanga was transferred from Bacolor to San Fernando. An important battle between guerilla forces and the Japanese Imperial Army took place in the site during the Second World War. 

At the back of the provincial capitol is the Presidio. Built in 1907, it used to house the courts of Pampanga before it became as Pampanga Provincial Jail. 

 

Old Provincial High School Building 

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Completed in 1910, what’s left of the old Pampanga High School Building is its frame. In 1935, the high school was transferred to its present site. It was used as an extension of the school and also served as the site of the University of the Philippines Extension Proogram in San Fernando until floods hit the city in 1995.

 

San Fernando Train Station 

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Inaugurated by Governor General Eulogio Despujol and Archbishop of Manila Bernardino Nozaleda on February 23, 1892, the San Fernando Train Station stood witness to historic events. On June 27, 1892, Jose Rizal debarked from the station and the next day en route to Bacolor

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On April 1942, KM 102 was the ending point of the Bataan Death March. From with Filipino and American prisoners-of-war were hauled to Capaz, Tarlac to Camp O’Donnell.

 

PASUDECO Sugar Central 

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The Pampanga Sugar Development Company was formally incorporated in April 1918. It is the first Filipino financed sugar central which became a catalyst for the economic growth of San Fernando as the capital of rich sugar-producing province of Pampanga. 

 

This is the third part of a series about our Pampanga road trip. Click here for Part 1 –Betis, Part 2 –Bacolor. The tour continues in the City of Angeles.

Betis

While traveling along the old Olongapo-Gapan Road, furniture workshops display their exquisite woodworks on the side of the road. We’re in Betis, a quiet town in Pampanga that has been known for its church murals and mastercarvers of European-design furniture.

Being one of the oldest towns in Pampanga, Betis’ exact history is difficult to trace. If historians have given different dates to the town’s foundation, ranging from the 1570s to the early1600s, local folklore has inspired the origin of the town’s name.

According to one legend, the town was named after a giant tree known for its scientific name as Bassia betis Merr. This hardwood once stood in the site where Betis Church now stands. It is said that the tree was so huge it cast its shadow on the nearby town of Guagua. When it was chopped down, the timbers were used as the framework of the church of Betis.

Despite being 300 years old, the church of Betis is well-preserved. The original church made of light materials was built around 1660 and was placed under the advocation of Santiago Apostol (Matamoro). Fire broke from inside the church several times that the Augustinians erected on the same site a church of stone in the 1770s. The church is listed as a National Cultural Treasure.

Detailed woodcarvings on grand old timber adorn the church’s interior. The intricately-carved wooden door depicting the Dreams of Jacob from the Old Testament and the elaborate retablo furnished with authentic statues are fashioned of beautiful lumber. Whether they belong to the legendary betis tree no one can truly say.

Spectacular murals interpreting the scene from the Bible adorn walls and the entire wooden ceiling.

Painted by a team of local artists when the church was renovated in the 1970s, Victor Ramos (who heads the three-man team) used old photographs to simulate the trompe l’oeil effect on arches, vaults and frames based from the original pre-war design by Macario Ligon.

Exiting the church, we passed by the first artesian well in Betis. Built by Father Manuel Camanes to provide water to the entire town, it is now protected by an iron fence.

On the courtyard, a familiar scene cast in stone of the Holy Family in their carpentry shop in Nazareth. It symbolizes Betis’ devotion to the Catholic faith and to the time-honored woodcarving tradition.

The rich tradition of woodcarving in Betis dates back to Spanish times when the locals became engaged in woodcarving, carpentry and shipbuilding. Woodcarving was a craft that the locals learned from migrant Chinese artisans. The woodcarving industry became a thriving business as a result of the demand for the Spanish colonizers for retablos and religious statues for churches. Replicating altar pieces gave Betis woodcarvers (mandukit) their earliest exposure to European art and designs.

With the rise of the wealthy townspeople who went on trips abroad, bringing back with them the latest European influences, a new demand for manufacturing of European-design furniture flourished. This new clientele wanted the interiors of their houses to emulate the homes of the affluent Europeans.

By the latter part of the 20th century, the much-revered mastercarver Apong Juan Flores gave prestige to Betis as a producer of world-class furniture. He created masterpieces that won him acclaim both locally and internationally. This fame drew the attention of then first Imelda Marcos who commissioned Apung Juan for furniture and artworks for Malacanang.

-Feast of Santiago Apostol | July 25, 2009