San Fernando Pampanga’s Bold Effort to Save History

Long before SM became the center of every Filipino township, there exist houses with exquisite Spanish architectural influence that along with the town’s church compose the center of culture and influence in every community. And these centuries old houses in San Fernando Pampanga( an hour bus ride from Cubao) are some of the best examples of the evolution of the Filipino bahay  that most of us no longer recognize and appreciate. Sometimes you try to look for remnants of our past in far-flung towns only to find out that some of the most impressive ones are all under your nose.

A closer look at these historical houses reveals that at its base, the idea and the shape, originated from the humble Bahay-Kubo. I like to call these imposing squarish Bahay-na-Batos as “Kubos in steroids!” From its small origin of temporary materials to its astounding lasting grandeur! But none of these, not its history nor its evolution, are taught to the younger generation. This explains why when kids see these houses, all they could think about are those bromidic, ludicrous Filipino horror movies shot in some of these houses.

The  San Fernando church (Metropolitan Cathedral of San Fernando) was built by those zealous Augustinian friars. It’s one the most historic church in the whole of central Luzon. Aguinaldo made it a platform to inspect his troops. While Antonio Luna, that cunning military strategist (arguably the revolution’s smartest general) burned it in 1899. Like all churches, San Fernando went through several rebuilding and restorations. I like the portico and the church’s shiny gibbous dome.

In front of the church is the newly coated presendencia. It appears to have been restored but I could not tell how much of the original was retained. The street that separates the church and this administrative building is the present day Consunji Street (formerly Calle Sto. Niño Viejo). This street is where most of the old houses can be found. Not far is a bridge named after Engineer Baluyot who restored the bridge as part of his thesis (then Puente Colgante).

The movement to save the old houses of San Fernando is said to have started when lahar overflowed to the city’s streets and destroyed the ancestral home of Jose Abad Santos and Perico Abad Santos (socialist movement pioneer). Descendants and avid heritage advocate started working with the local government to make a historic corridor. People today can go around the old town and see the houses marked with metal plates revealing these bahay-na-bato’s past. The entire town reminded me of Silay. Another town that rose to wealth and prominence because of its sugar produce.

While I manage to see most of the houses I wanted to record, I was not successful in getting access inside these houses. Like the house called Bale Matua, visited by past presidents and politicians. I think the Hizon-Singian house (once occupied by a Spanish governor general, now obscured by an ugly SM building) is open for viewing but it was close when I dropped by. Most are still private homes. I’m sure there are tours organized by local heritage advocates. If none, please have one! There’s just so much history around the old town of San Fernando that I’m sure a historical tour of these structures would be a great learning oppurtunity for every Filipino.

The old presidencia. Appears to have been reconstructed (?), commendable for they opted to retain the original appearance.

The campanario taken from the side of the church.

I just love these calesas. They’re all over the old town!

A bahay-na-bato right across the church. Must have been an important house but I don’t know much about it.

The Don Augusto Hizon ancestral house

One of the most impressive bahay-na-bato I’ve ever seen in central Luzon.

An Augustinian symbol that tells us of the original owners religious devotion.

The ancestral home of Fernando Ocampo-Hizon. This renowned architect help rebuilt the church after the war. He was one of the founders of the UST school of Architecture and Fine Arts.

These calesas are popping out eveywhere. Reminds me of old Manila

The ancestral home of the Lazatin of San Fernando

The ancestral house of the Henson-Hizon’s in Calle V. Tiomico

A lonely gated monument of a Nicolasa Dayrit Panlilio, revolutionary hero

The ancestral home of the

The dome of the Cathedral


Good resource for San Fernando’s rich heritage is the site (I thought this Henares guy’s Ilongo!). Another good blog is from a friend, read here:


6 responses to “San Fernando Pampanga’s Bold Effort to Save History

  • jose

    The backbone of a nation is its past, and the image of the past is visible to everyone is architecture. You lose your architecture and everything starts to crumble.

    The colonial architecture are the true heritage of the Filipinas: they are a mixture of ancestral homes and latin ways of building. You cannot find anything similar anywhere in the world. Not even in Spain or Latin America.
    At the same time, it is very similar in the Filipinas and very different to the one of other countries (good to nation building ).
    They are very well adapted to the climate, earthquakes, hot weather, showers…using building materials from the neighborhood.
    Modern architecture is exactly the same everywhere in the world. Nobody wants to travel thousands of miles to see what can be seen at home and even better.
    Modern architecture gets older very bad: it becomes old, out of fashioned..whereas old architecture, like good wine, gets better with the pass of time: it gest ancient, charming, with character…
    I am not advocating to live like our ancestors…(unles it is in a castle with air conditioning, a swimming pool and a butler): We all are sons of our time.
    In California, at the end of the XIX and the begining of the XX, they develop a kind of architecture called “Spanish” or “Mission”. This is a recreation of mediterranean Spanish architecture that it is very well adapted to the mediterranean climate of California and gives at the same time a kind of historic flavour to the State. Of course there are rests of Spanish architecture there, but this is different. The mansions of the film stars of Hollywood (the golden age ) are made in this style.
    The Filipinas should do the same

  • puto biñan and an alberto house-less biñan | With one's past...

    […] Why not help promote these houses like San Fernando in Pampanga? […]

  • PROA

    Antes de empezar, me gustaria decir esto:
    Me hablo 4 idiomas, incluso el pampangueño.
    Así que… me puede hacer code-switching between español, inglés, el tagaló y pampangueño? Yehey.
    I have only recently discovered your blog and started reading all your articles, Señor De AnDA, and they are all awesome! [Especialmente tu refutación de tu publicación, “Filipinos are not Hispanics”. Leí los todos comentarios, incluso las respuestas de “markuva”, jejeje]
    Anyway, yo nací en Barrio/Brgy. Dolores, la Ciudad de San Fernando, y pero crecí ambos en San Fernando y en Aráyat (yes, taga-bundok ako hahaha).
    Tengo comentos sobre tus fotos:
    1.) This was in 2013.. ANG LINIS NG BAYAN (CENTRO) ng San Fernando ngayon, ah! If memory serves me correctly, palaging marumi ang bayan quizas porque de las lluvia y del barro/lahar fallout de los ’90s. Palaging marumi ang bayan dahil palaging umuulan at basa at mukhang miserable palagi mga tao. You did a nice job of taking those photos while avoiding the massive air/noise pollution ng mga jeepneys. Palaging traffic diyan sa bayan, alam nyo ba? At palaging putikan ang sidewalk dahil sa ulan.
    Ang linis, pati ang harap ng municipio (from the first photo).
    In your third photo, that specific area was not exactly pleasant-looking back then, nasa palengke area na yan e.
    Either the place has been fixed to look more decent and less masikip, or magaling kang kumuha ng pics (position ng araw, angle, etc.).
    2.) Natutuwa ka sa mga calesa? hahaha. That was something that they tried NOT to prohibit even with its disadvantages (el olor, causing traffic). which was all good. Ang hassle lang tlga nila ay ang amoy nila nung panahon ko (i.e., tae). Part of growing up in San Fernando, I guess.
    3.) El goberno municipal de San Fernando en serio limpió las calzadas en el centro?? Nice. No mas drenajes abiertos en las aceras.
    I mean, they had to, in order to accommodate the heavy rainfall during the monsoon season. It does not help that San Fernando is one of the towns in the province with the lowest points (also the reason for the heavy lahar mudflows coming to town after the 1991 Pinatubo eruption).
    4.) Yo soy feliz que hay ahora flacas de marcas historicas en las antiguas casas en el centro.At ang lilinis pa nila.
    Alí na la marúsing (“Di na sila marumi”).
    5.) The old house in the fourth photo was once called the Pampanga Hotel, pintado en color amarillo. I heard that the top floor was were the former owners once lived, the Ocampos (yes,the same Ocampos you mentioned in your posts–magkakamag-anak mga old elite mestizo-Kapampangan families ng Angeles City and San Fernando—the Hensons, Lazatins, Ocampos, Hizons, the Laus family, etc.).
    Then, it was converted as a commercial establishment, varias bodegas alquiladas para acomodar las muchas pequeñas tiendas.
    6.) I am bit surprised you did not drive along Capitol Blvd., the one that goes all the way to the town of Bacolór.
    You’ll see (a) the old Provincial Capitol (“Capitolio”–where Lito Lapid used to govern hahaha…haayyy); (b) the old University of the Philippines Pampanga campus building (destroyed by lahar; it was basically a five-storey Kastilang matandang bahay rin); and (c) the smelly PASUDECO (Pampanga Sugar Dev’t Corp.) sugarcane processing plant, which paved the way to the further development of San Fernando and its legitimately becoming the province’s foremost cabecera instead of Bacolór or Guáguá (while making the aforementioned los elites aún mas ricos). I know that at one time, Pampanga was once the sugar bowl of the Philippines before it was the Christmas Capital, Foodie Capital, and Rice Bowl of the Philippines (presently) / Southeast Asia (formerly). Unfortunately, this part of San Fernando (the barangays that border Guáguá and Bacolór) got the brunt of the lahar outflow.
    7.) The house in your sixth photo has always been like that–walang nakatira since bata ako. Ang mga ibang matandang bahay sa tabi nila, at least nakikita kong may nakatira pa. (Although these were frequently abandoned by their owners during the major flash floods of the 1990s. Yes, enhoramala/MALAS ang Pampanga noong panahon na ‘yun.)
    La casa blanca ubicada en MacArthur Highway (de tu décima foto) es propiedad de la familia Lazatin, and you are right. Ang subdivision sa likod ng bahay na yan, dyan kami nakatira e hahaha.
    8.) Por fin! I thought that the “duyan” bridge thing was just some BS urban legend of sorts. I did not know that it was true! Se llama “tete dúyan” literalmente en Pampangueño, por cierto.
    The last time I was back home was in 2012, so the changes, verdaderamente, are a massive improvement for me. (In only two years?)
    I am really, truly in awe on how you were able to take photos of the bayan without avoiding the obvious urban eyesores (e.g., tambutso; jeepneys, masikip na daan, leading to traffic–which that part of San Fernando has plenty of). Perhaps the new gobernante has finally come around and are more mindful of its huge revenues that it has been getting since acquiring cityhood status, along with the arrival of SM and the other posh real estate firms.

    • De AnDA

      Thank you for your informative comments. I enjoyed reading them. Great addition. You obviously know more than I do. Mabuhay ka paisano!

      • PROA

        Salamat po!
        Pasensya na kung mabilis ako magsulat sa respuesta ko, d na edit nang mabuti e hahaha.
        But a quick comment muna: The last time I read anything from that Ivan Henares guy was when he was protesting about the last provincial elections, with the Catholic priest Panlilio vs. jueteng kingpin / Erap buddy Bong Pineda’s wife (now the current governor; even my mom supported her). Local politics sa amin is one of the more “jodida” in the country.
        I remember all the cagada that had happened from the 1991 Pinatubo eruption. It was 2 p.m. but the sky was dark like night time and I could see the silhouette of the clouds with glowing dark red colors due to the eruption, the subsequent departure of the soldados americanos from both Clark and Subic, and the descent of our Aetas/Negritos from the mountains of Bataan, Nueva Ecíja, and Zambales and into refugee camps along with the rest of affected peoples of Pampanga, ruined antiquated houses in Bacolór (at anrami rin nila). People had to keep on brushing the ashfall out of the roof of their houses (gamitin ang walis tingting) during the height of the eruption or else the weight of the ashes would cause the latter to collapse on its own. It did not help that there was a typhoon coming in, which made everything sticky and bogged down, mixing the hot ashes with the rising waters from the river systems (wala pang mga megadike sa Bacolor nun), causing waht we now call “lahar”, This new lahar initially devastated the low-lying towns near Bataan and Zambales (including Bacolór, Lubaó, Floridablanca, Guáguá, etc).
        Even with the series of dikes constructed in the old Pasig-Potrero River (which lahar had used to bring itself into the province’s metro areas), it would still continue plaguing most of Pampanga’s towns, San Fernando included, until it caught a big break.
        Lahar finally had broken into San Fernando in September 1995 when typhoon “Mameng” caused an onslaught of lahar-mixed water to break into the FVR Megadike (there was a scandal related to this during the midst of the period regarding misappropriated funding which led to the inferior structural integrity of the dikes; this scandal’s exposé was about the same time as another scandal, Centennial Expo, sa Clark Air Base). I was in fourth grade in Don Bosco Academy Pampanga (Bacolór, Pampanga) then, and my school was literally buried in lahar water along with most of Bacolór, including its impressive and historic town church. The lahar/sediment deposited by the flood in the town in most part, stayed, dried out, and my school became a wasteland — at least two floors ng mga school buildings sa Don Bosco compound were under the new ‘desert-like’ topsoil. Naaawa ako sa escuela ko nun kasi we Bosconians then had to continue our classes in St. Scholastica Academy Pampanga (Brgy. San Agustin, San Fernando) for the rest of that school year (basically nakitira kami sa campus nila, with “half-day” measures to both Kulasas and Salesians/Bosconians implemented para ma-accommodate ang mga clase ng dalawa).
        With the water coming into San Fernando, my family retreated to my mom’s hometown of Arayát, which also has the highest point in la provincia (go figure, malapit sa bundok e) and wait it out for several months.
        It was about a month later here when I received news that Don Bosco was obliterated. Mind you that Don Bosco (along with St. Scho. was an elite private Catholic school in the province, along the lines of LSGH, La Salle Zobel, Ateneo High, Xavier, St. Scho Manila, Poveda, etc. in Metro Manila.) And to think that the school was gone would be blasphemous for me, given my young age. (I mean c’mon, escuela católica, puro catecismo and godliness; you wouldn’t think God would strike down such an institution and wipe it off the face of the Earth.)
        So you know why I was greatly astonished with the pics, because it means the city has LITERALLY finally gotten rid of the putik-lahar / lahar-dust in San Fernando’s el centro.
        I cannot say the same for Bacolór, though. Desert wasteland na sya although I have actually seen resettlement by local retornados the last time I passed through the area to visit my paternal grandparents’ libingan sa Zambales (
        And I suggest you visit Bacolór and Guáguá: these two were the real cultural/economic powerhouses during the Spanish colonial times. I am not sure if you’d see a lot of suriving Castillian-era structures with Bacolór, though (puro markers na lang yta, like the one that commemorated the town becoming the temporary capital of Spanish Philippines by the then-gobernador general when the Brits occupied Manila for two years during the 17th century).
        Guáguá’s el centro should be intact– for some reason the town has managed to maintain/revive its economic prowess/clout in the province.
        Bahala na. Me voy a mantener hacer a mis asuntos hasta que estoy hecho en todos mis estudios de posgrado aquí jajaja.
        Now, I kinda hijacked your post like that “markuva” persona, sorry na po, Señor De AnDA hahaha!
        Note: Ya soy un miembro de tu grupo creado de FB. Supongo que te puedo enviar un mensaje privado usando eso, si posible, en lugar de utilizar este blog para comunicarte.

  • antonio marques sans

    Hermosa arquitectura colonial ,vale la pena conservarla para futuras generaciones.

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