Category Archives: Pampanga

Short Visit to Angeles, Subic & Olongapo of my Childhood

A good time was had last Tuesday when my two brothers along with two nephews and a niece journeyed up north. My elder brother (here for a short vacation like myself) visited the final resting place of his US Navy mentor and friend, Andy. We then went to Subic, then Olongapo. Here we spent many summer holidays back when were little kids.

The first stop was Angeles where we met Cecil, Andy’s sister. He held the rank of master chief, the highest among enlisted personnel. He was not only accomplished Filipino in his field, he was, according to my brother, the kindest person he ever met. The kinda guy that would drop what he’s doing if someone needs his help.

A view of Mt. Arayat from Magalang.

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Andy recently retired, bought a beautiful house near the San Fernando-Angeles border. He started sending boxes after boxes of his stuff from the US: chandeliers, Japanese furniture, even a wooden mini bar. Everything was waiting for him—what he had is how every OFW imagine how their careers to end. Retire back home, surrounded by loveones, living in the dream lofty house decorated with personal effects culled from memorable trips. Sadly, tragedy struck. During one of his usual runs, he suffered a fatal heart attack. He was only 51.

Some of the boxes he sent from the states are there in his garage, left unboxed, waiting to be opened. It was so sad to see.

After Angeles, we headed straight to SCTEX. Passing by Clark airfield and some of the best views of the peaks and valleys of Central Luzon. The kids were awed by mountains carved to make way for roads. Our driver, Jesse, who worked in Subic for two years said the entire project was supervised by the Japanese. The guy turns out to be a conspiracy theorist nut like myself. He said the Japanese took on the project so they can look for buried treasures. Of course, there’s absolutely no proof of that but it’s fun to talk about nonsense if you have nothing to do.

Travel time was way longer in the 80’s but you get to pass all the busy towns. Now, Olongapo and Subic doesn’t​ feel that far of. The access has brought some economic benefits to locals. We kid our mother who practically gave her lots in the area to relatives (who doesn’t even know who she is) to take those back!

After eating our lunch in one of Subic’s restos along its scenic shoreline, we headed straight to another navy buddy of my brother. Navy servicemen are common in the area because Subic back then (when they still have the US port base) allowed Filipino recruits. Many of the young locals did join and some of them went back to retire.

I got really excited seeing the color coded jeepneys still plying the streets. As they say then, only an idiot get lost in Olongapo. If you don’t know how to read, all the jeeps are color coded.

We used to go to the busy wet market and see US servicemen buying local goods. When night time comes, the streets comes alive with all the a-go-go clubs neon lights. You see drunk American men then hanging on to their Pinay companions. One thing about the town is that almost all roads leads back to the main road.

Our house was in Balic-Balic and I remember being woke up by the thundering sound of fighter jets going around. The noise made the glasses in our small kitchen shake (we live uphill).

My Aunt Lydia’s husband worked as an engineer in Subic then. He would always bring back home some sweet goodies from the base. Back then, they have stores there selling merchandise for US servicemen. Everything of course was “estaytsayd”. The sweets and chocolates I tasted then are the ones I go for today (snickers and M&Ms). I never got to see the inside of Subic during those times. All I saw then was its gates guarded by US military men whenever we pass by.

Ah hot sun, sand and just look at that water, so nice. also hot 😁😁😎

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Spending time in Olongapo is probably the reason why I love nature. I have a profound appreciation of our natural environment because I enjoyed it as a child. We used to bathe in Mabayuan (a tributary of Sta. Rita river) during my summer vacations back in the 80’s. While we’re at it, we would catch these almost invisible fresh water shrimps. My cousin Jean, who now lives in the US, uses her long skirt to net this fast little crustaceans. The water was so clear then, people would wash dishes and clothes there. Whenever I hear the sound of water flowing stream, I get transported back to those sweet childhood memories.


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:

Candaba in December…

Candaba is one of the biggest town in Campampangan territory. It shares its borders with two other provinces: Tarlac to the North, Bulacan on the East side. Very few know that it’s also one of the first to be established and given a chief under the Spanish. Aside from its historical significance as a pioneering Pampango town, Candaba possess a natural environment that is unmatched all through out the province. Its wetland is a major migration destination for a variety migratory birds. Some come as far as the Arctic region! The other migratory destination in the country is Olango Island in Cebu. But unlike Olango, which are groups of mostly protected islands off the coast of Mactan, the Pampango wetlands are accessible to the rural farming communities which opens it to development – the wetland is not entirely a sanctuary reserve.

Rice fields and egrets...

Tagalog came from the phrase "Taga-Ilog" while Pampanga from "Pampang" - both names tells us where these tribes once lived

The wetlands are now threatened like it never has before. World renowned ornithologist predicts, if not protected, the wetlands would vanish in a few decades. A third of the original number of the migratory birds population (from statistics taken three decades ago) has stopped coming to the wetlands. These species has been flying to Candaba for hundreds, maybe even thousands of years, and now that natural pattern has been disrupted.

Lost forever.

Get this, from 32,000 hectares the wetland area is down to 72 hectares.

The birds will stop coming to Candaba eventually,  sad, but with the rapid rate of urbanization and agriculture – there’s little we can do. Cory declared a large portion of Olango sanctuary during her term, maybe the son have to do the same for Candaba. Otherwise, it would be impossible to stop the diminishing wetlands.

Now, on to a happier note.

It has been raining off and on for two days straight but even the gloomiest of days can’t stop us from celebrating yet another milestone in our family’s life – the 80th birthday of our Lola Marina – who despite her age remains strong, happy and appreciative of family, friends and life.

Happy birthday Lola Marina!

Lola Marina during her birthday celebration.

On my way to Candaba I was worried about the rain (brought by the typhoon that ravaged the southern provinces). Surprisingly, it didn’t cause much disruption during the celebration – it even stopped when the food was being served to those in attendance. God wanted her Marina to enjoy her special day.

“Such birthday celebrations are becoming rare… it is important we celebrate such a day”, say the priest. But what I find so inspiring is not so much the years (a rarity in our time) but the milestone of how she dedicated all her life for her children after the untimely deaths of her husband and the eldest son (the latter, murdered in cold blood). She’s an inspiration to all of those who knows her.

If God painted a picture of a wonderful life, Lola Marina must be in that picture!

Although part of Candaba, Lola and her family are Tagalog. They still speak the language with that romantic Bulacan accent. They trace their ancestry to the oldest of Bulaqueño clans in San Rafael. Most of her family are still residing in the Bulacan side of the area.

Whenever I visit her house I alight at a barrio called Cruz na Daan in San Rafael. From there, its a short 2 kilometer distance to Vizal Sto. Niño of Candaba. You can literally travel two province on foot!

Here Pampango and Tagalog lives, fishes and farms side by side. Which by the way reminds me of the legendary Tagalo-Pampango alliance during the Spanish times. So powerful a union that when they withdrew their support from the Spanish crown – the Colonials lost the country!

Betis People Art and Church


I intended to sleep overnight in Pampanga so I could explore it more but the weather (and my shoes that had a sole falling out) was not cooperating. So I decided to go back to Manila in the afternoon.

My last stop that day is this wonderful town called Betis. Famous for their wood craftsmanship and religious festivals. I’m intrigue where the town’s name came from. My initial guess was that it came from the Tagalog word “Batis” which means a stream but Pampango’s have their own language so it must have been derived from something else. A brief history of the town posted in the website, “The Legacy of Betis”, gives us this answer:

“Betis was derived from Hispania Baetica-an ancient place during the Roman Period which was located at the Iberian Peninsula. This Iberian Peninsula is now the present–day Spain. It was in the geographical resemblance from this certain place that the early Spanish conquistador in Pampanga named the place as Betis. Pampanga then was ruled by a Muslim ruler named Malangsic”.

An interesting account that could very well be the true origin of the name. If true, they could be the only town that was named after Roman era Spain. Its usually not a practice among Spaniards, even when naming new settlements, to christen towns after their country or its towns. These missionaries tend to use the prevailing indigenous settlement names — in its absence — they rename it after saints or their hometown.


Locals learned woodcarving from the Chinese immigrants who are always the first people the Orders commissions to create art works in and outside the church. The Chinese already had the technical know-how and was at that time the only people that could be utlized by the Church to carry out such projects. They were employed regardless if they were converts or not.

Classic Beteno pieces "sillon de fraileros". The most popular imports of this town is luklukan (chair), table, grandfather clocks and complete sala set

These artisan’s follow a pattern that are provided to them by their employers but there are still elements that shows their background. I’ve always thought that most of our Catholic icons produced here have Asiatic features (like that of La Naval). These Chinese and native artist  probably has never seen a white woman before and had trouble following descriptions of how Mary (usually portrayed as Caucasian) and saint’s looked like. Since every artist must have an inspiration — these artist drew them from their own people. The Friar’s not only allowed localized (or indiginized) creations to be venerated by their followers but in most cases, encouraged them to pursue devotions towards these religious creations.

I’ve always thought that it would be good to honor communities like Betis with a national recognition and fund them so they’ll be encouraged to continue propagating their craft, just like what we do with individual artist who we honor with the National Artist award. These individuals are subsidized by government but you could hardly see them reach out with the common people – I feel that they continue their works to be patronized only by the moneyed class.

The only other town that had a reputation for excellent carving is Paete. The forte of those people are in the making of santos and other religious materials. Like the Beteños, Paeteños are notable for their very distinctive designs and for an unmatched wood craftsmanship that is still carried out by hand and traditional tools by locals. Unfortunately, they have been running into trouble lately because of the cost of wood, which has dramatically increased because of the total log ban.

Apung Tiago

The religious festivals in Betis are well known. They have the longest celebration of Undas (lasting for a week) and Kuraldal, a San Juan de Bautista festival which involves what is common among other fiestas held to honor the saint, water–lots of it (firetrucks are used to splash the crowd with water). I haven’t seen these two popular Beteño religious tradition so I would need to come back one day.

The Church of Betis. The potruding patio is a recent addition.

The most intricately-made and beautiful designed retablo in Pampanga

The church of Betis (dedicated to St. James or locally, Apung Tiago) showcases the towns artistic talents. In most Filipino communities, churches are always the beneficiary of dedicated work and contributions. An employee asked me last week if slave labor was employed in constructing these churches. What is always taken out of the equation is the locals religiosity – that they do these tasks as if they are their prayers to God. Going back to the question.  Prefilipino communities had slaves, the Spaniards abolished it. However, Spaniards did not made the same changes in their Latin American colonies. There were different methods that were employed in constructing these churches, what is not mentioned is that for the most part of the history of church building, constructions were paid for.

Appreciating the art works around the church. The church door is a great piece.

The cornerstone of the art work in Betis church is the retablo, the painted ceiling and the massive carved main door. The retablo have a total of 18 devotional saints the Augustinians wanted their town to venerate.

The ceiling was painted by Victor Ramos with the help of local aides in the 70’s. I don’t know how long it took to finish the job but  it was an undertaking worth the effort. It reminds me of the Visayan painter, Canuto Avila, who gifted Visayas with some of the most amazing religious murals. The Beteño Ramos employed the technique trompe l’oeil, which produces a dimensional effect that gives the impression that the objects, borders and corners are carved into the wall.

Juan Flores

Many credits Flores for bringing the wood carving culture to the town. This could probably one of those invented assertions created to nullify the extensive history of Betis’ wood carving tradition. You have many of these stories that are floated around. Local historians has made the records available in the Museo de Betis so visitors can read about the true towns history. The tradition of wood carving is a centuries old tradition and not a recent phenomena. I like this initiatives as it helps counter erroneous information. But this controversy should not diminish the accomplishment of Juan Flores who brought honor to his country when he won a major sculpture contest in the Washington. This feat called the attention of Imelda and commissioned him to decorate portions of Malacañan with his works.

Around Nueva Ecija

For a country that complains about population and poverty, we sure forget about our abundant natural resources. I’m fascinated to find places where there’s so much land and hardly any people. But we’re too complex, too underdeveloped, too disunited a people to solve our problems – that’s what I keep on hearing. We get caught up fighting among ourselves and forget what God has given to us. If only we can manage our resources for the benefit of our countrymen we can achieve what our neighbors have already achieved.

While I was traveling around Nueva Ecija (passing by Bulacan, Pampanga, Tarlac reaching as far as Nueva Viscaya) I saw what seemed to to be endless rice fields. Monotonous greens stretching for miles, enormous potential for agricultural growth. Countless flowing rivers and tributaries that drains to the pacific. Nature seem to provide a structure of support for the temporal needs of man – everything we ever need, our land could provide. We are truly blessed.

I must have been dreaming the whole time. The picturesque view of the great plains of Luzon was something that I really wanted to see this time of the year. The rice fields is at its greenest now –  later on,  it turns into fields of gold.

How beautiful the countryside is! After seeing this, how can you not want to leave our polluted metropolitan?

Tarlac, Nueva Ecija & Nueva Vizcaya: Luzon’s Heartland

I started asking myself, why is it that we could not produce enough rice  for our own people? Have we become so incompetent that for the most basic of our needs, we need the help of other countries?

Strange is that we have the world renowned research institution for rice and yet we’re the perennial losers in rice production. We made our neighbors self sufficient in rice production. But look at us – so dependent on imported rice.We help improve foreign production so we can import more? Obviously, somethings wrong with the picture.

I’m no expert on these matters, but a few years ago I started speaking with farmers. These conversations made me think about what’s been going on in our country’s farms and plantations. What they have to say changed a lot of what I believe and thought I knew in Philippine agriculture and life.

Farmers are not the problem. They’ll always work the fields no matter what. Given the right conditions and support, you can expect them to produce more. The shortage is caused by the mismanagement of our resources and corruption. Our leaders inability to carry out programs that promote and sustain production has been dragging our rice production to the pits.

The government needs to protect the farmers and provide them with the needed economic life support so they get the most from their labors. Farmer production is at its best when properly supported by government initiatives and when farmers are not cheated. When they have enough – they can take care of their families. Programs must be aimed at making it possible for the farmers to keep as much as they could when they sell. You don’t want them in welfare forever – improving their economic status and educating their children will eventually liberate them from poverty.

A farmer told me that they’re perhaps the most debt ridden workers in the country today. Everything they need, they have to “loan” first. Promising their creditors payment when crops have been harvested. If all things goes according to plan, they’ll have enough to pay those debts and what’s left they take home. Now, in the event that natural disaster destroys their fields (which happens a lot) they would have to wait for the next season so they can pay off their debts – and yes, they still owe what they loaned the previous planting season which has already incurred interest.

Irony is that the harder these people work the less they seem to get in return. Life is so hard and cruel for these people but you’ll be surprise to see them happy – always having a good laugh. They’re the happiest people I’ve ever met. They accept the cards that has been dealt to them. People like them makes it hard for someone like me to complain about my problems. For all the greed that exist in our society these days, these farmers reminds me of something noble, honest and beautiful. I’ll never lose hope in the Filipino for as long as they’re here with us.

A calm lake on top of a mountain somewhere in Nueva Vizcaya. The still waters reflects the nearby mountains.

The bridge was named after Antonio Luna who was murdered here in Cabanatuan.

Somewhere in Rizal, NE. Another town named after the hero.

People are trying to catch fishes here trapped in shallow pools. Some use electric poles that shocks fishes.

Taken while inside the bus.

High above the mountains of northern Luzon. Near Pantabangan lake.

Unlike the rivers that have brownish flowing water (it has been raining the past few days), this "batis" is crystal clear. I was told that its water is safe for drinking.

There was just so many of these rivers and tributaries in Nueva Ecija that I lost count. This was one of the widest.

These rice fields, or tubigan as farmers call it, is just about 20 to 30 km's north of Cabanatuan.

More of what appears to be an unending sea of greenery.

Hacienda Luisita is so huge the it have an exit in SCTEX.

Daylight almost out. Somewhere in Pampanga.

Lahar deposits, 10 years after (near Clark)...

Ibpa Mi, the Lord’s Prayer in Campampangan

I recorded the mass as it was my first time to hear mass in Campampangan. I’m sharing the part where they were praying “Ibpa Mi”, their version of our Lord’s prayer.

Ibpa mi, a atsu banua,
Misamban ya ing lagyu mu.
Datang ing cayarian mu,
Mipamintuan ing lub mu
Queti sulip anti banua.
Ing cacanan mi queng aldo’ldo, ibie mu quing aldo ngeni.
Ampo ning pamatauad mu quecami, quing sala mi queca.
Anti ing pamamatauad mi, careng micasala quecami.
Emu que paisawul quing tucsu,
Nune icabus mi quing sablang marok yanasa.
Uling queca ing cayarian, anting kalupaan at kalualhatian
Ngeni anting capilan paman.

Our local languages adds diversity to our culture. I’m so glad to see that instead of waning due to the imposition of “Filipino” and “English”, Campampangan as a language thrives among its people. A vendor of suman and tamales told me, “we have to teach and expose them (their children) to Tagalog and English, otherwise, they would only speak Campampangan”.

I can’t help but admire such people. Filipinos proud of their identity. There’s nothing wrong in learning a foreign language but we must never abandon our heritage languages. It not only links us to our past, it also honors the spirit of our ancient land and people.

Buses loaded with college students from Manila swarmed the church of Sn. Guillermo during the mass celebration. Some of them were noisy and boisterous while taking pictures around. In the age of secularization, globalization and individualization, old traditions are becoming less and less important for some of us. But just as some are insensitive towards religious traditions, you also have youth groups deeply involved in fiestas, procesión and other religious celebrations. Some of the more interesting blogs, photojournals and articles about Filipino culture and traditions, whether they’re religious or not, are created by the young.

So, there’s hope.

Bacolor, Rising from the Ashes

20 years ago, lahar, [a mudflow with the density of concrete – fluid when moving, solid when settled] overflowed  towards Bacolor. Aside from the terrible lost of lives, another casualty of that catastrophic disaster was “old Bacolor”.  At that time, is said to have the most number of Spanish Philippine era houses in the province.

Unlike other “old” towns that lost most of its ancestral houses because of changing fortunes and devastating wars — pre-Pinatubo Bacolor retained almost all its ancestral houses. This is attributed to the locals strong feeling towards ancestral achievement and cultural uniqueness – Pampango’s are known to equate this to nationalism.

There were only eight towns in Spanish Philippines that had been elevated to “villa” — La Villa de Bacolor is among them. Spanish Villas “are centers for regional consolidation as well as, when linked together, the general dissemination of Spanish rule, commerce and culture in the archipelago”. Dr. Luciano Santiago continues, ” Spanish territorial classification as well as an institution… little known in the Philippines, even among historians, because it was sparsely granted in these parts during the Colonial Period”.

The proud Bacoloreño’s immediately started to rebuild their town even after the government declared the area around Pinatubo safe.They’re a hardy bunch these Pampangos. I remember very well how the town looked like, a virtual ghost town a few months after the overflow. Today, everything seem to look fine. Life indeed has moved on for Bacolor.

De Anda in Bacolor

Simon de Anda transferred the capital from Manila to Bacolor when the Brits invaded the country. A strategic withdrawal that gave the Brits all sorts of trouble.  The British lost several key battles including one that had the Sepoy’s scampering for safety in Morong. These Sepoy’s are the ancestors of the dark skinned, Indian looking Filipinos in the parts of Cainta.

In the Church of Bacolor, de Anda planned his battle strategies. The authorities of Manila had given up the city to prevent further destruction but De Anda refused to accept and give up without a fight. He declared those who allowed British freehand in Manila “dead in the eyes of God”. This stubborn resilience in the face of adversity inspired his nation: Tagalogs, Pampango, Spaniards and Frailes fought for the sovereignty of the territorial colony – De Anda’s army was committed to fight until the bitter end.

After hostilities ended between Spain and Britain, Manila was handed back to de Anda in a ceremony held in the plaza near the church of Santa Cruz. The Brits had looted all they could in the short time that they were in Manila. Even the tombs of Legazpi and his pioneering crew in San Agustin was not spared. If it were not for De Anda’s presence of mind [who secretly sent the colony’s treasures to Majayjay for safety] the treasures of Manila would have been added to the British spoils.

Sunken Church

My recent visit coincided with a school tour from some universities in Manila. I heard from these students that the church was where scenes from Santino telenovela of ABS CBN was taken. Aside from that, I hope they leave Bacoor with a sense of its rich history.

The church has been a benefactor of the richest Pampango families and gifted artisans. The historian Benjamin Layug describes the church dedicated to La Naval [credited for gifting the Filipinos victory over the Dutch and now, with De Anda, against the Brits!]:

“Its central nave has a well lighted transept with windows. The main retablo, side retablos and pulpit are gilded with gold leaf. The richly-designed Baroque facade has square Ionic columns with vertical flutings and ornamented capitals terminating up to the cornice mounding. The semicircular arched main entrance has a smaller semicircular window directly above it, all profusely and intricately ornamented. The upper part of the facade has square molding, scrolls and volutes and a tempietto at the top resing above the stringcourse of the blind arch. Its four storey hexagonal bell tower on the left has semicircular arched opening and is topped by a domical roof topped by a tempieto.”

Of course, much has changed since 1991 but what I find  amazing is that even when the church lie half buried in sand and earth – it never occurred to Bacoloreños to abandon it. Instead, they made use of what’s left. This is testament to how patient and strong these people are, to be able to move on with their lives without leaving their beloved home town.

The humble museum on the right side of the old church reminds its people:

“Bacolor would not have resurrected triumphantly had we not known how to unify in celebrating the faith of our forefathers”

Amen to that.

Viva La Villa de Bacolor!

Non Plust ultra!

Kain, Kain…

A friend recently informed me of his website that showcases the food culture of Pampanga.He has been touring people around historical sites in Intramuros for years that I was a bit surprised to find out that he’s as equally interested in regional food culture.

There’s history in the food that we serve. Every local dish have its cultural, traditional and sociological impact in our society. Come to think of it, of all our traditions, food survives all sociocultural changes. We lose our local languages, dances, traditional costumes, house and even values but never our cuisine.

The reputation of Pampanga as a province of excellent provincial cuisine is deserved. They have the most creative cusinero’t cusinera. Their cuisine are so well loved that even in far southern provinces can find food houses serving sisig and chops of mekeni tocino.

If your up to the challenge you can try servings of exotic Campampangan dishes like: adobong camaru (crickets), calderatang barag (monitor lizard),  dog stew, duck stew (boiled in blood) and tinolang palaka. These dishes are proof of Campangan’s creativity and originality around the cusina.

Yes, that's me voraciously eating a local version of "Biriyani". The door welcomes patrons with delicious pictures of "biriyani".

I once ate a dish of flavored chicken and rice while I was still a college student. The curious young man I am, I inquired what it was. My classmate’s cook cum all-around-maid  said that it’s a favorite dish back in their home province. I later found out that the dish is called Nasing Biringyi. After some years passed, I never encountered the dish again until I landed in Singapore. The Malay have this dish called Nasi Biriyani [Indian’s have their own version]. Aside from the name, the taste was familiar. Almost similar to that dish I ate a decade ago.

How this dish traveled that far and survived as a tradition that goes beyond generations is a testament to the lasting cultural legacy of our ancestor’s food culture.

Like what my friend said, “Food is culture, culture is food”. This may sound like a chant coming from food addicts but no one can disprove the transcending influence of Filipino food.


One other common trait we share with Malay’s is that they always casually invite people they know to eat with them. They insist like we do. “Makan, Makan…” to them is “kain, kain…” to us. The words almost sounds identical. Not only do we have a lot of common words, our physical features and characteristics have striking similarities too. If it were not for the Spaniards, we would be closer today to the Malayan way of life.

Barrio Vizal in Candaba

I wanted to see the rice fields but the rain was just too heavy. So we stayed indoors most of the time.

Our gracious host is an old Bulaqueño family. They’re farmers since the early days owing to their barrio’s location, the vast flatland on the borders of the agricultural towns of San Rafael Bulacan and Candaba of Pampanga.

Locals of Vizal are mostly farmers and duck raisers. Most of them trace their roots back to San Rafael in Bulacan.While Candaba is Pampanga, Vizal is the border barrio that sees itself more Tagalo than Pampango.

A Tio recalls many beautiful memories of the farm fields located at the border of two great provinces. How farmers would earn enough to afford them and their families with the simple comforts money can buy, education for all their children and folksy homes for their growing family. Most of the families he knew “had many sons and daughters”, having more than four children but none ” would go hungry” and “almost all would attend public schools nearby and later on colleges in Manila”. They were practical and wise with their money.

These days you’ll rarely hear such stories. Our farmers has become one of the poorest sector in our society. Some say that they had been this way since the beginning but you get to speak with actual people that tilled land for generations and they’ll tell you that life was much better a few decades ago. It seems that the farther we get, as a nation, the worst it gets for these folks.

The truth is that our government and their pet capitalist  forgot about their own farmers and their well being. To let agricultural products from our neighbor countries get imported and sold almost half the price of the locally grown produce is just is just simply unfair and unjust. And this is just one example of how our government and the policies it creates are slowly killing our agri sector.

How is it possible that farmers from China and  other neighboring countries export and still maintain their cost low? The answer is that their government plays an instrumental role as a subsidizer – from growing to shipment – while ours puts the burden on the farmers who, because he had to pay more than his Asian counterparts, are left to sell at a higher price because if he gets his price any lower he would be selling for a loss.

In that barrio I heard that a “sili” farmer abandon his produce to rot because the market price for his sili is so low (bagsak preso) that selling them would cost more.


Speaking of sili, I noticed that Bulacan dishes are never spicy. They prefer the mild flavor. Which reminds me a lot of the Ilongo dishes that I now  miss…

While it rained the whole time I was in Candaba I still had a grand time soaking in traditional Tagalog cooking and lifestyle that very few urban souls get to experience.

The rain was good in a way, it heightened my appetite more!

My Tagalog family had prepared some fine examples of traditional dishes you rarely get to taste in Manila. Native adobo chicken, guinisang ampalaya with durog na tinapa, lechon pacsiw, their version of “bachoy” and, first time for me, fried “itik” (bought from the next door neighbor), which I found out to be tastier compared to chicken.

The secret must be that everything is “sariwa” (fresh). People around these parts raise their own chickens, fowl and swine – not all of them do but the family I stayed with does which makes the weekend sleepover more enjoyable for someone unfamiliar with life in a rural Tagalo barrio.

June 2011

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