POSTSCRIPT / December 14, 2010 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Pampanga marks 439th founding year

SAN FERNANDO CITY – The cabalens just had a whirlwind week commemorating the 439th year of the founding of the province of Pampanga. This capital city was the center of the province-wide celebration.

On Dec. 11, 1571, the Spanish colonizers claimed the vast area north of Manila and named it La Pampanga — their Hispanized version of “Kapampangan” that the natives had been calling their communities along the banks (pampang) of the great river and its tributaries.

The Ing Capampangan magazine published for the celebration by the Capampangan in Media Inc. had it that Pampanga was then 10 times its present size. It was the biggest of the three mega-provinces into which the entire Luzon was divided by the Spanish government.

The mega-province of Pampanga covered practically the entire midsection of Luzon, from Zambales in the west to Aurora in the east, and from Nueva Vizcaya in the north to Bulacan in the south. It was the breadbasket of Manila.

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PRE-1571: Writing in Ing Capampangan, researcher-writer Robby Tantingco of the Center for Kapampangan Studies of Holy Angel University stressed, however, that Pampanga did not start existing only in 1571, the same year Manila was founded by the colonizers.

Dec. 11, 1571, was actually the day the Spaniards acknowledged that Pampanga had already been existing, Tantingco wrote, “the day that Pampanga was forced to rename itself, redo its writing system, worship a new deity, obey a new king, and change practically all its ways of doing things.”

At that time, he wrote, “the area north of Manila was already teeming with people … The earliest Spanish chroniclers mentioned Vitis (Betis), which had a population of 3,500 (Cebu had the same number of inhabitants at the time), Lubao (also 3,500), Macabebe (2,600), Calumpit (3,000) and Candaba (2,000).”

Other communities that had existed long before 1571 included Apalit, Bacolor (Bakulud), Arayat (Balayan ning Pambuit), Sta. Ana (Pimpin), San Luis (Kabagsak), Porac (Purag), Guagua (Wawa) and Mexico (Masiku).

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REBELLIOUS: “They were also a proud people who relished their freedom,” Tantingco wrote. “When the Spaniards came in 1571, the Tagalogs welcomed the conquerors, but the Kapampangans, led by ‘a brave youth from Macabebe’ (aka Tarik Soliman) engaged them in battle. His defeat and death signaled the start of the pacification campaign with the Spaniards penetrating the heartland through the Pampanga River.”

In another article, Tantingco asked: “How did the Kapampangans whom the colonizers had trusted and pampered the most become the country’s fiercest freedom-fighters and revolutionaries?”

Tantingco recalled that in 1572, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi wrote about “a province called Macabebe from which came 2,000 warriors riding in 40 vessels. They attacked our boats impetuously and discharged their artillery (of bronze cannons) with settled regularity. Their commander lost his life and he was the very one who obstinately rejected my peace overtures.”

The commander was Tarik Soliman, also known as Bambalito, “the brave youth from Macabebe” who had said “May lightning strike me and may the sun cut my body in half, and may all my women leave me — if ever I become, even for just one moment, a friend to these Castilians!”

Those direct quotes from Tarik Soliman were recorded in Fray Gaspar de San Agustin’s Conquistas de las Islas Filipinas 1565-1615 — one of several historical documents mentioning him. (Yet historians in Manila continue to ignore him, because they have mistaken him for Rajah Soliman and are now too proud to admit the error. — RT)

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STANDOUTS: Tantingco wrote: “As early as the 1590s (barely 20 years after Tarik Soliman), Kapampangans were already enrolled in seminaries and universities in Rome and Madrid. No other ethnic group in the colony enjoyed such a privilege.

“In 1587, a 10-year-old Kapampangan named Martin Sancho became a sensation in the Spanish capital of Madrid after reciting the entire Catechism in flawless Spanish before King Philip II himself. (He retired in Rome and became the first Filipino Jesuit.)

“Another Kapampangan, Felipe Sonsong of Macabebe, who was with the Jesuit mission to Guam in 1668, was so widely revered as a living saint that when he died, Spanish military and government officials honored him by carrying his casket. His fellow Jesuit missionaries wrote so extensively about his heroic sanctity that he is considered the most widely written-about Filipino before the time of Rizal.”

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REBELS ALL: Pampanga was one of the first eight provinces to join the Revolution in 1896, and Kapampangans were among the most valiant generals in the revolutionary army (e.g. Francisco Makabulos, Maximino Hizon, Jose Alejandrino and Servillano Aquino).

Tantingco recalled that during the American Period, two patriots defied the colonizers with typical Kapampangan flourish: poet-dramatist Aurelio Tolentino trampled on the US flag on stage with American officials sitting in the front row, and Capt. Isabelo del Rosario played his violin moments before his execution and then smashed it when the Americans approached to retrieve it.

During the Japanese Occupation, Kapampangans Luis Taruc, Casto Alejandrino, Bernardo Poblete (aka Jose Banal) and Felipa Culala (aka Dayang-Dayang) formed the Hukbalahap (Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon), which continued fighting the Japanese even after Gen. Douglas MacArthur and the entire US colonial government had fled. The Hukbalahap evolved into the anti-government Hukbong Magpapalaya ng Bayan, or HMB, after the war.

Pedro Abad Santos founded the Socialist Party of the Philippines, Bernabe Buscayno the New People’s Army (NPA), Nilo Tayag the Kabataang Makabayan (KM), Felixberto Olalia the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), Satur Ocampo the National Democratic Front (NDF) — all Kapampangans!

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 14, 2010)

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