Scenes from Downtown San Fernando

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Friday, May 9, 2014


By Ching Pangilinan
Culturati

ONE of the perks of working at the City Hall is the streetscape that greets me every time I go to work. As soon as I enter the City of San Fernando, Pampanga Heritage District, historic remnants make me feel for a moment like time stands still. The iconic chimneys of Pampanga Sugar Development Corporation or Pasudeco loom over the city like watchtowers from a bygone era of agricultural prosperity. The mountainous stacks of bagasse which reek of the sweet and sour smell of fermentation remind me that I am getting closer to the heart of the city.

Our Provincial Capitol and its compound, built during the American Colonial period, houses architectural treasures such as the Presidio of the old Pampanga Provincial Jail building which was built in 1907 by William Parsons, a colleague of urban planner and architect Daniel Burnham, and the same architect who built the Manila Hotel and the Army and Navy Club. Macario Arnedo Park in front of the Capitol Building is also home to several monuments of national importance including those of revolutionary General Maximino Hizon located at the most prominent place in the middle part of the park. My mother reminisces on her childhood when a walk in the park was a regular thing to do for families.

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A stone’s throw away from the Capitol compound is the restored San Fernando Train Station which has stood as a silent witness to various periods of our history from the time that it opened in 1892 as part of the Manila – Dagupan railway system. In 1892, Jose Rizal alighted from this station and visited his friends in Bacolor and San Fernando. 50 years later in 1942 the same train station was the site of one of the worst atrocities of the Second World War which is the Death March. The train station also paved way to the prosperous period of economic boom which established San Fernando as a financial center during the heydays of sugar production.

A simple white building on a tree-lined yard at the right side of the road going to Consunji Street has a conspicuous emblem and signage that says Pampanga Masonic Lodge No. 48, which is home to the oldest masonic lodge in Pampanga under the Grand Lodge of the Philippines that was chartered in 1918 with no less than Pedro Abad Santos as the first Grand Master.

The heritage houses along Consunji and Tiomico Streets exhibit old world charm in an everyday urban setting. The first house that I see upon entering Consunji Street is the picture-perfect and stately Lazatin Residence, the ancestral home of the Lazatin Family of San Fernando, famous for SFELAPCO and ESSEL Supermarket, among others. Right next door is the abode of an equally illustrious family, the Consunjis of San Fernando after whom the street is named. Their recognized patriarch Antonio Consunji, revolutionary leader and friend of Rizal, also served as a Municipal Presidente of San Fernando. The former Tabacalera which served as the offices of a tobacco manufacturer currently serves as another Lazatin family home.

One of the most beautiful homes along the Consunji Street is the ancestral home of the family of renowned Filipino architect Fernando Hizon Ocampo who is a recognized pioneer in Philippine architecture. The house’s old brown wood exudes an unmatched grace. One of my dreams is to become the caretaker of this house. The grand old house of Consunji St. is the Hizon – Singian – Rodriguez mansion, the showcase of Bahay na Bato architecture in San Fernando.

Next week, I will continue my rolling tour of the heritage district in San Fernando, which is deeply ingrained in my Kapampangan consciousness and an everyday exercise in aesthetics.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on May 10, 2014.

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