(Part 1 of 5) 


Preliminary observation by this columnist. After having requested Ms Hazel Henson, granddaughter of Don Mariano, to give me information about him, she graciously sent me some materials through her brother, Mister Rodney Orencio M. Henson. Among them was a copy of this article originally published in KMagazine, issue 16, pages 23-25. The author, Mister Marco D. Nepomuceno, has kindly given me permission to reprint it in this column.   Due to the limited space, I divided it into five issues.  And due to the limited time, I did not italicize nor put in bold type those words which were such in the original. But I will do so when, with the permission of the author, I include it in a forthcoming book. I thank them for this privilege, and also Mister Dan Dizon for having earlier told me how to get in touch with the Henson family. And now, here is that precious article.

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Thirty years have passed, but no one has been able to fill the shoes of Don Mariano A. Henson as Pampanga’s “grand old man,” defined as a highly respected, elderly man who has been a major or the most important figure in a specific field for many years.   Don Mariano certainly was a Renaissance man or Homo universalis.   He excelled in multiple fields, particularly in both arts and science.  He was, among others, a poet, author, thespian, chemist, pharmacist, inventor, entrepreneur, agriculturist, scientist, world traveler, genealogist, historian, epicure, and gourmet chef.   The Kapampangan people in particular, and Filipinos in general, would surely be culturally poorer today were it not for Don Mariano’s pioneering efforts. 




Don Mariano Angel Henson was born in Angeles on 3 October 1897 to Doña Maxima Rosario Sadie y Henson and Don Jose Pedro “Pepe” Henson y Leon-Santos, one of the scions of the town’s founding family. By Don Mariano’s own account, he was born shortly after midnight at the bale cuayan, which was probably his parents’ residence at that time. [This bamboo house, considered Angeles City’s oldest surviving structure made of native materials, is located on Sto. Rosario Street, across the bale matua, the residence of the founder-couple of Angeles, Don Angel Pantaleon de Miranda and Doña Rosalia de Jesus.]

On 7 October 1897, the Henson couple’s fourth child and eldest son was baptized by Reverend Father (Rev.Fr.) Faustino Diez, acting Parish Priest of Minalin, assisted by Rev. Fr. Bernardo Martinez, parish priest of Porac, and Rev. Fr. Vicenter Lapuz, coadjutor of Angeles, his padrino being Rev. Fr. Rufino Santos, OSA, acting parish priest of Angeles. Being of a religious bent, the couple named him in honor of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, the Marian feast day on the day of his birth. Due to Don Pepe’s keen awareness of his ancestry, he also had in mind his (Don Pepe’s) father, Don Mariano Vicente Henson, the builder of the Holy Rosary Parish Church, which had been completed just the previous year; and his (Don Pepe’s) grandfather, Dr Don Mariano Henson, LLD, the first Filipino lay Doctor of Law s. His second name honored Don Pepe’s great grandfather, Don Angel Pantaleon de Miranda, as well as Los Santos Angeles Custodios, the Holy Guardian Angels (the titular patrons of the town, whose feast day is on the second of October). As the five-day old Mariano was being christened, one can imagine the spirits of his distinguished ancestors endowing him with gifts that later enabled him to accomplish so much, among whom was also Doña Luisa Gonzaga de Leon, the first Filipino woman author who had translated Ejercicio Cotidiano (Daily Devotion) into Kapampangan. 

Early years


Young Mariano’s primary education (consisting of Spanish and penmanship) was under the tutelage of Don Julian Manankil, a lay teacher from San Luis noted for being a disciplinarian. [Don Julian’s son was Pedro Manankil, the future Kapampangan writer and translator (from Spanish to Kapampangan) of Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere (published in 1933) and El Filibusterismo (still unpublished).]  Later, at the tender age of 10, he was sent to the Ateneo de Manila in Intramuros, Manila, where he boarded for three years while continuing to study penmanship under Don Julian.


In 1910 he began the six years of secondary education (Segunda Enseñanza) as a boarder at the Seminario Central de San Javier (now Ateneo de Manila) on Padre Faura St. in Ermita, Manila.   Both with seminarians and collegians, he studied Spanish, English, Latin, Greek, piano, and charcoal crayon drawing.   After completing his fourth year, he studied at the Ateneo de Manila for his fifth year, which he completed with Sobresaliente (Excellent) in all subjects. The following year, 1917, he graduated Cum Laude with an A.B. degree.