Part 5 of 20
THIS province is divided into “Upper” (alta) and “Lower” (baxa). Lower Pampanga covers the area from Santa Ana to the sea, while Upper Pampanga covers the rest up to Pangasinan and Nueva Ecija. Its climate is generally healthful and [page 8] temperate, but the upper portion is much better because it is blessed with better air and water. Even though the northerly winds of December, January and February cause more fever in this province than in the other provinces of Luzon, the increase in its population is equal to, if not more than, that in the other provinces.
During the 1750’s, when this province covered what is now the alcaldia of Bataan (except the pueblo of Mariveles) and nine pueblos which would later be separated from it in order to form Nueva Ecija, it had eleven thousand (11,000) tributes, and in 1817, it had more than twenty two thousand (22,000). The growth in population is even more amazing if one compares the 1817-census with that of 1818, because there was an increase of 6737 souls.
Upper Pampanga is not densely-populated, and is deprived of the benefits of irrigation because the streams and rivers of its pueblos flow down fast towards the lower area and, although it is possible to construct dams (represas y sanjas) to irrigate those uplands, it would be very expensive and would entail hard work for the indios, especially since the benefit they get from deer-hunting distracts their attention from agriculture. They content themselves with sowing only what is necessary for their sustenance. When they run out of rice because the crop fails, they nourish themselves with buri and edible and healthful root vegetables which are found in abundance in their mountains and forests.
The lower part is highly fertile and delightful because the trees and the gardens and the vegetable plots which fill the pueblos lessen the intensity of the heat, while their fruits and flowers are a pleasant sight.
[Page 9] Everywhere, the land yields herbs, flowers and roots of different qualities, edible or medicinal or antidotes to poison. The soil is of excellent quality (de bastante migajon). The natives make good use of the many rivers and streams by constructing dams to irrigate it, and so it yields abundant harvests. In many of the paddies of the towns, they harvest rice twice a year; the sane with corn. They sow the corn after harvesting rice. In less than two months, they harvest the corn. Then they sow again for a second harvest. Sometimes they even have a third, if the heavy rains come late.
The towns of Gapan, Cabiao and San Miguel de Mayumo usually have a good harvest of the fine tobacco known as “Gapan”. The Royal Treasury has a monopoly of this.
[This Part 5, from the start up to here, has already appeared in this column on Februey 19, 2009, Thursday, pages 5 and 11. The title of the article was “Upper Pampanga and Lower Pampanga as told by a Report dated 1820”. – Fr. EVS.]
The cultivation of indigo (añil) and processing of it to produce indigo paste is another business enterprise; also, indigo dye, which is used by local manufacturers of blankets and other types of cloth made of silk or cotton.
There is a good harvest of sesame (ajonjoli). From this, and from the fruits of lumban and tangantangan, they produce oil, which is used in this province to light their lamps. And it is very medicinal. The sesame and the three kinds of oil extracted from the above-mentioned plants give people here the opportunity to engage in business.
Sugarcane comes second to rice in excellence, because, aside from the many canes which are produced and consumed in this province and the various kinds of marketable sweets concocted, people here are actively engaged in the sugar industry. Freighters loaded with sugar leave the port of Manila bound for those of Europe. The sugarcane plant is native to these islands.