Sangil: Pampanga in the 50s and 60s

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IF YOU belong to the what-they-call “millennial generation,” the following names will not ring a bell. Higinio Gopez of Porac, German Galang of Sta. Rita, Jesus Santos of Mexico, Anastacio Gallardo of Candaba, Monica Mercado of Sasmuan, Salvador Limson of Lubao, Manuel Abad Santos of Angeles, Jose Quiwa of San Fernando and many others who helped shape the history of their respective towns as mayors.

Let’s make a searching look backward and recall on events starting in the 50s when Rafael L. Lazatin defeated incumbent Governor Jose B. Lingad in the gubernatorial race. Peace was the theme Lazatin bannered in his campaign for the province which, at the time, violence was the rule of the day. The best known and by far the most engaging political rivalry in Pampanga was between Francisco G. Nepomuceno and Lazatin aka Apung Feleng. While Lazatin was the no-nonsense type, Nepomuceno was the non-serious character and was easy going, who loved to crack jokes even in his political meetings. He was a former councilor during the time when Manuel Abad Santos was mayor of Angeles town in the early 50s. He served as provincial board member, one term congressman and three terms as governor of the province.

While the Lazatins were originally from Mexico town, Nepomuceno stayed most of his earlier years in Porac. His mother Agueda De Mesa Gopez married Mariano Paras Nepomuceno of Angeles. He was the only child. He was called Paquito by his parents and relatives, but most people called him Cong Quitong. He was married to Juanita Cuyugan Lumanlan of Porac who was also a lawyer and bar topnotcher at that. She was elected congresswoman in the early 60s and served some years as governor.

Lazatin was with the Nacionalista Party when he defeated the incumbent Governor Lingad of Lubao in the 1951 elections. Lazatin seemed unbeatable when the Liberal Party drafted Nepomuceno to wrest the governorship from him. There were more political fights between the two, but Nepomuceno always emerged the winner. It would take years before Lazatin was able to recover and recapture his lost political glory due to his successive defeats by Cong Quitong. And the only time they shared the stage together in a political meeting was when Apung Feleng and Cong Quitong's wife Juanita aka Imang Saning ran for the Interim Batasang Pambansa elections in 1984. And Lazatin and Nepomuceno faced each for the last time in 1988 in a mayoral election and both were trounced by an upstart, Antonio Abad Santos.

It was in the 1971 mayoral elections in Angeles when Apung Feleng was able to vindicate his name. The local elections of 1971 was one event which will be long remembered. Lazatin was pitted against incumbent Mayor Eugenio N. Suarez and former Mayor Rafael S. Del Rosario. Just the year before, Huk chieftain Faustino Del Mundo alias Commander Sumulong was captured by the Philippine Constabulary troopers in a subdivision in Angeles City.

Angeles, which has been tagged by the constabulary authorities as the nerve center of the Huk movement, had long wanted peace. That the city was Huk-controlled and an “invisible' government” manipulated elections. The influence of Commander Sumulong was strongly felt. Suarez, scion of the wealthy and landed Henson gentry, was elected in 1967 through the sponsorship of the HMB.

Meanwhile, the third candidate, Rafael Del Rosario, dubbed as the last town mayor and the first city mayor of Angeles, was of socialist parentage. He was the son of Agapito Del Rosario, the town mayor in 1941 and socialist amazon Felicidad Sicangco. In his time, after defeating his uncle Manuel Abad Santos in a hotly contested election in the late 50s, he enjoyed unprecedented support from every sector. He was responsible for the initial growth of Angeles which under his watch, was metamorphosing into a metropolitan center. But in the 1971 mayoral elections, his popularity greatly diminished. He lost and his political career ended.

In that 1971 mayoral elections, Lazatin showed people his love of peace by campaigning alone and pasted his L stickers with the drawing of a heart as background. The Angelenos who longed for peace voted him. He emerged the winner, and it was his political rebirth.

But the Lazatins’ and Nepomucenos’ dominance in local politics was abbreviated in 1988 when a new political star, Antonio Abad Santos aka “Bubusuk”, emerged into the political landscape. He would become one of the most controversial mayors ever of Angeles City. The last face-off between Nepomuceno vs Lazatin was in the most recent mayoral elections in Angeles City. The grandsons Pogi Lazatin and Bryan Nepomuceno who are best friends were in the opposite stage. Lazatin won.


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