The town of Porac is not as heavily populated as Pampanga’s major cities and towns owing to its location at the foothills of the Zambales Mountain Range, but it was precisely its location there that attracted prehistoric Kapampangans to live there in huge numbers. The marshy, swampy lowlands were prone to flooding (then as now) so our ancestors thought it wise to build their settlements in the only place in the province that was elevated enough (at that time) to keep it from perennial flooding—Porac.
In 1939, ethnographer H. Otley Beyer discovered a large burial site in Hacienda Ramona dating back to 900 A.D. In 1959, Robert Fox dug up a cemetery with 300 graves dating back to 1200 A.D., including a burial jar with a child's bones and bangles in it. Fox declared that "it was the most extensive archaeological excavation" in the country. But nothing happened until 2001, when Kapampangan archaeologist Dr. Eusebio Dizon of the National Museum teamed up with Dr. Victor Paz of the UP Archaeological Studies Program to return to Porac and resume the diggings. Although HAU offered some help, lack of funding cut short the explorations, even if the team had already discovered more evidence of a large community in upland Porac hundreds of years before the Spaniards came in 1571.
How did such a large community survive and even thrive up there in Porac, far away from a large body of water that was a prerequisite for a settlement? Who lived there and why did they eventually disappear?
One possible explanation is the sea was closer to Porac before Pinatubo's lahars pushed the shoreline farther away. One clue is the original name of Guagua, Wawa, "mouth of river," which means the sea originally extended up to Guagua, which means Lubao, Macabebe, Sasmuan, Masantol and parts of Floridablanca and Sta. Rita were all under the sea, and Porac was a coastal town.
Another explanation is that the inhabitants of this prehistoric Porac community used the ancient trails across Pinatubo towards Zambales, where the South China Sea once extended to the towns of Castillejos, San Antonio and San Felipe, allowing Chinese trading vessels to sail closer to Pinatubo and therefore Porac. This would explain also the volume of Chinese and Vietnamese trade ceramics found in the excavated Porac settlement. The government has begun reviving these ancient trails across the Zambales Mountains as new concrete highways intended to facilitate trade and travel between Central Luzon and Zambales.
And why did these ancient Porac settlers disappear? Their disappearance coincided with the pre-1991 eruption of Pinatubo, but the archaeologists at the site did not think the settlers perished in the eruption a la Pompeii, but merely evacuated, since there were no signs of violence and death. The evacuees must have fled to Lubao and Bataan closer to sea in case they needed to evacuate farther. The so-called Aeta Trails which connected Porac to these areas were probably located where the SCTEx now runs. They’re the same trails used by Kapampangans in Lubao when they fled from the Spanish Conquest in 152, and when they were forced to return by a local cheiftain named Cubacub.
Today when the corridor of progress in Pampanga is starting to extend westward to the highlands of Porac, it is merely going back to where it used to be, long before the Spaniards came.
November 15, 2022
- A A +
SunStar website welcomes friendly debate, but comments posted on this site do not necessarily reflect the views of the SunStar management and its affiliates. SunStar reserves the right to delete, reproduce, or modify comments posted here without notice. Posts that are inappropriate will automatically be deleted.
Do not use obscenity. Some words have been banned. Stick to the topic. Do not veer away from the discussion. Be coherent. Do not shout or use CAPITAL LETTERS!