Everyone who lives or who ever lived in Bacolor, Pampanga should consider it an honor and privilege. "Bacolor," wrote Spanish chronicler Juan de Medina in 1630, "is the best village not only of Pampanga but of all the islands. It is about one-and-half days' journey from Manila by sea and creeks. It has the best meadow-land, is irrigated, and it produces rice abundantly." Almost 300 years later, Bacolor had remained as bucolic as before. "Carin mu damdaman/Ing siuc da ding batis/Ing angin qng parang/Ing dalit ding ayup/ing biung ding tanaman," wrote poet Jose Gutierrez David in 1908.
An American who visited Bacolor in 1901 wrote: "To those in the United States who think this archipelago is a wilderness and its people are savages—I would like to take them into some houses here and see them stare!” He compared one Bacolor resident to "a fine Greek scholar" and narrated how he spent nights with a family "listening to the piano, violin, mandolin, harp and singing, as pleasant as I ever heard in my life!” He was amazed to see the Joven house "lighted by an electric plant" invented by its owner who was a scientist.
No town in the Philippines has a more compelling story to tell than Bacolor. The height of glory that this town reached during the Spanish Period is matched only by the depth of the tragedy that came afterward--from being the capital of the Philippines during the British Invasion and the Athens of Pampanga that produced the Golden Age of Kapampangan Literature during the Spanish colonial period, to the horror of Pinatubo that buried it repeatedly in 1991, 1992, and again in 1993, 1994 and once more in 1995, forcing its residents--scions of wealthy families and descendants of the great poets and artists--to live in the harsh conditions of resettlement areas.
But this tiniest of towns in Pampanga has produced a number of illustrious Filipinos that's disproportionate to its size--10 Cabinet members, 7 Supreme Court justices, 7 governors, 4 ambassadors—as well as the country's first woman author (Luisa Gonzaga de Leon) , the country's first novel in English (“A Child of Sorrows” by Zoilo Galang), the country's first zarzuela written in a non-Spanish language (“Ing Managpe” by Mariano Proceso Pabalan Byron), the painter that beat Salvador Dali in an international painting competition (Vicente Alvarez Dizon), and the country’s longest literary work (“Cumedia nang Don Gonzalo de Cordoba” by Padre Anselmo Jorge Fajardo).
The Don Honorio Ventura State University’s Heritage Museum has partnered with the Holy Angel University Center for Kapampangan Studies in reproducing this cumedia in its entirety—31,000 poetic lines on almost a thousand pages—in a single book, which will be launched this Saturday, January 21 at the DHVSU Auditorium. The biography of its author, Padre Anselmo Jorge Fajardo, written by the eminent historian Dr. Luciano PR. Santiago, will also be launched on the same day.
January 18, 2023
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