Seemingly insufficient attention is given to the rising prices of essential items for the poor. The rich are least affected. Just last week price of tomatoes surged again. Seemingly also the Department of Trade can only suggest on pricing which is inconclusive. Kaya naman kapag bibili ka sa palengke at tumawad, 'tatarayan ka ng tindera at sasabihin kay Bongbong ka bumili'. One of the important items not only for households but for industries as well is sugar. The pricey item has its own controversy. Aside from rice, it is one favorite item of smugglers in our country. (Aren't you surprised why they raid warehouses of smuggled rice and other items but there are no names identified who they are? Baka naman the same politicians who accompany raiding teams are the same people extending protection).
When I was growing up in Porac large areas was planted to sugar cane. The milling season in Pampanga Sugar Mill (PASUMIL) in Florida Blanca town mostly started in early October. We young kids looking towards the direction of the mill will exclaim: 'Bubusok ne ing central' as billows of white clouds of smoke will fill the sky in the area'. In my youth in Porac, I recall there were times when my mom will send me to Apung Pepang whose store was a stone throw away from our house and I can ask for a free cup of sugar. One ganta of brown sugar then was ten centavos. There were some kins like Marciano Dizon aka Tatang Ciano a sugar planter who gifted our family one sack of brown sugar each year. During President Diosdado Macapagal’s administration Dizon became Philsugin chairman, the forerunner of Sugar Regulatory Board.
The town‘s farmland then was mostly cane fields and the prominent sugar planters were Apung Bentong de Mesa, a cousin of my father and Primo David ,husband of Servillana Lumanlan,a niece of my mom. Pampanga Sugar Mill (PASUMIL) was located in Del Carmen, Florida Blanca and was milling the harvested canes. The early plantadores were the Guanzons, Dimsons, Guecos, Vitugs and many others. The mill saw its birth in 1917 and financed by American investors. During milling season hundreds of cargo trucks made a long queue waiting for their turn to be weighed. It was also the main export crop and mostly shipped to the United States because of the quota allocation.
The Pampanga Sugar Development Company ( PASUDECO) came a year after PASUMIL. It was purely Filipino capital and was incorporated in 1918. It started processing in 1921. The seniors among us will remember those two iconic chimneys. If smoke was coming out of those chimneys, it would mean the milling season and plantadores were happy. They occupied the front seat in the cockpit and the two or three front rows in churches were reserved for their families. They were the yesterday’s tycoons. The Chinese taipans now came later and edged the plantadores. The taipans like Lucio Co of Puregold, Lucio Tan of LT Companies, the late John Gokongwei, the late Henry Sy of SM and Andrew Tan of Megaworld Corporation started as small merchants before they landed in the Forbes Magazine in the first 500 richest. (PASUDECO) was sold to Andrew Tan and currently is being developed as a mixed-use estate. Many sugar planters sold their farmlands and became housing subdivisions. Others diverted into other business enterprises but weren’t successful as the Chinese. It is a sweet and sour history of sugar.