Sangil: Somewhere in Central Luzon

SINCE Angeles achieved its cityhood status in January 1964, the town known as Kuliat (a former barangay of San Fernando, the capital town) has never been the same. The decade beginning 1962-1972 remains a memorable epoch in local history which can be described by one word. Syncopated.

It is an unprecedented era when Angelenos made their first tangible millions as a boom town hosting American military personnel at the height of the war in Vietnam, and its colorful transition from a boom boom town to a bang bang city with the entry of and by rule of the author’s favorite characters and their collaborators.

Syncopated is the term which, in music, denotes a measure into which a new accent or rhythm is introduced over the regular accent. Angeles is the country’s big town and its charm may be best described in terms of a shopping center that offers something for everyone and everything for someone. It’s the American concept of a big town, rich both in history and promise of the future (excerpts from the introduction of Ram Mercado).

'Somewhere in Central Luzon'

The insurgency movement in Central Luzon, like any conflict arising from the human condition, cannot be traced to any single factor or specific point in time. Historically, the numerical superiority of ethnolinguistic group known as Pampangans was evident in the central plains stretching north to Lingayen Gulf, west to the Zambales mountain ranges, south to Manila Bay and east to the Sierra Madre.

Following the defeat of Pampanga chieftain Raja Soliman in Tondo in 1571, Spanish conquistadores easily invaded the Kapampangan region. The Spanish period saw the foundation of settlements mostly located in coastal and river routes. The oldest towns are those along the southern portion along the Rio Grande or Pampanga river, or adjacent its tributaries farther north.

Already invested with a rich socio-economic culture before their conquest, Pampangans resisted new and foreign influence, except in the faith which converted the natives by the hundreds. In succeeding decades fratricidal rivalry between Mexican and Spanish friars blew up the problems of maladministration and corruption among the clergy which had a direct hand in running the affairs of local government.

The Pampangans started to witness the invaders’ exploitation of the natives, their resources, and even their original culture. The highly productive agricultural land of the Pampangans and the region’s accessibility to Manila increased Pampanga’s importance and strategic value to the Spanish settlements in Manila.

Corrupt practices of Spanish officials, cruel exactions led to a series of rebellion by Pampangans and attempts to invade Manila. For many decades, acts of oppression and tyranny nurtured the seed of insurgency among the natives which, when watered and exacerbated by the conspiracy of the social and political elites of Pampanga, spread underground roots for generations to come.

A revolt of the masses was the revolution of 1896. It was the fruit of illustrado reform movement and Bonifacio’s armed struggle. It was a failure in many aspects. Filipino upper class leaders filled up the vacuum left by by the Spanish rulers and their minions. The Americans abetted, though softened somewhat, the existing exploitation. (Next: The appearance of peasant and labor leaders in 1929)
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