Saturday, March 30, 2013

When, and from where, did the carabao 'Sweet Elena' mango come to Zambales?

If there's anything that distracts pilgrims and vacationers in Zambales during the Holy Week, it's the sight of golden mangoes in stalls along the provincial highway and in the public markets. Zambales mango (Mangifera indica)!

For sure, visitors will be loading their vehicles with a kaing (large bamboo woven basket) or two of the carabao 'Sweet Elena' mango variety unless all the green and ripe harvests were sold out during the 13th Zambales Mango Festival just before the Holy Week.  

The Sweet Elena is considered the best variety in the country today, reason why vendors declare fruits they sell as coming from Zambales.  The Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) had found it to be be 'superior in terms of weight, sweetness, soluble solids, edibility of flesh, and physical appearance' against other leading varieties.  The World Book of Guinness listed Zambales as the producer of the sweetest mango in the world in 1995.

The Sweet Elena was discovered in the mango orchard of Mrs Penida Moselina Malabed in Sabang, Sta. Cruz, Zambales.  In 2004 it was reported that it descended from a more than a century old mother tree; thus, we reckon the sweet variety to have come to Zambales in the late 1840s.

Arboreal report of Bani, Zambales in 1802:  coconut, mango, jackfruit, betel palm and orange trees.  [Source: Leg. 100, No. 115. Ereccion de Pueblos, Zambales (1757-1824).  National Archives of the Philippines.]

Historical documents show that in 1799-1803, there were no mangoes in Zambales towns except in Bolinao and Bani, which were part of the province until the Americans decided to cede them and all other towns north of Sta. Cruz to Pangasinan in the early 1900s.

In 1802, the interim Corregidor of the province required the gobernadorcillos to submit a report on the trees (arboles) that abound in their localities. The Alcalde Mayor also submitted to the superior civil government a report on fruit-bearing trees in 1803.

We can see in the reports that only coconuts (cocos) and cacao were the dominant fruit producers, probably in the context of demand for household consumption at that time, from the north (Bolinao) to the south (Subic) ends of the province. It even looks like Zambales was a coconut country.

Pepper (pimienta) and betel palm (bonga) were reported by gobernadorcillos of towns where these could be found.  

Aside from mango, jackfruit (nanca/lanca) and citrus trees (cajel and limon) were cited in the Bani and Bolinao reports.

Did the ancestors of Sweet Elena migrated then from Bolinao and Bani?  She's still of Zambal roots  because they were not Pangasinense originally. Could the southward migration then be probably during the first half of the 1800s?


Espino, Ramon Ma.. (2004, Aug 29).  Sweet Elena listed among world’s sweetest mangoes.  The Philippine Star Online at

Cruz, Rita T de la.  (2004 Feb).  Sweet Elena is identified as best mango variety. BAR [Bureau of Agricultural Researh] Chronicle. Retrieved from

Legajo 100, No. 115. Ereccion de Pueblos, Zambales (1757-1824).  National Archives of the Philippines.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

In the old days: no permits, no Holy Week processions in Manila!

Holy Week procession in Intramuros in the early 1900s.  (Photo Source: SouthEast Asian Images and Texts of the University of  Wisconsin Digital Collections at

It's Holy Week, and in most towns in Luzon, antique and newly commissioned images depicting Christ during his passion, death and resurrection are mounted on beautiful pasos or carrozas for the Holy Wednesday [Maundy Thursday in our childhood memories] and Good Friday processions.  Other major characters in the passion story also have their own decorated floats: the San Pedro at the head of the procession and the sorrowful Santa Maria at the end following the focal Christ Nazareno image of Wednesday and the Santo Entierro of Viernes Santo, among others.

In some places, the first procession comes on Viernes de Dolores (Friday of Sorrows), the last Friday of Lent, and that's before Palm Sunday, even if Vatican II has moved this feast day to September 15.  The focus is on Santa Maria's seven sorrows.  In Pakil, Laguna, the turumba is the highlight of the Dolores rites of seven Fridays spread out between this Viernes and September, and this has become a tourist attraction.

When we were young, there used to be a procession on Holy Monday, which our elders called Stacion General. That's now history.

Processions have become customary not only during the Holy Week but also during the feast days of patron saints in Philippine villages, towns and citiesOwners or caretakers of religious images take it a dutiful obligation to bring them out for the annual public veneration, sometimes frenzied, of the faithful.  Some processions have unique features that they have become tourist delights

But there was a time during the late Spanish regime up to the early American period that no processions could be held in the suburbs of the walled city of Manila unless the parish priests secure a licensia (authorization) from the Archbishop.   

When Fr Bernardino Nozaleda, OP, was Archbishop, he issued the 'no permit, no procession' circular on 24 March 1893.  Henceforth, permits had to be requested for any procession to be held in the parishes including the Flores de Mayo.  The permit would contain a reminder of the three conditions in the circular:  first, that the procession should not last two and a half hours [it must be back in church within that span of time];  second, that the priest does not allow attendance in ridiculous masquerades [comparsas ridiculas]; and third, that every image must be accompanied by a number of light providers [alumbrantes].

We're quite perplexed with comparsas ridiculas, which reminds us of grotesque costumes in the theatre. It could have been referring to costumed presentations during festival days.  The only theatrical event during the Holy Week was/is the senakulo, but this one could not have been ridicula because it is a dramatic rendition of the passion of Christ.

We saw copy of permits issued to the parishes of the arrabales [suburbs] of the walled city among the Decretos of Archbishops Nozaleda and Jeremias Harty for the period 1893-1905.  From these we got to know when these suburbs held their Holy Week processions:
  • Binondo. Viernes de Dolores, Holy Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday (Domingo de Pascua de Resurreccion).
  • Hermita [Ermita].  Palm Sunday, Holy Monday and Good Friday. 
  • Sampaloc.  Holy Wednesday, and Good Friday afternoon for the Santo Entierro. 
  • Quiapo.  Holy Monday, Maundy Thursday and Easter Sunday 
  • Sta Cruz.  Holy Wednesday and Good Friday for the Santo Entierro
  • San Fernando de Dilao.  Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
  • Tondo. Holy Tuesday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday 
  • Malate.  Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday
  • Cainta.  Good Friday.
  • San Miguel.  Good Friday.
  • Santa Ana.  Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
Religious practices have indeed changed because of liturgical reformsThese days, one expects at least one procession during the Holy Week: the grandest one of the Santo Entierro in most towns on Good Friday

The Pieta of the San Agustin Church, Intramuros mounted on a gilded paso. Photo2013 by the author.

  • Book 1.B.6. Folder 4. Decretos (Nozaleda, Libro de Gobierno Ecclesiastico). 1893-1895.  Archdiocesan Archives (Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila).
  • Book 1.B.6. Folder 5. Decretos (Libro de Gobierno Ecclesiastico)1902.-1905.  Archdiocesan Archives (Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila).

Monday, March 25, 2013

How Zambales towns celebrated Pope Pius VIII's election in 1829 a year later

The solemn drama and pageantry at the Vatican City came to a jubilant culmination on St. Joseph’s feast day with the installation of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church.  All the events that led to this celebration were brought to all corners of the world, Catholic and non-, through the digital eyes and ears of instant media on real time. 

Sound and image bytes from live media coverage brought the electoral process in the Sistine Chapel to public viewing globally.  Catholics were somehow participating in the making of their church history as they held prayer vigils for the election of the 266th Supreme Pontiff from among the 115 multi-racial cardinals gathered under the canopy of Michaelangelo paintings of the Sistine Chapel; waited in front of their television screens for the white smoke, the clangour of the St. Peter’s Basilica bells, the Habeamus Papam announcement, and the appearance of the Pope-elect at the balcony.   In synch, the faithful worldwide cheered with those gathered at the Square when Pope Francis, first Jesuit and first non-European head of the church, emerged for his greetings, message and prayer for the city and the world, urbi et orbi.

This real time jubilation was impossible before telegraphy and the Morse Code.  Submarine communication cables linked America and Europe for the first time in 1867.  That same year, the Spanish authorities laid down the telegraph lines in the country.  However, the submarine cables to Hongkong, our link to the outside world, were completed only in 1880. 

There were no direct news feed from the Vatican during all those years that the Philippines was a Spanish colony.  In the ecclesiastical timeline, those were under the papacy of Pius IV to Leo XIII, the 225th and 256th pope, respectively.  News came stamped with the royal seal from Madrid to the Governor Superior or Capitan-General, who was also Vice-Patron of the country when it came to church matters.  Whether these seeped down to the faithful in the towns depended on him, the Archbishop, the Corregidor or  Alcalde Mayor (provincial governor) and the parish priests.   The Filipinos then had only the Doctrina Christiana, the Scriptures in the words of the priests and customary religious rituals to moor their Christian faith.   Their church was the visible priest and religious structures and the audible bells signifying births, weddings, deaths and divine rites of Sundays and other days of obligation.   They could have known of an archbishop above their cura parocco; but the deaths and succession of popes could have been odd intrusions into their comfortable understanding of church affairs.

Strangely, there was a late celebration of the installation of Cardinal Francesco Xaverio Castiglione as Pius VIII, the 253rd in the papacy, on 31 March 1829, upon the death of his predecessor Leo XII in February. 

It was already history when the royal order of King Ferdinand VII dated 16 May 1829 reached the Capitan-General in Manila either by the end of that year or in early January 1830.  The Archbishopric of Manila, the See of the dioceses of Cebu, Nueva Caceres (Naga) and Nueva Segovia (Vigan), was vacant ever since Hilarion Diez, OSA, died on 07 May 1829, and a cabildo or cathedral chapter was in charge of ecclesiastical matters. 

The king called for the exaltation of the new pope.  Capitan-General Mariano Ricafort issued a superior decree to the local governments on 18 January 1830 echoing the royal instructions, and asking for the submission of compliance reports from the gobernadorcillos.  

We saw the compliance reports from several towns of Zambales at the National Archives. We suppose that similar documents might have been submitted from other provinces esp. those under the archdiocese of Manila.  

The gobernadorcillos* first cited in their ‘certified and true testimony’ the regulatory bases of their reports: the royal order from Madrid and the superior decree from Manila, copy of the latter coming into their hands from the Corregidor on 17 February, stemming from the ‘pontification of Cardinal Castiglione who chose the name Pius VIII’, which they disseminated to their people through the usual bandillo or town crier for three days in the last week of that month.

The report of Don Nicolas Sison, gobernadorcillo of Masinloc.
Finally, from the short compliance reports, we gather that all the streets and windows of houses in the towns of Cabangan, Masinloc, Sta. Cruz, Subic and Uguit (now Castillejos) were illuminated for three consecutive nights, from the first to the third day of March. On the last day, the solemn Te Deum was sung in the church with the principalia and the common people in attendance.   In the capital town of Iba, the Corregidor attended the church service together with his minor officials of justice.  In Uguit, being a visita of Subic, there was no priest to say the mass; hence, the people prayed the rosary.

One line said that they have stopped mourning, which could have meant for Leo XII.    The lights and the Te Deum were for Pius VIII, but his was a short reign; he died at the end of the year on 31 December 1830. 

We have not seen any documented jubilation event afterwards.  If ever the Filipino catholic was ordered to celebrate the installation of Pope Gregory XVI on 06 February 1831, that could not have happened until late in the year or in early 1832.

It would be very interesting to see how the Filipino catholics got their news of a papal election when this was first carried by submarine cables and then the radio waves.


*  Gobernadorcillos in 1830:
  1. Sta. Cruz:  Don Juan de San Antonio
  2. Masinloc:  Don Nicolas Sison
  3. Palauig:  Don Andres de San Juan
  4. Iba:  Don Vicente Fernandez
  5. Botolan:  Don Domingo Felix
  6. Cabangan:  Don Miguel Sto. Tomas
  7. Uguit:  Don Theodorico Perez
  8. Subic:  Don Clemente Mendigoren


Ereccion de Pueblos, Zambales (1826-1862).  National Archives of the Philippines. 

Domingo Ramos (Palm Sunday) of old

Blessing of the ramos [palaspas, Tag.] at the St. Michael the Archangel Church in Fort Bonifacio, 24 March 2013.

It's a good thing something distracted me from going to the Sta. Cruz church in Manila for the afternoon Domingo Ramos mass yesterday.  It rained so hard in the afternoon that some places in the metropolitan area were 'treated' to the usual flashfloods.

We were in our sister's place in the AFP housing village and the St. Michael the Archangel church was just a short walk away.  As expected the street leading to the church was lined up with vendors of palaspas (artfully crafted young coconut leaves) to be blessed by the priest, brought home and hang by doorways to ward off evil, according to folklore.  In San Antonio, Zambales, people don't use these artistic coconut leaves but instead bring a branch (ramo, Sp.) of the Zycas zambalensis, an endangered specie, to the Palm Sunday service.

The vendors were telling me that they came down from Laguna as early as Friday with hauls of coconut leaves, and camped on streets around the church where they fashioned the artistic ramos.  After the early evening mass, they were lamenting they still had plenty to sell, adding that there were really not as many churchgoers as in previous years.

We remember that in our childhood in San Narciso, Zambales where there are many who carry the family name Ramos (it came all the way from Paoay, Ilocos Norte in 1837 and was not replaced by an F surname from the Narciso Claveria catalog in1850), young girls including our five sisters had major roles in Aglipayan church activities during the Holy Week.

Their first appearance was on Domingo Ramos.  Both the Roman Catholics and the Aglipayans built several small house-like bamboo structures walled and roofed with white curtains or bedsheets called kubo-kubo where the little girls dressed in white with cardboard angel wings were posted as if they were looking out from a window.  When the priest (representing Jesus Christ) paused in front of a kubo-kubo, they strewed flower petals to the beat of their song in Latin, 'Hosanna Filio David,' that they had rehearsed with the cantoras for several weeks.

Their rites of girlhood in white dress and angel wings continued through the processions of Holy Thursday and Good Friday and culminated during the early dawn sabet (Iloc.; salubong, Tag.) rites of Easter Sunday.  Here they sang the story of the resurrection in Ilocano, being joyful only at the Nagungaren (He has risen!) Alleluia chorus, as they watched a suspended a large flower open its petals in which one of them, previously chosen because of better singing projection, was hidden and now brought down to lift the black veil of the sorrowful Virgin Mary when the Risen Christ was brought before her.

The kubo-kubo ritual of Domingo Ramos in our town has become part of history. This year, the Aglipayans have adopted the new form, which the Roman Catholics have been using for a long time: the palaspas rites in the church yard before the priest leads the congregation to the church for the holy mass.  For almost two decades now, the Catholics too have an image of Christ riding a donkey in the procession to the church.

Artistic ramos is something we share with the Mexicans who also use coconut fronds as shown by the lower photo from the latest issue of Atencion San Miguel, a bilingual publication of the library of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.  (Source: