Spanish Relation with the Kapampangan
Language and Culture

by Alejandro S. Camiling, CPA with Teresita Z. Camiling, BSE, MA

About fifty years after the arrival and death of Ferdinand Magellan in the Philippines, the Spanish conquistadores heard of the Kapampangan progressive civilization when their conquest of the Maynilad (Manila) and Tondo kingdoms was practically accomplished. These Spaniards in their search for food, spices and other forms of wealth, came upon the Kapampangan  people with a rich culture, traditions, arts and an alphabet of their own. The Kapampangans were described then to be the most warlike and prominent ethnic group in the Philippines. To defend themselves from Spanish invasion and from other invaders, Kapampangans fortified the mouths of the rivers leading to their territories. Their arsenal included bows and arrows, spears, swords, shields and cannons made by local blacksmiths such as the famous Pande Pira and his sons of Apalit. Their land and body of waters were then the most productive in the Philippine archipelago. Because of what they were, Kapampangans were treated differently from the rest of the Philippine people. Kapampangans, particularly the principalia, were accorded with privileges and some sort of exemptions from taxation. 

 Hispanization of the Kapampangan region had its historic commencement on December 11, 1571 when it was founded as a province  in the same year the City of Manila was established by  Spanish Governor  Miguel Lopez de Legaspi as the seat of national government. Private ownership of land was initiated and tributes to the King of Spain had been imposed on the natives whom the Spaniards called indios.   

 La Pampanga’s land area at some time during the 16th century was about 3,528 square miles (9,032 square kilometers) based on  28 leagues (84 miles or 134.4 kilometers) in length and 14 leagues (42 miles or 67.2 kilometers)  in width.. Almost all of the land area of the current Central Luzon Region was then the Kapampangan region.


The abundance of food derived from the Kapampangan region's fertile land and rivers influenced to a great extent the culinary art of the Kapampangan people. Their impeccable taste of good food made them well known throughout the nation and the "whole wide world", especially during the last decade of the 19th century and in the early years of the 20th century when high government and military leaders as well as European and Asian royalty were frequent guests of Kapampangan well-to-do families like the Arnedo, Cruz, Escaler, Espiritu and Gonzalez families of Apalit. Their list of notable guests at their dinner tables and ballrooms in their palatial homes included Duke Alexis Alexandrovich of Russia, Prince Norodom I of Cambodia, Dr. Jose Rizal, General Arthur MacArthur, Governor-General William Howard Taft, Governor General Leonard Wood, General Douglas MacArthur, Philippine Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon, etc.

Other wealthy Kapampangan families who were known for their hospitality and the excellent food they served to their guests were the Henson, Nepomuceno, Pamintuan, and Tayag families of Angeles; the Alejandrino, Guarin, Roxas and Soriano families of Arayat; the de Jesus, de Leon, David, Galura, Gutierrez, Joven, Liongson, Malig, Mangio, Miranda, Rodriguez, Ventura and Yabut clans of Bacolor; the Blanco, Bonifacio, Bustus, Enriquez, Fajardo, Flores, Lagman, Manansala, Pacia, Yabut and Yumang families of Macabebe and Masantol; the Lagman, Lopez, Macapinlac, Mercado, Naguit and Pingul families of Minalin; the Hizon, Lazatin and Panlilio families of Mexico and the Abad Santos, Baluyut, Cuyugan, David, Dayrit, Dizon, Galang, Hilario, Ocampo,  Santos-Cuyugan  and Singian clans of  San Fernando.

Even the delegates to the Malolos Constitutional Convention which elected General Emilio Aguinaldo as president of the first Philippine Republic enjoyed and praised Kapampangan cuisine although the main menu during the dinner/inaugural ball prepared by Don Emilio Gonzalez and his kitchen entourage was French.  Contemporary  Kapampangan chefs and restaurateurs like Claude Tayag of Angeles City and Gene R. Gonzalez of Apalit are known for the food they prepare which is greatly influenced by Spanish cuisine. The latter is the author of "Cocina Sulipena" - Culinary Gems from Pampanga. This book includes recipes of  Aroz Caldo Azafranado (Chicken and Rice Gruel with Saffron), Relleno de Pescado (Stuffed Bass)' Pescado al Graten (Fish Gratin in Tomato and Olive Oil), Pescado en Venagueta (Fish in Vinaigrette), Chuletas de Dalag (Native Fish Fillet), Pescado en Salsa Verde (Fish in Green Sauce), Relleno de Pato (Stuffed Duck), Pato al Caparas (Duck with Capers), Lengua Legislativa (Braised Tongue Congressional Style), Lengua con Cetas (Tongue with Mushrooms),  Pastel de Pichones con Champinones (Pigeon Pie with Mushrooms), Caldereta de Cabrito (Goat Meat Stew), Adobado (Hunter's Stew), etc.


Religion is one of the most visible influence of Spain in Pampanga and the Philippines in general, that is why the Philippne Republic is the only Christian country in the Orient today.


Prior to the arrival of the Spanish colonizers, the Kapampangan people had the barangay system of government in which each barangay composed of 30 to 100 families was governed by a datu or rajah with the assistance of a council of elders. Barangay laws were enacted and enforced  by the leaders. When the Spaniards came, they modified the system of government by creating barrios, towns and provinces. A barrio was  headed by a cabeza de barangay (tiniente del barrio) while a town was administered by a capitan del pueblo and a provincial chief was called governadorcillo.  


Together with their rich culture and excellent traditions, the early settlers in Pampanga perpetuated their unique language now called either as Pampangan or Kapampangan or Pampango. This language is one of the Austronesian languages and according to the Dictionary of Languages by Andrew Dalby, as of 1998, there are 1,850,000 Kapampangan speakers. Kapampangan was once written in a native script, a descendant of the Brahmi script of India. This remained in use until the late 19th century when the Spanish era was about to end. However, printing in Kapampangan – in Latin script – commenced as early as the year 1618. Spelling was at first close to that of Spanish.   A  new orthography, similar to Tagalog orthography was introduced in 1965.  Many old and traditional writers and poets in Kapampangan have switched since then to this new adopted orthography.                         

Pampanga was a focal point of interest for politicians, businessmen and the landed society during the Spanish times. As such, the province was placed at the forefront of the “Hispanization” of the Philippines. Unlike colonies of Spain in the Americas such as Argentina, Brazil, Columbia, Peru and Mexico, to name a few, which were directly "Hispanized",  meaning Spaniards from Spain migrated in great numbers to these colonies and dominated their adopted countries that is why today majority of the people of these countries are Spanish-speaking people while in the Philippines, only Spanish soldiers and members of the clergy were the migrants and some of them returned to their homeland after completing their primary obligations to the Royal Crown and to their religious orders. The distance of the Philippines from Spain and its weather discouraged Spanish families in making big Spanish settlements in the Philippines. As a result, today, the Filipino people still speak their native tongues.       

Despite of the above, the Kapampangan people in general, were greatly influenced by the language of Spain. Many Spanish words such as the following found their way into the list of spoken and written words of many Kapampangans in their day to day living.

Click here for More Spanish/Kapampangan Words
Spanish/Kapampangan     -     English

A, a (a) - the first letter of the Spanish alphabet

abanico - fan
abogacia - law, the legal profession
abogado - lawyer, attorney
abono - fertilizer, manure
abrazo - embrace, hug
Abril - April
abuso - abuse, imposition
acacia - locust tree
academia - academy
accion - action
aceite - olive oil
acetona - acetone
acordeon - accordion
actividad - activity
activista - activity 
activo - active
adelantado - advanced, precocious
adios - good bye
adjetivo - adjective 
administracion - administration
administrador - administrator
adobe - adobe
adorable - adorable
adoracion - adoration
adorador - worshipper
afeccion - affection
agencia - agency
agente - agent
alambre - wire
album - album
alcalde - mayor, justice of the peace
alcancia - child's bank
alcohol - alcohol
aldaba - cross-bar, door knocker
alergia - allergy 
alianza - alliance
almirez - brass mortar 
almorranas - hemorrhoids
altar - altar
alza - rise
amazona - amazon
ambos - both together
ambulancia - ambulance
amenidad - amenity 
amiba - amoeba
amigo - friend 
amo - boss 
amor - love
anatomia - anatomy
anastesia - anesthesia
andas - portable platform used in processions
angel - angel
angulo - angle 
animal - animal
animo - mind, spirit, courage, energy
anis - anise
aniversario - anniversary
anomalia - anomaly
antena - antenna
antibiotico - antibiotic
anticipo - advance payment, down payment
antiguo - old, ancient, antique
anuncio - announcement, advertisement
aparador - showcase 
aparato - apparatus
apellido - surname, last name 
apendicitis - appendicitis
apostol - apostle
apoyo - support, prop, patronage
apretado - risky, urgent
apurado - hurried, rushed
archivo - archives, file 
arco - arch 
aristocracia - aristocracy
aristocrata - aristocrat
arma - arm, weapon
armada - fleet, armada, navy
armado - armed
aroma - aroma , fragrance
arpa - harp
arras - earnest money, pledge, dowry
arreglo - settlement, compromise
arresto - arrest
articulo - article, item
artificial - artificial
artilleria - artillery
artista - artist
artritis - arthritis 
arzobispo - archbishop
asado - roasted
asfalto - asphalt
asiatico - Asiatic, Asian 
asociacion - association
aspirina - aspirin
astrologia - astrology
atomico - atomic
atencion - attention 
atras - back, behind
atrasado - late, in arrears, backward, slow
atraso - tardiness, delay, backwardness
Agosto - August
aumento - increase, promotion
autentico - authentic
auto - auto 
autopsia - autopsy
autoridad - authority
avenida - avenue 
averia - damage, defect
averno - hell
aviso - warning
ayuda - valet 
ayudante - adjutant
azalea - azalea
azogue - mercury
azotea - flat roof
azucar - sugar
azucena - white lily
azul - blue

B, b (be) - The second letter of the Spanish alphabet

bacteria - bacteria
bagaje - baggage
bagazo - bagasse
bala - bullet
balance - equilibrium, oscillation 
balanza - scale
balcon - balcony 
balde - bucket, pail 
baldosa - pavement, tile flooring
balota - ballot
balsa - raft, barge
balsamo - balsam, balm
banal - banal, trivial
banco - bench
banda - band
bandeja - tray
bandera - banner, flag, standard
bandido - bandit, outlaw
banjo - banjo
bano - bathroom
banquero - card dealer, banker 
banquete - banquet 
banera - bathtub
baraja - pack of cards
barandilla - railing
barata - barter
baratillo - bargain sale
barbaro - barbarous, savage
barberia - barber shop
barco - boat
barnis - varnish
barranca - ravine, gorge
barrena - drill, borer
barrera - barrier, barricade, fence
barrio - district, suburb
base - basis
basilica - basilica
bastante - sufficient, enough
bastardo - bastard
basura - trash
basurero - garbage collector
bata - robe, housecoat
batallon - battalion
bateria - battery
batuta - baton
baul - trunk
bautista - baptizer
bayoneta - bayoney
bazar - bazaar
benefactor - benefactor
beneficio - benefit
bicicleta - bicycle
bigote - mustache
bisagra - hinge
blanco - white, blank
blusa - blouse
bobo - foolish, silly
bocina - horn, trumpet
boda - wedding, nuptials
bohemio - bohemian
bola - ball
bolero - liar, deceitful
bolsa - pouch
bomba - bomb, pump
bombero - fireman
bonanza - bonanza, fair weather
bonete - bonnet, cap
borrador - rough draft, sketch
bote - jar
botella - bottle
botica - drugstore
brazo - arm
brigada - brigade
brillante - brilliant, diamond