History of PASUDECO Compound (Campamento)
In the late second decade of the 20th century, when several hectares of farmland were being developed in the two barrios of Santo Niño and San Juan of the Municipality San Fernando, Pampanga in order to build a modern sugar central and a new residential community, no one probably thought that someday a natural calamity would occur and bury the area under heavy volcanic ashes and destroy most of what would be built over the years such as concrete roads, railroads, buildings for administrative offices, warehouses, laboratories, recreational facilities and housing for the families of permanent regular employees of the sugar central. Today the site is like a forest deserted by human beings and inhabited by wild animals, birds, snakes and insects. No one seem to care to at least trim the cogon grass and shrubs growing in the area and make use of the fertile land. It is interesting to note though that many people say that it was a miracle that a religious landmark, the Shrine of the Virgin Mary (Grotto) in the north side of the Campamento Park survived the tremendous amount of water, volcanic ashes and “lahar” that flooded then most of the towns of Pampanga including the PASUDECO Compound. To some the Grotto serves as a Chapel of Silence for meditation, devotion to the Virgin Mary and praying to the Supreme Being for his bountiful blessings.
The Sugar Central and the Employees’ Residential Compound
When the world market for sugar expanded and the sugar industry became very profitable in the second decade of the 20th century, Kapampangan sugar planters and farmers had the incentive to increase the land acreage for sugar cane. The Province of Pampanga did not have then a modern sugar central and most of the sugar cane crop was sent to a sugar central in Calamba, Laguna for milling. The planters realized that their cost of sugar production had increased so much due to the increase in transporting the sugar cane from the farms to the mills. In 1917, American investors put up the necessary capital to start the construction of a new sugar central in Del Carmen, Floridablanca, Pampanga. It was named as Pampanga Sugar Mills (PASUMIL) and incorporated in 1919. An American named R. Renton Hind was the first general manager. Among the PASUMIL sugar planters were Spanish landowners who settled in Pampanga such as Roberto Toledo, the Reinares and Arrastia families and Benigno Toda. The Kapampangan affluent sugar barons were Martin Gonzales, Don Mariano Santos, the Guanzons, the Manalansans, the Barins, the Dimsons and the Vitugs.
An American capitalist and sugar planter named William Fassoth Sr. from Maui, Hawaii who arrived in the Philippines on August 21, 1913 with American investors in the sugar industry settled in Lubao, Pampanga and leased four hundred fifty seven (457) hectares of agricultural land from the Dinalupihan Estate owned by the Catholic Church and an additional one hundred (100) hectares of land from private individuals which he planted with sugar cane for milling at PASUMIL. He married in 1915 the former Catalina Dimacali of barrio Santo Tomas in Lubao, Pampanga and set up also a rice mill in his wife’s hometown. Mr. Fassoth was later joined by his brother Martin Fassoth from Hawaii who helped in the management of their expanding agricultural farms. It was William Fassoth Sr. and his family who established the Fassoth Camp in the foothills of the mountains of Bataan and Zambales where many American and Filipino soldiers evading capture from the Japanese soldiers after the Fall of Bataan during World War II were given shelter, food and medical care. William Fassoth Sr., an unheralded hero and remarkable man was later imprisoned at the Japanese Garrison in Nueva Ecija. His wife, Catalina and her two sons, William Jr. and Vernon Fassoth continued helping American and Filipino soldiers hiding from the Japanese Imperial Army. The liberation of the prisoners confined at the Nueva Ecija Japanese Prison-Camp was featured in the Hollywood movie, “The Great Raid” starring American actor, James Franco and Filipino actor, Cesar Montano.
Not to be outdone, other wealthy and landed Kapampangan sugar planters such as Francisco Liongson, Jose de Leon, Jose P. Henson, Augusto Gonzalez, Manuel Urquico, Tomas Lazatin, Tomas Consunji and Francisco Hizon from the towns of Bacolor, Angeles, Apalit, Mexico and San Fernando met at the residence of Governor Honorio Ventura in the provincial capital town in 1918 and formed the Pampanga Sugar Development Company (PASUDECO).
Atty. Jose Escaler, the founding president of PASUDECO.
A former Undersecretary of Justice and a member of the Board of Regents of the University of the Philippines, Atty. Jose Escaler of Apalit was designated as the first president of the new corporation. The majority stockholders pledged their land ownership titles and borrowed the needed capital from the Philippine National Bank to build the sugar factory in the barrio of Santo Nino in the city of San Fernando of the Province of Pampanga.
As the construction of the sugar central was in progress, a sprawling company compound in Santo Nino was also developed where company houses and apartment buildings, administrative offices, laboratories and recreational facilities such as bowling alleys, tennis and basketball courts and a baseball playing field were built. This company compound which was designed similar to company towns in the USA was named later as Campamento.
Skilled personnel, technicians and experienced engineers in sugar central operation were recruited from other sugar factories in other provinces such as Negros Oriental, Negros Occidental, Iloilo and Laguna. Many Kapampangans were also hired and trained in the operation of the new sugar central. PASUDECO had its first full milling season in 1922.
Construction of a public school building where children of employees attended primary and elementary school in an adjacent barrio (San Juan) was financed by the company and a Roman Catholic Chapel including its site in barrio Santo Nino was donated by the majority stockholder, Don Jose (Pepito) de Leon. Maintenance of the chapel and stipends of the priests celebrating masses every Sunday and holidays were also paid by PASUDECO. In 1968, the Santo Nino Catholic Chapel became the parish church of the newly created Parish of Santo Nino for the Roman Catholic population of the barrios of Santo Nino, San Juan and Magliman. The first parish priest was Fr. Alfredo Lorenzo who initially coordinated the expansion and renovation of the church building. The groundbreaking ceremony of a new Parish Hall was held in March 2011. The current parish priest is Fr. Arnie Serrano who is also revered and loved by his parishioners.
Captain Olivas of the Philippine Constabulary who was trying to mediate between the two parties was also shot to death. The entire nation was shocked and mourned the death of the company’s two executives and the Philippine Constabulary officer. After a long trial, the Timbol brothers were convicted for the crime they committed.
When World War II broke out in December 1941, PASUDECO ceased its sugar manufacturing operation. Fearing the cruelty of the Japanese soldiers, PASUDECO employees and their families left their company homes and evacuated to outlying areas in other towns. The Japanese Imperial Army looted and occupied several company houses and took control of the sugar factory. When the infamous Bataan Death March of thousands of American and Filipino soldiers under the command of General Wainright passed through the premises of PASUDECO, some captured American and Filipino soldiers were able to escape from their captors with the aid of PASUDECO employees. The Japanese occupying forces converted the sugar central into a textile factory. The Japanese military officers initiated the planting of cotton instead of sugar cane in order to have raw materials for the cotton factory. Some of the PASUDECO employees who returned to their company houses were forced to work in the cotton fields and cotton factory. Many employees and their grown up sons secretly joined the guerrilla movement against the Japanese occupying forces while waiting for the return of General Douglas MacArthur and the American Liberation Forces. To supplement their meager income from the cotton fields and textile factory, the employees and their families raised chickens and hogs in their backyards. They were also given garden plots for vegetables and fruit trees. The residents of Campamento had a hard time while World War II was raging on. Young children were enrolled in schools to learn the Japanese language and culture in coordination with the Japanese puppet government under the presidency of Jose Laurel. Men and women were always careful of what they said because spies for the Japanese soldiers were always on the lookout for supporters of the guerrilla movement against the Japanese Imperial Army. Freedom and human rights were taken away from the Filipinos by the invading Japanese soldiers.
When the American Liberation Forces who landed in the shores of Pangasinan advanced to southern and western Luzon, their air support bombed Japanese military camps including a few company houses in Campamento while the Filipino Guerrillas helped cleared the way and fought the Japanese soldiers who retreated to Northern Luzon. PASUDECO employees and their families who previously returned to their company houses left their homes again and hid in the countryside while waiting for the eventual surrender of Japan.
Some of the American soldiers who liberated Central Luzon in 1945 were based in the PASUDECO Compound. The military officers occupied some of the company houses and administrative buildings while the enlisted men were housed in fabricated temporary buildings and tents. The huge sugar warehouses were used to store food, military supplies and materials. Civilian employees were hired from the local community as checkers and porters in the warehouses. Kitchens and Mess Halls were set up to feed the American military officers and enlisted men. Excess food on a daily basis was given to the residents of Campamento who needed food. Typical of American past time, soldiers played baseball, basketball and tennis matches. Movies were shown every night for their entertainment.
The spirit of hope of the Filipinos to regain their freedom was kept alive by the plan of the Allied Forces to invade Japan in late 1945 but the invasion never took place because Japan officially surrendered to the Allied Forces through General Douglas MacArthur in September 1945, several days after two atomic bombs were dropped in Japan, one in the city of Hiroshima and another one in Nagasaki City.
As World War II had its final ending, restoration of peace and order had begun. However, in Pampanga, the Huks, members of a guerrilla unit under the command of Luis Taruc who fought the Japanese and helped the Americans who joined the underground movement during the war were not recognized by the American government and deprived them of veterans’ benefits. Such unfair treatment made them fought for their rights and did not surrender their weapons.
The Japanese government was required to pay war damages to their victims and to the Philippines in general. On July 4, 1946, the Philippines was given its independence by the United States of America. The first elected president of the Republic of the Philippines was Manuel Roxas but he did not finish his presidential term because of a fatal heart attack while visiting Clark US Airbase in Angeles City. His vice president, Elpidio Quirino was elevated to the presidency. Pampanga had then Pablo Angeles David as provincial governor while the municipality of San Fernando elected Rodolfo Hizon as town mayor and Abel L. David, a native of barrio San Juan as vice mayor.
A few years later, while inspecting his sugar cane plantation in the town of Mexico, the president of PASUDECO, Don Serafin Lazatin was fatally shot by unknown assailants. Don Alfonso de Leon became president of PASUDECO and Don Ernesto Escaler was designated as Treasurer of the same corporation. In later years Atty. Luis Panlilio was elected by the Board of Directors as company president. In the early 1960s, former governor of the Development Bank of the Philippines, Julio Macuja served also as PASUDECO general manager. When Mr. Macuja returned to government service during the Marcos administration, Gerry H. Rodriguez, a prominent Kapampangan sugar planter and former Philippine National Bank Director was appointed as PASUDECO General Manager.
Jesus S. Lazatin served as president of the PASUDECO Planters Association and the Sugar Producers Cooperative Marketing Association who was succeeded later by Engr. Abelardo Miranda Jr., another native of Santo Niño and well-known landed Kapampangan sugar baron. Two workers unions were established at PASUDECO, one was led by Gonzalo Marcelo and the other one had Nicolas Henson as president. Members of the union led by Gonzalo Marcelo called a strike against PASUDECO but failed to get their union’s major demands. The strikers were later allowed to go back to work to their respective departments at PASUDECO.
When labor leader Ricardo Alconga was elected president of the PASUDECO Workers Union, he and the union Board of Directors negotiated a collective bargaining agreement with PASUDECO which significantly enhanced the employees’ benefits. Alconga became also a popular union organizer for agricultural workers but he disappeared after attending a meeting of labor leaders at Camp Olivas during the martial law era. Until this day, his wife, Ms. Rosa Alconga and family had not heard anything about him whether he is still alive or not.
It was in the 1960s that PASUDECO was producing more than a million piculs of brown sugar every year and even acquired the Insular Sugar Refining Corporation (INSUREFCO), sugar refinery located in Metro Manila. Plans were made to build an alcohol refinery with molasses as raw materials and a cardboard factory to make use of the bagasse piling up in the backyard of the sugar central.
The middle management employees who were assigned to the company duplex townhomes were Claudio Melo, Fabrication Department Chief, Teodoro Angeles, Mechanic Foreman, Julian Aleno, Mechanic Foreman, Elias Aguilar, Senior Quedan Clerk, Guillermo Lagman, Fabrication Department Foreman, Pedro Sitchon, Security Supervisor, Cristeto Zerna Sr., Fabrication Department Foreman, Maximiano Navarro, Fabrication Department Foreman, . Maximo Sarmiento Sr., Fabrication Department Foreman, Fortunato Quiambao, Senior Bookkeeper, Pio Quiano, Fabrication Department Foreman, Andoy Jimenez, Mill Department Foreman, Silvestre Miranda, Mill Department Foreman, Gregorio Manalili Sr., Mill Department Foreman, Salvador Ermitano, Chief Surveyor, Anselmo Guzman Sr, Cashier, Agaton Camiling, Transportation Department Foreman and Jose P. de Vera, Senior Bookkeeper.
The single family homes in Campamento were assigned to Deogracias de Jesus Sr., Paymaster, Lucio Medina, District Inspector, Apolinario Sibug, Locomotive Mechanic, Enrique Pagcu, Security Officer, Pastor Sioco, Senior Electrician, Ben Mallari, District Inspector, Apolinario Abellanoza, Horacio Ocampo, Jose Fabian, Ricardo David, Leoncio Capanas, Nicetas Mallari and the homes in the southern side of the PASUDECO Compound were occupied by the families of Tranquilino Ventura, Resident Manager, Claudio Asung Sr., Chief Engineer, Ambrosio Razon, Chief Accountant, Faustino Castillo Sr., Chief Clerk of the Quedan Section, Leoncio Nucum, Transportation Superintendent, Nicolas Henson, Property Superintendent, Paulino Escoto, Fabrication Foreman, Filemon Paguio, Carpenter Foreman, Toribio David, Locomotive Mechanic Foreman and Victor Bautista, Chief of Police, Abel L. David, Personnel Officer, Virgilio Joven, Senior Bookkeeper, Agapito Guarin, Paulino Gregorio, Teofisto Pascual, Alejandro Manuntag, John Regala, Florentino Garcia, Quirino Basa, Andres David and Perfecto Canlas.
Some of the occupants of the company apartment buildings in Campamento were the families of Rodrigo Corpuz, Ambrosio Mallari, William Evangelista, Enrique Decembrano Sr., Tiburcio Lopez, Gregorio Mallari, Pedro Cruz, Salustiano Lulu, Emilio Javier, Ricardo Zerna, Urbano Pagcu, Felix Pagcu, Eustaquio Jimenez, Felino Isip, Narding Quiambao, Maximo Sarmiento Jr., Marino Simon, Bonifacio Dalisay, Tiburcio Lopez, Onofre Aleno, Mariano Ordiales, Pablo Ferrer, Rodrigo Tesoro, Eliseo de Leon, Macario Bulilan, Raymundo Revisano, Bino Castro, Marcelino Mendoza, Mariano Viray, Vicente Viray Sr., Ricarte Pineda, Francisco Joven, Ricardo Henson, Pulo Bendicio, Diosdado Ganzalez, Gregorio Mallari, Rufino Mallari, Felipe Nucum, Tomas Aleno, Tomas Garcia, Esting Beltran, Felipe De Leon, Luis Isip, Miguel Canda, Juan Marin, Vicente Marin, Fidel Paragas, etc.
The unifying force of the Campamento residents that called for community solidarity were the annual San Fernando town fiesta on May 30, the Santa Cruz Procession of Beautiful Young Ladies and their Escorts, and the Santo Niño barrio fiesta in January of every year. Festivities and abundance of food characterized the fiestas. The fiesta included a mass, a colorful parade, a lively amateur singing contest, an entertaining stage show, a dinner-dance, crowning of beauty queens and princesses, sports tournaments, cockfights, carnivals, etc. PASUDECO which frequently sponsored basketball tournaments had formed a semi-pro basketball team coached by Ben Gueco. Some of the players who were recruited from other teams in Pampanga were Felicisimo Yumang, a former team captain of Manila Central University and the White Feathers of Macabebe, Eustacio Falcis, team captain of The Hunters of Apalit, Florentino Gueco of the FEU Tamaraws of Manila and Rodolfo Miranda of the San Fernando All Stars Team. The youngsters had also a junior basketball team of their own called LUBEN with Salustiano Lulu and Ben Mallari as managers. Some of the young players were Pablo Mallari, Andro Camiling, Benny Nicolas, Rodolfo Quiano, Ben Lagman, Greg Manalili Jr., Patricio and Rogelio Pagcu, Fred Sitchon, Ruben Isip, Ricardo Jimenez, John Quiambao, Bart Tuble, Pamfilo and Benny Zerna.
Through the initiative of three PASUDECO employees, Bienvenido Sengson, Antonio Pamintuan and Esto de Guzman, the PASUDECO Rondalla was organized. A young talented singer and guitarist named Edilberto Camiling was the only member of the rondalla from Campamento. He became later a local radio station musical director and a popular political leader and labor leader. The musical group won second place in the national competition of rondallas in Manila which was featured on national television.
Campamento residents became known for their hospitality and skill in culinary art also. They opened their homes during fiestas and entertained their guests.
For those who loved dancing and other social activities, they joined the Circulo PASUDECO led by Deogracias de Jesus Sr., Ricardo Alconga and Jose P. de Vera. The youngsters had the PASUDECO Youth Club headed by Andro Camiling. Some of the members were Manuel Agala, Nelson Agala, RodolfoAgala, Narding Camiling, Vener de Vera, Gloria de Vera; Jaime Galang, Nicostrato Ermitano, Carolina Ermitano; Conrado Manalili, Crescencio Sioco, Severino Sitchon, Bining Quiano, Rogelio Cruz, Aurea Cruz; Rogelio Bendicio, Conrado Capanas, Eddie de Jesus, Ricardo H. Castillo, David Ordiales, Ricardo Guzman, Anselmo Guzman Jr.; Ponciano Zarate, Conrado Zarate; Perlita Decembrano, Enrique Decembrano Jr.; Aming Mallari, Aming Nucum, Sylvia Sarmiento, Nelson Sarmiento; Charito Navarro, Nene Zerna, Loreta Corpuz, Cely Isip, Aida Viray, Clarita Viray; Norma Joven, Auring Garcia, Norma Joven, Amelia Lulu, Baby Pamintuan, Conchita Pamintuan, Baby Angeles and Milagros de Jesus. The advisers were Mr. & Mrs. Maximo Agala, owners of the Magdalena Galang Subdivision, a private housing development adjacent to the PASUDECO Compound.
The Christmas Season was the happiest period of the year because the employees received their annual Christmas bonuses equivalent to their monthly salaries. Yuletide celebration started nine days before Christmas day. Families attended nine early morning masses (misa de gallo). Lanterns were displayed in homes and Christmas carols were sung. On Christmas Eves, midnight masses were celebrated at the Santo Niño Chapel and after the church service; the families had traditional dinners called "noche buena". The family dinners were followed by the exchange, distribution and opening of Christmas gifts.
In downtown San Fernando, annual giant lantern contests were held every December. Multi-colored lanterns as big as 30 feet in diameter and with thousands of electric bulbs were mounted on big trucks and paraded in town main streets accompanied by marching bands. In later years, the Philippine Board of Tourism and the City of San Fernando which sponsored the yearly giant lantern contest, displayed the winning entries at the Paskuhan Village, Luneta Park in Manila and other foreign countries during the Yuletide season. Christmas days were spent for reunions and visiting. Children paid their respect to their relatives and godparents. Kissing the hands of parents, elder relatives and godparents symbolized traditional respect, loving and caring.
The Lent season was observed by reading or chanting the Passion of Jesus Christ in a cenaculo. Religious singers were invited. Attendees who listened to the Passion of Christ were served with food and drinks. Re-enactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ was held on Good Fridays in barrio San Pedro Cutud of San Fernando. In most Catholic parishes, religious processions along the streets bordering the parish churches were held. Members of religious organizations such as the Knights of Columbus, Legion of Mary and Cursillos in Christianity participated in religious processions. Masses were celebrated on Easter Sundays and other religious activities took place such as the burning of the image of Judas and the meeting (salubong) of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary.
About the Authors:
Andro and Tess Z. Camiling are conscientious researchers and writers of Kapampangan history, language and culture. They wrote “Pampanga: History and Culture", "Pampanga: Towns and Barangays", "The Province of Pampanga and Its People” and other articles including “Malay Relation With Kapampangan Language and Culture”, "Spanish Relation With Kapampangan Language and Culture", biographies of eighteen (18) famous Kapampangans and the history of the towns of Apalit, Lubao, Masantol, Mexico, Minalin, San Fernando, San Luis, San Simon and Santo Tomas of the Province of Pampanga, Philippines. Andro is a true-blue Kapampangan based in California USA where he was employed and retired as an accounting/financial director at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and practiced his CPA profession as a management and tax consultant. He is a Pampanga High School Centennial Awardee as an Outstanding Alumnus in the Field of Accountancy and a recipient of the City of San Fernando’s 2011 Outstanding Fernandino Award for Culture. His wife and co-author of the aforementioned articles, the former Teresita Manalansan Zuniga of Lubao, Pampanga, Philippines is a retired public school teacher in Pasadena, California. She was honored and awarded with Certificates of Recognition by the California State Assembly and the California State Senate for her outstanding dedication to teaching when she retired in 2003. Andro and Tess are dedicated socio-civic-religious leaders in their community and served as long-term presidents of their town non-profit charitable organizations in the USA.