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The Town of Santo Tomas, Pampanga
"A Settlement Once Called Baliwag and Home of Beautiful Women"
by Alejandro S. Camiling,
CPA with Teresita Z. Camiling, BSE, MA

 

  St. Thomas Apostle Parish Church, Santo Tomas
 
St. Thomas Apostle Parish Church, Santo Tomas

The early settlers of the town of Santo Tomas were not different in terms of culture, traditions, language, love of freedom and politics when compared with their adventurous and seafaring Malayan ancestors who inhabited and cultivated the fertile land along the Rio Grande de la Pampanga and its estuaries. Aside from farming and raising of domestic animals they made use of the rich marine life and abundance of fish to supplement their economic resources in their day to day living.

Although many Thomasians were converted also to the Roman Catholic faith during the 16th century, the first Roman Catholic Church in Santo Tomas was erected only in 1767 during the administration of Spanish Governor General Jose de Raon who served in that official capacity from 1765 to 1770 succeeding ad interim Governor General Francisco Javier de la Torre.

The settlement was once called Baliwag because many of its early Catholic parishioners were always late in attending masses and other religious activities which of course this character trait is not only true to the early Thomasians but also to early Filipinos in general. The municipality of Minalin is the original mother town of Baliwag and the latter was segregated from Minalin on September 15, 1792 with the approval of Governor General Felix Berenguer y Mariquina.. Named later in honor of Saint Thomas, the Apostle, parish records on baptism, marriage and death from January 1, 1830 to 1854, the town was written as Santo Tomas de Baliwag and from 1855 to 1926, its recorded name was Pueblo de Santo Tomas.

When the town was reconstituted in 1903 under the administration of American Governor General Robert Taft, the town of Minalin was unexpectedly annexed to Santo Tomas under its political jurisdiction for a brief period which lasted until July 25, 1904. The Honorable Gregorio Pineda was appointed as Municipal President during that brief union of the two towns.

On January 2, 1905, for economy and administrative efficiency, Santo Tomas and Minalin were both consolidated with the municipality of San Fernando. Don Francisco Hizon was then the mayor of San Fernando while Don Macario Arnedo of Apalit was the provincial governor of Pampanga.

Santo Tomas was inaugurated again as an independent municipality on January 11, 1952 after a long campaign led by Patricio Gomez, a municipal councilor of San Fernando to separate the fabulous five barrios of Santo Tomas, San Matias, San Vicente, San Bartolome, Santo Rosario and Poblacion from the political jurisdiction of the provincial capital. Honorable Patricio Gomez was initially appointed by President Elpidio Quirino as the first mayor of the newly recreated municipality and the seat of municipal government was temporarily located in his house in barrio San Matias.

In 1955, Republic Act 1250 was enacted by the Philippine Congress and approved by President Ramon Magsaysay transferring the Santo Tomas seat of municipal government to barrio Poblacion. However, on June 11, 1978, President Ferdinand E. Marcos issued presidential decree No. 1441 which permanently transferred the seat of municipal government to barrio San Vicente. The new location of the municipal hall is said to be ideally and strategically located in terms of initiating an effective and meaningful change for the purpose of accelerating significant progress and economic development.

Mayor Patricio Gomez was subsequently succeeded by elected and efficient mayors Emilio Mercado, Joaquin Pineda, Macario Gomez and Demetrio Pineda.. Regino Mallari and Juan Calma served also as appointed town mayors and discharged their duties very effectively. Honorable Romulo Pineda was also elected as town mayor following the last appointed mayor. The present and popular mayor, Honorable Romeo N. Ronquillo was also elected by the people of Santo Tomas in a regular mayoral election and he was reelected for another term in the last election on the basis of his dedication and outstanding leadership in navigating the economic recovery of the town from the ravages of the flow of lahar after the eruption of Mount Pinatubo and hastening the reconstruction of damaged roads, school buildings and other infrastructure projects.

The town of Santo Tomas includes now the seven barangays of Moras de la Paz, Poblacion, San Bartolome, San Matias, San Vicente, Santo. Rosario Pau and Sapa (Santo Nino) . It is bounded on the North-East by the provincial capital of San Fernando; on the South-East by the municipality of San Simon; on the South-West by the town of Minalin; and on the North-West by the municipalities of Bacolor and Minalin.

Although the population of Santo Tomas has been consistently increasing from 21,382 in 1975 to 38,483 in 1995 as per the National Census compiled by the Provincial Planning Office, its geographical area remains the same at 21.29 square kilometers. Economic growth and increases in population initiated the creation of two barangays in 1970. These two barangays, Sapa - Santo Nino and Moras de la Paz were former purok or sitios of the progressive barrio of San Matias which has its own Catholic Parish Church undergoing a major renovation coordinated by Reverend Father Marlon Vitug Cunanan .

The primary industries of the town are pottery, ceramic, carpentry, trading and farming.

Some of the old families of Santo Tomas are the Aquino, Basilio, Batac, Caingat, Calma, Canlas, Castro, Cenzon, David, Dizon, Figueroa, Gomez, Gonzales, Lacson, Mallari, Manalese, Mercado, Munoz, Noriega, Palo, Pangilinan, Pasion, Pineda, Ronquillo, Singian, Teodoro, Tongol, Torres, Twano, Tuazon, Velasquez, etc.

Santo Tomas is also the birthplace of many famous Pampangans. Some Thomasians who excelled in the medical professions were Dr. Liborio Gomez, Dr. Federico Aquino, Dr. Pedro Castro, Dr. Felicisimo Manalese and the most illustrious of them all was Dr. Gregorio Singian, the "Father of Philippine Surgery".

In the legal and judicial professions, Santo Tomas is very proud of Judge Benjamin Noriega, Judge Emilio Velasquez , Judge Carlos Cenzon and Atty. Anastacio J. Tongol who served also as Chief Appraiser of the Bureau of Customs of the Philippines.

Other prominent Thomasians who made names for themselves either in public and community services or in their respective professions and business endeavors are or were Donato Pangilinan Jr. of Rockwell Corporation; Marciano Pineda, a former Congressman and National Housing Authority manager; Dante B. Canlas, former Secretary of Economic Planning and NEDA director-general; Mon David, an accomplished jazz musician and grand winner of the 2006 London International Jazz Festival; Serviliano Batac of Philippine Tiles Corporation; Dominador P. Canlas of Manila Pencil Corporation; hotel magnate and private cemetery owner Anacleto Munoz; Alberto and Saturnino Pineda of Philippine Plumbing Corporation; Donato Pangilinan Sr. of Manila Pearl Button Company; successful businessman Victorino Twano; former mayors Patricio Gomez and Don Emilio Mercado; former councilor Efipanio Palo; School District Supervisor Filomeno Figueroa; and many others including those who migrated to other communities in the Philippines and to other countries in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the American continent.

In the entertainment world, it is interesting to note that popular Philippine singer, Gary Valenciano is married to a beautiful daughter of Thomasian industrialist and businessman Donato Pangilinan, Jr. and so with movie actress and songstress, Sharon Cuneta who is married to Atty. Francis Pangilinan, a son also of the famous and wealthy Donato Pangilinan, Jr.

In the USA, former mayor Macario Gomez and ex-councilor and educator Adelaida Tongol-Gatbonton, the founding presidents of Thomasians USA in 1989 are continuing the legacy of community service. Other distinguished and socio-civic-minded Thomasians who led the same dynamic organization as presidents are Erning Figueroa, Nora Piring, Peter Eusoof, Linda Simbulan, Sesing Dizon, Lou Gomez-Enriquez, Dan Sunga, Babee Castro, Mar Pineda, Lynn Gomez-Abrera, Moy Simbulan, Vicky Gatbonton -Dungo, Ted Enriquez, Digna Arcaina, Atty. Nestor Gatbonton, a former Executive Director of the Civil Aeronautics Board of the Philippines and the diligent Siony Simbulan-Ambalada. For 1998-1999, the energetic community leader Dan Abrera and the hard-working Fina Ordonez-Dizon are the presidents of the aforementioned non-profit organization which raise funds and send financial assistance to the needy in the Philippines.

Although the people of Santo Tomas celebrate their annual town fiesta on December 21, the town is noted also for its annual celebration of "Sabado de Gloria" highlighted by a dinner-dance and by a traditional "Rigodon de Honor" usually participated by prominent Thomasians showcasing their expensive wardrobe and sparkling jewelry. (camiling@rcf.usc.edu)

 

 

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.