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The gentleman from Pampanga

/ 10:20 PM February 02, 2012

Because of Sen. Lito Lapid’s track record of keeping mum on the Senate floor during debates and discussions, everyone was surprised to see and hear him on the rostrum during the impeachment trial. For those of us who equate talking and working, or who enjoy dramatic debates and rowdy press conferences, it was a welcome surprise to learn that the quiet gentleman from Pampanga has actually filed many bills. Media form our image of the legislature and its members, much of their research culled from daily press briefings, and I wonder if those covering the Senate and the House of Representatives dig into those thick volumes of congressional records published and distributed each year. The national budget in all its detail used to be available in print. I have always wondered why media waste its time searching for scandal and wrongdoing to discredit people in government when a simple service record can be just as damning.

For example, Congress makes an accounting to the people through thick published volumes known as the Congressional Record. These contain the business of the day, including attendance, guests, debates and documents submitted for the record. Should Congress buy newspaper space for an annual report to the people on the laws they have passed? This should include the attendance record of each legislator, including the number of times he or she was absent or late. How many bills did each legislator file? How many ended up approved as laws? Do these bills contribute to the progress of their constituents and the nation, or are they as insignificant as naming or renaming streets and school buildings? How did legislators vote on important or controversial bills? This annual accounting will help in the education of the public, resulting in intelligent choices during elections. Of course, all this is material for a historian.

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Shouldn’t all districts represented in the House each have a one-page data sheet that shows their respective geographic positions on a map and basic information on land area, agricultural products, industry, current data on population, income, mortality and literacy rates, etc.

A capsule history about the province of the gentleman from Pampanga could read: Pampanga got its name from the vernacular pampang, meaning riverbank. The first settlers lived along the Rio Grande de Pampanga, the largest in Central Luzon. Pampangos are people who occupy this region and speak Kapampangan.

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Pampanga is a province north of Manila on the Central Luzon plain. It is bounded by Tarlac on the north, Nueva Ecija on the northeast, Bulacan on the east, and Zambales and Bataan on the west. Before the 19th century, most of the neighboring provinces or portions of them were part of Pampanga.

Its main crops were rice and sugar. These were so abundant that Pampanga supplied Spanish Manila with food. In the 18th century, one man   wrote that Pampanga alone was capable of producing more sugar than could be consumed in all of China. A tribute due the Spanish government as well as the Augustinian friars was payable in food supplies. So important was rice that detailed records were kept, some of them showing that the friars sometimes returned surplus on good years.

Pampanga today is much smaller than it was before the 19th century. Its total land area is 2,180.7 square kilometers, the second smallest in the region. Yet, it has the highest population in the region. In May 1980, the National Economic Development Authority (Neda) reported its population at 1,181,590, the majority (52.72 percent) of which lived in urban areas. Farming is its main industry, followed by fishing, livestock and poultry raising, forestry, etc.

American historian John Larkin divided Pampanga into three regions.  First the mountainous regions of Zambales and Arayat (which is the only mountain to break the monotony of the Central Luzon plain) that have little agricultural use. The Zambales side is occupied by Negritos, and Arayat has not been fully cultivated.

The second region is along the Rio Grande and its tributaries. This is the area where the fishing industry developed. The classification also includes the Candaba swamp, which becomes a lake during the rainy season and is also a source of fish. During the dry season the swampland is planted for the most part with rice.

The third region is the land mass which is also planted with rice.

Aside from its agriculture, which produces basic food products for Manila, other industries have developed, like the furniture and woodcarving industries in Betis, and making sweets in Sta. Rita. Some towns experimented on other crops like eggplant and upo. Corn is grown on a limited scale. Poultry and livestock are raised on a large scale with Minalin being  the “egg basket” of Pampanga. All these food growing, rabbit-raising, creating new breeds of chickens and pigs are helping the Pampango industries by providing the necessary stuff which Pampango food is made of.

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During the Spanish colonial regime, when the province was still mainly agricultural, the sight of green plains surrounding Mt. Arayat was enough to make a French traveler remark that: “The province of  Pampanga is the most beautiful and the richest in the Philippines and has been, for this reason, called New Castille.”

This 30-year-old provincial profile in my notes made me wonder why I did not work on the other provinces and towns. When will I marshall all my useless information into an almanac. So many projects, so little time.

Comments are welcome in my Facebook Fan Page.

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TAGS: bills, congress, featured column, Lito Lapid, opinion, Pampanga
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