ANGELES CITY—This city in Pampanga province was an American base town that fell on its knees in 1991 when Clark Air Base shut down and Mt. Pinatubo erupted.
Magalang town, located at the foot of Mt. Arayat, battled with nature’s violence, transferring locations three times as rivers overflowed and changed course.
The two communities’ fortitude and ability to sustain their culture entitled them to this year’s Philippine Heritage Awards.
Angeles stood out for its support for its heritage program while Magalang was recognized for safeguarding its intangible cultural heritage.
President Duterte gave out the awards last month in Malacañang.
Angeles City’s heritage conservation work during the term of Mayor Edgardo Pamintuan spanned seven years beginning with the issuance on Dec. 11, 2011, of an executive order that created the Angeles heritage district working committee composed of both public and private sector representatives.
The committee promised “not only [to] provide for the physical health, education, livelihood of our citizens but their souls as well, [given that] the old buildings are the soul of the city while culture, arts and heritage are the people’”
Four years later, the city council passed the ordinance declaring the Angeles City heritage zone and adopted the implementing rules and regulations on Jan. 26, 2016.
In March 2016, the council exempted owners of historical and cultural buildings and structures in the city from paying real property tax.
A study in 2015 showed that urban renewal oriented on protecting cultural artifacts had “restored the pride and dignity of the Angeleños.”
Ma. Lourdes Paras-Lacson grew up seeing big, hand-carried lanterns accompany the “nine nights of Christmas” processions and masses leading up to “Misa de Gallo” (Christmas Eve Mass).
By the time Lacson was elected the first woman mayor, the “lubenas” tradition had waned although it survived when the practice was moved first from Arayat to Macapsa (now Barangay Escaler) in 1605, then to San Bartolome (also called Balen Melacuan, now part of Concepcion town, Tarlac province), in 1734 and to Barangay San Pedro in 1863.
Magalang tourism officer Ryan Miranda said Lacson asked for allocations from the local budget to preserve the lubenas and supplement the community donations.
She facilitated meetings between the village and pastoral councils to make the lubenas a real community undertaking for unity as well as peace and order.
“The significance of lubenas lies in its being able to unite the villagers in undertaking the nine-day event, provide a visual form of catechism for youngsters, deepen the Christian faith and enliven the communities during Christmas,” Miranda said.