Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Kapampangan triumph over Pinatubo

Inquirer Northern Luzon Bureau - Seventeen years after the eruptions of Mt. Pinatubo devastated Central Luzon, the stories of the Kapampangan, the Aeta and other people who fought and triumphed over nature’s wrath and adversity have been chronicled in the coffee-table book “Pinatubo: Triumph of the Kapampangan Spirit.”

“This is the pith of the Pinatubo story: A tragedy transcended by the triumph of the indomitable Kapampangan spirit,” said Bong Lacson, the editor, in the foreword.

That’s the thread that knits together the 11 chapters. A collective of Kapampangan writers and photographers blessed with the rare and cruel opportunity to cover one of the world’s worst eruptions, rummaged through their files and recollected from memory the scenes, situations and people they have encountered.

The chapter on “Eruption and Exodus” by the Negrito People’s Alliance of Zambales tells the journey of Aeta people out of and back to their ancestral abode around Pinatubo.

“Fire and Mud” by the late Dr. Raymundo Punongbayan and Dr. Christopher Newhall explains the geological, environmental and global impact of the 1991 eruptions.

“Pinatubo and the Politics of Lahar: Eruption and Aftermath” by Dr. Kelvin Rodolfo is a candid witnessing of how science struggled against politics.

The 17 years it took before the book was published gave the sources the time to distill their experiences and thoughts.

The result is one filled with photographs and vivid recollections of how the Kapampangan refused to be broken and to surrender to the violence of nature and to the folly of policymakers.

“Pinatubo” begins by saying that Pampanga was in its boom before the catastrophic blasts. By 1998, it had topped Cebu in industrial growth. By 1990, the investment growth rate totaled 263 percent while total assets reached P203 million and revenues, P189 million.

The national government had considered Pinatubo as one of the possible sources of geothermal energy amid an impending power crisis in the early 1990s.

Act of sacrilege

Citing Aeta wisdom, it says: “The mountain tribesmen of Pampanga resented the exploration as an act of sacrilege and warned of rousing the wrath of the volcano’s mythical deity, Apu Namalyari. Thereafter, the tribesmen reported of animals scalded by searing sediments and vents billowing hissing sulfuric fumes.”

The book, even in its coffee-table format, can be a manual for surviving a disaster.

A chapter that makes for immediate reading is “The Struggle for Survival.” It partly relates how the proposal of then Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. to create a “New Pampanga” in Palawan or Mindanao met a stiff opposition from then Rep. Oscar Rodriguez.

“Dispersed, the Kapampangan soul would be dissipated then irretrievably lost …We will never be forgiven by the future [generations] of Kapampangan should we abandon our beloved land. So we have to save the saveable,” Rodriguez told De Venecia in a House session.

The “Save” movements grew from a small group called the Lugud San Fernando organized by businessman Levy Laus. Soon enough, it evolved into movements called Save San Fernando and Save Pampanga that mobilized demonstrations to protect Pampanga.

The book tells how local leaders and the residents convinced national officials not to give up on Pampanga.

Among the disaster-wrought provinces, Pampanga is the first to document what its people underwent in the shadow of the angry volcano.

“Pinatubo” is published by the San Fernando, Pampanga Heritage Foundation Inc., with the support of the City of San Fernando, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. Central Country Estate, Wilcon Depot, Laus Group of Companies and the Save San Fernando Foundation Inc.



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