A New Hope! Bacolor Pampanga
It has been over a decade since one of the most cataclysmic volcanic ereuptions of the 20th Century that altered the landscape of Central Luzon here in Pilipinas. As Apo Namalyadi blew his home in the mountain of Pinatubo in such fury, only a handful died directly of the such massive explosion…but its not that fury of hot gas and ash that changed Pampanga’s history, but a threat so menacing that it threatens to wipe out Central Luzon from the maps, and that is lahar.
Bacolor is once a progressive town of half of hundred thousand Kapampangans. History has said that this town once served as the cabisera de la colonia de Las Islas Filipinas or the seat of Spanish colonial power in the Philippines during the British Occupation of Manila which lasted for two years. This progressive town which sits beside San Fernando City would almost turned out to be another Cagsawa or Pompeii.
Accumulated pyroclastic materials and lava at the summit of Pinatubo eroded and drained to its natural wash basin, Pampanga’s fertile plains. The white scourge gobbled up communities and buried townships and barangays. The government back then created dikes to block the lahar from eating up major urban centers of Angeles, San Fernando and Bacolor…but it was futile for the people of Bacolor…they saw their town being buried in a liquid concrete-like soup…some people lost their lives but most of them fled and never came back again…that was September 1995.
A New Hope Awaits: La Iglesia de San Guillermo de Bacolor
The church that stood time and elements, its just 15 minutes away from the hustle and bustle of San Fernando City. It was noontime when we reached here, desolate and eerie silence in the middle of the poblacion amidst the searing lahar heat. This manifestation of baroque architecture has given prominence to this historic town.
Established by Agustinians in 1576, it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1880 to be rebuilt by Father Eugenio Alvarez six years later. Then on that fateful day of September 1995, 4 years afer constant threat of being buried by Pinatubo’s ashes, the dikes gave in and buried the church’s 12 foot height.
The once majestic church is now half buried and thoughts of Bacolor being lost in the maps were there.
A few years later, handful of hopefuls returned to Bacolor and started restoring their church even if they have to use only what remains of their grand church. The once nitsos are now used as the main doors of the church. Big windows were turned into ground-level ventanillas and the church retablo, once soaring high, is now within reach. The convent, now a church museum of santos and photographs of the past. Yet despite of the damage, the sacredness and historicity is still there. Solemn yet the church is a reminder of the Kapampangan’s resilency to rise from the ashes of mother nature’s fury.
A New Hope
The church has been popular to the Kapampangans before and was synonymous to that of Apalit and Betis. This grand church and the town itself became a landmark of town abandoned. Cagsawa of the modern times. But a glimpse of new hope seen trickling in Bacolor. Some of the old residents came back along with new residents, non-Kapampangan.
Ang Bayan ng Bagong-PagAsa is the name of Bacolor in ABSCBN’s show “May Bukas Pa.” Shot in the town, we even thought it was fictional, but it wasn’t. It seems that the location and show that is so appropriate of its own image. That despite the wrath that devastated the civilization, the human spirit dies hard and still flourish. A new hope arises from the ashes of Pinatubo.
Here’s what we did going to Bacolor form downtown San Fernando. We took a jeepney that is bound for Betis-Guagua and it costs around P10.00. From the public market section and the “Bagong Pag-Asa” marker, you’ll have to walk in searing heat towards the church as it is out of the way. So its advisable to bring an umbrella because tricycles are a rare sight even at the town proper.
Another way is through Olongapo-Gapan Road. Take any bus bound for Olongapo from Manila via San Fernando Pampanga and tell the conductor to have you dropped at Bacolor. There are tricycles at the junctions ready for those who cannot tolerate walking, but overall Olongapo-Gapan Road is much closer to the church than the old road from downtown San Fernando.
For more photos, view below or click here: