Calumpang and other border disputes

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By Robby Tantingco

Peanut Gallery

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

SOME people will always make an attempt to push the limits of their territory, and other people will always try to push them back—whether these are military confrontations involving empires and nations, or two neighbors in a shouting match over a disputed square foot of land.

In the 1700s, two towns in Pampanga, Cabagsac and Pinpin, clashed over a land claim. When the courts decided in favor of Cabagsac, the townspeople expressed their gratitude to the town’s lawyer by renaming their town after his wife Luisa, and since then Cabagsac has been known as San Luis, and the losing town of Pinpin has since been renamed Sta. Ana.

At least San Luis did not annex Sta. Ana. Pampanga towns are known to appear and disappear throughout history because neighboring towns swallow them whole and then regurgitate them. Others beg, steal and borrow barrios and never return them.


Masantol used to be part of Macabebe until it was created as a separate town in 1878. In 1904, it was returned to Macabebe and in 1907, it went back to being a separate town.Betis, on the other hand, used to be a larger community than Guagua (it had as many inhabitants as Cebu had at the time of the arrival of the Spaniards) but in 1904, it was downgraded to a mere barrio of Guagua.

The town of Sto. Tomas, formerly called Baliuag, used to be only a barrio of Minalin until it became a separate town in 1792; in 1905 it became a barrio again, this time of San Fernando; it returned to its municipal status in 1951. San Fernando itself was created only in 1754, with Mexico and Bacolor contributing barrios apiece.

In 1829, it was San Fernando’s turn to donate barrios to the newly inaugurated town of Angeles;Mabalacat and Mexico did the same.(Cutcut, Pampang, Amsic, Culiat, Pulungbulo, Pandan, Capaya, San Jose and Sto. Rosario all came from San Fernando, Cutudfrom Mexico, and Balibago, Malabanias and PulungMaragul from Mabalacat).

With all these barrios being traded left and right you’d think the towns would want to reclaim them sooner or later. For example, why shouldn’t Makati City’s stunning annexation of Fort Bonifacio from Taguig City inspire a copycat claim on equally hot Balibago by the so-called Makati of the North (Mabalacat)?

Conversely, why would the Municipality of Bambanbe interested in claiming a tiny sliver of craggy land from Mabalacat City, and risk centuries of neighborly goodwill between the two towns?

Calumpang, as far as people in and out of it can remember, has always been a barrio of Mabalacat; its residents vote in Mabalacat, get their cedulas in Mabalacat, and pay their taxes in Mabalacat.

As far as Bamban is concerned, however, Calumpang is only a sitio of its barangay San Vicente. Bamban’s two compelling arguments are (a) geography and (b) history.

First, because Sacobia River serves as the demarcation line between the towns of Mabalacat and Bamban (as well as between the provinces of Pampanga and Tarlac), and because Calumpang is located on the Tarlac side of the river, then Calumpang must belong to Bamban.

This argument falls flat because there are also Tarlacbarrios located on the Pampanga side of Sacobia River, especially downstream where the river fans out on the alluvial plain and meanders between the towns of Concepcion (Tarlac) and Magalang (Pampanga).

Bamban’s history argument is the more compelling one: Bambanhas more right to claim Calumpang because Bamban is an older town than Mabalacat.
Actually, both Bamban and Mabalacathad existed long before the Spaniards came in 1571 (the former named after the shrub bambang and the latter after the tree balakat). However, they were so thickly forested and infested with headhunting tribes that travelers avoided passing through the area.

The first missionaries to dare set up a mission there were the Recollects, in Bamban in 1700. They proceeded to Mabalacat only in 1712. So the claim that Bamban is older than Mabalacat must be explained that it is only the parish that’s older, not the town itself.

There should be no quarrel between Bamban and Mabalacat because they have closer historical and cultural affinity to each other than they do to the rest of their respective provinces. For example, Mabalacat is the only town in the entire province of Pampanga that was administered by Recollect missionaries (like Bamban) throughout the 300-year Spanish colonial period; the rest of the towns in Pampanga were administered by the Augustinians.

When Tarlacbecame a province in 1860, Mabalacat was one of its first nine provinces, alongside Bamban, Capas, Concepcion, Victoria, Tarlac, Magalang, Porac and Floridablanca. It was returned to Pampanga only in 1873.
In other words, Mabalacat is a Tarlac town caught inside Pampanga when the political boundaries were drawn. Tarlac can actually claim Mabalacat back if it wants to.

However, Pampanga can also claim the entire province of Tarlac back if it wants to—because Tarlac used to be only part of Pampanga!
When the Americans came and put up Clark Air Base, they converted many areas around Crow Valley (including barrios Calumpang, San Vicente and Sto.Niño) into a military reservation.Ironically, the Huks and later the NPAs also infested the areas.

The Magsaysay administration, through the office of the Presidential Assistant in Community Development (PACD, the forerunner of the DILG), made several attempts to introduce livelihood programs as part of its anti-insurgency campaign.

In 1961, a Batangueño came to settle in Calumpang, promptly buying 30 hectares of land from the Aetas and rising to the position of barrio captain (a post he would hold until 1989). He was EmilianoDizon, a union leader at Hacienda Luisitauntil Ninoy Aquino promoted him as purchaser of the new Tarlac Development Corporation (TADECO). According to UP professor Ed Tadem, who wrote a dissertation on Sacobia entitled “Peasants and Outsiders” (NUS, 2005), Mendoza claimed that during his term as barrio captain in 1968, PACD personnel informed him that “jurisdiction of the barrio was being transferred from Bamban to Mabalacat.”
In the 1970s and 1980s, after the Marcos administration forced the United States to transfer control of Clark Air Base to the Philippine government and created the AFP-administered Clark Air Base Command or CABCOM, Imelda’s Ministry of Human Settlement created the Sacobia Integrated Rural Development Project which later became the Sacobia Development Authority (SDA). With the dictatorship’s backing, the SDA effectively took control over Calumpang and other areas in upstream Sacobia River.

However, Cory Aquino’s 1986 People Power Revolution abolished the Ministry of Human Settlements and cut the budget for six agencies under it, including the SDA. Various national agencies (DA, DENR, DAR), provincial governments (Pampanga and Tarlac) and private cooperatives (including Dante Buscayno’s) then competed for the chance the manage SDA. In January 1991, Cory transmitted a bill to Congress dissolving the SDA and transferring jurisdiction over the barrios “to appropriate local governments.”

In that bill, Calumpang was supposed to be assigned to Mabalacat and Sto. Niño and San Vicente to Bamban. However, Mount Pinatubo erupted five months later, and all interest in the area vanished. This was followed by the May 1992 elections, and the bill was forgotten.

When Mabalacat recently applied for city status, it submitted a list of barangays under its jurisdiction. The list included Calumpang. So when Congress approved Mabalacat’s new status, it also in effect confirmed the new city’s jurisdiction over the disputed barrio.

So now the burden of proof to undo an act of Congress is on Bamban. Possession being nine-tenths of the law, Mabalacat City can only wait until Bamban presents “clear and compelling” evidence to prove its claim.

Otherwise, the two towns, being both Kapampangan and both Recollect separated only by a river and a stupid political boundary, should just shake hands and forget the whole thing.

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on January 14, 2014.


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