Scenes from Downtown San Fernando 2

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Friday, May 23, 2014

By Ching Pangilinan

IN MY second to the last column I started describing the scenes that greet me on my way to work to the City Hall every morning. Last night my friends and I went out for a drive at the downtown area and I cannot help but feel very proud of my hometown. There is something nostalgic about growing up in a town like San Fernando where the old meets the new.

Compared to other settlements in Pampanga, San Fernando is relatively young at 260 years this year. Mexico and Bacolor gave birth to it. Its strategic location is something that other cities could only salivate about. Downtown San Fernando does not look like a Spanish colonial town anymore but the traditional plaza layout, which places the municipio in front of the church still remains, though the open spaces have become parking areas.


Several structures in the San Fernando Heritage District have been marked by the National Historical Institute (now known as the National Historical Commission of the Philippines) as heritage houses, because of the architectural significance and also their current state of preservation. One of the most gorgeous looking houses in the city is the Augusto Hizon House which is an example of architectural designs that were made popular during the American Colonial Period. There is something really romantic and whimsical about this beautiful white house which was owned originally by the couple Teodoro Santos and Africa Ventura, but was bought by Maria Hizon a nurse during the Philippine Revolution and later inherited by her brother Augusto. The current owners of the house are the heirs of Augusto Hizon and they have kept it in a perfectly preserved state.

One of the hallmarks of the San Fernando Heritage District is the Hizon-Singian House, also an NHI-marked structure. This house typifies the bahay na bato architecture and was originally built by Anacleto Hizon and Victoria Singian de Miranda. It is also a silent witness to the changes in regimes, having served as headquarters of Spanish General Antonio Ruiz Serralde during the Philippine Revolution, became a military hospital during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines and also used as headquarters by American General Walter Krueger during the liberation period. The house is presently owned by the heirs of the late tatang Gerry Rodriguez.

Our local branch of the Philippine National Bank exemplifies art deco architecture, which flourished in the 1950s to the early 1960s and has become an important part of the city’s heritage as a financial center. A few steps away from here is the Pampanga Hotel Building which is one of the oldest existing structure in the downtown area, most popularly known for its pancit guisado, aside from its historical significance for having the first telephone in San Fernando and hosting General Douglas MacArthur. Across the street is the Central Methodist Church, which is part of the city’s heritage of religious convergence, being home to the major religious sects and churches, aside from being the seat of the Archdiocese of San Fernando, Pampanga.

The current Metropolitan Cathedral restored by Fernandino Architect Fernando Hizon Ocampo is an awesome building which replaced the earlier structures destroyed by the Philippine revolutionary army in 1899 and a big fire in 1939. It is worth mentioning that a recent restoration project was undertaken to make the retablo more glorious than ever.

Personally, I found this development very inspiring and we noted an increase in the influx of pilgrim tourists in the last Holy Week season.

The City Hall, which I consider as my second home since in reality I spend more time here than I do at home, is a restored version of the old municipal building built in 1917 by Mayor Antonio Abad Santos with Eusebius Julius Halsema as the Bureau of Public Works District Engineer.

The most recent restoration was done in 2003 and there are plans to convert part of the structure into a city museum and library. While parking is more difficult these days, the vibe of the old City Hall is incomparable as it adds to the bustle of life in the city proper.

On May 25, 2014, the City Government through the Pyestang Fernandino 2014 Executive Committee will pay homage to San Fernando’s culture and heritage through the Pyestang Kulturang Kapampangan. This is a part of the fiesta celebration, as well as a commemoration of the National Heritage Month. Parts of Consunji St. will be pedestrianized to give way to a whole day of festivities such as a food fair, arts and crafts display, performances by various Kapampangan artists, and will culminate in the Flores De Mayo which will start at the SM Downtown San Fernando. For more details, please check the official page of City of San Fernando, Pampanga on Facebook. We hope to see you there.

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on May 24, 2014.


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