The Forgotten Symbol
Baquit Quelinguan Mu Cu?
In line with the recent months the most talked about event around the city is the celebration of Caragan Festival. The festival that showcases Mabalacat’s rich culture and heritage.
It is often mentioned the origin of the city’s name. That during the old times the city is abundant of Balacat Trees. Which when it relates to the city’s current name meaning “Full of Balacat”. But how come how a days is seldom to see Balacat Trees?
Mabalacat City was named after the balacat tree, a fourth class of timber, since the place is a forest full of these trees. It has a total land area of 83.18 square kilometres (Punto, 2009).
The first settlers of Mabalacat are the negritos led by a chieftain named Caragan who later married Laurena Tolentino, the first cabeza de barangay.
Eventually, the negritos where driven back to the mountains by the lowlanders who hunt the area. Before 1712 Mabalacat is a barrio of Bambang, now Bamban Tarlac and became a town in 1792. In July 1966 Mabalacat was converted to a municipality and finally became a city on July 21, 2012 (“Mabalacat City: Official website”, n.d.)
Balacat tree is a large tree that grows to 30m and 100cm in diameter with a long cylindrical trunk. Anas et,al. (2009), affirmed in their study that these trees has an antimicrobial properties. Balacat trees are important not only because of its medicinal purposes but it’s because these trees are the symbol of Mabalacat City.
However, balacat trees are rarely seen due to logging, shifting cultivation and building of infrastructures (Red List, 2018). Balacat trees population are depleting because of the continuous expansion of roads, buildings etc. which requires these trees to be cut down. Peña, (2015) stated in his article that some balacat trees are marked for cutting since it’s standing in the way of the ongoing expansion of Mabiga SCTEX-NLEX access road wherein an additional lane and tool booth are being constructed.
According to the National List of threatened Philippine plants and their categories, Balacat trees are considered as threatened species wherein if people of Mabalacat City won’t protect the symbol of the city it’s possible that someday the tree would extinct. This study aims to provide the sufficient information and reasons for decreasing number of Balacat in trees in Mabalacat City.
This study will reveal the cultural relationship of Balacat Trees to MABALAQUEÑOS. The issues covered in this study were:
1. What is the dying significance of Balacat Trees to Mabalacat?
2. How the disappearance of this tree is can affect the citizens of the city it's named after?
3. What would be the possible effect of the total disappearance of Balacat Trees?
Chapter I. Mabalacat
Before the colonization of the Spaniards, Mabalacat was a barrio (barangay) of Bambang (Bamban, Tarlac) in the year 1712. Formerly, there was no official record on the foundation of the town. But according to stories handed down by generation to generation, the first settlers in Mabalacat were Negritos led by Caragan. Negritos were usually known as “aetas” or “balugas”. Differentiating aeta to baluga, aetas are dark-skinned people, short in height approximately 1.35-1.5 meters, has curled hair and snub nose with a big black eye (Headland,1993). However, balugas are mainly known as hybrid means to say “brakish, half-salt, and half fresh” (Garvan, 1964).
Caragan married Lareana Tolentino and adopted her family name. Lareana Tolentino was the first “cabeza de barangay” of Mabalacat equivalently to barangay captain. Eventually, the Negritos were finally driven back to nearby mountains and hills by the lowlanders who frequented the place to hunt wild animals and fowls.
In 1792, Mabalacat became a town named from indigenous Negrito word Mabalacat meaning “forest of balacats” which means many balacat trees. (Navales,2016).
Mabalacat became a first class municipality in July 1996. In Marcos Village, a barangay part of Mabalacat was inhabited by Negritos who lived in Bungalow houses and speak broken English. (Donesa, 2017).
The land area of Mabalacat has of 83.18 square kilometres (32.12 sq mi). The soil is charcoal black and shiny, a sign of fertility, and is suitable for growing rice, sugarcane and other rootcrops for planting. Suchlike to Angeles and San Fernando and the towns or municipalities of Porac, Bacolor, Santa Rita, Mexico, Magalang and Arayat, this city never gets inundated by floods from heavy rains and typhoons because it is situated on an elevated, well-drained plain known as the "Upper Pampanga" (Punto, 2009).
Year 1853, Mabalacat had a population of 2,611 and four barangays, namely, Babangdapu, Duquit, Malabni, and Paglimbunan. Which among them only barangay Duquit is the only barangay currently existing.
Latterly, 1903 its population increased to 7,049 and already had 19 barangays. These were Bical, Bundagul, Dapdap, Dau, Dolores, Iba, Mabiga, Mamatitang, Mangalit, Matas, Mawaque, Paralayunan, Poblacion, Quitangil, San Joaquin, Santa Ines, Santa Maria, Sapang Balen, and Sapang Biabas.
In 1948, its barangays increased to 20 with the addition of Fort Stotsenburg and currently known as the Clark Air Base. Barangay Quitangil was renamed San Francisco. (Navales, 2016)
As of the writing of this post, Mabalacat is politically subdivided into 27 barangays.
(including Xevera and Fiesta Communities)
Going back 1860, a military command was established by the Spanish authorities due to lawlessness and depredations perpetrated by the negritos.
The Pampanga towns of Bamban, Capas, Concepcion, Victoria, Tarlac, Magalang, Porac, and Floridablanca and the city of Mabalacat were created into what was called a “Commandancia Militar”. A province or district under military control (Merriam Webster). However, in 1873 the Military Command returned Mabalacat together with the towns of Magalang, Floridablanca, and Porac to the mother province, Pampanga.
Chapter II. Mabalaqueños
Becoming a first class municipality, Mabalacat became more progressive in economical, cultural terms and its modernity status. Its people are hardworking and industrious as well as peace-loving and God-fearing as the residents perform services showing auspicious beginnings not only with spiritual manner but temporal, with the fields and houses that were made and request for baptism. People who live in Mabalacat are recognize as Mabalaqueños , derived from the city’s name Mabalacat (Donesa, 2017).
They speak the Kapampangan dialect, which is very rich in vocabulary and culture. According to Fr. Francisco Coronel’s Arte y Reglas de la Lengua Pampanga, Kapampangan was treated slavery very usual as he used them as examples, to illustrate word usage. And through vocabularios and other friar documents, the culture of of inhabitants of Mabalacat during the Spanish colonization may thus reconstructed.
The town’s population was projected (at a growth rate of 1.03%) at 218,629 in 2000. The projected labor force was estimated at 175,919, distributed in the following fields of employment: agricultural workers— 24.55%, laborers— 27.45%, service workers— 20.35%, sales workers— 20.40%, others— 7.25%. The population has a high literacy rate of 98.6%. They call Mabalacat City as “Makati of the North” for there are many job opportunities within the place especially around Clark. Although Mabalaqueños are engaged in agriculture, residents are enterprise in their proficient and skilled worker sustaining the existence labour, business venture and advinistration in Mabalacat. (Donesa, 2017)
2015, was the last updated Census in Mabalacat City’s computed population is 250,799 registered citizens. In accordance to National Statistics Office of the Philippines had reported. Explanation: Area figures are computed by using geospatial data.
According to Fr. Andres de San Fulgencio, Albeit brief was the description given from glimpse of the early culture and society of Mabalacat. The early inhabitants in Mabalacat were natives who were savage and barbarous whose taking of lives, of cutting heads, using bow and arrow, having magnatos which means religious rituals and feasts, drinking in skulls.
Prior in colonization of Spaniards, Pinatubo Aetas were the first inhabitants of Mabalacat. Physically, they possessed dark complexion, curly hairs and small body stature. Upon this racial phenotype, they belong to the Negroid race. The Spaniards called them negritos taking into account their black skin tone and small stature. The natives referred to themselves as Aetas. Early Spanish accounts confirmed their reputations of ferocity and notoriety not only among the Spaniards but also among the neighboring Kapampangans and Ilocanos.
Similar to hunters, Pinatubo Aetas were nomadic. They were settlers who had no permanent living area. They wander according to seasons where food resources are bounty. Upon moving to one plac to another, Aetas did not settle in Mabalacat as they gathered back to mountains or hills. (Navales, 2016)
The "City of Mabalacat" has a rich cultural history in terms of its land and people. Mabalacat is an Upper Pampanga which indicates floods and haivy wont increase much accident. Aftermath Mt. Pinatubo erupted in year 1991. Evidently focused in large extent of chaos. However Mabalaqueños have surpassed and fight toward development. (Punto, 2009)
A part of the citizens’ culture is the Caragan Festival which is being celebrated during the month of February because our ancestors; the Negritos who were the first to live in Mabalacat City. However ther was an issue regarding to its festival name Caragan, a name after the certain village chief named Haring Garagan who believed to explain it was an typographical mistake in writing the festival’s name. Moreover, ”This festival is not only having fun with street dances but also about honouring the rich cultural heritage of the people of Mabalacat. The Aetas, being one of the original inhabitants, are also given due regocniton,” Magbalot said.
Besides this, there are many other events and gatherings where the Mabalaqueños partake in to give tribute to their rich culture.
In terms of its citizens, the Mabalaqueños can show ignorant tendencies for they may not be aware about the existence of the symbol of the very city they live in that being the Balacat tree. Some are just living here for the sake of living, not giving life of the city’s roots.
Chapter III. Balacat Tree
Balacat tree is a fourth class timber whose bark has been effectively proven to have antimicrobial properties. The tree is more likely known having it’s feature of tall thinned physical appearance and has shiny leaves and sharpened bark. Balacat is a species of tree in the Rhamnaceae family which called Ziziphus talanai or balacat, aligamen and talanai. In Antique Province, Western part of Visayas uses its bark for medicinal for diseases from ringworm to urinary tract infections (UTI). Endemically, Ziziphus talanai or Balacat can only be find in Luzon and Visayas, in the Philippines. Specifically in the City of Mabalacat in Pampanga Province was after the name of Balacat tree in 1712, using the indigenous Negrito word mabalacat meaning “forest of balakat”. (Anas, A.R.J., 2009)
According to what the social worker had gathered. Balacat tress can also be found in Our Lady Of Grace Parish (OLGP) which was counted 11 balacat trees. In Don Teodoro Ventura School Institute had a data of 3 balacat trees. But the social workers did not gathered the data around the whole Mabalacat area. Instead, an interview with some valid residents was conducted.
Having the first barangay to step in, there are 5 respondents in Lacandula. Two of them are on the range of age of 16-30 years but had no idea what balacat is. Aged 30 up to 75 respondents did not know the existence of the significant tree.
One of them even asked, “Meron bang balacat tree?” not even sure with the existence of the tree.
Around Barangay Mamatitang, an interview for the study was conducted. Four respondents we’re interviewed about the existence of the balacat tree. Age around 30-40 years old but 3 of them hadn’t know its existence. Among them a 75 years old respondent who knows the tree but had no idea for what it is for.
A respondent in Barangay Poblacion was interviewed and said its insights about the balacat. It was being described as somehow a narra feature like. And added that balacat is a tree in which elemental creature (myth) are living. Aside from that, in our days, balacats are now designed as bonsai. And according to the person there was in the White House, Romualdez’s property but since the social workers did not able to see it, a balacat bonsai is still not validated.
For the respondents in San Joaquin, no one had known the existence of the significant tree of Mabalacat.
Balacat tree is essential to Mabalacat for its name was derived from balacat trees which were found abundantly in the area. Under 1712 was when Mabalacat became part of Bambang (Bamban Tarlac) a barrio (barangay) from it. It became a town in 1792, and was named after the balacat tree (Ziziphus Talanai).
Then, a settlement of a negrito tribe, the area was a virtual forest of balacat trees. "Ma-balacat" in the native Kapampangan language means "full of balacats." (Navales, 2016)
It is purposed to symbolize and represent Mabalacat by to its name and enact by having these trees around Mabalacat. Seemingly, balacat trees are not well known in the society. Its existence isn’t even notice, where in the first place it is the origin of Mabalacat that affects Mabalaqueños by not knowing where it all begun.
According to Rox Peña 2015, balacat trees are not extinct but are about to. He stated “I knew at that instant that the Balacat trees, the symbol of our beloved Mabalacat City, were marked for cutting.”
From before, balacats are about to lessen for some were damaged or killed by typhoon and grass fires. And due to road widening and canalization, some of the remaining trees are now danger of being wiped out.
Showing how balacat trees are now endangered for extinction, are also the forgotten implication of Mabalaquenos whose not familiar with the existence of the dying symbol of Mabalacat. Where Mabalaquenos’ ignorance will be the first one killing the symbol. The unawareness of people who are living without knowing is the first making damage to its land. As to live in home which identity is not known.
This study was conducted by the students of Grade 11 HUMSS-A of
Children of Fatima School Inc. (Senior High School - Mabiga)
With the help and advise of:
Mr. Ian Jericho Balinan
(Discipline and Ideas in Applied Social Sciences Teacher)
"Finally, Mabalacat gets lawmakers' nods to become city" Inquirer.net
World Conservation Monitoring Centre 1998. Anas, A. R. J.; Villasenor, I. M.; Matsuura, H.;Okino, T. (2009). “Anti-Mycobacterium phlei activity of the bark of Ziziphus talanai (Blanco) Merrill”. Philippine Agricultural Scientist.
Atty. Robert John Donesa's Blog
Mabalacat City Official Website
National Statistics Office of the Philippines (web)
National Statistical Coordination Board (web)
City Offices Documentation; City Planning Development Council; Pronvincial Tourism Office
Peña Saves Balacat Trees sunstar.com.ph