Kapampangan Center Traces Roots, Preserves Heritage of Pampanga People

The people of Pampanga (or Kapampangans), with their rich history and culture, are known for grandiose art, mouth-watering cuisine, deep-seated Catholic faith and for producing statesmen that had contributed in the evolution of the Filipino nation including presidents, chief justices, cabinet secretaries and senators.

Luckily, a university-based institution was established, dedicated to trace the roots and preserve the heritage of these people.

Founded in 2002, Center for Kapampangan Studies (CKS) of Holy Angel University (HAU) in Angeles City was born as a result of an international conference on Kapampangan studies which the HAU hosted.

“Former (University) President Bernadette Nepomuceno and Kapampangan professor Mark Nepomuceno felt the need to establish CKS because after Pampanga was battered by lahar caused by the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991, several historical documents, art works and landmarks vanished for our ancestors way back didn’t care about it because their survival is what they seek. The center, of what is left after the disaster, collated it,” said CKS Director Robby Tantingco.

“I, who was initially an English literature professor back then, went around the province and in Tarlac as well (which is the largest Kapampangan population outside Pampanga) and embraced the culture and in the process fell in love in my roots. It was at that point where I literally forgot the rest of my (English literature) job in HAU and concentrated on Kapampangan studies. We brainstormed and expanded the center to include (a collection) of books, research journals and several mementos which were stored in a building that is now our main museum equipped with a library and amphitheater. We did this in order for locals and tourists to consider it as a place of destination,” Tantingco added.

The CKS chief emphasized, “The center primarily advocates for the preservation of the Kapampangan language for we will not be called Kapampangans if we do not speak the language. But we are not limited to that. We study and promote everything Kapampangan from arts, sciences to biography of famous people and even archeology.”

The center recently partnered with the National Museum to excavate pre-Spanish era artifacts in Porac town and asked for the help of University of the Philippines-Los Baños in the identification of local botanical species in Pampanga and Tarlac as most of the cities, towns and barangays in these provinces were named after plants such as Mabalacat, Bamban and Dau.

It is currently pushing for the revival of several vernacular art forms like Crissotan (Kapampangan balagtasan) and Polosa. CKS also aided several local singers to record their songs including Arti Sta Rita and Jason Laxamana’s RocKapampangan. In 2004, it co-produced Cannes-winning director Brillante Mendoza’s film entitled “Manoro,” which is about an Aeta girl in Sapangbato, Angeles City who taught her tribe’s elders how to write in preparation for the elections.

Earlier this year, it opened a museum dedicated in honor of National Artist for Visual Arts Vicente Manansala. Another one will be inaugurated on September 29 in memory of Juan Flores of Betis, Guagua, the father of Pampanga Sculpture and Woodcarving. Also in the pipeline are culinary, toy and HAU museums.

Historian and Tarlaqueño Kapampangan Xiao Chua said, “CKS helped preserve the tradition, literature, and output of talents of Kapampangans, and of these all, this is not only being collected and being displayed in the museum, rather the Center prioritizes it and even promote it to both foreign and local folks. One good example that greatly touched and moved me was their Singsing magazine which is a quarterly magazine devoted to Kapampangan history and literature where I used this primarily to teach the youth and even the indigents.”

Being an expert of the history of the country, when asked why we needed to understand our race, Chua explained, “We needed to appreciate and know the true worth of our culture and history for this encompasses the pride and reputation of one’s nation.”

“CKS created a cultural renaissance as it brought back people to unite and share their common goal for the promotion and preservation of our heritage” Tantingco said. (CLJD/Joelyn G. Baluyut-PIA3)

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