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President's Message on La Naval de Angeles

October 16, 2019

Dear Angelite Community,

Tomorrow, Sunday, October 13, the City of Angeles commemorates the Feast of La Naval de Angeles and the following day (Monday, October 14) will be a non-working holiday for Holy Angel University. I wish you all a restful holiday weekend.

This is also a time when we reflect on the founding of our city. A growing number of students and employees of Holy Angel University have come from other towns, cities, provinces, regions, and countries—adopting Angeles City as their home. Given our demographic diversity, it is very appropriate to trace the roots of what we are celebrating this holiday weekend. Please allow me to share with you excerpts of my 2015 speech to the Angeles City Association of the USA on the occasion of the Los Angeleños’ celebration of La Naval fiesta at that time. I hereby acknowledge the help of our Center for Kapampangan Studies in the preparation of these remarks, and I take full responsibility for any inaccuracies in the material that I added.

The year was 1796. Don Angel Pantaleon de Miranda had just finished his one-year term as the town mayor of San Fernando. Don Angel and his wife Doña Rosalia de Jesus convinced their friends to invest in clearing uncharted territory in the northern part of the town.

The area was called Culiat. It was thickly forested and teeming with Aetas – the headhunting kind – as well as with a variety of vine called culiat, from which it got its name. Don Angel believed that once the place was cleared, many San Fernando families would relocate there to take advantage of the new frontier, as well as escape the annual floods.

The couple initially set up a farmhouse in Barangay Saguin, which was a short distance from Culiat. From there, they walked daily to Culiat for the clearing operations, always bringing with them a wooden image of the Nuestra Señora del Santo Rosario (Our Lady of the Holy Rosary), and praying the rosary as they approached the forested areas, to ask for divine protection against the Aetas.

Hardly had the clearing began when Don Angel was recalled to active military duty in Manila, which meant that his wife, Doña Rosalia, would lead the clearing in the next few years. Thus, for her heroic role in the town's history, this woman deserves to be recognized as a co-founder of Angeles.

In 1811, the couple finally ended clearing activities and led several pioneering families from San Fernando in moving into the new settlement. Don Angel built his first house near what is now the Nepo Coliseum. He also built the first chapel where the present Chow King Restaurant is located, along Santo Rosario Street.

In 1813, the archbishop of Manila came to Culiat to inaugurate the new parish, which covered Barrios Cutcut, Pampang, and Pulung Anunas. Thus, Culiat became a parish 16 years before it became a town. However, it did not have its own parish priest because the Augustinian parish priest of San Fernando, Fray Jose Pometa, was making all kinds of objections and threats, probably because he didn't relish seeing his wealthy parishioners transfer to another parish. In fact, whenever he and his coadjutors said Mass in Culiat during weekends, they could not resist using the pulpit to humiliate the parishioners. This prompted Don Angel to request the archbishop to send the parish priests of Porac, Floridablanca, and Apalit instead to say the weekend Masses. Any priest would do, except the ones from San Fernando! It was only when Padre Macario Paras, the first Culiat native to become a priest, was assigned to Culiat that the parishioners breathed a sigh of relief.

The official creation of the town of Culiat was being delayed because the number of tax-paying residents totaled only 160, or 340 short of the government minimum of 500 taxpayers. Why weren't more San Fernando families transferring to Culiat as fast as Don Angel had hoped for? Was it because of Fray Pometa's ranting and raving? Were the conservative ilustrado families adopting a wait-and-see attitude? Was Culiat going to be a failed experiment?

Unable to wait any longer, Don Angel dug into his own pocket to pay the government the equivalent amount of taxes needed to meet the required minimum of 500 taxpayers. And so, on October 16, 1829, the decree proclaiming the independence of Culiat from San Fernando was finally signed. Culiat was renamed Angeles, because it had become a full-fledged town, which expanded to seven barrios including the original town of Culiat. Later, Angeles would acquire seven more barrios from San Fernando and three from Mabalacat.

Angeles was named in honor of the founder, Don Angel. Since it was customary to dedicate new towns to saints who were the namesakes of their founders, it was dedicated to Los Angeles Custodios, or the Guardian Angels (Angel a Talaingat in Kapampangan). When Don Angel had the patron saint's image made, he singularized it to San Angelo, or Holy Angel, for practical reasons. The image passed on from Don Angel to his descendants among the Nepomucenos and is now kept at the University Chapel of the Holy Guardian Angel.

But the Holy Guardian Angel is only the titular patron saint of Angeles City; the town's real patron saint is Our Lady of the Holy Rosary because it was the image of the Nuestra Señora del Rosario de La Naval that Doña Rosalia had carried with her during the clearing operations. The image is known in the Philippines as La Naval because it was this Marian icon that led the Spanish fleet to a naval victory against the superior Dutch Armada in five naval battles in 1646 during the Eighty Years’ Way (1568-1648). You may recall that Kapampangan soldiers had played a crucial role in the Battles of La Naval de Manila, which is why Bacolor, formerly the capital of Pampanga, and Angeles are the only places in the country outside Manila where La Naval is celebrated. While both Manila and Bacolor celebrate La Naval in November, Angeles celebrates its own La Naval on the second Sunday of October, probably because the proclamation of the town's independence from San Fernando was signed on October 16, and the month's second Sunday is the closest weekend to that date.

May the above historical account reinforce not only your commitment to Holy Angel University being a role model of faithful Catholic education, but also your individual commitment to contributing to the University’s efforts to developing our city, our region, and our country.

Ad majorem Dei gloriam! Laus Deo semper!

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