Town History:

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The Town of San Luis, Pampanga
by Alejandro S. Camiling, CPA with Teresita Z. Camiling, BSE, MA


  St. Louis Gonzaga Parish Church, San Luis, Pampanga
St. Louis Gonzaga Parish Church, San Luis, Pampanga

The municipality of San Luis in the province of Pampanga in the Philippines was initially created from a land area under the original geographical jurisdiction of the town of Santa Ana, one of the early permanent settlements in Pampanga.

The town of Santa Ana which was originally known as Pinpin used to be one of the municipalities of Pampanga with the largest land areas in the province. As new settlers kept on migrating to the town, there was a pressure to increase the agricultural production and to enhance the economic development of the community. Hence, the town people who foresaw the economic needs of the growing population cleared the wilderness area in the southern part of the town. These pioneers planted rice, corn, cacao, sugar cane, vegetables, etc. The community was blessed with economic prosperity.

When there were already about three hundred taxpaying-residents who could support financially a new municipality, the villages were reorganized into eight settlements with barrio San Isidro in the center. Augustinian missionaries were assigned in the new settlements to take care of the spiritual needs of the local people. The people in the central area built a new church building.

As the population kept on multiplying, the visionary leaders of the new community led by Jose Sugui, Miguel Bruno Panlilio, Sebastian Tigad, Diego Mangulabnan, Lorenzo de Ocampo, Vicente de Guevara, Mariano Dantis, Nicolas Pangilinan and Juan Mangalus Lacanilao initiated a petition to establish a new municipality separate and independent from the town of Santa Ana. The petition was submitted to the ad interim Spanish Governor General of the Philippines, Miguel Lino de Espeleta on January 12, 1760. The proposed township was initially called Cabagsac (bagsacan cabag) due to the presence of numerous bats in the local community.

An investigative committee composed of Fiscal General D. Sebastian Martinez and Assessor Commissioner Juan Joseph Itna was authorized to conduct a study and find out if the settlement was ready to become an independent municipality. After determining that the requirements in creating a new town could be met, the investigative committee recommended that the new settlement should be formally established into a new municipality. The Spanish Governor General approved the petition and issued an executive order creating the new town and renamed it as Patrocinio de San Luis Gonzaga. The Governor General issued also a memorandum to all the officials of Arayat, Candaba, Santa Ana (Pinpin), Mexico and Apalit informing them of the new boundaries of the newly created municipality.

San Luis has now about thirty six thousand residents in its seventeen barangays:

Barangays of San Luis
San Agustin
San Carlos
San Isidro
San Jose
San Juan
San Nicolas
San Roque
San Sebastian
Sta. Catalina
Sta. Cruz Pambilog
Sta. Cruz Poblacion
Sta. Lucia
Santa Monica
Santa Rita
Santo Rosario
Santo Nino
Santo Tomas

San Luis was originally divided into six geographical divisions: Candola, Bularit, Bonot, San Juan and Pambilog, all on the other side of the Pampanga River. They became the parent barrios of San Juan, San Nicolas, Santa Monica, San Agustin, San Isidro, San Roque and San Jose. Canitapan (now Poblacion) where the church and municipal building now stand was made into eight barrios namely: Santa Cruz Poblacion, Santo Tomas, Santa Rita, San Carlos, Santo Rosario, San Sebastian, Santa Catalina, and Santa Cruz Pambilog.

Prior to the construction of the Arnedo Dike during the term of Don Macario Arnedo as governor of the province of Pampanga in 1904-1908, barrio roads and most of the land area were frequently flooded during the rainy seasons because of the overflow of water from the Pampanga River. It was very difficult for the people to travel around the local community to market their farm products, fish and other produce. Due to these annual calamities, the municipal government located in barrio San Isidro was temporarily moved to barrio San Nicolas from July to November until the year 1788 when the final move was permanently made.

In 1793 the construction of the existing church and convent commenced under the direct supervision of Don Tomas Manankil. The completion many years later required the administrative ability and determination of Don Tomas, the experience and dedication of all the available masons and carpenters of the town and the effort of hundreds of volunteers who worked on the construction of the church without compensation. The church today serves as a fitting monument to the engineering skill of its builders and considered to be one of the most durable Catholic churches in the Philippines .

Many municipal presidents and town mayors administered the town affairs of San Luis from 1761 to 1898. One of the best municipal mayors the town has ever had, Mayor Pedro Manankil, initiated the construction of the municipal building in 1853 but it was burned down in 1902. It was rebuilt after the big fire but after more than three decades, it did not meet anymore the safety standards because it was severely damaged by a windstorm. The late Mayor Apolonio S. Salas, one of the most beloved and effective mayors of the municipality, had it repaired and renovated. Mayor Santiago Villanueva made it also a priority in improving the structural condition of the municipal building.

Like their fellow Kapampangans and other Filipinos in other towns and cities in the Philippines, the residents of San Luis are peace and freedom-loving people. They consider peace and freedom as two of the greatest gifts of the Almighty to humanity. In essence, they are willing to lay down their lives to maintain peace and order and preserve their freedom. In the bloody revolution of 1896 against Spain and against the United States of America in the early 20 th century as well as during World War II in 1941 to 1945 against Japan, the patriotic people of San Luis took up arms and saw action to defend Philippine freedom. They figured most prominently in the battle against the invading Japanese Imperial Forces. Those who did not enlist in the regular armed forces of the United States of America and the Commonwealth of the Philippines joined voluntarily an armed resistance movement in the early days of 1942.

A native son and national folk hero, Luis Taruc became the supreme commander of the Hukbong Laban Sa Hapon (HUKBALAHAP). After World War II, he was elected as congressman of the 2nd District of the Province of Pampanga. The town and the surrounding municipalities became the hot beds of social unrest.

The second half of the 20 th century brought many benefits to the municipality and to the rest of the country. President Ramon Magsaysay gave the Filipinos new hopes and trust in their government. He implemented his prosperity program to uplift the welfare of the common man. He continued his policy as Secretary of National Defense in using the army to build new communities and win the support of those who fled to the mountains and fought government forces. Those who gave up their firearms were given homesteads or pieces of agricultural land and became farmers. Financial assistance for their farm implements, working animals, fertilizers and seeds were provided. Technical assistance from government veterinarians and agricultural scientists became available for them.

True to his campaign promises, President Magsaysay launched his economic program for rural reconstruction with barrio Santa Monica in the town of San Luis as a model and training center. Large tracts of uncultivated agricultural land for many years were cleared by thousands of trainees from neighboring towns and provinces. To insure the cultivation of the cleared land, to eradicate poverty and illiteracy, and to elevate the standard of living of the people, President Magsaysay dispatched to Santa Monica a group of rural builders under the able leadership of Mr. Labez. This group, also known as the President Magsaysay San Luis Project Committee has successfully sold the idea of self-help to the people in the project area through hard work, patience and determination. Most families are now engaged in poultry and animal industry, almost all backyards are practically green throughout the year with either vegetables or newly planted fruit-bearing trees. The people gave importance to proper hygiene and preservation of life. Support for the farmers became available in buying work animals, farm implements, money for planting, etc. They did not need to borrow funds anymore from moneylenders who charged them with high interest rates. With the help of the national government through the Agricultural Credit Cooperative Financing Administration (ACCFA), the economic rehabilitation of the farmers and of the entire municipality was accelerated as envisioned in the rural program of the late President Magsaysay.

San Luis has many elementary schools, a public high school in barangay San Juan and a private secondary school. Many graduates from these schools pursue their college education to become engineers, computer programmers, teachers, lawyers, medical doctors, dentists, nurses, accountants, businessmen, etc.

The town of San Luis produced also many brilliant and talented individuals who achieved national and international prominence such as Luis Taruc who helped implement President Marcos' agrarian reform program, military generals Leoncio Tan, Eduardo Soliman Sr., Pedro Javier and Rodolfo Punsalang and popular personalities from the movie and television industry, Luis Gonzales, Bentot, Aping Daldal and others.

San Luis has many sons and daughters residing in other towns, cities and other foreign countries in Asia, the Middle East, Europe and North America but they do not forget their heritage. Many of these immigrants particularly from the Canlas, Carlos, Carreon, Dantis, de Ocampo, Dimaliwat, Elizalde, Franco, Gonzalez, Gotiangco, Guevara, Isip, Javier, Jimenez, Lucas, Manangkil, Marin, Mangulabnan, Nieva, Pangilinan, Panlilio, Punsalan, Sagun, Santillan, Santos, Soliman, Sugui, Taruc and Tigad families became very successful in their professions and business enterprises. With the help of their town mates in San Luis they organized a socio-civic organization called "Ding Anac Ning San Luis" (Sons and Daughters of San Luis) and elected Col. Numeriano Carreon as founding president. The primary objective of the association is to render humanitarian service to the municipality. Two of the important projects of the association were the construction of a public library and an open theater to promote library consciousness among the residents and to develop the artistic talents of the youth. Members awarded scholarships to deserving students and raised funds for many charitable projects in their hometown.

The current mayor of San Luis, Honorable Jay Sagun leads the implementation of the infrastructure and economic development programs as well as the peace and order campaign approved by the Municipal Council.(Based on an article written by Rufo M. Gotiangco and information submitted by Ms. Elsie Gonzalez Franco Diaz - 02/03/2006)


About the Authors:

Andro and Tess Z. Camiling are conscientious researchers and writers of Kapampangan history, language and culture. They wrote “Pampanga: History and Culture", "Pampanga: Towns and Barangays", "The Province of Pampanga and Its People” and other articles including “Malay Relation With Kapampangan Language and Culture”, "Spanish Relation With Kapampangan Language and Culture", biographies of eighteen (18) famous Kapampangans and the history of the towns of Apalit, Lubao, Masantol, Mexico, Minalin, San Fernando, San Luis, San Simon and Santo Tomas of the Province of Pampanga, Philippines. Andro is a true-blue Kapampangan based in California USA where he was employed and retired as an accounting/financial director at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and practiced his CPA profession as a management and tax consultant. He is a Pampanga High School Centennial Awardee as an Outstanding Alumnus in the Field of Accountancy and a recipient of the City of San Fernando’s 2011 Outstanding Fernandino Award for Culture. His wife and co-author of the aforementioned articles, the former Teresita Manalansan Zuniga of Lubao, Pampanga, Philippines is a retired public school teacher in Pasadena, California. She was honored and awarded with Certificates of Recognition by the California State Assembly and the California State Senate for her outstanding dedication to teaching when she retired in 2003. Andro and Tess are dedicated socio-civic-religious leaders in their community and served as long-term presidents of their town non-profit charitable organizations in the USA.