Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Lolo Ego and Lolo Bino

I have the distinction and good fortune (through no merit of my own) of having not one but two distinguished grandfathers, who served the Filipinos in earnest as senior government officials at the relatively early stage of our nation’s quest for self-determination.  I find that the easiest way to brag about this (though, once again, I can’t claim any credit) is to show a picture of a historical plaque at the site of our national monument, the Rizal Monument (the Philippines' equivalent of the Statue of Liberty).

Rizal Monument

The First Cabinet and the First Supreme Court Justices

The plaque, on the upper half, enumerates the first cabinet of the so-called Third Republic of the Philippines (i.e., after the Commonwealth era of the Philippines under the sovereignty of the United States), which includes the Honorable Manuel V. Gallego, then Secretary of Public Instructions (that’s Lolo Ego), and, on the lower half, enumerates the first justices of the Supreme Court, which includes the Honorable Sabino Padilla (that’s Lolo Bino).  They were indeed honorable men at a time when public service in the Philippines was not yet wrought with corruption and incompetence.

The exemplary public service of both my Lolo Ego and my Lolo Bino were remembered on the year of their respective birth centenary through the Great Filipinos series of commemorative stamps issued by the Philippine Postal Corporation.

Lolo Ego

Lolo and Lola Ego

Lolo Bino with Family at Supreme Court

Lolo Bino with Mom before Wedding

Saturday, August 13, 2011

My Hazard Wing

Crack of dawn, Saturday, August 13.  I’ve switched from my slow (Gibbogear Butterfly) wing (cruises at about 60 kph without head or tail wind) to my intermediate (Pipistrel Hazard) wing (cruises at about 80 kph without head or tail wind).

It doesn’t look different but it’s a different flying animal.  You’ll be surprised how much more area you can cover with a slightly higher cruising speed.  I did not bring a camera on this flight as I wanted to re-familiarize myself with my intermediate wing, which requires more active handling during flights.  I also did not bring my GPS (global positioning system for navigation) as the sky was quite clear and I had no intention of flying beyond a 30 kilometer radius.

Take-off took a little longer than my slow wing (as expected) and was nice and smooth.  I did not feel like I was gaining altitude quickly enough, so I kept the engine at about 5,000 RPM for a few minutes.  I then tapered to between 4,600 to 4,700 RPM until I felt pretty cold.  Without my GPS, it appeared I was climbing slowly even at 4,600 RPM, so I settled at 4,500 RPM, probably at an altitude of nearly 1,000 meters.  I visited Rosales, Pangasinan to look for another lake (besides Lake Paitan) that was supposed to be nearby.  Meandered through the river along Rosales—no such lake.  Visibility was terrific as I could see Lingayen Gulf—roughly 30 kilometers from Rosales as the crow flies.

My intermediate wing, rightly or wrongly, settles comfortably at the front aluminum post of the trike in the absence of any pilot intervention.  During calm flying conditions (as in most of my flight this morning), I can actually take photographs using a camera on my wrist mount.  I’m really excited to get this going.  Just haven’t gotten around to buying a decent compact digital camera for my wrist mount.  Details, details!

I flew the rest of the way home at around 4,300 RPM leisurely loosing altitude until a smooth landing.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

It’s reeeal puhrty (pretty) up here!

TPLEX and Low Altitude Clouds

Crack of dawn, Thursday, August 11.  There are plenty of low clouds scattered all over the sky and the sunrise looks promising.  It’s going to melt those clouds in no time—so I thought.

Something exciting (I think) is happening in Nampicuan.  A significant highway extension is finally going to be built that will bring this town, among other economically challenged rural towns, closer to Metro Manila (2 hrs by car, no rush) and other growth centers such as Clark (1 hr by car, no rush) and Subic (1.5 hr by car, no rush).  I say “no rush” because I can achieve these times without the highway extension by driving aggressively.  Anyway, I decided to take some aerial photos of the TPLEX, which is short for the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway—particularly the portion that passes alongside the family farm—Rancho Caridad.  While the interchange or the exit coming out of the TPLEX is approximately 3 kilometers from the farm, the TPLEX itself barely misses the westernmost tip of the farm, the tangential distance of which is less than 100 meters from TPLEX—as seen in the photographs, which are taken from a northeast orientation heading southwest.

TPLEX and Rancho Caridad from a distance . . . coming closer . . . closer . . .

TPLEX and Rancho Caridad from a distance . . . coming closer . . . closer . . .

TPLEX and Rancho Caridad from a distance . . . coming closer . . . closer . . .

. . . until you see the gap with a portion of a mango orchard that needs to be chopped away
Rancho Caridad is less than 100 meters to the left of TPLEX

. . . until you see the gap with a portion of a mango orchard that needs to be chopped away
Rancho Caridad is less than 100 meters to the left of TPLEX

It sort of reminds me of a Charles Bronson movie I saw about the Wild West and the excitement that came along when the railroad was built through your town.  In many cases then, US towns sprung-up because of the railroad.  (Although in a more recent context, some would argue that small town USA died because of the interstate highway replacing the old Route 66.)  I’m optimistic that TPLEX is going to be a blessing for Central Luzon.

From Metro Manila, you would pass through NLEX (Northern Luzon Expressway) to SCTEX (Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway) going to Tarlac, which connects to the TPLEX that will eventually reach La Union or the base from which to start your climb to Baguio.  See the following W Growth Corridor illustration.

W Growth Corridor of Central Luzon
Rancho Caridad, Nampicuan is at the central tip of the W Growth Corridor
Only 3 kilometers drive from the Anao Interchange or Exit of TPLEX

It’s one of those not so usual days of low altitude clouds and it’s plenty of fun flying above them.  You see this all the time when you hop on any jet plane that usually flies at altitudes of around 30,000 ft.  The clouds are way below during most of the trip—except shortly after take-off and shortly before landing.  When you’re flying recreationally, you decide (within prudent and safe limits, of course) what altitude to fly . . . and I chose to fly not too high above the clouds.  It’s reeeal puhrty (pretty) up here!

Low Altitude Clouds
That mountain on the right foreground, approximately 50 kms north, would be about Baguio

Banking the aircraft into the sunrise

Low Altitude Clouds . . . and the 3 giant monsters beneath
Mt Balungao, Mt Bangkay and Mt Cuyapo

Rancho Caridad was covered in clouds when I returned.  This could be terrifying for a first-timer, even with the GPS on-board.  I had to look for the airstrip before I lined-up my trike for landing.

Low Altitude Clouds Just Above Rancho Caridad
How do I land if I can't see the airstrip?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Ready for Some Cross-Country Action!

Wednesday, August 10.  I just had my aircraft mechanic check my carburetion in connection with my uneven EGT (exhaust gas temperature) readings and he gave it the clean bill of health; that is, after we cleaned the gunk (residual resin from my gas tank) we found in the carburetors and replaced the damaged gas filter.  It appears my water temperature gauge, which is working wonderfully registering a cool 65 degrees Celsius at my solo cruising 4,200 RPM, is the more critical instrument.  Apparently, it’s not unusual for dual EGT readings to be different.  As long as any single EGT reading does not exceed 650 degrees Celsius (1,200 degrees Fahrenheit), I should be within acceptable engine parameters.  This also resolves my final technical concern post engine replacement; ergo, we are clear to launch!  That just means I’m finally ready for some cross-country flights as I have been flying short distances since July 1, 2011.

Below is a preview of my initial cross-country destinations, including Angeles Flying Club, Iba, Hermana Minor, Hermana Mayor, Baler, Lingayen, Laokan, San Fernando, Bagabag, among others.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Lola Oñang (Gorgonia, wife of Lolo Lucio, holding the basket) with her children
(women wearing indigenous costumes)
Ongsiaco Family Tree (1 of 2)--work-in-progress

Ongsiaco Family Tree (2 of 2)--work-in-progress

Ongsiaco Family History in Nampicuan

Contemporary history has not been favorable to Nampicuan.  Several years ago, I had a conversation with the late P. O. Domingo, former Chairman and CEO of the University of the East.  When I informed him about the family farm in Nampicuan, he said he hailed from Paniqui, Tarlac and recalled, when he was a young man, the reputation of Nampicuan as a haven of cattle thieves.  Another mark of Nampicuan’s infamy was due to the criminal exploits of the late Jose "Pepe" Saclao, Public Enemy No. 1.  Born and raised in Nampicuan, Pepe fancied himself a modern day Robin Hood but was just another gun-wielding lackey of corrupt politicians.

Today, Nampicuan is a quaint and peaceful rural town in Central Luzon that boasts of a pedigreed past known to a few families that were privileged to own what was once known as Hacienda Esperanza.  Covering an area of 39,000 hectares (part of which was the entire Municipality of Nampicuan that did not yet exist), Hacienda Esperanza was the largest tract of land owned by a single individual in the entire history of the Philippines.

The Spanish royal land grants were responsible for two huge haciendas in Central Luzon:  Hacienda Luisita and Hacienda Esperanza.  Hacienda Luisita in the Province of Tarlac, which encompassed territory in the towns of Tarlac, La Paz, Concepcion and Capas was a royal grant given to Tabacalera Company in 1880—acquired with the sugar mill, Central Azucarera de Tarlac, by Jose Cojuangco Sr. in 1957 with the help of the Philippine Government.  Hacienda Esperanza, nearly 40,000 hectares which encompassed territory in four provinces—Pangasinan, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac and the Mountain Province—was a royal grant given to a Spaniard in 1863.

Sometime between 1863 and 1893, Francisco Gonzalez, a prominent Spanish mestizo from Baliuag, Bulacan, bought out the original Spanish owner of Hacienda Esperanza.  Then, in 1893, Francisco Gonzalez (allegedly due to substantial gambling debts) sold nearly half of Hacienda Esperanza to Marcelino de Santos and Lucio Ongsiaco.  De Santos and Ongsiaco were not only business partners but also brothers-in-law by virtue of Marcelino’s marriage to Lucio’s sister.  The portion of Hacienda Esperanza they received was located in the Province of Nueva Ecija (including most of Nampicuan and part of Cuyapo) and in the Province of Tarlac (including part of Anao and part of San Manuel).  All in all, what was to be known as the De Santos, Ongsiaco, Lim Estate covered nearly 15,700 hectares of virtually uninhabited land at that time.

In time, the Estate was divided among its owners.  Lim, the industrial partner of De Santos and Ongsiaco, and the encargado or foreman of the Estate, was given approximately 1,500 hectares in the vicinity of San Manuel, Tarlac.  De Santos received more than half the balance of approximately 7,700 hectares, allegedly because he asked for a disproportionately larger area of land due to his having more children than Ongsiaco at the time of the division—to which Ongsiaco obliged.  Ongsiaco received approximately 6,500 hectares, which comprised most of Nampicuan and some parts of Anao and Cuyapo.

Lucio Ongsiaco had nine children with his wife Gorgonia Velasco.  As was the custom in those days, the male heirs typically inherited more than the female heirs.  Hence, Caridad Velasco Ongsiaco (my grandmother), one of the daughters of Lucio and Gorgonia, inherited a disproportionately smaller area of approximately 600 hectares of her father’s rural landholdings—mostly in Nampicuan with a few hectares spilling over to Cuyapo.  Caridad was married to Manuel Viola Gallego, who, in 1953, registered Caridad’s rural landholdings to Gallego Institute of Agriculture and Industry, Inc., a Philippine corporation established for the advancement of agricultural education in Central Luzon (“GIAI”).

The years that followed saw the destruction of rural landowners whose lands were planted to rice.  The burgeoning Philippine democracy saw the rise of the politician who sought the vote of the common man at the expense of landowners.  Forced distribution of land or institutionalized land-grabbing, ostensibly known as agrarian reform, was imposed by the government.

Today, Nampicuan is comprised of small tracts of land owned by many individual farmers, who continue to produce rice, among other agricultural produce, for domestic consumption. GIAI, which we now fondly call Rancho Cardidad (in honor of my grandmother), is the only descendant entity of Hacienda Esperanza that maintains a presence in Nampicuan. In 2011, at the behest of Manuel O. Gallego Jr. (my father), GIAI donated its high school of over 60 years, to the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Jose, Nueva Ecija, which, in turn, has committed to bring to bear its resources to provide quality Catholic education to the youth of Nampicuan.

I have also embarked on an agri-turismo initiative complementing our organic livestock (great steaks!) with recreational aviation.  Among the aircrafts flown in our private airstrip are microlights, ultralights, aircrafts without engines, such as gliders (sailplanes) and, eventually, hangliders and paragliders that will harness the abundant natural thermals found in the vicinity of Nampicuan.

Below are aerial photos of Rancho Caridad:

 Rancho Caridad, Nampicuan
Taken from the northeast side of the airstrip

Rancho Caridad, Nampicuan
Taken from the northeast side of the airstrip

Rancho Caridad, Nampicuan
Taken from the southeast side of the airstrip; Nampicuan Public High School
across the Ranch along the Anao-Nampicuan-Cuyapo provincial road

 Rancho Caridad, Nampicuan
Taken from the southeast side of the airstrip

Diagonal Airstrip (work-in-progress)
Taken from the northeast side of the airstrip

Diagonal Airstrip (work-in-progress)
Taken from the southeast side of the airstrip, along the path of dominant wind direction--
a significant safety feature for microlights