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

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