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San Narciso saves ‘collective memory’ through cultural mapping

The project is a significant step in the preservation of the cultural properties or heritage of our town.




AMERICAN era Valdez House.

Partnering with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the local government unit of San Narciso in the province of Zambales undertook a town-wide cultural mapping project, identifying its various heritage assets aimed to save the rich patrimony of the town.

The project, conducted from 2017 to 2019 under former mayor La Rainne Abad-Sarmiento “is a significant step in the preservation of the cultural properties or heritage of our town,” notes Liberato Ramos, journalist and former municipal employee who took part in the landmark endeavor described as the first in the province.

He stressed the importance of documenting and saving heritage since “many of our intangible traditions are getting lost due to lifestyle changes caused by science and technology, globalization, social media, etc.” and that even Ilocano — their lingua franca — is no longer being used by the younger members of the society.

So, he said, “Tangible and intangible heritage need to be documented as a way of saving the tawid or pamana (the cultural inheritance) in the collective memory for the appreciation of the present and future generations.”

“binungey” culinary tradition of the Ayta residents.

Recollect town

Founded by the Augustinian Recollects in the 19th century, the town was noted to have a church, parochial house, school, Casa Comunidad, and at least 600 houses.

Its land, described as mountainous and fertile enough, produced abaca, corn, cotton, rice, sesame, sugarcane, and various fruits and vegetables.

The town also produced some textile for domestic use.

Founded by the Augustinian Recollects in the 19th century, the town was noted to have a church, parochial house, school, Casa Comunidad, and at least 600 houses.

San Narciso has a sizeable Ilocano population who migrated to the town during the Spanish colonial period.

SAN Sebastian Church in San Narciso.

Indigo vats

The vestiges of its long-gone textile industry are still evident in the circular stone indigo vats located in a number of sites in the town.

The vats called baldes and numbering to 10, are spread in five barangays.

These were used in the dying of textiles during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Aside from the vats, other built heritage properties in San Narciso include the San Sebastian church (with three 19th century bells) built by the Augustinian Recollect Fr. Francisco Moreno, the town’s parish priest from 1895 to 1898; the Iglesia Filipina Independiente Church; the United Methodist Church constructed in 1961; the Gabaldon-style West and East Central Schools; the Zambales Academy where former President Ramon Magsaysay spent his high school days; and monuments honoring significant events and personalities such as the San Narciso’s twelve martyrs who were executed in 1898, and the defenders of Bataan and Corregidor during World War II.

Photos courtesy of Liberato Ramos

San Narciso is also the current home of the Philippine Merchant Marine Academy (PMMA), first established in Manila in 1820 as the Escuela Nautica de Manila.

SURFING in San Narciso.

Heritage houses

San Narciso also has heritage houses that its residents can be proud of.

These are the late 19th century Farrales house owned by Don Cipriano Farrales, the gobernadorcillo of the town in the 1890s and one of the twelve martyrs who were executed in 1898.

The other heritage homes in town include the American era Valdez house, Dumlao house built in 1936, the 1930s house of Don Ladilao and Maria Floresca, and the Famularcano house which is currently owned by Judge Miguel Famuarcano Jr.

Other heritage assets

San Narciso is home to various natural heritage assets such as the Rabaw ti Bato coral reef, olive ridley turtle, Palacapac Falls, Santo Tomas (also Macolcol) River, century-old acacia trees and a number of flora and fauna species.

Facing the West Philippine Sea (Luzon Sea) to its west, the beach in Barangay La Paz became the site of a “bloodless landing” of American troops in January 1945. Today, the shore of the town is a popular surfing destination in the province.

The town is likewise rich in intangible heritage.

These include the Holy Week processions by both Catholic and Aglipayan churches, Domingo Sabet (Easter Sunday dawn rites), tumba (shrines erected at street corners during All Saints and All Souls days), Sudario chanting instead of Pasyon during Holy Week, a number of Ilocano cuisine such as inabraw and dinardaraan, and the binungey culinary tradition of its Ayta residents.

MAPPERS documenting an indigo vat.

Famous people

Aside from identifying its tangible and intangible heritage, the cultural mapping project also recognized the personalities who helped shape its history and identity.

These are the twelve martyrs Cipriano Farrales, Manuel Quirico Amon, Catalino Buduan, Juan Cawagas, Luis Espiritu, Hermogenes Febre, Catalino Valdez, Deogracias Manangan, Francisco Aquino, Eduardo de Villanueva, Melchor Favor and Eugenio Alamar; Blessed Julian Moreno, a Spanish priest martyred in the Spanish Civil War of 1936 who studied Ilocano in the town in 1894 and performed baptismal and nuptial rites; writer Maximo Ramos, famed for his writings on Philippine folklore and mythology; World War II heroine Elizabeth Masue Almazan; and Justice Alejo Labrador, the Zambales representative from 1936 to 1941.

The founders of Abiva Publishing House, Luis and Asuncion Quiray Abiva Sr., also hailed from the town.

They were described in the cultural mapping dossier as “prime movers in Philippine education.”


Note: The author wishes to thank Liberato Ramos for the information on San Narciso cultural heritage mapping project, an important undertaking in the preservation of the town’s rich cultural and natural patrimony.

Photos courtesy of Liberato Ramos

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