Bamban is located at the southernmost part of Tarlac Province. On the north, it is bounded by the municipality of Capas, Tarlac, and on the south, by the municipality of Mabalacat, Pampanga. The Parua River, popularly known as Bamban River, separates Bamban from Mabalacat. Toward the east lies the municipality of Concepcion, Tarlac. On the western side, the terrain is rugged due to rolling hills and mountains bordering the municipality of Botolan, Zambales. The wide tract of flat lands on the eastern side is suited to agriculture. This is where many of Bamban’s residents are engaged in farming.
Historical records states that the early inhabitants of the settlement, which was to become Pueblo de Bamban, were the Aetas or Negritos and Zambals. Later, other settlers came from Pampanga and other neighboring provinces. Those settlers found the place with plants of mabamboa or bambania growing abundantly along the riverbanks. The place was called cabambanan or mabamban but later on it was simply called bamban.
At present, the Kapampangans composed approximately 90% of Bamban’s population. The remaining 10% composed of Ilocanos, Tagalogs, Pangasinenses and Zambals. Roman Catholicism is the dominant religion which is about 85% while the rest are Iglesia ni Cristo, Methodists, Baptists and other evangelical groups. The presence of those religious sects attests that its people are religious. Farming is the main occupation of the residents who live at the eastern part of the town. Among the professionals, the teachers are the greatest in number, drivers of passenger jeepneys and tricycles ranked second. The rest offers personal services such as the carpenters, barbers, beautician, masons and other construction workers.
Bamban is endowed by the Divine Providence with rolling hills and gorgeous mountains of San Vicente, Sto. Niño and San Nicolas. The Sacobia Lake in barangay Sto Niño was a result of the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991. Another interesting spot to see is the waterfalls at Sitio Malasa. Some Japanese tunnels still exist on the mountains of barangay San Nicolas. There are also man-made wonders in Bamban that include the Wonderland Resort at barangay Anupul, the grottos of our Lady of Lourdes in barangaysLourdesand sitio Magurul Gurul, and the concrete suspension bridge at the southernmost part of Bamban.
BAMBAN BEFORE WORLD WAR II
Life in Bamban before the outbreak of the war was simple. Majority of the people lived in small houses made of bamboos, nipa or cogon, sawali and other local materials available in the community. There were few big houses owned by wealthy hacinderos and professionals, yet, their number is few. Today, most of these ancestral houses no longer exist, including the house of Don Jesus Feliciano – a wealthy landlord, located few meters from the railroad station at barangay San Nicolas. The old house of Atty. Benjamin Gacioco located across the old sugar central was also dismantled right after the Liberation Period. Another one that no longer exists is the house of Dr. Potricio S. Santos, grandfather of Vilma, a multi –awarded actress turned politician.
During those periods, calesas, calising and carts were the usual type of transportation. Very few had family cars like the Felicianos, Santos and Gosiocos. Other rich families owned calising, which were drawn by horses. Now, Bamban is found with tricycles and passenger jeepneys, instead, of the calesas and calising.
Long before the war, the rural folks in this community practiced bayanihan. Farmers helped one another in preparing their rice fields during planting and harvesting seasons. To make their work easier and faster, the community folks practiced the sugo. But because of the invention of modern machineries such as the threshing machines, tractors, and bulldozers, the practice among the farmers is rarely observed nowadays.
The farmers in Bamban traditionally practiced the lasac dalungdong after a bountiful harvest. This is a way of showing their gratitude to God for the blessing they received at harvest time. Barrio folks come to partake sumptuous food made available for everyone. Today, the lasac dalungdung festivity held in rice fields or farms is gone; instead, parties are held in resorts or restaurants.
Another traditional practice in Bamban is the Santa Cruzan held in May. The tradition is the procession of beautiful maidens and gentlemen during the evening that parade along the streets of the town beginning May 15 until the end of the month. Naturally, the burden of inviting beautiful ladies from the neighboring barrios or towns plus, the preparation of supper would entail much expense on the part of the host; thus, is perhaps the reason why the Santa Cruzan has become scarce this day.
Again before the war, lively music during parties, anniversaries and other special occasions had to be provided by rondalla players. But now, videokes and other electronic musical devices are being used instead. This is one reason why there are few surviving rondalla players these days in Bamban.
THE JAPANESE OCCUPATION
With the coming of the Japanese Imperial Army in Bamban, many of its civilian residents suffered untold hardships and brutalities. The Japanese army occupied the sugar central as their garrison or detention camp. Innocent civilians were brutally tortured on mere suspicion of being members of the guerilla movement.
To propagate Japanese language and culture, schools were opened. The teaching of Nippongo as a subject was compulsory and the children were forced to study it. During this regime, the Kapisanan ng Paglilingkod sa Bagong Pilipinas (Society for Service to the New Philippines), popularly known as KALIBAPI, was utilized by the Japanese invaders to gain the cooperation and goodwill of the civilians. But despite this Japanese propaganda, many cabalens joined the guerrilla USAFFE or Hukbalahap (Hukbong Bayan Laban Sa Hapon). Several resistance units were organized me and one of them was USAFFE guerilla under Capt. Bruce, an American soldier. Squadron #45 of the Hukbalahap movement was under Apung Nasiong Gamboa alias Commander Luna.
THE LIBERATION PERIOD
Perhaps, Bamban was the only town in Central Luzon, which suffered most when the American forces came to liberate the Philippines. The whole poblacion of the municipality was devastated when US fighter planes bombed the houses, the school buildings and the public market. There were no civilian casualties because the residents had evacuated to the far-flung barrios.
Not long after, the people returned to the poblacion to rehabilitate the community. They had to rebuild their dwelling places out of salvage materials. Peaceful living must continue after the war.
Soon after the war, some remarkable changes took place in the town. Political set up was reorganized and schools were reopened. Big houses made of strong materials were erected in the pablacions and few “barong-barong” constructed out of salvaged materials remained for a few more years.
Five (5) additional barrios were added to the ten (10) existing barrios of the town. The newly created barrios were Lourdes, San Pedro, Sto Nino, San Rafael and San Vicente. The highest official of the barrio was no longer addressed tiniente but capitan.
During pre-war days and up to early Liberation Period, there were no high schools in Bamban. In 1949, Atty. Igmedio Bolus created the Bamban Institute, which however, did not operate long. In 1957, another private high school, the Holy Infant Jesus Academy, established by a certain Mr. Gaviola came into operation. Later on, the administration was transferred to the Dominican Sisters. The institution was subsequently renamed Sto.Nino Academy up to the present time.
In 1966, a public high school came into existence. It was named San Roque Experimental High School. Two years later, it was renamed San Roque Rural High School. It is known now as San Roque High School.
THE MARTIAL LAW YEARS
When the late Pres. Marcos proclaimed Martial Law, notable changes took place in Bamban. In the political arena for instance, there was a sudden change in leadership in the Municipal Government when the incumbent Mayor was detained in Camp Crame, Quezon City. His vice-mayor, a former employee of Clark Air Force Base, took over the reins of government. He served well his constituents despite the difficulties of Martial Law. In 1978, the incumbent mayor was replaced by a political choice of the political party in power. However, the designated mayor died after serving less than two years in office. Hence, his vice-mayor, also a party choice, succeeded him.
LIFE AFTER MT. PINATUBO ERUPTION
When Mt. Pinatubo erupted in 1991, the physical environment, population and livelihood of the people changed as an aftermath of the calamity. Ash falls and lahar devastated many houses, schools, farms, bridges and roads. Three barangays, namely: San Pedro, Malonzo and Bangcu were totally covered with lahar. Portions of barangays Lourdes, Banaba, La Paz, Dela Cruz and Culabasa were also covered by lahar. As a result of the calamity, two resettlement areas, Dapdap and Mainang Resettlement Centers, were made to help the displaced residents of the town. In Dapdap Resettlement alone, more than 3,000 families were resettled. Other victims of Mt. Pinatubo eruption stayed in the villages of Rolling Hills, Sampaloc, Panaisan, Pandan, Pag-asa, Magurol-gurol and Mano.
In Dapdap Resettlement area, permanent buildings for public elementary and secondary schools were constructed to accommodate children of school age. These schools are still in operation. In Mainang Resettlement Center, the government also constructed public elementary school buildings.
Many people lost jobs when the Americans abandoned Clark Air Base. Hundreds of rice and sugarcane fields became unproductive because they were covered with lahar. Under this situation, many people suffered hardships in their daily living.
After a few years, Clark Air Base was re-opened by the Philippine government that helped the people of Bamban to work for their living. The re-opening included the establishment of local manufacturing industries and duty free shops operated by the Clark Development Corporation (CDC). Similarly, the Clark Airport became the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport. These opportunities helped jobless Bambanenses to be employed; skilled and non-skilled and professionals were given the opportunity to earn a living inside the former military base.
Similarly, farmers became busy in their farms. With this turning of events, normal living ushered in.