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TARLAC, THE PROVINCE

On May 28, 1999, then-Tarlac Governor Jose ‘Aping’ Yap started the celebration of the founding anniversary of the province after he commissioned a research conducted by experts into the history of Tarlac.

The young Tarlac province was described in a 1918 census as “two distinct geographical areas.”

The northern and eastern parts of the province consist of an extensive level plain, while the western part is dominated by mountains that abound with timber suitable for building materials and furniture-making.

The minor forest products are anahaw, palasan, yantoc (hence the toponym Mayantoc), honey, and bojo for sawali. Buri and anahaw are found in the swamps.

Chalk and limestone deposits have been discovered. Medicinal springs are also found in the province, the two most notable of which are the spring of O’Donnell in Capas town and that of Sinait in Tarlac City.

The province was carved from the southern part of Pangasinan and the northern part of Pampanga, hence the diverse mix of its culture and tradition.

The population is composed of Tagalogs, Ilocanos, Pangasinenses, and Pampangos, emigrants from their respective regions.

The province is the child of revolutions, colonialism, and heroism in the 19th century.

TOPONYMY: Of Grass, Mud, and Sugarcane

Names of places can be taken from particular people, administrative activities, historical occurrences, geographical features, or a phenomenal occurrence or activity.

According to Commissioner Lino Dizon of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, Marcos Tañedo, a local historian, and the Tarlac Historical Society in the late 1950s pushed the narrative that the name Tarlac was taken from “malatarlac,” a type of cogon grass that was endemic to the area.

This false account was, unfortunately, adopted by Tarlac City as a festival – Malatarlak Festival – during the incumbency of then-mayor Genaro ‘Aro’ Mendoza. This was replaced by the Melting Pot Festival in 2011 (and subsequently by the Kaisa Festival in 2017).

The malatarlac story was essentially debunked as an old Spanish-Tagalog dictionary by Pedro Serrano Laktaw in the late 1800s, already referred to as “Tarlac” without the prefix-‘mala’ – as a native sugar cane.

But as early as 1593, the place name “Tarlac” was already mentioned in documents that mean “a muddy marshland.” The toponym was mentioned as a military fort built on a high ground surrounded by muddy plains in what was the old Castillo or Macapsa. The Old Castillo is now Barangay Talimundoc Marimla in Concepcion town. Castillo means fort in Spanish and was used to defend early communities from the frequent lowland raids by headhunting Negritos and bandits.


EIGHT RAYS OF THE SUN: A typo or vindictiveness raises questions about Tarlac’s role in the revolution

When the Philippine Revolution broke out in 1896, Tarlac was one of the first provinces to join the fight.

Gen. Francisco Macabulos
Gen. Francisco Macabulos.

Despite the 1897 Pact of Biak-na-Bato, wherein the Spanish colonial Governor-General Fernando Primo de Rivera and revolutionary leader Emilio Aguinaldo agreed to end the Philippine Revolution by going into exile, local hero General Francisco Macabulos continued to fight.

The Macabulos-led Katipunan revolutionary forces eventually liberated Tarlac in 1898.

The refusal of Macabulos to initially abide by the pact of Biak-na-Bato led to a personal quarrel with Aguinaldo.

When the Philippine Declaration of Independence was proclaimed on June 12, 1898, the document did not mention Tarlac as one of the eight provinces represented on the new Philippine flag. In place of Tarlac, it was Bataan – though some documents mention Morong (Rizal) instead.

According to Commissioner Dizon, this was just an unfortunate typographical error.

Philippine Proclamation of Independence 1898
Acta de la proclamación de independencia del pueblo Filipino (The Act of the Proclamation of Independence of the Filipino People).

The “Act of Proclamation of Independence by the Filipino People” was written in Spanish by Don Ambrosio Rianzares Bautista, Aguinaldo’s adviser. Was the omission of Tarlac an honest mistake or a case of vindictiveness on the part of Aguinaldo?

“But because of the bad blood between Luna and Aguinaldo, and because of Macabulos’ close association with (Antonio) Luna, historians and ordinary people alike could not help but conclude that Aguinaldo deliberately ignored Tarlac when he declared independence,” Dizon said.

According to Ateneo de Manila University Professor Ambeth Ocampo, the rays of the sun symbolized the first eight provinces of the Philippines that were declared under martial law during the Philippine Revolution.

The argument of Ocampo holds water because the 1918 census document mentioned:

“Tarlac apparently showed unmistakable signs of unrest on the eve of the outbreak of the Revolution, for Governor Blanco included in his decree of August 1896, the Province of Tarlac among the eight provinces where a state of war was declared to be in existence. Indeed Tarlac, like most provinces, was ripe for revolt. Later, when Malolos was evacuated, the town of Tarlac became for a time the headquarters of the Philippine Revolutionary Government.”

Tarlac province, along with Batangas, Bulacan, Cavite, Manila, Laguna, Nueva Ecija, and Pampanga, are indelibly represented on the Philippine flag. This fact should never be taken away from Tarlakenyos.

Soon after, relative peace came to the land.

Civil government was established in Tarlac on February 18, 1901. The construction of the provincial capitol was completed in 1909.

TARLAC PROVINCE: The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

In 1858, the fast growth of a section of Central Luzon led to the establishment of the military comandancia (a district or province under military control) of Tarlac into a regularly organized province. 

On May 28, 1873, the prosperous portion of Pangasinan, which included the towns of Camiling, Gerona (then called Barug), and Paniqui, was segregated from that province and made part of the new Province of Tarlac by then Governor General Juan Alaminos y Vivar.

The newly-created province included all the towns which formed part of the military comandancia of Tarlac, with the exception of Mabalacat, Magalang, Porac, and Floridablanca, which were returned to Pampanga.

Juan Guillen was its first provincial governor.

Considered from the viewpoint of the foundation of its towns, Tarlac appears to be a province of late development. With the possible exception of Tarlac (now Tarlac City), which was founded in 1686, not one of the towns which belong to the province of Tarlac was founded earlier than the beginning of the 18th century.

The oldest towns in this province, except that of Tarlac, were founded in comparatively late years. For example, Bamban and Capas were not created until 1710, and Paniqui was not until 1754. The youngest town, San Jose, was founded only in 1990.

TARLAC WITH A “C”

“Tarlac” is officially spelled with a C instead of a K, following Spanish orthography. The letter K does not occur in native Spanish words unless the word is borrowed from other languages.

Be that as it may, some prefer to spell it with a “K” because of linguistic reforms leading to the Philippine national language of Filipino or simply due to nationalistic fervor following Spain’s 330 years of subjugation of the Filipino people.

Ronald Dizon
Ronald Dizon
Ronald was correspondent for several Philippine dailies and weeklies a score of years ago and was editor of a South Pacific paper. He still writes for this online news service and several local weeklies. If he's not busy, you might catch him online on cnc.net playing that godawful old game. "Aaaa kakakaka!!!!!"
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