P30-B Megaworld project to spur development in Central Luzon
When Mount Pinatubo erupted in June 1991, most of the Province of Pampanga was buried in volcanic debris and lahar. The immediate pull-out of American facilities Clark Air Base and Subic Naval Base due to the catastrophe amplified the residents’ woes, and was taken as a literal end of the road for them for it meant the loss of treasured jobs and businesses forever.
Angeles City and Olongapo City were most affected by this chain of events. Three years later in 1995, it was Pampanga’s capital of San Fernando’s turn to be heavily damaged as a result of floods and mudflow from the volcano.
Over time, however, the Kapampangan resilience found momentum again as the province literally rose out of the ashes.
As Region 3’s central hub, it was all the more important for San Fernando to muster strength and courage to rebuild its ravaged environs.
More than two decades later, the municipality, which became the Philippines’ 99th city on February 4, 2001 by virtue of Republic Act 8990, is now a bustling urban center. Its location as a gateway to Clark, Subic, Nueva Ecija, Bulacan and the rest of Northern Luzon is conducive to development—particularly of the Live, Work, Play and Learn atmosphere of modern communities.
But as modernization and globalization engulf the world, especially the younger population called millennials, Kapampangan heritage and culture are not exempt from being significantly eroded with the advent of technology, sidelining even their native tongue.
“We asked locals and long-time residents of San Fernando, Bacolor and Guagua what’s their main concern when we acquired the Pasudeco (Pampanga Sugar Development Company) estate to turn it into an integrated central business district (CBD) and township lifestyle community,” Megaworld Pampanga First Vice President for Sales and Marketing Eugene Lozano told The Manila Times.
Their resounding answer was to preserve what makes their province truly Kapampangan.
P30-billion development plan
Plans for a 35.6-hectare property—once the site of historic sugar central mill and plantation, which only stopped operations in 2015 following rehabilitation from the havoc of Mount Pinatubo—has been laid by renowned developer Megaworld. It is projected for completion in five years and fully functional as a CBD in 10 years.
Called the Capital Town, the P30-billion project was born out of the clamor from Megaworld’s business process outsourcing (BPO) clients and locators in Metro Manila where they can expand operations outside the megalopolis tapping talents and resources for their accounts.
By providence, the Pasudeco estate became available. Mixing the township concept which Megaworld has successfully undertaken in other areas with the Kapampangans’ desire to preserve their heritage, Capital Town will precisely be the crowning jewel of the real estate development and cultural hub in Central Luzon.
“The mall will be built in the shape of the old sugar mill building, with the machinery and the train used to transport sugar cane tubes from the field as main fixtures. Stalls will have the Kapampangan flair and the Kapampangan language will be encouraged as the medium of conversation,” Lozano revealed, reminiscing his personal experience passing along the refinery and smelling the sweet aroma wafting from the Pasudeco chimneys as a young native of San Fernando and Guagua.
Also envisioned to adorn the mall will be items and artefacts made out of lahar. Monuments of Kapampangan heroes and famous personalities will be erected along roads, alleys, hallways, nooks and pocket parks in the township. Furniture will be supplied by the famous artisans of Betis, and food offerings will of course feature the best of the famed Kapampangan cuisine.
“Moreover, what we call the ‘Learn’ component of the township concept will not lead only to schools and learning institutions, but in the mall itself being a museum. It will be like a living encyclopaedia. The goal is to make available heritage and culture immersion while living, working, playing or just strolling around Capital Town,” added Lozano.
Across the mall and residential hub will rise the commercial district comprised of BPO towers and business offices. Megaworld foresees the generation of 250,000 direct and indirect jobs in the BPO, retail, food, construction and transport sectors when the township becomes functional.
While the BPO hub at Clark poses challenges for commuting workers especially at night and the wee hours of the morning, those working at Capital Town will be assured of stress-free travel as it is just five minutes away from NLEX (North Luzon Expressway). It is also situated on the same road as the provincial capitol and easily accessible from the Olongapo-Gapan Road.
The main thoroughfare of the township will be the 30-meter wide, six-lane San Fernando Boulevard. Though Megaworld has not come as far as naming the streets in honor of Pampanga heroes and martyrs, there may be a consideration to likewise recognize beauties – which Pampanga is also known for – who brought pride to the province, like 1979 Miss International Melanie Marquez.
The flagship of the development will be the six-hectare Shophouse District – a lifestyle hub within the community for people who want to build their businesses and live there at the same time. It will be highlighted with post-colonial architecture exuding a vibe from the ’40s to the ’50s, all through three-level shophouses.
Since the majority of his immediate family is abroad, Lozano said on a personal note that the township is a good reason for his kin to come back and re-settle in the place they first called home. This very much applies to other clans and families in Pampanga and Central Luzon as well.
“Capital Town will now be a good reason for those who have been living abroad for the longest time to come back home and re-settle where the amenities are modern yet the feel abounds with heritage and culture. The Shophouse District makes a unique offering for those who may want to tend to their businesses in the first two levels then use the third level as their residence,” expressed Lozano.
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The making of Capital Town
San Fernando derived its name from King Fernando 6th of Spain, who was king at the time a new town was created in 1754 in the middle of Bacolor and Mexico for better administration of the cura parrocos.
The first families in the new pueblo were the Arrozals, Catacutans and Davids. The first administrator, called gobernadorcillo, was Don Vidal de Arrozal. The first parish priest was Father Sebastian Moreno.
San Fernando is considered the birthplace of the labor movement, with the first organized strike happening in 1872 when printers from the government press staged a protest against plant foremen. The first labor union was also established in the printing plant of the La Independencia, edited by General Antonio Luna.
The socialist movement further had its roots in the town early part of 20th century under the leadership of Pedro Abad Santos.
The San Fernando Train Station was opened as part of the Bagbag-Mabalacat stretch of the Manila-Dagupan Railway system in February 1892. It signalled the beginning of the rapid development of the town resulting from the sugar industry boom in Pampanga. The national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, visited the town four months later to recruit members to the La Liga Filipina.
On October 9, 1998, newly proclaimed president General Emilio Aguinaldo visited San Fernando and was joyously welcomed by the residents. Some accounts say that when the Philippine-American war erupted, the town proper became the temporary seat of the Philippine Revolutionary Government from April 1 to May 4, 1899, when the army of General Luna burned the poblacion, church and casa municipal.
When the war was over, the town’s public school was built under the direction of an American engineer. In December 1902, the American Calvary in San Fernando was transferred to Angeles.
Less than two years later in 1904, the provincial capitol was transferred from Bacolor, paving the way for the town to become the capital of Pampanga.
In 1914, the Iglesia Ni Cristo was founded by Felix Manalo at Sto. Niño Viejo.
In 1921, the sugar central of the Pampanga Sugar Development Company (Pasudeco) began its operations. The plant was destroyed by the Mount Pinatubo eruption in 1995, was rehabilitated and ceased operations in 2015.
The Socialist Party of the Philippines, espousing communistic idealism, was founded in 1930 by Pedro Abad Santos – brother of the fifth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Jose Abad Santos – along with former Mayor Vivencio Cuyugan and Lino Dizon as head.
Pampanga High School was erected before the outbreak of World War 2. In 1941, the town was occupied by the Japanese Imperial Army and made it as the base of their operations in their assault of Bataan.
On January 29, 1945, the Liberation Force under General Douglas MacArthur entered San Fernando and the civil government was established with Cuyugan becoming mayor again. Rodolfo Hizon took the reins of government in July 1946.
Buried by volcanic ash in 1991 due to the eruption of Mount Pinatubo, San Fernando became heavily damaged as a result of floods and mudflows from the volcano in 1995.
San Fernando became the 99th City of the Republic of the Philippines on February 4, 2001 by virtue of Republic Act 8990.
Pampanga’s capital is also known for its annual giant lantern contest during the Christmas season. Its popularity made the Department of Tourism create the Paskuhan Village to showcase Filipino culture and tradition all-year long.
In 2016, Megaworld acquired the Pasudeco estate raising the value of lots and real estate in adjacent areas multifold.
This year, the City of San Fernando was given the Business Friendly Award (for ease of doing business) in The Manila Times Philippine Model Cities Forum and Awards held the New World Manila Bay Hotel on May 11. Mayor Edwin Santiago received the distinction for his city from P&A Grant Thornton.