Magalang was one of the major agricultural towns in Pampanga. The economic life of the Magaleños was primarily centered on agriculture. Rice, sugarcane and tobacco as one of the leading products of the town. The peasants are the one of the largest labor groups of Magalang; ranging from the Spanish period until the early Japanese period. Extensive abuses committed by the landlords to their peasants, provoked the peasantry to adopt new ideologies to check the grave abuses of their landlords, to promote their rights and to attain decent living conditions. Their landlords becomes "sources of their food and loans in the event of an emergency or failed crop". Sometimes, their landlords imposed high interests to the loans of their peasants or casamacs, and they will become burdened to their debts. Their debts subsequently pass to their own children until they pay debts to their landlords. Some of the testamentos of the landlords revealed the total debts incurred by their casamacs. The testament of Don Aniceto S. Lacson in 1888 revealed that his thirteen casamacs owed him one thousand eighty nine pesos; while the fourteen casamacs of Don Doroteo S. Lacson owed him six hundred pesos; and the twelve casamacs of Don Faustino P, Tuazon owed him one hundred eighty pesos.
The poor conditions of the casamacs led to their discontent, and they will resort to mass walkouts and rallies organized by the local peasant groups. In 1934, the Magalang chapter of Aguman ding Maldang Talapagobra founded by Pedro Abad Santos, was established in barrio San Antonio. Eusebio Aquino was appointed as leader of Magalang chapter of AMT. Many of the peasantry joined this group to voiced out their grievances against their landlords. And also, to promote their protection and enjoy their rights. In 1937 and 1940 elections, AMT fielded candidates and Eusebio Aquino was fielded for mayoral seat. He was defeated by the chief of police, Jose M. Navarro. However, a Magaleño gained the mayoralty seat in the socialist nerve of Pampanga; a son of landlord, Vivencio Baron Cuyugan was proclaimed as the first socialist mayor of San Fernando and also first in the Philippines.
Peasants in Magalang staged mass walkouts and strikes in 1930s. A petition letter signed by Mayor Jose M. Navarro together with one hundred thirty eight prominent personalities in Magalang addressed to the Archbishop of Manila in 1938, to established a socio-religious group, Accion Catolica. In their petition, they stipulated that "the border town of Magalang, it was infested by the communists, socialists and even Sakdalistas". They added that "in the milling month of August, 1937, they staged a general strike and paralyzed the industry". In the year also, eighty casamacs of Don Eustaquio F. Dizon in sitio Mitla, staged a strike. They demanded that the wages of the workers plowing with landlord's carabaos increased from fifty centavos to one peso. Those workers who using their own carabaos were asking to increase their wages from sixty five centavos up to one peso and forty centavos. Aside from strikes, peasants also burned some of sugarcane fields in Magalang. In 1939, a strike was staged again by the peasants, resulting of killing of a migrant worker. In the same year also, sugarcane fields were also burned down. In 1940, a similar strike was also staged by the peasants.
To counter the spread of communist and socialist ideologies in Magalang, a socio-religious group, Accion Catolica was founded in 1938 by the parish priest, Fr. Sixto Manaloto with the help of prominent sugar planters of Magalang. They attempted to promote the teaching of catechism in public schools to counter the spread of ideas of communism and socialism. They also conducted literacy conferences those who cannot afford formal education. And also, an adult education was launched among illiterate adult learners.
The peasant unrest continued become more active when the occupation of the Japanese started. And until the formal establishment of Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon, the peasants grew their perseverance to attain their goals to become free from fiefdom. With series of social and economic reforms imposed by the past administrations, their goals gradually attained, and some of them attained decent living conditions. Others they continued their struggle to attain of what the communism and socialism promised to them.
Letter to the Archbishop of Manila dated January 28, 1938, Magalang, Pampanga, 169 signatories. Archdiocese of Manila Archives
Testamento de Don Aniceto S. Lacson, Magalang, Pampanga dated: March 16, 1888
Testamento de Don Doroteo S. Lacson, Magalang, Pampanga dated: December 28, 1885
Testamento de Don Faustino P. Tuazon, Magalang, Pampanga dated: December 9, 1889
Singsing: Bravehearts: Kapampangan Rebels, Radicals and Renegades who Changed Philippine History, Pampanga Burning, page 106.
Larkin, John A., Sugar and the Origins or Modern Philippine Society, (1993) University of California Press pages 222-223.
Timberman, David G. A Changeless Land, Continuity and Change in Philippine Politics