49. PLAZA DE LA LIBERTAD OF MAGALANG

Plaza de la Libertad during Commonwealth Government Inauguration c. 1935
In this town, Plaza de la Libertad or Freedom Park is one of the famous landmarks located on the center of the town proper. It is sandwiched between by two famous landmarks, the San Bartolome Church on the west side and the Casa Tribunal known today as municipio on the east side. We are fortunate that Magalang has the only one of this kind of plaza in the whole Pampanga. According to the Luther Parker collections, the plaza was constructed around 1864. It was mentioned that the plaza was planted with beautiful Dapdap trees which marked the demarcation of the plaza. Spanish authorities in those times patterned the new town proper to other town proper models in Spain. Plaza de la Libertad witnessed some of the important historical events that happened in Magalang. In this plaza, where Fr. Ignacio Manzanares, OSA celebrated its first mass after the transfer of Magalang from barrio San Bartolome. It is the same person also who led the transfer of Magalang together with some prominent families. It was attacked and burned by the bandits in 1868 led by the notorious bandit leader, Isidoro Guinto. After they burned the plaza, they proceed to the church convent where they ambushed Fr. Ramon Sarrionandia, OSA, who started the construction of the present church edifice. Fortunately, Fr. Sarrionandia survived the ambush. During the revolutionary period, the plaza was made into brief battleground, the forces of the rebel officer, Pedro Pedroche positioned in the plaza and they attacked the positions of Colonel Lorenzo D. Camaya who was holed up inside the church convent, together with his Spanish prisoners. And when the Americans captured Magalang in November 5, 1899, Major General Arthur MacArthur personally ordered the burning of plaza and the rest of the town proper. 

Plaza de la Libertad during Bonifacio Day c. 1925

During American period, the plaza was become a place for every social occasions. In this period, when the beautiful gloriettas were added. Political rallies and campaigns were held in this plaza; lavish balls of social elite groups like Mountain Side club, were also held in this plaza. Some prominent politicians and businessman attended the annual ball of the club like presidents Sergio Osmeña and Manuel A. Roxas; Senator Benigno Aquino Sr., Jose Abad Santos and other handful of prominent persons in different fields. In this plaza, where the oldest statue of Dr. Jose P. Rizal was constructed; through the efforts of civic organization, Katipunan Mipanampun in 1923. During the socialist uproar in 1937, numerous peasants marched also in this plaza to air their discontent regarding to their conditions as tillers. During Japanese occupation, Japanese officers and local officials of Magalang held their political rallies here in this plaza to encourage the Magaleños to support the cause of Japanese sponsored government. During the liberation, American tanks were positioned in the plaza to contain the remaining Japanese forces in the town. 

Plaza de la Libertad c. 1963
After the war, the plaza was still used for different social gatherings of the town. In this plaza where the one of the darkest episodes of Magalang happened. On the night of December 28, 1963, the alleged hit men of Faustino del Mundo popularly known as Commander Sumulong assassinated the Magalang's beloved mayor, Benedicto T. Dayrit. Shortly, after his death, the local officials decided to rename the plaza into Benedicto T. Dayrit Plaza. It was reverted back to the original name later years. In this year also when the Mountain Side Club ceased to exist due to the trauma of the assassination. In 1979, the plaza was initially cited through the help of cinema. The classic movie, Ina, Kapatid, Anak held their some movie scenes in the plaza. In the same period were the well known mushroom edifices were added and native pine trees were planted replacing the old Dapdap trees. Recently, some scenes of the television drama show, The Good Son were also shot here in this plaza  

Plaza de la Libertad c. 2011. Shot from the church belfry
Today, the plaza was popularly known to the present generation as patio. The last renovation of the plaza was taken place in 1994. The huge salakot shaped covered court was later added. The plaza was still known today for the venue of campaign sorties of local officials during election period, religious gatherings, and other social events. Recently, it was again utilized for the celebration of town fiesta particularly for colorful festivals and events. The plaza was also venue for students from different schools in Magalang for conducting their practices for their school activities, plus, a dating place for couples! The sides of the plaza was known for baratillo later known as tiangge during town fiesta and Christmas season. This year, the municipal government initiated the major renovation project of the plaza. I wished that this project will become successful, we must not forget the reminders and contributions of the Plaza de la Libertad not only to our local history, but also as Magaleños. 

Photo Credits:

Plaza de la Libertad during Commonwealth Government Inauguration c. 1935, provided by Mrs. Josefina M. Castro. Note that another identical photo is in the possession of Mr. Alex R. Castro. 

Plaza de la Libertad during Bonifacio day c. 1925, provided by Mrs. Josefina M. Castro. 

Plaza de la Libertad c. 1963 taken from Capagmasusian Qng Aldo Pangasilang ning Magalang, Diciembre 28-29, 1963. 

Plaza de la Libertad c. 2011 from the possession of the author. 

Sources:

Bartolo, Louie Aldrin L. and Dizon, Lino L.; The Magalang Book: The Historical Life and Culture of a Kapampangan Town (1605-2015); Manila, National Commission for Culture and the Arts, 2016.

Documentos Historicos del Municipio de Magalang, Pampanga, Islas Filipinas, 1909, 1911, Luther Parker Collections, Box No. 3, Folder No. 56, Document No. 320, University of the Philippines Library, Diliman, Quezon City.

Magaleño Social Elite Clubs, www.amlatmagaleno.blogspot.com.