ONCE  UPON  A  TIME  IN  TARLAC

MANILA, JUNE 4, 2007
(STAR) A COMMITMENT By Tingting Cojuangco - Oral history meaning chitchat, talk, chismis, kuro-kuro — is a never-ending fountain of information. It is passed on from mouth to mouth, from generation to generation, and whether true or not, it may be sanctified by use and seem very, very true. Let’s begin with some oral history of Tarlac because I’m supposed to know Tarlac best aside from Mindanao.

Tarlac traces the name Tarlac to malatarlac, believed to be an Aeta word, referring to the wild cogon grass that grew on the land. Aetas roamed the grounds in the earliest of days. They moved in small groups from place to place in search of food.

One day, a group of foreigners approached the Aetas to ask them the name of the place they lived in. The Aetas could not understand so the strangers used sign language and pointed to the ground. It so happened that they pointed at the grass that the Aetas were cutting. The Aetas thought that the foreigners were asking for the name of the grass, so they answered, “Tarac” — the Aeta word for grass. The foreigners thought that “Tarac” was the name of the place. As time went by, the word became Tarlac.

The Tañedo-Estrada family has a version of the origin of the name Tarlac. From their forebears through family oral history, the story is that the name came from “Tañedo Rey de las Cañas” or TA (nedo) R(ey) LA(s) C(anas). The Tañedos owned tracks of sugarcane land and before people could venture the length of Tarlac, they had to pass through the Tañedo sugar field; hence, the shortened name “Tarlac” instead of “Tañedo Rey de las Cañas” when referring to their abode.

(Let me take time out to congratulate former Mayor Susan Tañedo-Go for her son’s victory, becoming our mayor of Gerona, Tarlac where the first coins of the First Philippine Republic were minted in Abagon, Gerona in 1898. Congratulations, too, to his running mate, our Vice Mayor Ranjie Daquigan, who survived six bullets and won handily in spite of ballot snatching.)

Back to history. Some residents of Barangay Balutu, Concepcion, Tarlac recall a myth about the origin of the name Tarlac. According to this myth, one day a woman was washing clothes in a crocodile-infested river then suddenly disappeared. The townfolk went in search for her and with their pointed weapons “speared” the river. In their dialect, the act of targeting with a spear is called “tarac.” From then on people referred to our province as Tarlac.

A less popular story about Tarlac gives the most colorful and poignant account of all. As the story goes, once upon a time, a princess named Tar while strolling in the palace garden became curious about the secrets of the thick woods beyond the palace. Without asking permission from her father, the Rajah, she ventured out into the woods. There she chanced upon a man named Lakindanum who was cutting wood and picking fruit in the forest. Princess Tar was impressed by Lakindanum’s looks and gentle ways. They struck up an acquaintance and from then on secretly met in the woods. They soon became fond of each other and later found themselves passionately in love. Princess Tar’s love of Lakindanum was so great that no tradition or convention could come between them. To her, Lakindanum possessed the darkest and most expressive eyes. Taciturn and enigmatic at times, he had the most compassionate face she had ever seen. He also was gentle in his words.

However, Lakindanum’s status as a commoner was a problem. Having learned of the lovers’ trysts, the Rajah would not hear of Princess Tar marrying a commoner. One day, while she was with Lakindanum in the forest, the Rajah followed and confronted them. The Rajah and Princess Tar had a heated argument. The Rajah reprimanded his daughter and vowed to punish Lakindanum, who had dared deceive him. The next morning, Lakindanum, while waiting for Princess Tar, was attacked by the Rajah’s soldiers. Blood spurted out of his head, face and body. At this instance, Princess Tar arrived and saw the lifeless body of her beloved.

Princess Tar wept bitterly over Lakindanum’s lifeless body. In desperation, she got hold of a gleaming knife and thrust it deeply into her own breast. The Rajah who was in the words hiding behind a tree was so moved by the devotion and courage of the young lovers that he became overwhelmed by sorrow and regret. He ran to revive them but it was too late. In the face of such tragedy, the Rajah cried in great pain, calling out loudly his only daughter’s name and that of Lakindanum’s: “Tar! Lakindanum! Tar! Lakin! Tar! Lakin…! Tar…! Lak...!” The forest echoed with his wailings. Sadly, the spirits of the ill-fated lovers crossed life’s horizon.

Although Tarlac is a relatively young province (established in 1874), its present geological features began to take shape some seven million years ago when volcanic eruptions created the Zambales Range. This range was once an island separated from the rest of what is now Luzon by a strait from the Lingayen Gulf to the Manila Bay. From the continual activity of the volcanoes, its sand rested on the Zambales Range over the strip of the sea and then there emerged Tarlac Province, a wide, flat, reclaimed land area, part of the great central plains of Luzon. Some great valleys of land became water where passenger canoes floated during the flood seasons from Manila Bay to Lingayen Gulf.

There is so much to learn about Tarlac, but few are interested in its history. Eight hundred books lie rotting in the General Services Department of the Provincial Capitol of Tarlac, undistributed since 1998 by a political rival, because it was I who wrote The History of Tarlac from Pre-History to World War II. The children and adults of Tarlac will never know about themselves — all because of politics.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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