Thursday, March 25, 2010



Camiling is a town located in the Philippine province of Tarlac. It is about 150 air kms. North-Northwest of Manila, and about 50 kms. South-Southwest of Dagupan City. It is the commercial center of an area composed of about 8 towns, and shares boundaries with the provinces of Pangasinan and Zambales. It is the gateway to central and western Pangasinan through the Romulo Highway, formerly Highway 13. 

Camiling was formally organized as a town in 1838 when it was separated from the Pangasinan town of Bayambang. It was then still a part of the province of Pangasinan from which it was separated in the late 19th century to form part of the new province of Tarlac. Before 1838, there are indications that there had been a former separate town of Camiling. This can be seen from the traditional names of the town's districts which are named after the original towns of the settlers of each specific district. There is a district located on the eastern bank of the Camiling River called Cacamilingan meaning "of people from Camiling". Other districts are Capaoayan (Paoay, Ilocos Norte) of which the Abad and Vigilia families are part of; Caviganan (Vigan, Ilocos Sur) from which my wife is from; Cabatacan (Batac, Ilocos Norte); Casarratan (Sarrat, Ilocos Norte); Cacabugaoan (Cabugao, Ilocos Sur), now Cayaoan; among others.

When the new province of Tarlac was created, Camiling was the town with the biggest land
area and population among the towns that composed it. Camiling then included the present
towns of Mayantoc, San Clemente, and Sta. Ignacia, occupying the northwestern fourth of Tarlac. The capital town of Tarlac was then just a small settlement of settlers from Pampanga. This historical fact can be clearly seen from the Camiling Church which is the oldest and biggest church in Tarlac province.(The reason why Camiling was not made the capital town of a Camiling province in the 19th century needs looking into.) Unfortunately, the Church and Convent burned down in April 13, 1997 which could have been avoided had Camiling had the proper firefighting equipment. The issue of the slow rebuilding of the Church was a topic in Teddy Locsin's show "Assignment" at ABS-CBN Channel 2 last September 3, 1998. The show found out that much of the Church's collections go out of the parish including the rentals of the commercial establishments abutting the church that pays directly to the Bishop of Tarlac.

Another sign of the level of development of Camiling during the late 19th century was the presence of a spur line of the Manila-Dagupan railroad from Paniqui to the town. The Camiling train station was located in what is now the Caltex gasoline station at Plaza Miranda in Cacamilingan. The route of the railroad track has now become the Camiling-Paniqui road where one can still see a lot of straight portions and curves with big radii - a requirement of railroads. It cannot be denied that the marriage of the railroad English engineer Charles Kipping to a local beauty, Leonor Rivera, was a large factor in the construction of the spur line.

Originally, the area that is now Camiling was the tract of the dark-skinned, curly-haired Aetas, which is composed of many tribes. As late as the 1970's, there were Aetas living in the upper reaches of barrio Papaac. These are different from the ones in Dueg, San Clemente who are evacues from the Mt. Pinatubo explosion in 1991. Most probably, the first lowlanders that settled here were people from present-day Pangasinan coming up through the Camiling River which empties to the bigger Agno River of Pangasinan. These people probably created the first Camiling. It is interesting to note that Pangasinan-speaking settlers mostly went to the Cacamilingan district. During the 19th century, many settlers went out of the Ilocos region and to places like Camiling. The reason may have been demographic (small land to till) or political (revolts). They came in their covered carts or "caritons" and went South. This is the equivalent of the Americans going West, with the Ilocanos going South some all the way to Mindanao where you will find Ilocano speaking areas. Today, this compulsion to immigrate is still present with Camilinues. Camiling would have been still the most populous town of Tarlac had not been for the many Camilinues settling in Metro Manila, other towns, the United States, and other countries. This is also the secret of the strong Camiling economy
fed by tens of thousands of immigrants and overseas workers.

Our clan, the Abads and the Vigilias came as part of this southward migration. They originally came from Paoay, Ilocos Norte to Camiling during the middle 19th century. It can be inferred from the location of their farms that they were already latecomers for these are located a good distance from the town center.

Camiling has produced some notable national figures. This includes Leonor Rivera, the great love of our hero Jose Rizal; Carlos P. Romulo whose international stature paved the way for the naming of a crater in the moon after Camiling; Jose Bengzon, Chief Justice of the World Court and the Supreme Court; Gen. Santos after which Gen. Santos City of Mindanao was named after (when I was a Councilor, not enough of my fellow Councilors supported my proposed ordinance to rename two of the town's streets after Chief Justice Bengzon and Gen. Santos); Onofre D. Corpuz; and many others. It has also been said that the father of the late Mayor Antonio Villegas is from Camiling.

Today, Camiling boasts of 9 banks, 5 communication towers/cell sites, 2 telephone companies, a water district, among other amenities found in a progressive medium-sized city. It is only in the 90's that the big banks discovered the large economy of Camiling. Because Ilocanos are kuripot and not showy, these bankers mistook this as an indication of the town's wealth and stayed away for a long time.

Camiling has been undergoing a boom for the past almost a decade. We have seen a lot of
infrastructure development. The backside to this is if the people of Camiling, specially those in the municipal government, fail to properly regulate this Camiling will experience soon the problems associated with highly urbanized cities. These include traffic congestion, criminality, air and water pollution, narrow streets, social incohesion, etc. On the brighter side, there's still time to prevent these happening by enacting the proper regulatory environment and having the community's will to implement this.

Updated 9 April 99