Tulabut: mabalacat arts and culture

FEBRUARY is National Arts Month.

Parties are everywhere. In the case of Angeles City, there is one set up by patron couple and event organizer Benny and Andy Bondoc. It will be at Camalig where owner Marco Nepomuceno has always supported local artists. He himself has helped to preserve arts and culture, as the restaurant Camalig, with its many artistic exhibitions, is proof of.

The activities, all scheduled from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., begin on February 6 with the creation of portraits and watercolors on site, a workshop on mixed techniques. There is also one on sports artwork for women artists.


The nearby town of Mabalacat is quickly catching up with the aspect of the art exhibition.

From February 14 to 28, artists from the northernmost city of Pampanga will stage “Pamiaduangan: King Pamisaupan Pamanyulung Ning Kalalangan Mabalacat”. It will be in the also preserved Gabaldon building of Mabalacat Elementary School in Poblacion.

From what I remember, this is the first time that a large number of artists, academics and the municipal government have come together for an art exhibition. The common denominator here is the Sibul Ning Kalalangan (Mabalacat Youth Art Community) and Dodjie Aguinaldo who have built bridges between artists in the private and public sector when it comes to the arts. More than a friend, Dodjie is a painter, video editor and now also a sculptor.

While he and I founded the Sining Mabalacat several years ago, I found myself tied to the PR industry, but Dodjie was relentless in pursuing not only his art, but also the welfare of local artists.

This time he gets a lot of support from Mabalacat City College through its president, the indefatigable good friend Mich Ong. Arwin Paul Lingat, the city’s tourist agent, also made not only Mabalacat but also Pampanga proud when he became national chairman of ATOP (Association of Tourist Agents of the Philippines). It’s a position he was elected to a few years ago, but it seems that Arwin is also being asked by his peers to serve as the incumbent. This is how he must have been seduced by the professionals of the country’s tourism industry.


Arts and culture have never been more felt in Mabalacat in the way they are supported, accentuated and showcased within the new dispensation of the city.

Mayor Cris Garbo has won support from well-known arts and culture patrons like Robbie Tantingco and Alex Castro. They are both very committed to helping the city preserve its rich culture and heritage. With crowds and hordes of followers, they have countless well-liked social media posts about Mabalacat (and Pampanga too), their hometown.

They serve as a leader in the ongoing renovation of the old municipio, which is currently being transformed into a museum. New city administrator Frank Madlangbayan, new city legal adviser Francis Dimaliwat have both lent their support to the city’s artistic and cultural enterprises.


In the former city administration, arts and culture were showcased through two main events in Mabalacat – the Caragan Festival and the Miss Mabalacat (now called Queen Mabalacat) pageant. Both were successfully staged under the organization and supervision of the incomparable June Magbalot.

Both are big events held every year (except during pandemic years). The Caragan Festival quickly followed the mold of Dinagyang in Iloilo and Sinulog in Cebu. Covid has been guilty of its growth.

The contest was the first-ever of its kind where some of its stagings also resembled Broadway shows with plot lines, dialogue, and storylines. It was also the most elaborate contest with huge celebrities and well-known designers, make-up artists and fashionistas. It was also a well organized event, technically with huge LED screens for graphics.

The Caragan Festival has been performed at various events outside of Pampanga. The festival and its core core of dancers and crew have also garnered awards and recognition.

It won the 5th grand prize of the Aliwan Fiesta in Pasay City in 2015. Aliwan is the gathering and competition of the best festivals in the country. Caragan beat 14 other festivals across the archipelago.

It also won first prize at the Pamamupul Festival, a gathering of various festivals held in Pampanga. In this festival, Mabalacat City emerged as the overall champion not so long ago.

Caragan dancers, choreographers and crew have also represented Pampanga in the Dulansangan Street and Free Dance Competition. The competition describes the role of each of the original provinces that revolted against Spanish rule.

Pampanga, which portrayed Aetas’ role in the revolution, became the top prize winner for 2013 and 2014. Dulansangan is part of the Fiesta Republika in Malolos Bulacan.

The festival is in honor of Chief Caragan, the leader of the Aeta tribe, who discovered the place eons ago. He led the colony to a place full of Balacat trees, from which the town of Mabalacat derives its name. So the name means “full of Balacats”, a species of hardwood that almost resembles Narra, our national tree.

Caragan Festival portrays and brings to life the city’s aeta ancestry. It depicts the rich cultural heritage of the city which was founded in 1712 and became a city 300 years later.