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|Motto: Sesen taya ing Santa Rita|
Map of Pampanga showing the location of Santa Rita
|Region||Central Luzon (Region III)|
|• Mayor||Ferdinand "Dagi" L. Salalila|
|• Vice Mayor||Homobono C. Guanlao|
|• Total||29.76 km2 (11.49 sq mi)|
|• Density||1,300/km2 (3,400/sq mi)|
|Time zone||PST (UTC+8)|
|Income class||4th class|
Sta Rita is popular for the turones de casoy delicacy. It is chiefly a farming town.
The town of Santa Rita belongs to the Second District of Pampanga, along with the towns in the south-western part of the province. It is 79 kilometres (49 mi) from Manila.
The largest barangays: Dila-dila and San Basilio occupy 52% of the total municipal land area. Barangays San Agustin and San Vicente with only a space of 2% and 2.13%, of the whole municipal land area are the smallest barangays.
Three barangays compose the Urban Center of Sta. Rita: barangays San Vicente, San Jose and part of San Matias. Barangay San Vicente serves as the minor Central Business District, It is where the Public Market is located, while Sta. Rita Church and the Municipal Hall are located in San Jose. Mixed Old and new houses surround the area.
|Population census of Santa Rita|
|Source: National Statistics Office|
Like other towns in the Philippines, Santa Rita is governed by a mayor and vice mayor who are elected to three-year terms. The mayor is the executive head and leads the town's departments in executing the ordinances and improving public services. The vice mayor heads a legislative council (Sangguniang Bayan) consisting of councilors from the Barangays or Barrios.
The municipal government is divided into three branches: executive, legislative and judiciary. The judicial branch is administered solely by the Supreme Court of the Philippines. The LGUs have control of the executive and legislative branch.
The executive branch is composed of the mayor and the barangay captain for the barangays. The legislative branch is composed of the Sangguniang Bayan (town assembly), Sangguniang Barangay (barangay council), and the Sangguniang Kabataan for the youth sector.
The seat of Government is vested upon the Mayor and other elected officers who hold office at the Town hall. The Sanguniang Bayan is the center of legislation.
The Local Government Unit LGU of Santa Rita, Pampanga's Elected officials for the term of 2016-2019 are:
Ferdinand "Dagi" Lansang Salalila
Homobono Cunanan Guanlao
Mercedita Bonaobra Carreon
Romeo Lapid Valencia
Rebecca Diamzon Magcalas
Arthur Salalila Jr.
Alex Lusung Hurtado
Edison Santos Cubacub
Renato Quiambao Gopez
Orlando Carlos Santos
Punong Barangay San Matias: Jay Cruz
SK Chairwoman Anna Veronica K. Salas (San Basilio)
The town has interesting points, attractions and landmarks, as far as tourism, culture and heritage are concerned. "A bid to save Sta. Rita's local cultural identity" (Monday, March 21, 2011", states:
"The cultural movement in Sta. Rita town has again achieved renewed vibrancy with the local government led by Mayor Yolly Pineda taking concrete strides in saving and strengthening the town's cultural identity. This town, the birthplace of the performing arts group ArtiSta.Rita, is now creating steps in promoting the town's cultural strengths. The envy of nearby municipalities, government officials here last week inaugurated the new Sta. Rita boundary tower marker that highlights the cultural life in the town. The tower was designed by Kapampangan artist Ron Salazar and features bas relief sculptures in the style of letras y figuras forming the name of the town, as facets of Ritenan daily life are represented in exquisite detail.
Unique in the sense that one can actually get a summary of what to expect from the town just be looking at the figures. The "S" is represented by a farmer harvesting Duman rice crops; "T", a vendor selling vegetables; "A" with a farmer planting Duman followed by "R" represented by a fisherman catching fishes, "I" with a Filipino wearing barong tagalong; "T" with a farmer carrying sugar canes and another "A" with a couple sharing a box of turrones de casuy. Ingeniously, the letters form the name of this sweet-tooth town.
"Sta. Rita is a peaceful and beautiful town. We strive to save and strengthen our cultural traditions for the sake of the next generation," Mayor Pineda told Sun.Star Pampanga. The marker is just a portion of the effect of the cultural renaissance sweeping this town, a small but significant step in promoting its tourism potential.
The local government even commissioned to have the new municipal building patterned after the style of old Spanish era houses in the poblacion area. Tourism programs are also being planned to highlight its cultural and historical significance. Tourists visiting this town would surely have their fill of a horde of confectionery delights from turrones de casuy, sans rival to San Nicolas cookies and duman and suman. Owners of old houses along the poblacion area, in fact, are more than happy to have guests to have pictures taken of their ancestral homes.
Recently, the town's parish church which is home to the first class relic of Sta. Rita de Cascia is being tapped to be included in a heritage tour of old churches in the district. The move is expected to draw in tourists, who for sure will not find the town lacking in cultural, historical and modern attractions. The Alviz Farm in Barangay San Agustin, the Mahogany Farm, old houses at the poblacion area, Villa Epifania and the old Dominican Convent are just a few of the places that one could visit in a day. Officials here are optimistic that the town will be able to achieve its cultural objectives in the coming months."
Santa Rita is the home of Duman and Ocampo-Lansang Delicacies (Turones de Casuy, Sansrival, Uraro and other sweets that sell in SM City Malls nationwide).
Duman is made of malagkit rice (lakatan malutu) that is beaten from its husks and toasted in a clay oven. To the rest of the country, it may just be plain green rice or even un-popped pinipig. But it is a prized seasonal food that can be found during the Christmas season, after the rice harvest in November. The younger kernels of rice that don’t fall off the husks are colored green. These husks are beaten against a hard surface until they fall off. They are then soaked in water, cooked for 30 minutes and then pounded. This rigorous process helps release the sweet oils and nuttiness of the rice.
Families who produce duman rice are called Magduruman. They pass their methods from generation to generation and have kept to the manual production process. If you’re travelling through Pampanga, you may spot street vendors selling green rice in bilaos or flat baskets. These vendors often sell duman near churches or marketplaces. It can be eaten plain and munched on like popcorn. It can also be snacked on in spoonfuls with sugar, or made into rice cakes. Kapampangans also like adding duman to other dishes like fresh carabao’s milk or hot chocolate as a breakfast cereal, or even ice cream.
Sta. Rita, Pampanga is known as the best producer of duman. In fact, the region holds a yearly festival dedicated to this simple-looking treat. The festival started when the community found themselves gathered in the streets, pounding away the duman with their large wood mortars at two o’clock in the morning. To the local folk, duman can be bought at PhP 40 by the glass. However, it is amazing to learn that duman is actually exported to other parts of the country and the world at around $35 a kilo.
To get a taste of this green gold, visit the Sta. Rita Duman festival on the first Saturday of December. There are also establishments in Angeles City and in San Juan, Pampanga that serve duman rice. Susie’s Cuisine in Angeles and Butchie’s Recipes in La Moderna in San Juan serve small amounts of plain duman and duman suman (green rice cakes).
Harvested and processed through the end of December, duman is usually eaten with fresh carabao (water buffalo) milk for breakfast or stirred into tsokolate (drinking chocolate made with Philippine cacao). In Santa Rita, a Pampangan municipality and the epicenter of duman production, the eagerly awaited specialty is honored annually with its own festival.
Years ago, during duman season, Santa Rita’s streets rang daily with the “tok-tok” of baseball bat-sized wooden pestles hitting meter-high mortars as lacatan malutu, a red-husked variety of glutinous rice, was transformed into duman. Nowadays, only a few barangay (the smallest Philippine administrative unit, something along the lines of a district or village) engage in the laborious and time-consuming production process.
Most Filipinos have never tasted duman. Once word gets out that harvest is near, in-the-know locals place their orders, leaving little for the open market. And it’s expensive — up to 30 times the cost of regular rice per kilo. Yet Santa Rita’s duman producers, motivated less by profit than by the desire to keep a local tradition alive, do little better than break even after covering production costs. Butchie’s Recipes of la Moderna (Ground Level Health Cube Building, 226 Wilson Street, San Juan City, Pampanga) also has a small amount for sale but it goes quickly.
This town’s 10th Duman Festival is set on December 3, 2012, highlighting local delicacies like a night of dining and music in front of the Sta. Rita de Cascia Parish Church here.
"Arti.StaRita" started the festival in 2002, which originated from the long-standing tradition of pounding and winnowing unripe glutinous rice (lacatan) and turned into a light pale gold or green delicacy called “duman.” The festival features alfresco dining in front of the Sta. Rita Church patio were rows and rows of delicacy stalls would sell various pastries and native dishes of the town with duman being the major highlight. The food sold during the festival would include native pastry attractions of the town like sansrival, masa podridu, mamon and mamon tostado.
Sta. Rita town is known as a pastry town with a strong culinary tradition. The festival has attracted a steady following of local and international tourists. ArtiSta.Rita that will present their latest musical “Ing Tauling Sarsuela.” Different grades of duman, the star of the festival celebration, will also be sold in the event. Traditionally regarded as a Christmas delicacy, duman is eaten with hot chocolate or milk as additive or accompanying drink.
Duman is relatively expensive. Food critic Claude tayag explains that unlike the regular rice variety, which can be planted and harvested three times a year, duman can only be harvested in the cool air of November and December, otherwise it will not be a bountiful one. For every hectare (San Agustin and Santa Monica), a farmer can produce only a maximum of 4.5 cavans of duman, while a maximum of 300 cavans can be harvested from the regular rice variety. Duman prices range from P600 to P1,000 per kilo depending on the quality. 
The heritage Church is under the jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Fernando.
Fr. Pedro de San Nicolas served as minister of both Porac and Sta. Rita in 1722, but it was only in 1726 when Sta. Rita had its own priest and therefore became an independent parish. Fr. Francisco Royo built the present church in 1839; Fr. Juan Merino completed it in 1868. These two priests also opened the road linking Sta. Rita with Porac and Guagua. During the Revolution, the townspeople hid their last Augustianian parish priest, Fr. Celestino Garcia in their houses until the forces of Gen. Maximino Hizon captured him in Bacolor and took him all the way to Lepanto in the Cordilleras.
Building of the church had to be delayed until the late 19th century due to economic adjuristicial conditions. The single-nave church is 55m long, 13m wide and 10m high. It has a large and well lit transept. The solid brass facade has baroque characteristics and the single columns are relatively slender.
There are five heritage bells in this town: the Señora de la Cornea was installed at the belfry in 1869; Dolorosa bell in 1878; and the bells of Virgen de Lourdes, San Jose and Santa Rita—all installed on May 20, 1911. The last three pieces of relic bells are scheduled to be declared “Centenary Bells” by Archbishop Paciano Aniceto.
The installation of these bells was initiated by Fr. Braulio Pineda, the first Filipino priest of the town and a native of Sta. Rita, before the 1898 Revolution against Spain broke out and after the cessation of the Filipino-American war in 1903, according to Msgr. Eugenio Reyes. Enrique Guanlao, president of the parish pastoral council, has indicated in a paper that H. Sunico Jaboneros manufactured the five bells. By the time that Reyes was appointed parish priest here in 2009, only the tandem of the medium-sized Dolorosa bell (kampanang menor) and the huge Santa Rita bell (kampanang mayul) gave the town a sense of time and ceremony.
Reyes learned that a steel hammer was used to strike the brass-made Santa Rita bell whenever it was rung, further damaging the bell. The wooden flanks holding up the bells and the wooden flooring of the belfry were crumbling. In 2010, Reyes and Teresita Guanzon raised funds to repair the bells.
On Aug. 3, 2010, Royal Bells Philippines (RBP) took them down for repairs. They were restored 47 days later and were blessed by Bishop Pablo Virgilio David. A note from RBP describes the Santa Rita bell as “the most beautiful sounding bell of its vintage and style that we have ever rehabilitated.” Reyes says the pair of bells has been attached to an automated system. But the bells may still be rung manually, Reyes says. Their last kampanero (bell ringer), a man named Cesar, is still alive. Guanlao says the bells are an important part of the lives of Sta. Rita folk. The bells announced weddings, processions, feasts, floods, fire, deaths, the Angelus and the end of the 8 p.m. recitation of the rosary. In this small town of gentle people, the agunyas (the sound made by the bell) for the dead is gender-specific. The Santa Rita bell announces the death of a man, while the Dolorosa does so for a woman.
The parish is the site where the Holy Relic of Saint Rita de Cascia is enshrined. The parish first obtained the First Class Relic of the saint through the help and assistance of His Excellency, Most Rev. Riccardo Fontana of Spoleto-Norcia, Italy, the archdiocese to which Cascia belongs. Archbishop Fontana forwarded the Relic through the mediation of the Apostolic Nunciature in Manila to Archbishop Paciano Aniceto who in turn handed it over to the parish of Santa Rita de Cascia on August 17, 2008. The First Class Relic is from the flesh “ex carne”of the Saint. As noted in its accompanying Certificate of Authenticity, the relic was part of the last batch extracted from the incorrupt body of Saint Rita on 20 August 1972.
The reliquary is laid open for public veneration every August 17. St. Rita of Cascia (1381) was born in the Italian town of Roccaporena. When her husband and twin sons died, she entered the Augustinian Nuns. The next 40 years of her life saw St. Rita devoting herself to a life of prayer, and works and deeds of charity as dictated by the rules of St Augustine. At age 60, while meditating before the cross, a wound seeming afflicted by a thorn appeared on her forehead. St. Rita began boring the sign of stigmatization which is considered being one with Jesus. Because of the stigmata, she suffered in pain for the next 15 years which she courageously accepted. St. Rita died on May 22, 1457. Her intact and incorrupt body is kept and honored in the shrine at her hometown on Cascia, Italy.
The villa was named after Dona Epifania who came from an equally rich and powerful Floridablanca-based clan, the Alvendias. The ancestral lot was owned by the Guanzon patriarch Don Agapito Guanzon (Captain Pitong) the then Captain Municipal (equivalent to today’s municipal mayor) of Sta. Rita.
Capitan Pitong’s son, Don Olympio Guanzon (former Pampanga Governor) would later inherit the lot and an earlier old house in the same lot by 1925. The old house would later be dismantled to give way for the villa and would later pass on to Don Felipe Guanzon. The villa was designed and constructed by Architect Mariano Pineda, a native of Sta. Rita and relative of the Guanzons. Pineda would later join the Federal Architects of America.
Constructed between the years 1931-1932, the house was one-of-a-kind at that time; it was the only all-concrete house in Sta. Rita and the architectural design is incomparable with other historical landmarks in the town. The whole house is made of concrete with few exemptions, like the upper wall on the western side of the house facing the north.
This part showcases a gallery of windows as old as the house itself. The main walls of the house are concrete, about a foot thick on all the major sidings. The concrete materials were imported from Guiguinto in Bulacan. The villa’s wood portions are of the finest Philippine hardwood (narra, camagong and molave) and the furniture is of King Louis style. The furniture was acquired for the villa in 1931 and was bought from the Philippine Carnival in Manila and allegedly made by the prisoners of Bilibid prison. An azotea flanks the north side of the house which gives a perfect view of the western farm lands in Sta. Rita, a major portion of which were once owned by the Guanzons and other notable lords from the Pineda, Lansang and Gosioco clans.
The doors of the former house that stood in the lot found their way into the second floor of the house. The doors and windows are made of colored glass with hues of green and orange. Wrought iron bars and grills protect the glass frames of the windows and the doors. A "portico" with granite staircase, will greet the visitor upon approaching the house and above it is a grand veranda accented with baroque pillars. Another small porch is located at the second floor near the grand veranda.
This porch though smaller is equally grand; the truth is there is no point in comparing the architectural designs from one another. An architect friend once said that the designs of the villa are “asymmetrical”, each with its own beauty and dominance in the house. No two sides are actually the same. The irregular symmetry unfolds into a united design, “baroque yet classical”.
The inside of the house is much the same design. However, a lot is still in store for an inquisitive visitor. The villa also offers other verandas at the second floor and a minor rooftop and chimneys for the kitchen. Not bad for a house made in 1932 at a hefty value of (reportedly) P90,000.
It was used as headquarters by the Japanese officers, USAFE guerillas and alkaldes during World War II and would late pass on as a relic of the past. But such beauty would not go unnoticed and soon enough it caught the eyes of location directors. The house was first featured in the Lino Brocka film “Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang” in 1976. Later in the 90s it was used as the backdrop for the movie “Tanging Yaman.”
The villa is located along Ocampo Street in San Jose, north of the town church and west of the municipal hall facing the east. The villa had served as a house that would later shape the political and social life of the town. From this villa came illustrious names in business and politics. The grandeur of this residence has done well to lift the bearings of this clan.
At present, the villa is unoccupied except by a caretaker (but the keys are held by the family of the late Epifania, the same owner of the Lourdes Church and Grotto at San Jose Del Monte City, Bulacan).
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