Of battles and bottles: Books on Norzagaray and Philippine history and culture

Whether it’s heavy rains or times of drought, attention is given to the level of water in a number of water reservoirs in the country, which are mostly located in the island of Luzon. One of these reservoirs, which are massive engineering feats of the 20th century, is the Angat Dam in the province of Bulacan, which supplies water for irrigation in the Central Luzon province and adjacent Pampanga and for domestic use in Metro Manila.

A common misconception is that this dam is in the town of Angat as its name suggests, but it is geographically and politically located within the town of Norzagaray. The dam was built in the 1960s at the upper portion of the Angat River, hence the name.

Apart from the Angat Dam, Norzagaray has another dam called Ipo, located downstream from the former. The present Ipo Dam was completed in 1984 but the old one which was replaced by the current one was completed in 1938 and was the site of the Battle of Ipo Dam in 1945.

Historic battles

In that battle, the dam was taken by the Filipino and American forces from members of the Shimbu group of the Japanese army commanded by General Shizuo Yokohama, which had control of the important water supply installations for Manila and its environs.

Half a century prior, the town also had its share of history during the battles for Philippine independence. In the Philippine Revolution against Spain, a local unit of the Filipino revolutionaries was organized by Sinfroso de la Cruz and made the Pinagrealan Cave in the village of Minuyan as their hideout and secret meeting place. His group was involved in battles against the Spanish forces in Norzagaray, Angat and San Jose in 1896 to 1897.

Now, the said cave is a tourist destination in the town together with other natural and cultural sites.

These pieces in Norzagaray’s history are discussed in the recently released book, Casaysayan ng Norzagaray Año 1860, by Bulacan historian and cultural advocate Jaime Salvador Corpuz.

Photographs courtesy of Jaime Corpuz | A book on the history of Norzagay, Bulacan.

Corpuz also presents different facets of the town’s culture and heritage including the Dumagat ethnic group, which also inhabits the area, being a part of the Sierra Madre Mountain Range; its foundation as an independent town from Angat in 1860; its church dedicated to San Andres de Apostol; the Philippine-American War, Commonwealth and World War II; educational development; barangays; known personalities; and the history of the Norzagaray, Culture, History, Arts and Tourism Council, the publisher of the book.

The book, an added resource in the study of local histories, is a product of a cultural heritage mapping done more than five years ago.

Uncapping the history of bottles

Corpuz also recently launched another book on the history of bottles in the country, the first of its kind in the Philippines.

A novelty and an important undertaking, the book MaBOTEng Usapan: Samu’t Saring Kuwentong Bote is his joint project with fellow author Kyle Gianan, who is popularly known as the “Filipino Picker.”

It was co-published by Corpuz’s Bahay Makabayan in Marilao, Bulacan and Gianan’s Museo ng Kahapon in Mandaluyong.

The book presents the various stories about bottles in the country including those that are now considered rare such as the Balintawak Beer, Halili Beer and Mactan Softdrinks of San Miguel in Bulacan.

A book on the history of bottles in the Philippines.

The book is replete with information on the role of bottles in Philippine movies and old print advertisements. It even tells about how bottles for alcoholic drinks were reused as disinfectant alcohol bottles during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic.

This book is important as it delves into a lesser known or lesser discussed aspect of Philippine society and history. These bottles are artifacts that are historically, culturally, economically, scientifically and socially significant. They are mute witnesses in the planning of revolutions and important events as well as significant social gatherings.

This undertaking by Corpuz and Gianan is laudable and is definitely a source of “ma-boteng usapan” among its readers.