According to Fray Diego Bergaño, author of the first published Pampango grammar, in 1732, the name “WAWA” (now GUAGUA), which is of Hindu-Malayan origin, emanated from the vernacular word ‘ALWA’ or ‘ALAWA’ which means “the mouth of a river.” On account, perhaps, of its proximity to the mouth of a river, this old settlement was named “WA W A”

Similar to how the Spanish writers made `Pampang’ – Pampanga; `Candawe’ – Candaba; `Baba’ – Lubao; ‘Dayat’ – Arayat; ‘Bakulud’ – Bacolor, etc., the original name of the town, `WAWA”; was modified by the Agustinian friars and re-christened it GUAGUA in the year 1590. However, there has been no lucid explanation to this change. One historian suspected that the indecorousness of “WAWA” (which means `saliva’) could have prompted the Spaniards to modify it to ‘GUAGUA’. Furthermore, inasmuch as ‘WAWA’ refers to a body of water, `GUAGUA’ could have came from the Spanish word `aqua’ (which means water). Or could it be that the absence of the letter `W’ in the Spanish alphabet, WAWA was made GUAGUA.


The pre-historic inhabitants of Guagua might have been any of the several ethnographic groups that trickled, through the years, into the vast region recognized today as the Central Plain of Luzon. The early settlers of this vast and seemingly endless plain, laced by swift and treacherous crocodiles infested rivers and impenetrable marshes and swamps, were a few roving bands of primitive nomads composed mostly of aborigines who wrestled their simple needs from the wild rivers and hostile swamps. They were joined very much later by another migratory group from Java, Indonesia, known as the alphabet-using Malays, from 300 to 200 BC

Guagua was one of the eleven important communities and settled area of Pampanga lying along the water routes, mainly in the south near the Rio Grande (Pampanga River). This inland passageway was traversed by Prince Balagtas together with his Pampango-speaking natives of the Sultanate of Achem in Northern Sumatra, a few years after their egression from the stern rule of Majapahit Empire sometime in 1335 AD

The Balagtas migration was met by a group of people dwelling at the rivershore. These people made their living through fishing and called themselves “Taga Pang-pang” or “Taga-ilog” and were later known as Kapampangan.

In 1937, an excavation conducted by Profs. Henry Otley Beyer and Herman Costenoble at Hacienda Ramona in Porac, brought about the discovery of Chinese burial jars and an ancient implement. These archeological artifacts which were dated as belonging to the Neolithic period (1500 B.C.) E3 C}, further proved an advanced Parnpango civilization (including, perhaps, Guagua) Also, the birth of Pande Pilac or Pandav Pira. a known silversmith, in 1488 at Barangay Bancal, had established facts of a community already in existence long before the Spaniards set foot in the Philippines


The First Catholic Mission

It was in 1574, when the Spanish Augustinian Friars came to Christianize the town The first mission was subsequently followed in the years 1596. 1601, 1614, 1615, 1635, 1650, 1661, 1738.

However, it was only in the year 1590 that Guagua was founded as a town (though some historians believed it to he in 1587) and the first parish church was erected. Be it as it may, Frs. Quevedo, Gutierrez, Serrann, Contreras, and Valderama became the first parish priest.

The present church was constructed in 1772 under the administration of Fr Josc Duque, OSA. Frs. A. Bravo and P. Fernandez ordered the improvement of the church edifice in the years 1862 and 1870 respectively. Its interior is of Ionic style while its exterior is of the type of Doric architecture marked by strength and apparent simplicity.

Sangleys in Guagua

In 1603, following the first uprising in Manila, a group of Chinese came to Guagua to escape the atrocities of the Spaniards against them in the City. The Chinese found a refuge in this small but prospering pueblo, inhabited by a peaceful and friendly people, at the height of the crisis. However, even after the danger subsided, many Chinese stayed on and formed a community of their own. The busy port of Guagua near Manila Bay offered many business opportunities too tempting for the Chinese to ignore.

Out of their insecurity, the Chinese built a wall around their community that separated them from the rest of the town. This walled compound later became known as the “paldungan.” The Chinese built big rice granaries and warehouses where they processed and stored crude sugar in giant earthen jars called `pilon’. They also kept wooden barrels where they stored ‘indigo’ (a resin used to dye clothes and women’s garments such tapis, camison and saya)
Because of a shortage of women of their kind, the Chinese were compelled to form unauthorized union with the native women of Guagua who eventually bore them children. Initially, these children were reared as Chinese and over the course of the 17″ century and the first half of tile 18th century, a Chinese mestizo community whose orientation and culture was distinctly Chinese, came forth in Guagua. For sometime the mestizos tried to preserve and maintain their culture through constant communication with Chinese settlements in Manila . But, as time went by, the Chinese mestizos, mainly because of economic compulsion eventually broke away from their pure Chinese connterparts and formed their own guild and elected their own gobernadorcillo Though some mestizos opted to preserve their culture, eventually inter-married with the natives of Guagua and accepted local ways and customs.

The British Invasion and the Chinese

In 1762, events emanating from Manila disturbed the relative tranquility of the town. On September 23, 1762, the British, under the command of Admiral Cornish and Commander William Draper. invaded the City of Manila. Despite the stubborn resistance of Spanish and Filipino troops, tile British supported by heavy guns from their fleet. overwhelmed the city and forced Archbishop Rojo and the members of the Royal Audiencia to sign a capitulation pact Even before the smoke of battled cleared, the British engaged in the outrageous sacking of Manila and committed atrocities that shocked the Filipinos.
Meanwhile, the Chinese, who were weary of several years of Spanish abusive policies and discriminatory decrees imposed on them, looked upon the British as their liberators and, considering the invasion as an opportunity for revenge, opted to side with them and join the fight against the Spaniards. The British solicited the help of their new found allies to harass General Anda who was continuing with the fight in the provinces.

At this juncture, about 900 Chinese residents of Guagua, encouraged by the support of about 5,000 of their compatriots from Manila; plotted a scheme to rise in arms against the Spanish and to strike on the night of December 24, 1762, when all the Spaniards and many Filipino residents of the town would be in the church for the Christmas eve midnight mass However, the seditious plan was frustrated by a timely warning relayed to General Anda by Fr. Jose Salas, parish priest of Mexico, Pampanga. The latter learned of the plot from a Filipino sweetheart of one of the plotters. Gen. De Anda, based in nearby Bacolor, immediate rushed to Guagua with his soldiers and many civilians from Cagayan. The Chinese rebels closeted themselves in an improvised fort armed with cannons. In the ensuing battle more than 100 Chinese were killed, and those who survived tile slaughter, numbering 130, were summarily tried and executed as traitors.

Infuriated by this Chinese treachery. Gen. Anda decreed a general massacre of Chinese throughout the country. Roughly 6,000 Chinese lost their lives in this event, aptly recorded by some historians as the `Red Christmas of 1762′ because of the stream of human blood that flowed over Philippine soil.

From here onward, the Chinese lived in relative peace while they freely practiced their craft and mingled hand-in-hand with the local residents of Guagua. The importance of the influence of the Chinese on the culture as well as the economic life of Guagua cannot be overlooked. The Chinese residents were merchants, masons, woodcarvers, carpenters, agriculturists, and laborers. The town could not have prospered so readily without the Chinese economic services.

The First Means of Modern Transportation

Contributing to the success and prosperity of the town was its advantage of having a navigable river which allowed steamboats to bring merchandise to and from Manila The first cargo boat to arrive in Guagua was the `Doña Dominga’ on May 7, 1884. Much later, it was followed by the steamships ‘Kaibigan’ and `Kababayan’, which anchored at the pier in Barrio Sto. Niño, better known as the Yangco landing .

On February 23, 1892, when the Manila-Mabalacat railroad was inaugurated, Guagua was virtually the only port of embarkation to and from Manila that serves the province. Commerce was further improved when the San Fernando-Guagua line of the railroad was inaugurated on November 17, 1907. On account of all these, Guagua became popular of its economic advancement.

The Katipunan in Guagua

In 1895, as the faltering Spanish colonial government failed to solve its problem of mal-administration, leaders of the Katipunan voted to rise in arms in protest. .Aurelio Tolentino, a native son of Guagua, and a trusted comrade of Gat Andres Bonifacio, was among the KKK leaders that met at the Pamitinan cave in Montalban, on April 10, 1895, to decide on an armed rebellion against the Spanish. On the night of August 19, 18146, the revolutionary plan of the Katipunan leaked out. Many leaders of the KKK including Tolentino were arrested, tortured, and imprisoned.

The Spanish authorities, fearful of the threat of armed rebellion, launched a reign of terror which spread as far as Pampanga. On August 30, 1896, Governor General Ramon Blanco declared that a state of war existed in eight provinces including Pampanga. Six days later, an arm outbreak occurred in Betis but was subdued immediately. The first secret cell of the Katipunan was established in Guagua in August of 1897. By March, 1 898 all Spaniards of Guagua were murdered marking the end of Spanish colonialism in July of the same year. But this was not the end of foreign rule, rather it was the beginning of American rule.


The Philippine – American War

The desire of the Filipino people for a genuine freedom was shattered, thus, a war between the Filipinos and Americans broke out on the night of February 4, 1899. In fairly rapid order, the Americans captured Apalit and San Fernando, and on May 15, 1899, the towns of Betis, Guagua, and Sexmoan,

The Birth of Liberalized Education

During the American occupation, at the turn of the century, a new system of education was introduced and made popular and available to the Filipinos This period witnessed the establishment of educational institutions all over the country.

The first educational institution that was established in Guagua was the Guagua Elementary School – a government school, which is said to have been founded in 1901. It was erected on the site of the former Tribunal in Barrio Sta. Fitomena, which was razed by fire during the revolution. In September 13, 1901, Will M. Caruth, an English teacher from Ohio arrived in Betis and opened a primary school that functioned on a regular basis until the enrollment grew rapidly. However, the town of Betis (then a separate town) could not afford public education that classes were held in one grass-walled building covering two rooms with furniture not even adequate for the needs of the students. In 1902, two Thomasites were assigned in Guagua and Betis, Mr. John W. Dolby and Mrs. A- B. Vaughn respectively.Other government schools were later established in barangays San Antonio, Rizal and Maquiapo.
In 1908, Colegio del Sagrado Corazon de Jesus (now Sacred Heart Academy in Barangay San Roque) was established in a two-storey building, donated by a charitable matron, in downtown Guagua. Later in 1918, Guagua National Institute (now Guagua National College in Barangay Sta Filomena), was founded by Fr. Nicanor Banzali at the convent of the church. In 1941, Fr. Osmundo Aguilar, then parish priest of Guagua, felt the need for another high school in town, so he opened Saint Michael’s College

Fruitless Attempts of Reinstating Revolution

The frustration and anger of those involved in the uprising against the Americans called for time to mend and subside. Isolated rebellions continued.

In 1902, Juan Balbuena, a resident of Guagua and a former member of the Aguinaldo Army led a group of desperadoes to rekindle the revolution. Also, one Tagalog by the name of Arturo Paldella. made similar attempt in Guagua. However, both efforts fell through and the two suffered violently at the hands of the constabulary.

The Consolidation of Betis with Guagua

Betis was a town independent of Guagua until January, 1904, by virtue of Act 947, it was consolidated (until now) with Guagua. According to one historian, the massive migration of people in Betis to the more developed town of Guagua reduced so much the tax-payers to the Spanish Crown in the former and increased that in the latter, thus, the consolidation. However, its parish which was built in 1660 remained independent. (Guagua in Retrospect, J. dela Cruz)

Betis,, an ancient settlement, got its name from a very large first-class timber tree, betis ( bassia betis merr ), growing in the site where the church is now standing. The tree was so tall that its shadow cast upon the town of nearby Guagua. Furthermore, according to the late ex-Mayor Don Lorenzo Pecson, the structures of the church and belfries were made from the timber of the tree.

Like the town of Guagua, Betis was already a prosperous settlement even before the Spaniards came in 1571. In 1572, its people were noted for their firm resistance against the autocratic Spanish colonizer. Moreover, the natives ( until now ) have been well known for their excellence in gold-and-silver-smiting, gilding, wood carving, carpentry, furniture inlaying, drop-curtains and interior church painting.

And likewise, the Betis people take pride in having given to the Catholic ministry, more than any other Pampangan town, clergymen out of their own volition and vocation since childhood under parental guidance. Hence, nowadays two rival vocations dominate the lives of the Betis folks, as one saying goes, `if they are not priest, they are carpenters.’

It is unfortunate, however, that due to a fire that razed the rectory of the church, the oldest existing book of Baptism remains to be 1908, and so with records of marriage and interment.

Guagua: “Balaya’ning Arte” (Town of Arts)

In the early years of American period, the town of Guagua was once again stirred by another upheaval this time by a peaceful cultural revolution, a renaissance, so to speak, which earned for the town the title “Balaya’ning Arte” or Town of Arts. This period witnessed the emergence and proliferation of master painters, poets, dramatist and playwrights, as well as music composers in Guagua. The `curiru’, which was an adaptation of medieval romances written in free verse poems, and the `moro-moro’ type of dramas concerning the struggles between Moros and Christians, slowly gave way to a more sophisticated operette called ‘Zarzuela’. The most popular zarzuela of the time was “Ing Mangaibugan,” a tragedy written by Jacinto Tolentino, a native of Guagua. The musical theme of the play, composed by another native son Camilo Dimson, is a reflection of the mood and spirit of Guagua – and it never failed to solicit awe and reverence whenever it is played, even today. Aurelio Tolentino, a brother of Jacinto, and now declared as a national playwright, a versatile and prolific writer, contributed many works in Pampango such as “Mutya”, “Ing Buac nang Ester”, “Maring”, “Daclat Cayanacan”. A more popular. play entitled “Kahapon, Ngayon, at Bukas”, was written in Tagalog.

Other writers like Felino Simpao, Remedios David, Abdon Jingco, Arsenio Adriano, Jose Songco, Aurea Balagtas, Jose Razon, and others, have all produced excellent works in Capampangan.

Japanese Occupation and the Second World War

In 1941, while the people of Guagua took time out to celebrate their town fiesta, even as a diplomatic crisis mounted between America and Japan, and a sham battle was being staged by ROTC cadets at the town plaza on the morning of December 8, 1941, — Feast of the Immaculate Conception, patroness of the town – newspaper headlines shocked the onlookers as they read: “JAPAN ATTACKED HAWAII” According to American time it was 7:55 AM, December 7, 1941 — “a date that will live in infamy”, as President Roosevelt said.

The war was indeed one event never to be forgotten by the people of Guagua because it broke out on the day of their fiesta and the day their sons, husbands, and friends went off to war – some never to return.

Guagua became an important battleground at the height of the Imperial Japanese forces towards Bataan. A line of defense stretching from Porac to Guagua was established to delay the onrush of Japanese troops. The Filipinos and Americans fought bravely, but, overpowered by the numerically and well armed enemy, they fell back after leaving the town of Guagua in flames. The rampaging throng of Japanese soldiers brought further destruction to the town when they set the commercial section to the torch and reduce it to ruins.

The generosity of Guagua folks was further proven when in the Death March clandestinely gave food (panocha) and water to the captive American and Filipino soldiers. According to one survivor of this savage event, he can not help but nostalgically reminisce this noble deed of the Guagua folks everytime he passes through the town.

Truly, the resilience of the people was tested after the war. The people easily went back on their feet and slowly but surely rebuilt Guagua


Guagua: a Paragon of Socio-Economic Advancement

Today Guagua is still one of the commercial centers in the province of Pampanga. It was classified in June 1996 as a first class municipality along with the 3 other towns of Pampanga (Mabalacat, San Fernando, and Lubao)..

Guagua, strategically located at the south-west portion of Pampanga, has a land area of 4,857 hectares predominantly devoted for agricultural purposes such as palay, sugar, fishponds, vegetables, orchards, and other cash crops. However, several other industries abound in Guagua, ice plants, woodcraft, restaurants, furniture making, and a great deal of retail trade businesses The presence of a good number of both bank and non-bank financial institutions further testifies to the town’s economic advancement. In addition to this, in Pampanga, Guagua has the most developed and biggest public market which is frequented by even the people from the neighboring towns. Moreover, the propagation of sampaguita and ilang-ilang, an industry trail-blazed by the Municipal Government, continues to improve the quality of life of the disadvantaged.

The presence of quality educational institutions affirms that the Guagua is the seat of learning in the 2″d District of Pampanga. Two private schools, namely, Guagua National College and Saint Michael’s College offers elementary, secondary and tertiary education. There are a host of vocational and computer-oriented schools. Furthermore, 3 high schools and about 30 elementary schools afford public education.
Guagua is subdivided into thirty-one jurisdictional units or barangays. For political and economic purposes, the town is further subdivided into three sectoral areas, namely, the Betis area, Poblacion area, and Pangulo area. Moreover, the thirty one barangays are categorized as ten urban barangays and 20 rural barangays.

Guagua in Rough Sailing

The present administration has succeeded several debacles since 1986, when Mayor Manuel Santiago assumed as Officer-in-charge. As soon as he took over, the acting Mayor discovered that the town hall was practically bare. It was without functional typewriters, had only a number of tables and chairs, the coffers were virtually empty. The local government was neck deep in debt in electrical and telephone bills along with un-remitted share of the Provincial Government Hospital. And to top it all, employees were demoralized, payment of salaries was irregular and more often than not, such were sold at discounted rates to collectors.

In June, 1991, the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, was another challenge to the incumbent administration. The flooding that plagues the town during the rainy seasons has become graver and was coupled with a more dreadful catastrophe brought about by the volcanic eruption. Threat of lahar flows. Since then, economic activities were hampered due to uncertainties. But the ever resilient people of Guagua, under the leadership of Mayor Santiago, as one man, proved once again that they could not be trampled by whatever adversity they come across.
What Put Guagua in the Map

Since the restoration of democracy through the People Power in EDSA in 1986, the Municipal Government of Guagua, began to reap citations for the good governance it has exemplified. Its “Integrated Approach Towards Sustainable Development” was lauded as among the ten awardees in the 1995 Gawad Panglingkod Pook of the Department of Interior Local Government and the Asian Institute of Management. It has likewise earned the nod of several local governments that they have adapted the program. Moreover, several other organizations has consistently lauded Guagua as the `Most Outstanding Municipality’ in both regional and national level,

Excellence in the field of sports made Guagua the home of the National Softball Champions by the girls from barangay PulungMasle. For four consecutive years (1994 – 1997), Guagua had won the National Championship in Girls Softball Little League Series, and subsequently represented the Far Fast to the World Series in Oregon, USA. These little softbelles ended up a Silver Title in the 1996 series.

2. ‘WAWA – MOUTH OF A RIVER’ by Francisco Lapid
3. ‘GliAGUA IN RETROSPECT’ by Msgr. Jose dela Cruz
4. ‘THE PHILIPPINE 1SLANDS’ by E. M. Blair and Robertson
6. ‘GUAGUA NOW AND THEN’ by Lourdes Pelagio
7. ‘HISTORY OF GIJAGUA’ by E. O.Valencia
8. `THE PAMPANGANS’ by John A. Larkin
10. ‘THE PROVINCE OF PAMPANGA AND ITS TOWNS (AD 1300 – 1965)’ by Mariano A. Henson