Bulacan Province, The Land of Bulakenos or Bulakenyos

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Bulacan, a 2,625-square-kilometer province just north of Metro Manila, has contributed significantly to the country's historical and cultural heritage.  Economically, this province with around 2.2 million people is one of the most progressive provinces in the country, with a monthly per capita income of P12,000 (as of 2001) which was higher than the national average of only P7,000.

The province, a conglomerate of 22 towns, two cities and 568 barangays (villages), is known for many robust industries and homegrown products, namely: blacksmith arts, pastilla wrapper making, paper sculpting, arch making, baskets, belts, pyrotechnics, jewelry, leather products, furniture, electronics, poultry products, bread and cookies, chicharon, water melon, mangoes, and of course rice.

For example, Sta. Maria, my hometown, has once been tagged as the "egg nest of the Philippines", because of its flourishing poultry industry. Swine raising is also a big industry in the area.Complementing these two livestock industries is chicharon making. Recently, Sta. Maria has been competing with the town of Bocaue as the firecrackers capital.The town also used to be the country's haven for basket making, embroidery and handicrafts design. Today, it is now home to several large corporations in the country, like battery manufacturer Ramcar, which runs a plant at an industrial park in Barangay Bulac, Sta. Maria, Bulacan where I live.

Bulacan's claim to fame is its wealth of historical and cultural heritage.Often referred to as the "Land of Heroes and Beautiful Women", the province used to be a part of the old Tondo area also encompassing Metro Manila and Rizal province in the pre-Spanish period. Its main language is Tagalog, a derivative from the phrase taga-ilog, which means dwellers near the river.

Bulacan was among the first eight provinces, which rose against Spanish colonization. The Kakarong de Sili republic in Pandi town in 1890s ignited hopes that Filipinos could topple the Spanish rule. The revolutionary Philippine republic in 1897 was encamped at the caves and lush wilderness of Biak-na-bato, which is now a natural park in San Miguel town. General Emilio Aguinaldo, popularly acknowledged as the first Filipino president from Cavite province, established his government in Malolos town in 1899.The Barosoain Church, also in Malolos, hosted the first Philippine Congress.

Among the country's great heroes who were born in Bulacan province were Marcelo H. del Pilar, the father of Philippine journalism; Gregorio del Pilar, the youngest general of the republic; Mariano Ponce; Pio Valenzuela; Esteban Tasi; Felipe Salonga; Simon de Anda; and Eusebio Roque.  Jose Rizal, a Filipino writer from Laguna province, also paid tribute to the women of Malolos for trying to educate their fellow Bulakenas and improve their abilities.

Bulacan also contributed significantly to the country's cultural heritage. The province is known for its poets, foremost of whom was Francisco Balagtas, the father of Philippine literature. Jose Corazon de Jesus, from Sta. Maria town popularized balagtasan during his time. Amando Hernandez from San Miguel town was a national artist for literature.

Nicanor Abelardo was the father of kundiman or Philippine love songs. Francisca Reyes-Aquino was the mother of Philippine dances. Atang de la Rama, an actress and Gerry de Leon, a director set the stage for Philippine film industry. Guillermo Tolentino was one of the fathers of Philippine arts. Lydia de Vega, who is from Meycauayan town, was once acknowledged as the fastest woman in Asia. Regine Velasquez, who lives in Guiguinto town, is billed as Asia's songbird.

Other Bulakenyos who excelled in their respective fields are Jose Reyes in medicine, Eddie Villanueva in Christian church planting, Proseso Marcelo in radio Christian ministry, Blas Ople in legislation, Dolphy, Bert "Tawa" Marcelo and Joey de Leon in comedy, Dely Magpayo in radio broadcasting, Vergel Meneses in basketball, Eddie Katindig in music, Jamie Rivera in singing and Michelle Aldana in beauty pageant.

A team of young girls from the capital town of Malolos became runner up to the Little League softball for girls competition in 2000 to an American team with two boys in its lineup.

Those who are proud of their Bulakenyo roots include former Presidents Corazon Aquino and Joseph Estrada, former Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, and musical poet Levi Celerio.

This article was written to serve as a record.

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