Digging out facts regarding the town’s history is quite laborious due to the inadequacy, if not at all the absence of authoritative records. Compounding the problem even more was the unfortunate burning of the municipal in 1951 by dissidents. The building became the last frontier of historical records because of the absence of a public library. Interviews of the town’s old folks on the basis of oral accounts were made and collated with a work on a similar objective by the scholarly priest Fr. Jose R. De La Cruz.
The collated account pointed out the Sta. Rita had its humble beginnings. It started as a settlement long, long time ago at barrio Gasak, now San Isidro. There it expanded to a wide territory embracing today’s barrio San Vicente, San Matias Santa Monica, San Agustin and San Juan. The settlement, which grew bigger eventually, was then a part of Porac. Politically and religiously, Porac managed the affairs of the town.
The distance between the emerging town of Sta. Rita and the mother town Porac proved catastrophic in terms of peace and order. The Aetas of the Porac mountains would often down to the lowland bringing havoc and fear among the people, resorting to banditry even raping innocent women. It was 1724 that Sta. Rita was carved out of Porac, although not a separate parish.
The parish priest of Porac continued to manage and administer Sta. Rita religiously. The time came when in 1771, Sta. Rita as a parish assumed independence from the parish of Porac. A certain Rev. Fr. Eustaqio Polina engineered the eventful moment the Ritenians would thank after years thereafter.
As an independent parish, Sta. Rita now would need a church of its own, if only to continue the road and the crusade to evangelization. The search was over in 1839 when, likened to rain in the dessert sand, Fr. Francisco Rayo, then the parish priest of Sta. Rita began the Herculean task of building the present parish church. Thanks to the “polo” or forced labor that was made legal. It undoubtedly contributed much in the completion of the church work.
The Hispanization of Bacolor and the eventual transfer of the capital of the Spanish Philippines by Governor General Simon de Anda brought repercussions to Sta. Rita. It was due to this that the town was associated by many inhabitants to Bacolor, calling it “Sta. Rita de Lele” or “Sta. Rita Baculud”.
The end of the Spanish occupation ushered in the Philippine military or civil occupation. The onset of the Taft administration (Governor William Howard Taft) and the governor Joven in Pampanga caused the Sta. Rita town to be merged with Bacolor. The setback was however temporary and short- lived for the town’s energetic son Don Basilio Ocampo, and Don Magno Gosioco, then the incumbent mayor succeeded in their crusade to separate Sta. Rita from Bacolor.
The outbreak of World War II sent jolts to the country. The treacherous attack of Pearl Harbor by Japanese zero fighters on December 8, 1941 struck horror. On the same noon, Clark Field was bombed. Tat was the first time the Ritenian marketers went home from “Wawa” (Guagua) bringing not the good tidings of Guagua Town Fiesta but news of fear from falling bombs and strafing bullets. It was the cheerless Christmas of 1941.
The post – liberation era was a period of harsh and rigid discipline, of witch – hunting and vendetta against the “makapili”. It was an era of emasculation and strict adherence to discipline. The legalized “polo” or forced labor slowly gained favors of reconstruction of the public plaza with the pool of compulsory contributions in labor, money or kind.
The onset of the 50’s produced a disciplined ‘warden” in – charge of the fragile peace and order situation of the town “Mang Dado Dizon”. His brand of discipline sent fears to town folks and harnessed them to submission. This was also the year when a dissident leader named “Pampanga” was captured and incarcerated in the municipal jail. The prisoner, however, demonstrated civic – mindedness when he planted shady fruit-bearing trees around the plaza.
Not long thereafter, in 1951, dissidents raided and burned the Municipal building, reducing to ashes everything and every document housed in it.
The election into office by the longest reigning mayor of Sta. Rita Mr. German Galang brought peace. The mayor had no college diploma to boast, but rode on an underdog and low- profile public relations well- loved by his constituents, the reason why he stayed in power for a little for two decades.
In matters of religious life, the Ritenians were so much influenced by their Parish Priest- “Padre Ambo or Rev. Fr. Camilo, a pious priest who demonstrated a Christ- like priestly career founded on poverty, mortifications and celibacy. He died poor in belongings but rich in spiritual; gems. His demise was felt in every nook of Ritenian life. Even the tolling of the bells brought sorrow music and melody.
Another priest who had left a lasting legacy of spiritual influence was Rev. Fr. Fidel Dabu. His trademarks… the Angelus at twilight, the Rosary at the eight of the evening and the… Panalangin king Abac, the last one… a routine that embedded itself so deep in the hearts of Ritenian religiosity, and the clock of the farmers at dawn… “Abac na, mangadi ne y Apung Dabu.”
It took a very scholarly priest Rev. Fr. Alfredo Lorenzo to insert and educate the Ritenians about “lahar”. That was 1991 and the parishioners knew nothing about it. They thought the cessation of Mount Pinatubo eruption would just be the ordinary end, finished with pyroclastic materials, ash etc. carpeting the mountains of Zambales. But, though… it was just a beginning of a nightmare. The ensuing years were horror of unimaginable proportion. Sapang Baluyut was choked to the neck by steaming river of mud and debris… Mitla was buried to the roofs, Balas, Bacolor was 15 to 20 feet belowthe rampaging mudflow… and Sta. Rata lay prostate with her fallen barangays… San Juan, Gasak and San Jose. Unthinkable… the future seemed to be doomed.
The heroes of the FVR Megadike surfaced out driving away the agent of death. The Ritenians followed the cue and the town, as if by miracle, was excluded from the catch basin… delivered finally of the of the catastrophe. The hand of the almighty and the intercession of the patroness “Apung Dita” were felt, though invisible. Misa sa Control was spearheaded and sustained by Rev. Fr. “Among Jess Mariano even up to this day. The town continues to live and remains steadfast. The future with its uncertainness on the roll… and the Ritenian prays, hoping to brave the tempest and billows of divineness…