Governor Roque B. Ablan Sr.: A hero, wherever he is buried

Seasoned Ilocanos get nostalgic whenever young politicians quote former Gov. Roque B. Ablan, Sr. in their speeches. His inaugural speech, delivered on New Year’s Day 1938, was a landmark in the oratory of Iloko. An excerpt: “I know that the first duty of government is to protect the life, property, and honor of the governed. I know our current situation, and if the past administration had been too good and fair and just, I pledge, for my part, to try harder, to devote most of our time to banishing FEAR… Might will never overcome the law. I will not allow the officers of law and peace to be negligent in the application of the law; I will not allow them to be lenient in their duties; I will also insist on fair and just application of the laws. In my belief, the law is for everyone, whether they are my friends or not.

Japanese rule in the Philippines brought surprisingly good developments. Theatre, music and painting flourished thanks to their encouragement.

But there are always the harsh realities of war. And the Ilocanos united powerfully against the enemy. Ordinary peasants, indigenous peoples and citizens from all walks of life came together to fight together, to defeat the enemy.

The Philippines has produced many heroes. Throughout the annals of history, these men have faced insurmountable odds to defend family and home, to fight for ideals, beliefs and above all our own country. However, very few of Ilocano’s heroes have been duly recognized, and many of them date from the Spanish colonial period or the Revolution against Spain. Unfortunately, these brave souls received neither attention nor recognition.

Many World War II heroes have been forgotten. There are a handful of historians and writers who have tried to document their deeds for the future generation. But over time, the honorable and selfless actions of these Ilocanos risk being forgotten.

In Ilocos Norte, every August 9, the Ilocano community immortalizes the heroic deeds of a valiant man and one of the greatest Filipino patriots of World War II, former Governor Roque Blanco Ablan Sr. The celebration includes many activities to bring his memory to life. and honor; remember his selfless sacrifice and devotion to ideals, people and country.

Governor Ablan comes from a very simple family among the nobility of his entourage. He was born in Ilocos Norte taking with him the courageous ideals of Pedro Mateo, Saralogo Ambaristo, Don Claro Caluya and Teofilo Ildefonso (Piddig), Juan and Antonio Luna (Badoc), Gregorio Aglipay (Batac) and many other heroes who gave their lives for freedom. He strove to survive amid the hardships of life. As a self-reliant student, he also felt a responsibility to serve his people. He became a student leader and wrote in newspapers; entered the civil service and became the youngest governor of Ilocos Norte.

There were pressing issues and social issues during his tenure as governor. He tackled the problems of anarchy and mass unemployment. He established a branch of the Philippine Normal School in Laoag, helping teachers out of poverty. It initiates beautification and encourages the organization of credit unions. He also felt that more authority should be given to local government units as they know their own issues very well.

His achievements have remained etched in the hearts of his constituents. Thanks to this, he won a second term in 1941, the year war broke out in the Pacific. Consequently, his administration was tested – he had to meet the needs of his constituents. It was the dawn of a “dark age” in the province, as the arrival of the Japanese would mean destruction and a threat to the lives of the Ilocanos.

Dr. Ricardo T. Jose, a professor in the Department of History at the University of the Philippines, said: “As the Japanese approached Laoag, Governor Ablan consulted with members of the provincial government, explaining his determination to resist. to the Japanese invaders and to keep the civil government functioning. Before the Japanese occupied Laoag, Ablan and 95% of the provincial government—all civil servants and most employees, down to lowly clerks—were evacuated to the mountains to keep the provincial government of Ilocos Norte going. In doing so, Ablan became the first Philippine provincial governor to openly declare resistance, knowing the dangers and hardships they might face. Through his action, he became a source of inspiration for his people.

He met Lieutenant Feliciano Madamba, leader of a group of Filipino soldiers, who was also against the Japanese forces. They worked together, with Ablan heading the civilian government and Madamba in charge of military operations.

According to sources, Ablan sent a message to President Quezon: “I am pleased to report to Your Excellency that despite the occupation of Laoag and San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte, our government is still functioning and our people have not alienated a bit of his allegiance. to your leadership and the government of the Philippines and the United States… Not a single provincial official or mayor has submitted to the Japanese. We would rather be ordinary citizens than puppet officials under Japanese rule.

Ablan stayed in the steep mountains of Ilocos Norte. The provincial government’s economy had to be supported. He had no access to Commonwealth money and was unable to pay officials and others who followed him. He then asked Quezon to send money so they could buy food and pay people. Due to the difficult situation, President Quezon authorized Ablan to print his own money, along with the district auditor and the provincial treasurer. There were emergency war notes that bore their signatures and adopted various means to prevent counterfeiting. These speak of the ingenuity of Ablan and his men. The money they printed was widely used as legal tender in the free zones of northern Luzon.

He ensures that there is good coordination between the guerrillas in the free zones and those in the mountains to enable them to advance further than the Japanese. Ms. Manuela R. Ablan worked with female volunteers to organize an auxiliary service to support combatants and care for their families. Thus, its headquarters was called “Malacañang of the North” in keeping with the memory of the living free Philippines.

Dr Jose added: “But Japanese pressure intensified as Ablan’s forces faced severe shortages and casualties. His own wife and son were eventually captured as recounted by his son, Roquito. Even Madamba, thinking that Ablan was dead, ends up surrendering. The Japanese attacked Ablan’s camps and capital and pushed Ablan deeper into the mountains. Governor Ablan separated from his family in December 1942, heading to Cagayan to speak with Governor Marcelo Adduru, also a key figure in the resistance. A writer recorded his last words: “How I hate myself for having a life to give to my country. But don’t cry. I will be back when freedom returns to our people.

In his honor, the old Bucaneg Street in Laoag was renamed Gov. Roque B. Ablan, Sr. Ave. Other locations have also been named after the great governor, such as: Ilocos Norte Provincial Hospital is named Governor Roque B. Ablan, Sr. Memorial Hospital; the current SM Hypermarket adjacent to the Marcos Hall of Justice was originally called Governor Roque B. Ablan, Sr. and Ilocano Heroes Hall; three schools, one in Laoag City, one in the municipality of Solsona and the other in the municipality of Burgos; three barangays in Ilocos Norte – one in the municipality of Burgos, another in the municipality of Sarrat, and one in Batac City are named after him. A barangay in Calanasan, Apayao is also named after him. There is a shrine dedicated to Ablan at Barangay 22, Laoag City, which was established by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines. Also, locals call a road in the municipality of Vintar the Roque Ablan Sr. pass because, according to them, it was one of the places where Governor Ablan was last seen. Locals also said Governor Ablan Sr. had a home in Brgy. Cabayo and that one of the residents kept the pajamas that the late governor left there.

Ablan continued to fight and was last seen at the Battle of Bumitalag, Piddig, Ilocos Norte on February 5, 1943. Was he killed there or captured by the Japanese and executed? Nobody knows. Since then, Ablan was nowhere to be found. President Quezon wrote him a personal letter in 1944 (on board the Stingray submarine in August 1944) congratulating Ablan on his loyalty. Ironically, by the time the Stingray arrived in Pagudpud, President Quezon was already dead. Perhaps history has buried Ablan in the soul and spirit of the province of Ilocos Norte where he will reside forever in its sweet memory. Truly, Ablan is a hero wherever he is buried.

The author is the secretary of the Sangguniang Bayan of the Municipal Government of Piddig, Ilocos Norte and a history and culture enthusiast.

Comments are closed.