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ROQUE B. ABLAN

(1906-1943)

 

 

 

 

          Roque Ablan, guerrilla leader and war hero, was born to a poor couple, Victor Ablan of Salsona and Raymunda Blanco of Paoay. He studied at the Laoag Elementary Schooland graduated from the Laoag High School in 1924. He went to the University of the Philippines and there obtained a Bachelor of Philosophy degree in 1929 and a Bachelor of Laws degree in 1930. He took the bar examinations the same year he finished law and obtained 9th place. He managed this despite his having been a self-supporting student.

 

          At the UP, he was a reporter for the Philippines Hernld and edited the Carnival Courier during the carnival season. He taught for some time at the Chinese Elementary School and at other schools in Manila and edited also the Philippine Collegian, and the Philippinesian, the graduation yearbook. He became president of the University of the Philippines Alumni Association in Ilocos Norte and secretary of the Ilocos Norte Bar Association.

 

          After graduation, he went home to Laoag where he was elected governor at the age of 32. He was the youngest provincial executive of his time. He was backed by some colleagues but his victory was also partly ascribed to the work of his wife, Manuela Ravelo, of Batac, who was a high school teacher.

 

          Two problems faced his administration: lawlessness and unemployment. He sought to remedy these by increasing the daily wage in his province from 60 to 80 centavos. One of his outstanding achievements as governor was the establishment of a provincial hospital in Ilocos Norte, one that came to be  considered as one of the best institutions in Luzon. He also in establishing a branch of the Philippine Normal School in Laoag,  move that enabled the poorer families to have their children  their studies at minimal expense. Finally, he worked for the construction of theprovincia1 capital, the revival of rural credit and the organization of producers' cooperatives. He also espoused  idea of giving more authority and power to local govemment. Where he received by his constituents, he was re-elected to a second term.

 

When the Japanese landed at Vigan, Ablan refused to extend his operation to them. He left the provincial capital of Laoag to avoid arrest and transferred the seat of government to a remote barrio near the boundary of Ilocos Norte and Apayao. From there he led in the organization of guerrilla units in coordination with Lt. Feliciano Madamba of the Philippine Army. By mid-January, 1942, the Ablan-

Madamba ba Guerilla Group of Northern Luzon was organized.

 

          On January 27  Ablan and Madamba went to Solsona where they unearthed an arms cache of numerous rifles, machine guns and several numbers of ammunition. The following day, January 28, their first  encounter with the enemy took place when Madamba's unit successfully ambushed a Japanese detachment at Banna, and in the process, killed about 50 Japanese soldiers.

 

          The efforts of Ablan and Madamba were welcomed by the people. Many soldiers who failed to join the USAFEE (United States   Forces in the Far East) in Bataan joined them. The Japanese sent planes to the towns of Banna and Nueva Era, and   bomb and strafe guerrillas and civilians. Ablan managed to get in contact with President Quezon in Washington D.C. by radio and reported  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 their allegiance to your leadership and to the Philipine Government and to the United States Government. Every day the will of our people against the Japanese becomes more intense as the enemy rob our homes, destroy property, kill civilian and rape our women."

 

Shortly after, Ablan radioed again President Quezon requesting  P100,000 with which to pay the employees and keep the machinery the underground government functioning. Because of the difficulties involved in the transmission of money, Quezon authorized Ablan to issue emergency notes as previously authorized by your provincial  expenditures." Ablan notified his people of Quezon's intention and the information, having spread throughout the province, they  founded  other small but independent guenilla groups to affiliate them  with Ablan's outfit. Ablan then began to organize all these men  to a more cohesive unit. He divided Ilocos Norte into several sectors posed of one to three towns. Each zone was headed and supervised  a guerilla leader. He established an intelligence section to gathering   information from as many sources as possible. A runner-relay system was also set up for the purpose of disseminating news and sending orders to different sectors, thus linking towns and scattered guerrilla camps. Ablan assigned Lt. Isabelo Monje to take charge of operations in Batac, Paoay and Currimao; Vicente Cajigal was assigned the towns of Badoc, Pinili and Nueva Era. Ablan named Juan Albano as deputy governor, designated Lieutenant Madamba as executive officer, and placed Capt. Prime Lazaro and Damaso Samonte as chiefs of the intelligence corps. Captain Pedro Alviar was placed in charge of the counter-intelligence unit.

 

          Ablan's guerrillas had a series of bitter skirmishes with the Japanese. After Bataan and Corregidor had fallen, the Japanese under Colonel Watanabe established their headquarters in Laoag. The enemy hunted Ablan and his resistance fighters and air units dropped Leaflets urging him and his men to surrender. He refused to give up the struggle. Large forces hunted him down. A series of  raids were staged on his guerrilla camp. He escaped enemy traps twice but his outfit nevertheless sustained tremendous losses. His units then adopted hit-and-run tactics.

 

On November 8, 1942? Ablan launched a successfulattack against Japanese patrols in Pampaniki, Solsona. On December 10 that same year, he left for Cagayan to confer with Governor Marcelo Adduru. His last words to his family reportedly were: "How I hate myself for having only one life to give to my country. But don't cry. I will be back when liberty returns to our people."   He never came back.

 

          He probably perished during an encounter with the Japanese or was captured, imprisoned and subsequently executed by the enemy. His heroic deeds have earned for him an honored place in his country history.

 

 

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