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Who really deserves to be mayor of San Pedro Tunasán, La Laguna?

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For the past several months, I’ve been itching on writing a blogpost against Eugenio Ynión, Jr., the gentleman who threatened to kill me two summers ago. “What better time than now,” I thought, “because it’s election time. His kind simply has to be stopped.” To those unaware, he is gunning for the mayoralty post of San Pedro Tunasán in sun-soaked La Laguna Province, my family’s home since 2007. Of course I like the idea of him helming my adoptive city very less because of what he did, or would like to do, to me. But my plan has been hindered by several factors: my night job is taking a toll on my exhausted mind, my reflex neurovascular dystrophy gives me plenty of excuses not to write too much, and of course, there’s the concern (for my family, not for myself) that he will violently retaliate.

As election day draws nearer and nearer, I’ve been wanting to discredit him all the more, to destroy his campaign online, to put him to shame. I had wanted to expose him to be the fraud that he really is. But I couldn’t. Because I’m not like him, and I don’t want to become like him. I mean, just check out his Facebook account: it’s filled with calumnies, defamation of character (directed towards his political rivals), dicey accusations, and other negative vibes. So I’d rather not. I simply thought that maybe, just maybe, it would be better to question his character, his real identity, his true motives. But then, that would be boring. As a debt-ridden man, what really interests me now is how he became a tycoon. (his words).

Yes, I admit that I’m jealous of him. Who wouldn’t? He’s got a huge building in the barrio he administers; you won’t see him in the barangay hall because he’s always holed up in that handsome building which he calls SABAK (perfectly rhymes with the Tagálog word “sápac” if you know what I mean 😎). He’s got luxury cars, regularly dines with his family and friends in the most extravagant restaurants, and can go to any dream resort any time he wants (at the expense of his duties as barrio chairman, that is). Of course he can! Because he’s the owner of that famous multi-billion peso conglomerate called Ynión General Holdings, or Yngen for short (if you’ve never heard of it, then you’re surely living under a rock). I checked its website. To be honest, I was impressed! Says the website:

Yngen Holdings, Inc. is a 100% Filipino-owned corporation based in Manila. It is a progressive holdings firm composed of competent companies in various fields and industries such as shipping and logistics, technology marketing, properties and property development, and fine food. Its subsidiaries are Le Soleil International Logistics Co., Inc., Le Soleil Shipping Agencies, Inc. Fil-Port Express Brokerate, Inc., Yngentech, Inc., Yngen Properties Inc., and OWG Coffee Co., Inc.

CEO Jun Ynión proudly declares in interviews that he’s one of the youngest shipping magnates in the country. But I wonder why his Le Soleil Shipping Agencies, apparently an exclusive representative for ZIM Integrated Shipping, created online accounts with other shipping companies but has not done any physical shipping transaction with them, if at all. Well, that statement of mine is not entirely accurate. Outside its activities with Zim, Le Soleil does have a transaction, albeit done very recently. Actually, the company ordered thousands of pounds of chicharón from the Visayas, most of which are now somewhere in Southern Luzón (interestingly, Le Soleil is both the shipper and the consignee for this shipment; such a transaction is not unusual for a logistics company, but one should take note that this chicharón shipment is the only transaction it has outside of Le Soleil for this anonymous company). But I won’t delve on that further if CEO Ynión will use it for his campaign (or perhaps as pulutan for an expected elections victory?). The point here is that if Le Soleil prides itself as Zim’s exclusive representative, then why make outside transactions with other shipping companies just to ship a couple of containers filled with nothing but chicharón? For large conglomerates, this is virtually unprofitable, a total waste of time. Shouldn’t a seasoned CEO like Ynión be aware of that?

Also, conglomerates tend to divest non-performing assets or subsidiaries. Upon careful scrutiny of Yngen’s website, it made me wonder even more. Aside from his “well-known” logistics company, what immediately grabbed my attention was one of his products called On What Grounds? (OWG) Coffee. When me and my family went into hiding because of his and his mentally unstable brother‘s death threats, I had the opportunity to visit his coffee product’s office in Macati. Under an assumed identity, I got to talk to one of his representatives. It turned out that CEO Ynión was just a middleman for the real company  which owns OWG (if memory serves right, that company is based in Australia).

If you haven’t even tasted OWG, you’re probably from another planet. But if you insist that you’re an earthling, then that means it’s only logical for Yngen to have divested OWG a long, long time ago because there’s no chance in hell that it could compete with more well-known brands such as Nescafé and Café Puro.

I could just imagine the hilarity of OWG contributing heavily to Yngen’s bottomline.

But wait! There’s more! Who has not even heard of Yngen’s best-selling Quiti-Kill? It’s an innovative tool for the natural, safe, and effective control of mosquitoes. For sure, Yngen has profited heavily from this very familiar brand so much that CEO Ynión could afford all the riches in life.

Unfortunately for him, Baygon katol is more popular and profitable compared to his Quiti-Kiwhatever-that-junk-is, even in this day and age of airconditioned slums.

For sure, CEO Ynión will insist that the bulk of Yngen’s profits come from Le Soleil. I believe him… but he’s got his dad to thank for. 😂

As CEO Ynión’s die hard fan, I wonder why, for all his press releases of business successes left and right, he never thought of signing up Yngen to the Philippine Stock Exchange. Even more mind-boggling is the fact that Yngen never made it to our country’s list of top 500 companies.

But enough about CEO Ynión. Between him and his rivals, mud-slinging should belong exclusively to him and only him. Besides, I really don’t have that mud to sling at him. He already has his fair share of it. And from deep within that putrid mud of his own making, we see his PR man Manuel Mejorada rearing his not-so-pretty-looking head. But no, I won’t go into details on how mejorada sold his soul to his beloved “Brother’s Ynión” (the people of Iloílo will tell you that fact themselves), nor will I attack him for what he did to me after the Ynión death threats. Mejorada already destroyed himself in the eyes of the world, exposing himself to be a total buffoon of an “investigative journalist” when he relied solely on rumors, gossips, and editable Wikipedia in attacking his nemesis, Senator Franklin Drilón.

The problem with CEO Ynión is that he is overly opportunistic. After befriending former Mayor Calex, the former immediately asked the latter that he handle San Pedro Tunasán’s garbage disposal system and waterworks. But these favors are not cheap toys that could be given away in an instant handshake. Processes and certain qualifications had to take effect. Blinded by ambition and greed, this didn’t sit well with CEO Ynión. That’s why he started to rebel. Using his Facebook account (not to mention a legion of hundreds of fake Facebook accounts as his attack dogs), he started stirring up a hornet’s nest, throwing calumnies and unprovable accusations here and there.

As he allowed ambitious anger to engulf the very fabric of his mind, our poor CEO basically forgot one simple trait that would have probably endeared him to those few people who do not support his rivals: COURTESY and HUMILITY. He should have remembered in the first place that he was an outsider. He only moved to San Pedro Tunasán during the last decade. He failed to blend with the people. He had to pay (and at times slap) his way through them just to be accepted. He should have kept in mind that one does not simply go to somebody’s house and tell the people living there how to run their home or how to live their lives. But that’s exactly what he is doing to the people of San Pedro Tunasán. He made people quarrel with each other, take sides. He may have succeeded in these areas, but he didn’t realize that a true San Pedrense is against calumnying. If Super Ynión had seen anything worth saving and protecting in San Pedro Tunasán, he should have never attacked the people running it. He should have talked with them and worked with them COURTEOUSLY. But he never did.

Hindí gusto ng taal na tagá San Pedro ang táong mahilig manira ng capuà.

As an outsider, this Eugenio Ynión, Jr. failed to see (of course, because he had a different agenda in mind).

It appears that CEO Ynión was hellbent in avoiding the mistakes his imbecile of a brother had committed in Iloílo, if just to create a political niche for himself here in La Laguna Province. Unfortunately, he’s making the very same mistakes his brother did (and is still doing). He had, in fact, become his brother’s doppelgänger.

But I really shouldn’t be blogging about CEO Ynión, his crazed brother, or their gossipy, Wikipedia-minded PR slave. A family friend had advised me a few days ago about this because it will certainly endanger the lives of my loved ones. Very well then. I’ll stop here. What I really wanted to talk about is why, after declaring that I will never participate in political elections ever again, I want to reclaim my right to suffrage.

Nobody took that right away from me. It was I who threw it away. I have become apolitical towards national politics brought about by my cynicism towards democracy (whose rickety strings are attached somewhere else, anyway). However, I now would like to express my willingness to support and endorse the team of Mayor Lourdes “Baby” Cataquiz, the current chief magistrate of SPT. I believe that it is much easier to govern and administer basic public service to a city of only 9.29 sq mi with more or less 300,000 souls compared to a big archipelago, or to other larger cities and municipalities for that matter. In this area, the current administration of SPT has proven itself to be successful.

In the current government setup, the results of local government action are more quantifiable and are much easier felt in the grassroots level. Planning and development are more fast-paced, more transparent, because local government units (LGUs) such as SPT are, in fact, autonomous in several aspects of public administration. Citizen participation in governmental matters is more feasible, not to mention the smoothness of a two-way communication between residents and the LGU (a citizen could even affectionately consider their hometown or city as their “little kingdom”). In SPT, the Catáquiz administration —from former Mayor Calixto R. Catáquiz to current Mayor Baby— has shown its worth in implementing laws and reforms that proved to be beneficial to its constituents. The city is even getting close to achieving its “Road Map 2020” mission and vision.

One sterling Catáquiz achievement was the conversion of SPT from a municipality into a component city on 28 December 2013. Cityhood for SPT was a decades-old dream, almost considered impossible because the number of business establishments, particularly large-scale enterprises, is not enough to reach the annual income requirement of ₱50,000,000. Add to that the reputation (which in fact is a fact) of SPT as simply a dormitory area, mostly for those working in Metro Manila. But former Mayor Calex Catáquiz was able to weave his magic by applying effective fiscal policies, strict budgetary measures, and other workable business strategies that he learned as a seasoned businessman. In no time, SPT was able to earn over ₱350,000,000 a year!

Upon taking the leadership from her husband three years ago, Mayor Baby continued his legacy, his programs and projects, and even more. And the best part of this is that she is the type of leader who will listen to you and take action if, in her good wisdom, she deems that what you say or suggest is beneficial for the city as a whole. Once or twice, I broached to her the idea of establishing a historica group for San Pedro Tunasán. To my delight, she did. Late last year, the San Pedro City Historical Council was organized. This clearly shows her genuine concern for the city’s historical and cultural aspects.

I’m not claiming that the Catáquiz couple made San Pedro Tunasán as the most perfect city in our province. Mistakes and lapses happen from time to time. But I am of the firm belief that anything unpleasant a visitor sees in San Pedro Tunasán is no longer the fault of the hardworking Catáquiz administration but of undisciplined and highly uncooperative citizens (and political rivals) who blatantly refuse to follow even the simplest of laws.

I am confident that our young city is in good hands with Team Cataquiz-Tayao BOOOM HALAL. They are native San Pedrenses. Ergo, their love and concern for the city is genuine and pure compared to scheming outsiders like CEO Ynión. They are set to continue tried and tested strategies and achievements of the past. And more.

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What perhaps stands out from this team is the remarkable humility of its members. Time and again, each and every member of Mayor Baby’s team have shown genuine concern and unselfish dedication towards their duties.

To my fellow San Pedrenses, try them. And let’s not just vote for them. LET’S WORK WITH THEM in getting rid of whatever unpleasantries our city may still have. Road Map 2020 is at hand!

PS: In the event that any member of my family disappears or is violently harmed once this blogpost has been published, you should very well know who the culprits are. Stay safe, everyone. 😉

¿Paano gumauá ng pastillas? Simple lang…

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They say that you’re not a Filipino if you have not tried pastillas de leche, the milk-based candy that has captured the sweet tooth of our countrymen from Luzón in the north all the way down to Mindanáo. It is a favorite pasalubong among travelers and can also be served either as dessert or merienda. Pastillas de leche, or simply pastillas, originated from San Miguel de Mayumò in Bulacán and became widespread throughout Filipinas, particularly in Cagayán and Masbate.

A few months ago, the word pastillas gained some notoriety when ABS-CBN, lagging behind its noontime rival‘s AlDub Phenomenon, chose to exploit a pretty lass whose whimsical YouTube video made the rounds for a couple of weeks, in the hopes of winning the ratings war. In that video, the pretty but huffy sounding lass cleverly alluded to how she was cheated on by her ex-boyfriend as she describes the pastillas making process in sarcastic fashion. She was then recruited by the media giant’s noontime variety show, earning the nickname “Pastillas Girl”, and turned into a virtual tramp in a desperate attempt to beat the rival program.

ABS-CBN lost the ratings war (and is still losing it) while Pastillas Girl has since twerked her way to show business, but to the detriment of that beloved Filipino milk candy she herself had exploited and made fun of out of spite. Since then, any mention of pastillas almost always reminds everyone of ABS-CBN’s frankenstein vamp.

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How is pastillas made? Easy. Just click here to watch La Familia Viajera‘s brief “instructional video”. Then click here for the rest of the photos.

However, the coarse-mouthed, twerking vamp (or at least her YouTube video) is not that popular in faraway Abra de Ilog, Mindoro Occidental, my wife’s idyllic hometown. During a recent vacation early this month, I asked one of her teenage cousins, John-John, if he knows anything about the “Pastillas Girl Phenomenon”; he answered in the negative. Thankfully, pastillas in those parts is still spotless.

And nostalgic.

Pastillas making was introduced to the tiny Población (town proper) of Abra de Ilog by my wife‘s late grandmother, Zenaida del Mundo de Atienza, most probably after the last war. Ináy Zenaida’s roots are from Lemery, Batangas; Tito Raf, John-John’s father, believes that she got the recipe from there. While it can be argued that Abra de Ilog’s pastillas making did not reach cottage-industry levels, it is interesting to note that pastillas is not a delicacy in Lemery. The milk candy was also moderately popular during my wife’s childhood days as it was produced in many homes in the Población and enjoyed by practically all its children (Abra de Ilog’s town proper is so small one can scout all its streets in just half an hour).

Today, this milk candy is no longer as popular as before and is produced only in the home of Mrs. Priscilla Leído who also learned its production from Inay Zenaida. But the old lady and her household members produce this pastillas only when they receive orders.

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My wife with Aling Priscilla at the latter’s home.

There are only two ingredients: carabao’s milk and sugar, but the flavor is surprisingly heavenly (in other parts of the country, processed or cow’s milk is a common ingredient). There is another similar pastillas in nearby Paluán, but the makers there add flour. This means that the pastillas of Yeyette’s grandmother can be considered as endemic to Abra de Ilog, indigenized there by time and tradition (my family reverently calls it pastillas de carabáo for obvious reasons).

Many old towns in our country like to take pride of something native to them, something different that only they can lay claim too (even at a communal level, our country’s many towns are looking for their own separate identities, totally independent from others). Save for its breathtaking treasure trove of environmental wonders, Abra de Ilog doesn’t have much to offer. To an adventurous outsider hungry for novel discoveries, the place has no unique traditions or festivals that one can enjoy observing, no endearing cuisine to sink in one’s teeth, no folk music to enjoy listening to, or any other symbolic cultural trappings to research on. The place has only a handful of ancestral homes to explore, and its old church doesn’t even look that old or Baroque, unfit for selfie sessions. And whatever culture the town has to offer is but indigenous: its Mañguián (or more accurately, Iraya) people. But even they are now embracing modernity, bit by bit turning their backs away from who they really are.

Abra de Ilog’s local government now has this rare chance of preserving, conserving, and even promoting something that be considered as cultural. The ball —or should I say the pastillas— is in their hands.

Simplicity, honesty, and Mayor Vicente del Mundo

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Election day is just around the corner. So I might as well blog about this.

My wife Yeyette had a public servant for a great grandfather. He was Don Vicente del Mundo, former mayor of Abra de Ilog, Mindoro Occidental.

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Mayor del Mundo (1901-1975) traces his roots to Lemery, Batangas. He was married to Marieta Calivara. They had several children; Yeyette’s maternal grandmother, Inay Zenaida (the mother of my mother-in-law), was the second eldest. As mayor of postwar Abra de Ilog, it was said that he had worked for the moral and economic recovery of his town mates from the damages brought by World War II. He administered Abra de Ilog twice: from 1942 to 1947, and then from 1960 to 1963, a total of eight years.

Few people know that, in 1960, Mayor del Mundo worked for the elevation of Sitio Sablay Uway to the status of a barrio (now called barangay) as petitioned by its residents. This sitio south of the town proper had become populous anyway, with parts of a nearby forest cleared to give way to a growing community. When the municipal council approved the petition, Mayor del Mundo immediately submitted it to the provincial board.  Upon its approval by higher authorities, the sitio leaders proposed that Mayor del Mundo’s first name be made as the official name of their newly proclaimed barrio as a show of gratitude. But since it was a Filipino custom during that time to assign names of saints to newly established places, they ingeniously added San (saint) to Mayor del Mundo’s first name. The barrio was thus named after him but was entrusted under the patronage of San Vicente Ferrer of Spain. That is why Barrio San Vicente, although named after Mayor del Mundo, celebrates its fiesta every April 5th, the Spanish saint’s feast day.

When my wife first brought me to his great grandfather’s house more than a decade ago (my first time in Abra de Ilog), I was utterly surprised to find it as nothing more than a modest abode. I was half expecting to see a huge bahay na bató. What I found was a small, postwar two-story house. The first floor had a low ceiling and had tree trunks for posts. I even remember seeing some of its walls in cement finish. I muttered under my breath, “This was where the mayor had lived?” I know of one mayor who, before becoming a politician, lived in a small house made of light materials. After his term, that house of his became a large bungalow.

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La Familia Viajera (with family friend Ate Cora and Yeyette’s teenage cousin John-John) in front of Casa del Mundo. Click here for more photos of our visit last April 3rd.

The del Mundo house has since been renovated. The only thing original in it is its simplicity.

Yeyette doesn’t know much about his great grandfather; he had died a year before she was born (interestingly, the date of his passing is also our youngest daughter’s birth date). But if there’s one thing I’m sure about him, it’s this: he was not corrupt. He had lived as a just and honest public servant. This I remarked to Yeyette a few years ago. Puzzled, she asked me how I knew about it.

Simple: her family’s not rich.

Mayor del Mundo reminds me of Luis Rodríguez Varela (1768-1826), the nationalist creole poet who was the first to call himself a Filipino. He had been the corregidor (district leader) and capitán of Tondo. But when he passed away, it was discovered that he was penniless, with no hacienda to leave to his children. This, considering the fact that he had many opportunities to enrich himself in office.

Who among our current crop of not-so-rich political candidates will end up as honest public servants like Mayor del Mundo and Capitán Rodríguez?

Easter 2016

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Today we commemorate the most important day in all of Christendom…

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Happy Easter!

PiliQUEla: the first Quezon Province Film Festival!

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It’s coming next weekend, folks! See you there!

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Captain Remo: The Young Hero (Anatomy of Abelardo Remoquillo, the pride of San Pedro Tunasán, La Laguna)

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CAPTAIN REMO: THE YOUNG HERO
Anatomy of Abelardo Remoquillo, the pride of San Pedro Tunasán, La Laguna

¿Dónde está la juventud que ha de consagrar sus rosadas horas, sus ilusiones y entusiasmo al bien de su patria?
—José Rizal—

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Monument dedicated to Abelardo “Captain Remo” Remoquillo. He died for his country fighting the Japanese invaders when he was only 22 years old. What were you doing when you were his age?

On 8 December 1941, nine hours after the fall of Pearl Harbor, the Commonwealth of the Philippines was attacked by the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA). The Filipinos, confident as they were, were caught in surprise at the swift entry of Japanese troops in many parts of the country. Despite the practice brownouts that were done in preparation for an impending attack, many of them were still caught in shock at the brazen display of Japanese aggression towards what was then deemed unconquerable — the United States Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE).

It is fortunate that the whole country did not suffer the wrath of Japanese aggression. As can be gleaned throughout World History, wars were usually fought in capital cities and other major areas. In the old town of San Pedro Tunasán in the province of La Laguna, it was relatively peaceful throughout the three years of Japanese occupation. Even during that one bloody month in 1945 (February 3 to March 3) when both Japanese and US artillery flattened Intramuros into rubble, San Pedro Tunasán was spared despite the scary fact that it stood only 29 kilometers away from the country’s capital.

One might think it odd why a promising young man from San Pedro Tunasán joined the painful resistance against the Japanese invaders. As a bright student taking up law, Abelardo Remoquillo had an exciting life ahead of him. He could have declined the conscription (such cases happen in real life), made excuses, or simply escaped with his family away from the frightening violence of war. But he didn’t. And when his military commanders sent him and other young men home because resisting the Japanese offensive was already hopeless, he took a different road: he joined the guerrillas instead, much to the puzzlement and surprise of those who had been observing his life, a life that was, from childhood, reared in a loving, peaceful home. From that daring decision of his alone to continue taking up arms against the Japanese can we trace the first few glints of heroism. We can, furthermore, assess the assertiveness of education into the lives of the studentry during those times. It must be emphasized that Abeling did not take up military science as a college course. His military training was merely a subject, a school requirement. Nevertheless, when the country needed its young men to take up arms against foreign invasion, those conscripted were already geared up for battle even without formal training in a bona fide military school such as the Philippine Military Academy (PMA).

Abeling, as how he was called by those who knew him personally, was a true blue San Pedrense. He first saw the light of day on 27 December 1922, at a time when the country was occupied by the United States of America, during the unpopular regime of Governor General Leonard Wood. He was the eldest in a brood of ten (eight boys, two girls). His father, José Remoquillo, was then the municipal treasurer (agent-collector) while his mother, Valeriana Hermosilla, was a full-time housewife who oversaw the upbringing of all their children. The Remoquillo brood were as follows (from eldest to youngest): Abelardo, Vicente, Felicitas, Jaime, Benjamín, Angustia, Manolo, Galileo, Frolín, and José. As was the custom during those days, all the children were born through a comadrona (midwife).

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The Remoquillo family. Standing (L-R): José, Jr., Frolín, Galileo, Manolo, Benjamín, Jaime, Vicente. Seated (L-R): Felicitas, Valeriana, José, Sr., and Angustia. Photo taken sometime between the late 1960s to early 1970s (photo credit: Jimmy Remoquillo, son of Jaime).

The San Pedro Tunasán of young Abeling’s time was still rustic: farmlands were a familiar scene while thick pockets of forests were aplenty especially in the upland areas; the San Isidro River was still deep, wide, and crystalline, with plenty of fish to catch. The roads were unpaved. There was no electricity yet. Commercial, administrative, and socio-religious activities were concentrated mainly at the población or town center. The rest of the barangays, then known as barrios, were still distinguishably detached from the matrix, and many of them were known for their characteristic identities: Cuyab for its duck-raising industry, San Roque for its healthy farm produce and fresh catch from Laguna de Bay, and San Vicente for its fragrant sampaguita farms. Flame trees were aplenty especially on the road that connects San Pedro Tunasán to Muntinlupà, beautifully littering the highway with orange-yellow colored flowers every summer. The town was already witnessing the beginnings of the Santo Sepulcro cult in Landayan, while jazz music was capturing the youth’s interest. The mayor back then was Tiburcio Morando while the provincial governor was revolutionary veteran Juan Cailles (hero of the Battle of Mabitac). And although the town’s name had been shortened to simply San Pedro on 28 February 1914 (via Republic Act 2390 of the third Philippine Legislature), or eight years before Abeling was born, the townsfolk didn’t care. They still called their home by its original nomenclature: San Pedro Tunasán, its name since 1725.

It was in Barrio San Vicente where a young Abeling spent his growing up years. The Remoquillo residence was a simple house made up of light materials (mostly bamboo), facing the railway near the boundary of San Vicente and the town proper (during those days, the town’s old public cemetery was just a few meters away from the Remoquillo home in what is now known as Sitio Laguerta near the banks of the San Isidro). It was there along the rail tracks of the Manila Railroad Company, still enveloped in sampaguita shrubs and greenery, where the Remoquillo siblings along with their playmates frolicked about. They used to see railway workers during playtime, among them Rodolfo Catáquiz, then an employ of legislator and sugar baron José Yulo. Catáquiz later on became one of the architects of the town’s economic progress. He sired Calixto Catáquiz, the father of San Pedro’s cityhood in 2013.

The Remoquillo household grew up tightly knit. Both parents were very health conscious, especially the father. However, they resorted to naturopathy (alternative medicine), as was usually the practice of many provincial folk then till now. Whenever the children fell ill, the parents made them drink castor oil (Ricinus communis), fish oil, or am (rice milk). Somehow, those proved to be effective because the children rarely visited a doctor. Both mother and father did the laundry for the family, and this was done at the San Isidro River. Laundry time at the river was considered as an event of sorts by the townsfolk because it was bonding time for them; the elders exchanged gossips and stories during laundry while the children picnicked and swam.

The Remoquillo patriarch was also very much into sports, teaching his two eldest sons self-defense, particularly boxing, at an early age — from such activity Abeling may have gotten his courageousness and discipline. Every Sunday, the whole family trooped to the church of San Pedro Apóstol to attend Mass. The church was just less than three minutes away from their home by foot.

From both parents the Remoquillo brood learned the values of honesty, valor, and the importance of protecting the Remoquillo name. Among the boys, chivalry played an important part; the father taught the boys never to maltreat women. They were also taught to love one another. If a sibling is in need of help, any kind of help, the rest of the brood should always be there for him or her no matter what, and that they should expect nothing in return.

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Captain Remo’s only extant photograph (provided by Jimmy Remoquillo, son of Jaime).

Abeling grew up to be a handsome young man. His wide brow, thick eyebrows, well-defined nose, and steady mouth made some people say that he had a bit of resemblance to then Senator Manuel L. Quezon who later became the first president of the Commonwealth of the Philippines in 1935. His good built matched his good looks. But the stern look on his eyes betrayed a demeanor that suggests a serious outlook in life. He was popular among friends and was earlier seen to have qualities of leadership and responsibility. During his teenage years, he volunteered as a ronda (watchman) in his barrio, drinking salabat (ginger ale) to keep awake during rounds.

Abeling studied in San Pedro Central Elementary School where he was recognized as a “Special Boy Scout.” Later on, he enrolled and graduated in Arellano High School in Manila. Afterwards, he entered the University of the Philippines (UP) and took up law. It was in UP where he became a model student and was given given numerous awards and recognition during his stint as a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) cadet.

While Abeling seemed to have led a normal life during his youth, events surrounding his early days on earth can already be deemed fortuitous. For one, he shares the same birthdate as the Japanese aircraft carrier Hōshō (Japanese for “phoenix in flight”) which had a minor participation in the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, the catalyst of the Pacific War whose ramifications eventually took his life. He was also baptized by Fr. Telesforo José, the elderly parish priest of San Pedro Tunasán who, in his youth, was accused by former Spanish Governor-General Eulogio Despujol of collecting funds for La Solidaridad, the Masonic lodge founded by Filipino liberals whose newspaper was edited by well-known propagandistas Graciano López Jaena and Marcelo H. del Pilar.

But Abeling’s dream of becoming a lawyer was put to a halt with the outbreak of World War II. Immediately after the shocking Pearl Harbor debacle, Japan turned its guns on the Commonwealth of the Philippines, attacking all military installations in almost calculated precision. They first bombed Camp John Hay in Baguio City a few hours after attacking Pearl Harbor, then Clark Air Base in Ángeles, Pampanga. The next day (9 December 1941), Nichols Field in Parañaque/Pásay was attacked. Many other parts of the archipelago fell one by one.

It was undoubtedly the darkest Christmas Season in our country’s history.

New Year’s Day of 1942 would prove to be no reason for celebration as well for the Imperial Japanese Army reached San Pedro Tunasán. No armed conflict was reported. A local puppet government called the Support Company of People’s Peace was immediately established. Although not much physical violence happened during the three years of enemy occupation, the town nevertheless suffered difficulty in food distribution because the Japanese forcibly purchased the people’s agricultural produce at their dictated price.

Abeling was one of those drafted in the military to join the fight against the invaders. The first mission given to him and his group was to block the entry of the enemy in the province of Tayabas (now Quezon). The plan did not materialize when their unit’s Military High Command decided to withdraw due to an extremely strong enemy force. The commanders eventually ordered their retreat and disbandment, telling them to go home to their families instead.

Further demoralization followed when President Manuel Quezon, the country’s highest elected official, and General Douglas MacArthur, Field Marshal of the Commonwealth Army, escaped the country, leaving the Filipino people to fend for themselves against the ruthless IJA.

With the disbandment of the ROTC cadets, Abeling had no more group to turn to. He could have easily avoided further harm by simply going home, as was advised to him and his fellow young cadets. The battle at Bataán and Corregidor was raging, but to the rest of the world, it wasn’t a battle. It was an unstoppable, one-sided massacre. The final spasm was right around the corner, and many military observers were sure of it. But fueled, perhaps, by youth’s adventurous spirit, Abeling’s zeal towards the fight against the Japanese invaders didn’t falter.

On April 9 and May 6, Bataán and Corregidor fell respectively to the IJA. More than a thousand Filipino and US soldiers perished while hundreds of thousands more were captured. The downfall of these last two bastions of Filipino defense officially signified the end of Filipino resistance against Japanese invasion. Because of this, many Filipino fighters lost heart in the fight against the IJA. The outlook was bleak. The country was in peril, and not even its highest leaders could do very little about it. But Abeling and a few young Filipinos who were still left in the open didn’t feel the same way. His passion brought him to as far as Malabón and Morong, Rizal to join other recalcitrants who, like him, felt an impulse to resume the fight against the Japanese through guerrilla warfare. He joined the Hunters ROTC under the leadership of Colonel Eleuterio “Terry” Adevoso (PMA Class of 1944).

Organized by Adevoso and Miguel Ver (PMA Class of 1943) as early as 15 January 1942, the Hunters ROTC should not be considered as a ragtag crew of angry guerrillas. Unlike the Hukbong Bayan Laban sa mga Hapones (Hukbalahap) which was composed mainly of Communist-leaning agrarian peasants from Central Luzón, the Hunters ROTC was the first purely volunteer anti-Japanese force in the country. They operated mainly from within the unforgiving forests of the Sierra Madre mountain range. By recruiting solely from PMA and ROTC cadets into its officer corps, the group was able to draw only the best in military leadership and training. They didn’t have to start from scratch when it came to training new recruits. And since Abeling had ample ROTC training when he was still in UP, it can be easily surmised that he encountered less difficulty during his early days as a Hunter. This, of course, can be gleaned by his eventual promotion to the rank of captain later on.

Throughout the Japanese occupation, the Hunters ROTC eventually evolved into a well-trained, highly disciplined military organization, doing hit and run operations against the IJA in various parts of Luzón. One of Abeling’s assignments was to conduct perilous surveillance activities on the enemy, particularly as a prison guard inside the Japanese-controlled New Bilíbid Prison in Muntinlupà.

The name Abelardo Remoquillo became well-known to the IJA forces in Southern Luzón when, on 24 June 1944, he actively participated in a daredevil rescue of prisoners of war (POW) who were incarcerated inside the New Bilíbid Prison. The following political and military prisoners were rescued: Enrique Albert, León Pabico, Roger Moskaira, Ernesto Bascón, Silvestre Pascual, José Carungcong, Gustavo Inglés (he was to lead Filipino troops eight months later in the successful raid of Los Baños), Jimmy Mauricio, Felixberto Damián, and Raymundo Gozon. They were also able to get a huge number of weapons from the Bureau of Prisons as they fled towards the provinces of Cavite and Rizal. Since then, Abeling was branded by an enraged IJA as San Pedro Tunasán’s “most wanted resident”. He was only 21.

Captain Remo also featured prominently in the famous liberation of Allied prisoners who were held in a camp in Los Baños. It was a joint effort between Filipino guerrillas and the US Allied forces. On the night of 22 February 1945 (while Intramuros and the rest of Manila were being razed to the ground by both Yank and Jap), Filipino guerrillas composed of Hunters ROTC, Hukbalahap, and President Quezon’s Own Guerrillas surreptitiously convened with some US troops along the banks of Laguna de Bay in Barrio San Antonio, Bay. It was there where they finalized their plans of attacking a Japanese camp in Los Baños in order to free thousands of Allied civilian and military internees who have been incarcerated there for the past two or three years. The group of Filipinos coming from Bay were led by Lt. José “Dondoy” del Rosario and Captain Remo (under the auspices of Inglés). The plan was to march towards the Los Baños camp on foot and to reach the gates of the camp at the crack of dawn. There they would have to wait for the air raid as a signal for them to launch their ground attack.

A few minutes before seven in the morning, several fighter aircrafts broke from the clouds, surprising the Japanese troops who were still doing their morning rituals. In an instant, the sleepless and weary guerrillas who were hiding in bushes and trees suddenly raced towards the camp — the battle was on! In the midst of the firefight, Captain Remo’s voice was heard rallying his men to continue marching on.

The battle was short but intense. Around 80 IJA troops were killed, and only five perished on the side of the Allies (three US soldiers, two Filipinos). The rest of the IJA troops who were not captured were sent fleeing in panic. The successful raid of this Japanese internment camp in Los Baños, resulting in the liberation of 2,147 POWs, is said to be one of the most successful rescue operations in modern military history.

With the kind of life that Abeling had led, a fateful death was only a matter of time. But Abeling himself didn’t foresee a hero’s death. In fact, and inspite of his dangerous situation, he never planned on dying at all. For him, he was merely fulfilling a mission; he was still raring to come home. But it was Fate that willed his untimely death. His first and last letter to his father, written in matter-of-factly English, reveals this:

Pila, Laguna

March 1, 1945

Dear Father,

Please receive two hundred tablets of sulpatiazole (sic) from Lt. (José) del Rosario. This medicine is part of our loot from the Los Baños Interment Camp.

Itay, please secure some chicos for him so he could take it to Manila for his mother. This fellow is a very good friend of mine and he has helped me all the days in my stay here in Pila so it is time for me to pay him back thru you. Extend to him all the facilities — accommodations and food. The medicine he is giving you is from him — he gave it to me.

Itay, tell Inay and others that I am well and fine here — so do not worry about me. I didn’t even get a scratch. I hope to go home when Calamba and Los Baños are completely liberated then these places will be cleared of Japanese. Somehow I have to stay here, our work is still unfinished.

So long and sweet kisses to everybody there.

Your son,

Abeling

I am also sending you some of my clothes. Two sharkskin pant (sic), one poloshirt (sic) and two camesetas (sic) and also one woolen jacket.

There was no hint of sadness. There was simply the compulsion for him to continue performing his duty to his Motherland. Somehow, he had to stay.

It was unfortunate that Captain Remo’s young life was cut short. Looking back at his exploits and daring accomplishments, he could’ve done so much for himself and for his country. On 8 March 1945, exactly a week after writing to his father, the Hunters ROTC once again attacked another Japanese garrison, this time in Bay. Captain Remo and his men provided rear guard action. During that scorching assault, the young hero from San Pedro Tunasán was felled by enemy bullets. He was barely 23 years of age when he gave up the ghost.

Captain Remo never had the opportunity to see his country free —  fighting still continued in many places until the Empire of Japan’s formal surrender on September 2 of that year on account of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki a month earlier. But it can never be denied the support the Hunters ROTC provided to the Philippine Commonwealth Army and the USAFFE was invaluable. Not only did they supplant the number of Allied troops on the ground but, with their prowess and skill, they also assisted in improving the timetable of military advance against the Japanese. All this success was realized because of the courage and discipline of troops as instilled by their superiors, one of whom was young Captain Remo. The phoenix has taken its flight to eternity.

In recognition of his patriotism, valor, and sacrifice, a monument was built at the town plaza of his beloved hometown as a constant reminder that heroism knows no age.

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The Remoquillo clan posing in front of Capt. Remo’s monument at the old town plaza of San Pedro Tunasan. The elderly gentleman in front (wearing military cap) is Capt. Remo’s younger brother Vicente. He was the one who gave the author of this blogpost much needed information about the adventurous life of young Capt. Remo. Click here for more photos of today’s event.

Battle For Manila: we will never forget

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“It was Yank and Jap together that razed Intramuros. A dual crime.”
—Nick Joaquín—

sherman_intramuros

A US battle tank gratuitously bores a hole through the gates of Fuerte de Santiago, Intramuros during the closing days of the war. This heartbreaking photo was taken exactly 71 years ago today.

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