LAOAG CITY (Aug. 9)–THE provincial government of Ilocos Norte on Friday led the annual celebration of Ablan Day to pay tribute to the late Gov. Roque Ablan Sr., a lawyer, teacher, journalist, labor leader and war hero.
A simple wreath-laying ceremony was held at the Ablan Shrine in Laoag City followed by a civic parade participated by students, boy and girl scouts, policemen and employees of the various local government units of the province.
It marked the 107th birthday of the Ilocano leader.
Ablan was elected governor of the province in 1937 at the age of 31. He was serving his second term when World War II broke out, with the Japanese imperial army invading and occupying the Philippines from 1941 until 1945. His exploits as a war hero having led a guerrilla unit that fought the Japanese forces in the region were well recorded and recognized by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.
Republic Act 6941 declaring August 9 as a special holiday in Ilocos Norte to pay tribute to his heroism was enacted and approved in April 1990.
Ilocos Norte Vice Gov. Angelo Marcos Barba and the Philippine Red Cross Secretary-General Gwendolyn Pang were among the key officials who attended a short program at the Ilocos Norte National High School.
Highlights of the event were dance performances by groups of students from the different municipalities and cities of Ilocos Norte, depicting the core values of the Ilocano patriot.
The program ended with an exhibition by members of the Philippine Marine Corps in his honor.
Born to a poor couple—Victor Ablan and Raymunda Blanco—on August 9, 1906, Roque Ablan Sr. attended public-elementary and high schools in Laoag and had to work as a helper in a lumberyard while studying.
After obtaining his high-school diploma in 1924, Ablan taught in a Chinese elementary school and at the Yangco campus to be able to pursue college education at the University of the Philippines in Manila. He also worked for the Philippine Herald and as editor of the Carnival Courier, a periodical published during the carnival season.
He obtained a degree in philosophy and law. Ablan placed ninth in the bar examination. Ablan helped poor people and laborers as a lawyer.
Supported by prominent politicians, Ablan ran under the Nacionalista Party and won the governorship of Ilocos Norte in 1937.
As governor, Ablan was active in solving the lawlessness and unemployment problems in the province. He was credited for increasing the daily wages of laborers, revival of the credit associations, and organizations of cooperatives in the province.
Ablan also helped establish a branch of the Philippine Normal School in Laoag.
Ablan was one of President Manuel L. Quezon Cabinet secretaries when the Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii that signaled the start of World War II.
When Japanese forces landed in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, on December 10, 1941, Ablan met with other provincial leaders and sought refuge in the town of Solsona, his father’s birthplace, where he organized a guerrilla unit.
Later, he joined forces with Feliciano Madamba, a member of the United States Army in the Far East and together, they founded the Ablan-Madamba Guerilla group of Northern Luzon.
The Ablan-Madamba Guerilla unit was responsible for many successful attacks against the Japanese forces, including a raid in November 1942 in Pampanniki, Solsona, where around 200 Japanese soldiers were killed, considered as the most triumphant encounter won by Filipino freedom fighters against the Japanese forces.
On December 10, 1942, he left for Cagayan to meet with Marcelino Adduru, the provincial governor. It was the last time the family saw him alive.
It was widely believed that Ablan was killed in action during one of the encounters with the Japanese forces.
Ablan, who was married to Manuela Ravelo, had only son, Roque Ablan Jr., former representative for the province’s First District. (Jonathan L. Mayuga)