Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Paraphrasing the words of the first President of the United Nations General Assembly, Carlos P. Romulo, an Ilocano from Camiling, Tarlac;

“I am an Ilocano – inheritor of a glorious past and hostage to an uncertain future. As such, I must prove equal to a two-fold task – the task of fulfilling my obligations of the past, and the task of meeting my responsibilities of the future.”

There is nothing wrong with regionalism. It is a localized version of nationalism or love of one’s race. It was not surprising therefore that Ilocanos who belong to the so called Ilocano Race or Ilocano Nation have developed a strong affiliation by identifying ourselves either as GI (Genuine Ilocano) or as FBI (Full-Blooded Ilocano). It is also no wonder that in action as well as in national elections, we always manage to act solidly and / or project a Solid North.

When Marcos declared Martial Law and made himself a dictator, many Ilocanos remained strong supporters and loyalists primarily because they were beneficiaries of  his regime and secondarily, because he was their Ilocano “son of a bitch” –  nasirib  (shrewd or wily) and “naisahan and mga kalaban.” (Put one over his opponents).

That is why a friend was surprised when he found out during Martial Law that I was an avid critic of Marcos. I explained to him that being an Ilocano does  not necessarily mean  pro-any Ilocano or pro-Marcos. I went on to explain how the battle was drawn using the political spectrum analysis during Martial Law.

On the extreme left, I said, was Jose Ma. Sison, an Ilocano UP professor who founded the Kabataang Makabayan (KM), led the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army.

The Christian Left was led by Ilocano rebel priest Fr. Conrad Balweg , a Catholic priest who began his revolutionary career defending the ancestral land rights of the Tinggians, of Abra Province in the Cordillera Mountains of Northern Luzon, against government-backed mining operations. Abandoned by the Church and hunted by the government, he went underground and joined the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People's Army. He is the Philippines’ Fr. Camilo Torres who espoused the Theology of Liberation and a comrade of Latin America’s Che Guevara.

Left of Center were Raul S. Manglapus and Sonny Alvarez of the Movement for a Free Philippines (MFP), President and Secretary General, respectively. The former was an Ex-Senator and Foreign Affairs Secretary who hailed from Tagudin, Ilocos Sur while the latter was a Delegate to the Constitutional Convention who came from Santiago, Isabela.

While the MFP continued to light the fire of freedom abroad ala Propaganda Movement, another Ilocano who was based in Mindanao, former Constitutional Convention Delegate and ex-Mayor of Cagayan de Oro Nene Pimentel was leading the left of center group called PDP-Laban as a major opposition force in the Philippines.

In the Center of the political spectrum was another Ilocano - Bishop Francisco Claver. He drafted the 1986 Philippine bishops’ statement that is believed to have triggered People Power that was to unseat Ferdinand Marcos and pave the way for Corazon Aquino’s installation as president. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) described him as “one of the strongest defenders of civil rights among the bishops at the height of Martial Law.” He was one of the greatest exponents of Post-Vatican II Reforms and Gandhi’s non-violent method.

On the right, away from the Center were General Fidel Ramos, an Ilocano from Asingan, Pangasinan and Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile, another Ilocano from Tuguegarao, Cagayan. Of course, while both were staunch allies of  Marcos, they eventually withdrew their support from him and joined the People Power Revolution.

Of course, on the extreme right was dictator/fascist Ferdinand Marcos and his Ilocano generals led by his Chief of Staff Ilocano Fabian Ver.

Based on this analysis, I have shown that not all Ilocanos were so bad that they blindly and solidly supported a dictator who actually robbed them blind – of their civil rights and their bright future.

Ilocanos should not be despaired by the discovery that Marcos was a fake hero. There are  other Ilocanos  we should be proud of. Not only those who openly and bravely opposed Marcos during the darkest hours of Martial Law but, most especially, written in the history books  were Ilocano heroes worthy of emulation and inspiration.

Just to mention a few: .Fr. Jose Burgos, an Ilocano priest and martyr of the GOMBURZA fame; Fr. Gregorio Aglipay, another Ilocano who founded the Aglipayan Philippine Independent Church; General Antonio Luna, an Ilocano general who served with fellow Ilocano General Emilio Aguinaldo; General Artemio Ricarte, a general from Batac, Ilocos Norte who was considered the father of the Philippine Army and who never took an oath of allegiance to the U.S. government; Diego Silang, another Ilocano revolutionary; his wife Gabriela Silang, who was considered one of the bravest Ilocana revolutionist; and Juan Luna a great Ilocano painter, older brother of Antonio who worked with Rizal in the Propaganda Movement.

In Presidential politics, there were other Ilocanos we should be proud of. I particularly admire Ramon Magsaysay from Zambales who was an auto mechanic, a former Congressman, an Ex- Defense Secretary who broke the back of the HUKBALAHAP movement, and started to dismantle the private armies of political warlords. He was the Ilocano President who proclaimed that “those who have less in life must have more in law. His life was cut short in a plane crash.

He was a genuine World War II hero. When Bataan fell in 1942, Magsaysay escaped to the hills, organized the Western Luzon Guerrilla Forces, and was commissioned captain on April 5, 1942. For three years Capt. Magsaysay operated under Col. Merrill's famed guerrilla outfit and saw action at Sawang, San Marcelino, Zambales. Magsaysay was among those instrumental in clearing the Zambales coast of the Japanese prior to the landing of American forces together with the Philippine Commonwealth troops on January 29, 1945.

Manglapus’ “Mambo, Mambo Magsaysay” was the song that VERITAS radio continuously played to keep the people at EDSA awake and going.

Another Ilocano President was Elpidio Quirino. Born and raised in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, he was a lawyer who became a Congressman, a Senator, Senate President Pro-Temp, Secretary of Finance, Secretary of Interior, Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Vice-President and eventually, President.

He was also a genuine World War II hero. During the Japanese Occupation, he refused to join the puppet government of Jose Laurel. Instead, he became an underground leader of the Filipino resistance movement against the Japanese. He was captured and imprisoned by the Japanese military police in Fort Santiago, and his wife, two daughters and a son were murdered by the Japanese forces. This is in stark contrast to Marcos whose father was executed by Filipino guerrillas for collaborating and propagating Japanese causes.

Few Ilocanos know it but President Carlos P. Garcia was actually an FBI and a GI. While he was born and raised in Bohol, his parents were both from Bangued, Abra. Under the principle of Jus Sanguinis, (by virtue of blood) he was a natural born Ilocano. He was a teacher, poet, orator, top-notch lawyer, Congressman, Governor, Senator, Vice President and Secretary of Foreign Affairs.  He was also a guerrilla leader during World War II. He was known for his "Filipino First" policy, which put the interests of the Filipino people above those of foreigners and of the ruling party. He was also unbeatable in Chess.

President Fidel Ramos is still alive but I am already predicting that history will treat him kindly. An Ilocano from Asingan, Pangasinan, he is known to have captured the loyalty of the military from Marcos during the EDSA Revolution. As President his economic policies and infrastructure development projects almost brought the Philippines to Tiger or Dragon status.

Fernando Poe, Jr. who was cheated out of the Presidency by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, was a GI/FBI from San Carlos, Pangasinan. He is considered a hero both in reel and real life, Ironically, GMA is part Ilocano because of her mother Eva.

There are other Ilocano heroes in history, in the Philippine Revolution, in the two World Wars and in other fields of endeavor. Many are in the books, most are unknown. And many are still alive.

The bottom line is, there is no dearth of HEROES from the Ilocos that Ilocanos can be proud of!


  1. Wow, that is an impressive, well detailed, write-up about Ilocanos. I am sure people from your place are surely proud of your race. Thanks to your blog, I got the high respect to your blood. Though, Ilocanos or not, we do have same blood. We are Filipinos and we ought to unite no matter what race or culture we belong. A hero in your place is a hero of the nation.

    Mariel from Cagayan de Oro ( http://www.cdokay.com)

  2. hi kabsat,

    I have a blog called ilocayoyork.com. may i repost your article?

  3. Hi Maricar,

    Very sorry for a delayed response. I hope it's not too late but please feel free to repost.

    Naimbag nga Baro nga Tawen!