ROQUE B. ABLAN
Guerilla Leader and War Hero
Roque Ablan, guerrilla leader and war hero during the Japanese occupation, was born in Laoag to a poor couple from Ilocos, Victor Ablan from Salsona and Raymunda Blanco from Paoay. Poverty had not stopped Roque from achieving in his pursuits. He worked while studying in the University of the Philippines where he obtained his degrees in Bachelor of Philosophy in 1929 and Bachelor of Laws in 1930. That same year, he took the Bar Examinations and emerged as its 9th placer.
A full-fledge lawyer, he returned to his hometown where he became a dominant figure in civic and political activities. He was president of the UP Alumni Chapter in Ilocos Norte and secretary of the Ilocos Norte Bar Association. He was only 32 when he won governor of his province, then plagued with lawlessness and unemployment, which he responded by meeting the need for wage increase of the employees. Through his initiative, the Philippine Normal School in Laoag was established, the provincial hospital was built, and helped developed cooperatives that are beneficial to farmers; all these provided welfare to the residents and served as other venues for employment. Well-received by his constituents, he was re-elected to a second term and was chosen secretary of the Governor’s League.
On December 10, 1941, the Japanese landed in Vigan. Governor Ablan refused to cooperate with them, thus he transferred the seat of his government to a remote barrio near the boundary of Ilocos Norte and Apayao. From there, he coordinated with Lieutenant Feliciano Madamba of the Philippine Army to organize a guerrilla unit to fight the Japanese. By the middle of January of 1942, the guerilla force of Governor Ablan and Lt. Madamba was established. Many joined them including those who failed to join the United States Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) in Bataan.
Their force unearthed a cache of firearms and ammunitions in Solsona on January 27 and had their first taste of battle against the Japanese the following day. They ambushed a Japanese detachment, killing about fifty Japanese soldiers including an officer, Major Kumutsu.
The ambush opened a hostile war between the Filipino guerrillas and the invaders. The Japanese retaliated by bombing and strafing guerrillas and civilians in Banna and Nueva Era. Amid the on-going war, Ablan managed to report to President Quezon who had been evacuated in Washington DC by radio, saying: “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 Philippine Government and to the United States Government. Every day the hatred of our people against the Japanese becomes more intense as they rob our homes, destroy properties, kill civilians and rape our women.”
Governor Ablan also requested President Quezon for P100, 000 to keep the machinery of the underground government. Hence, the president authorized him to “issue emergency notes as previously authorized by your provincial treasurer’s expenditures.” The President also appealed to different guerrilla bands in the region to rally behind Ablan. This boosted the guerrilla activities in Ilocos, which Ablan organized into a more cohesive guerrilla unit.
Governor Ablan divided Ilocos Norte into several sectors; each composed of one to three towns, headed and supervised by a leader. He assigned Lt. Isabelo Monje to take charge of operations in Batac, Paoay and Currimao, and Vicente Cajigal for Badoc, Pinili and Nueva Era. He also named Juan Albano as deputy governor, designated Lt. Madamba as executive officer, and placed Captain Primo Lazaro and Damaso Samonte as chiefs of the Intelligence Corps. Captain Pedro Alviar was placed in charge of the counter-intelligence unit. With a more organize system of operation, an established intelligence section and a runner-relay system that would disseminate news and send orders to the different sectors, the guerrilla forces became more of a menace to the Japanese.
After taking Bataan and Corregidor, the Japanese Army strengthened its forces in the Ilocos region. Colonel Watanabe established his headquarters in Laoag and ordered his men to hunt Ablan and his resistance fighters. Japanese air units dropped leaflets urging the Governor to surrender. On July 18, 1942, Ablan’s headquarters dubbed as “Little Malakanyang” was raided and destroyed. However, the surviving guerrillas escaped. Ablan placed his family to safety in Barrio Bayang, Apayao, and with his remaining men continued to fight the Japanese through hit-and-run tactics.
On November 8, 1942, Ablan launched a successful attack against Japanese patrol in Pampaniki, Solsona. Few weeks after, on January 29, 1943, their hiding place in Barrio Bayang, Apayao was discovered. Ablan’s wife and son were captured. The Governor was last heard to be in Barrio Bumitalleg in Piddig, Abra on January 31, two days after Barrio Bayang had fallen. It was surmised that he died in action at that time. His heroic deeds have earned him honor in honor in history.
Manuel, Arsenio E. Dictionary of Philippine Biography Volume 1. Quezon City: Filipiniana, 1970.