EDITORIAL: A tribute long overdue

IT GLADDENS our heart to learn that a great Bicolano revolutionary, a Nagueño from then Ambos Camarines, was finally given a tribute by his mga kahimanwa, led by no less than the youthful governor of Camarines Sur, Luis Miguel ‘Migz’ Villafuerte. The idea of giving a deeper meaning to celebrate the nation’s 119th Philippine Independence Day came when he asked the question what the Bikolnons were up to when the Tagalogs of both north and south of Manila were fighting the Spanish and later the American colonizers. And thus came to mind the name of General Ludovico Arejola as the local revolutionary leader who held on in the mountains of Minalabac against the well-armed enemies even when the declaration of Philippine independence was issued throughout the land on June 12, 1898. After 116 years when he first started organizing the resistance movement against the colonizing Americans, the chance that finally came to give honor and publicly recognize the intrepid general had been long overdue. Interestingly, as early as in the time when the late Jesse Robredo was still mayor of Naga City, a group of fellow Nagueños wrote the mayor a letter requesting to recognize not only Ludovico, but also his brother Tomas who was a leading member of the Propaganda Movement in Spain -- along with such heroes as Rizal, Lopez Jaena, fellow Bicolano Jose Maria Panganiban, and many others -- by constructing a monument for the Arejola brothers. For unknown reason, nothing came out of the unsolicited idea. Then on June 15, 2011, the same group, led by Naga lawyer Luis Ruben General, historian Jose V. Barrameda, and the editor of this paper wrote the incumbent mayor John Bongat to please consider the same idea. Again, for unknown reason, and without even the benefit of a reply to such letter, nothing came out of the idea. The letter, which was received by the Office of the City Mayor at about 10:50 a.m. of June 23, 2011, pointed out, among others, the need to correct a grievous historical anomaly. The brothers, the group reiterated, are national heroes: Ludovico was one of the last Filipino generals to surrender to the superior arms of the Americans and Tomas was a propagandist who was later named delegate to the Malolos Congress and commissioned by Aguinaldo to represent the First Philippine Republic abroad. Yet unlike the 15 Bicol Martyrs with their grand monument and streets named individually after them (Lerma, Hernandez, Jacob, Abella, etc.) none is named after either of the two brothers. Elias Angeles and Felix Plazo were colonels under Ludovico during the Philippine-American War. The subordinates were remembered with streets named after them and a monument built to immortalize their revolt against Spain while their superior officer Ludovico was simply forgotten. To the uninitiated, the Arejola brothers were blue-blooded Nagueños. They were born and raised in Naga and studied at the Holy Rosary Seminary (then known as Seminario Conciliar) before leaving for Manila for higher studies and then to Spain. Tomas pursued his law degree there and then engaged in the Propaganda Movement while Ludovico persisted to connect with Tomas on their revolutionary activities after being exiled to Africa’s Fernando Poo island. Both returned to Naga to continue with their struggle for independence; and where they eventually chose to live for the rest of their lives. Both are buried in Naga, at the Penafrancia cemetery. “While we have bestowed honor upon Elias Angeles (a Tagalog from Pasig) and Felix Plazo (a native of Tigaon), it is indeed an anomaly why Naga’s very own sons have been continuously denied recognition,” General, et al. wrote. And they continued: “As aptly stated by historian Jose V. Barrameda in the attached biographies, these two Nagueños, heroes both, one with a sword, the other with a pen, remain unhonored to this day in their own city.” Indeed, it is something that every Nagueño should be ashamed of -- unless a thing is done to redeem ourselves from this grievous neglect and omission. What the Camarinenses, courtesy of Gov. Migz, have done should be commended and emulated.