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EDITORIAL: Naga from the ashes

Last June 18 was the 71st anniversary of Naga as a chartered city, making it one of the few cities in the Philippines that is independent of the province. Other events were lined up before and after the big day to make the celebration more significant to the Naguenos themselves by conducting a jobs fair, tree planting, mayoral awards, food festival, medical and dental missions, and more.

Incidentally, the date also marked the foundation day of Bicol Mail that up to this day remains the only regional newspaper in Bicol. And incidentally, too, its publisher, the late Leon S. Aureus served as the first appointed mayor of the chartered city, thus officially making him the first city mayor of Naga.

It was on June 18, 1948 that then President Elpidio Quirino signed into law House Bill No. 1255 sponsored by Congressman Juan Q. Miranda, now known as Republic Act No. 305 which gave Naga its Charter. Six months after, the newly created city was formally inaugurated on December 15, 1948, with Aureus as the first appointed city mayor. In 1953, on same date of June 18, Aureus founded the Bicol Mail when he was no longer mayor. The newspaper was to live long until this day but its continuous publication had to be disrupted when the publisher and his staff decided to hold the presses when Martial Law was declared in September 1972. By intent and purpose, Bicol Mail avoided itself to become one of the few provincial newspapers that parroted and kowtowed the propaganda line of the dictatorial regime. It was to come out later when the Marcoses fled and democracy was restored.

Miranda was the leader of the Tangkong Vaca Guerilla Unit and Aureus, the war secretary and most trusted man of Kumander Miranda. Miranda’s guerillas on March 28, 1945 attacked a warehouse cum Japanese garrison in Tabuco, a barrio of Naga just across the Naga River. The final assault came on April 9, 1945 when a composite force under the command of Major Miranda entered Naga from Camaligan town with the primary objective of flushing the remaining Japanese soldiers out from the dreaded enemy camp that was Ateneo de Naga. While retreating, the Japanese traded shots with the guerillas who were now equipped with better weapons obtained from aerial drops of American planes. Firefights took place in Dayangdang, Blumentritt street, the grassy fields of what is now Magsaysay Avenue, and Panganiban Bridge. It was in the battle of the bridge that a young Lt. Delfin Rosales was mortally wounded by a hail of sniper bullets while he attempted to bring a wounded comrade to safety. The bridge is now named after the young guerilla hero.

The battle to liberate Naga, according to the book, “Naga, The Birth and Rebirth of a City” by historian Danilo Madrid took three days – from April 9 until April 12 – when the Japanese finally withdrew from Naga and took refuge in the slopes of Mt. Isarog. When the Americans entered Naga, the Japanese soldiers have long gone. The arriving American troopers simply had to carry out out mopping operations, although American planes had unleashed bombs that almost pulverized and left in shambles government and commercial buildings,schools and other edifices, with the original Archbishop’s Palace as one of them. From the ashes, Naga had to rise again and become a boom town when its charter was enacted three years after its liberation by its own homegrown fighting men.

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