by Chris Antonette P. Pugay
      On 8 December 1941 (7 December, 2:30 a.m. US time), Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese warplanes, which prompted the United States to declare war against Japan.  The attack of Pearl Harbor was initiated by the severed ties between the two countries after Japan tried to establish a hold in Indochina and US responded by freezing Japanese assets in US and placing an oil and iron scrap embargo on Japan.

      The first Japanese strikes in the Philippines began as early as the next day.  Bombardment targets were Nichols Field, Cavite Navy Yard, City of Manila and Fort McKinley.  It was followed by simultaneous landings by the invasion forces headed by Lt. Masaharu Homma in Lingayen, Davao, Atimonan and Mauban.  On the 10th, the Japanese troops landed in Vigan and immediately advanced to Laoag.  During those trying times, Ilocos Norte was headed by Gov. Roque, Ablan, a young and fierce leader, known for designing vast changes and developments in the said province.

     When the Japanese authorities called for the cooperation of Ilocano leaders after they landed in Vigan, Ablan vehemently refused to neither collaborate nor extend any form of services to those whom he perceived as enemies.  Instead he left Laoag to avoid arrest and transferred his government in a remote barrio near the boundaries of Ilocos and Apayao.  In here, Ablan formed the nucleus of his guerilla organization, later to become known as Governor’s Guerilla Unit (and eventually with Feliciano Madamba in the picture, became Ablan-Madamba Guerilla Unit).

       By mid-January of 1942, Ablan had the chance to meet Lt. Feliciano Madamba, USAFFE Officer from Nueva Era who was then stinging from the defeat of the 11th Infantry in La Union and Pangasinan fronts.  For a common purpose, that was liberation, the two teamed up, thus the Ablan-Madamba Guerilla Unit was finally born.

       In 27 January 1942, the Ablan-Madamba unit went to Solsona where they uncovered   rifles and weapons.  The next day, their newly formed team-up was put into test when they successfully ambushed two truckloads of Japanese soldiers heading to Banna for patrolling.  In the said encounter, sixty Japanese were killed and several of them were wounded.  In retaliation, the Japanese burned houses of prominent people in Solsona the succeeding day.

      During the height of the struggles, Ablan was able to contact President Manuel Quezon in Washington D.C twice using a radio.  In their first communication, Ablan reported to the Quezon that in spite of the trying and tough situations, Filipinos remained loyal to the Philippine government and that of United States.  On the second time, Ablan requested P100, 000 from Quezon to finance government machinery and for the payment of employees.  However, transmission of money was not that easy, thus, Quezon ordered Ablan to issue “emergency notes previously authorized by Ablan’s provincial expenditures.”

      After his communications with Quezon, small units and other independent guerilla groups went into his outfit.  In response, he divided the province into several sectors, each of which was placed under a guerrilla leader.  He assigned Lt. Isabelo Monje to take charge of operations in Batac, Paoay and Currimao; Vicente Cajigal was assigned the towns of Badoc, Pinili and Nueva Era. The governor also named Juan Albano as deputy governor; Lt. Madamba as executive officer, and Primo Lazaro and Damaso Samonte as chiefs of the intelligence corps.  Capt. Pedro Alviar was placed in charge of the counter intelligence unit.   The intelligence section was established to gather information from all possible sources.  A runner-relay system was also set up to disseminate news and send orders to different sectors, thus linking towns and scattered guerrilla camps. His headquarters was called Malacañang of the North.

       After the Japanese authorities established a headquarters in Laoag, they launched a rigid campaign to capture Ablan after they realized that he and his guerilla group had already caused them severe troubles and torment. Japanese authorities demanded Ablan to surrender and enjoy amnesty and other promising rewards; they even resorted to a policy of reconciliation fronting various prominent personages in the likes of Camilo Osias, Quentin Paredes, Jose Laurel and Benigno Aquino to serve as negotiators.  But just the same, the Japanese authorities also warned Ablan and his guerilla unit that if they insisted on fighting the Japanese, they will be hunted to the ends of the earth.  Unfortunately for the Japanese, their demand landed on deaf ears, for the man has no intention of surrendering to his perceived enemies.

       Afterwards, surprise raids against the unit’s camps became more and more frequent.  On 8 November 1942, an encounter between the Japanese troops and the guerilla unit in Pampanniki, Solsona took place leaving around 200 Japanese casualties. This could be said as the most triumphant encounter won by the unit.  Other highly successful attacks launched by the Ablan-Madamba unit include their victory at Solsona on 27 January 1942 where about 60 Japanese were killed; skirmish at Diriqui Port in Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte on 01 May 1942 which liquidated about 30 Japanese officers; encounter in Bobon, Burgos, Ilocos Norte from 4 to 5 July 1942 where 101 Japanese soldiers were killed; encounter at Bumitalag, Piddig, Ilocos Norte on 5 February 1942 and many minor combats.  The Bumitalag encounter was one of the most tragic among the battles fought by the unit; it was in this event that Governor Ablan was last seen.  People of Ilocos came to believe that he died following the skirmish.  True to his words, Roque Ablan never surrendered.

        Our beloved Gov. Roque Ablan is now a legend.  He and his memories are enshrined in the hearts of his loved ones and of his people. May his patriotism and courage be etched in our minds, to serve as example and inspiration in leading a meaningful life.