Last 9 August 2006, the whole province of Ilocos Norte celebrated the 100th Birth Anniversary of Governor Roque B. Ablan Sr., my grandfather.
It was Republic Act 6941 which declared every 9th day of August a special non-working holiday in the province of Ilocos Norte to commemorate the birthday of my lolo, who was also a World War II Hero. Usually a place would celebrate the death anniversary of a hero, but not in our case because we never knew when, where and how he was killed. He fought the Japanese as the country's last standing governor when he disappeared somewhere in Bumitalag sometime in 1942. After the war, my lola tried to look for him to no avail. His body was never recovered.
Anyway, thats why we celebrate my lolo's birthday.
This year's celebration was special because it is his centennial. Hence, special yung handaan. In fact, there were events organized the day before. We had an oratorical contest, drum & lire competition and a quiz bee. The Philippine Veterans Bank organized a World War II exhibit for the veterans. There were a handful of WWII veterans who were able to go, including Americans.
On Ablan Day, there was the unveiling of the new statue at the Roque B. Ablan Sr. Shrine at 7 in the morning. We commissioned a talented Filipino artist to create the larger than life image of my lolo. His name escapes me at the moment.
Afterwards, we all transferred to the Capitol for the main program. Governor Marcos, Imelda Marcos, Ambassador Preciosa Soliven and Senator Heherson Alvarez gave their remarks. And then the Guest Speaker, General Hermogenes Esperon, the AFP Chief of Staff, delivered his address.
Later, the postmaster general awarded the special guests and my family commemorative stamps of my lolo.
And then there was the parade. Cadets, school contingents, marching bands, local government employees, barangays, and cowboys marched past the Capitol.
Another thing special with this year was the parade floats with accompanying reenactment. Ang ganda-ganda ng mga floats. Talagang pinaghirapan ng LGU/Schools. Yung iba may mga waterfalls pa. But what really got to me was the reenactment. All 5 floats reenacted a portion of my lolo's life while he was battling the Japanese. From invasion to his disappearance. The actors/dancers/performers (all high schoolers i suppose) really poured everything. Talagang bigay na bigay. As a member of the Ablan family I was really touched.
I am thankful to the National Historical Institute, led by Exec. Dir. Ludovico D. Badoy, for supervising and organizing the two-day event. Well done, sir!
Also to the Veterans Federation of the Philippines and the Philippine Veterans Bank for the WWII exhibit; the Philippine Postal Corporation for the commemorative stamps; Prof. Linda Limpe for the Roque B. Ablan biography; the still unnamed artist for creating the new statue; the Philippine Marines for the exhibition; the LGUs and the DECS for organizing the parade; and most especially to all those who participated in the contests, the parade and the reenactment.
Thank you all for making my lolo's 100th birthday a very memorable one.
I hope when the dust settles, we don't forget what we're celebrating during Ablan day--which is the heroism of thousands of Filipinos back in World War II, most of whom died so that we could enjoy a free and democratic society.
Whenever I feel depressed about the situation of the Philippines and think that there's no hope for this country, I simply remember my grandfather and how he and his soldiers fought until their last breath for an independent and progressive nation. They died for the Republic of the Philippines, and dammit, I will do whatever I can, no matter how small, to make our country what they dreamed of.
Agbiag ni Apo Roque Ablan Sr.! Agbiag!
Agbiag ti Veterans iti World War II! Agbiag!
Agbiag ti Republica ti Pilipinas! Agbiag!