Bernardo M. Villegas
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Miguel Malvar

           Yesterday, October 13, the province of Batangas celebrated the centennial of the death of General Miguel Malvar, one of the less known national heroes of the Philippines. Born on September 27, 1865, he died on October 13, 1911 of a liver ailment that he contracted while hiding in the deepest recesses of the MakilingMountain as he led a revolutionary force fighting the American invaders at the end of the nineteenth century.  Miguel Malvar was my grandfather, my mother Isabel Malvar Villegas having been the youngest daughter and second to the last child of Lolo Miguel and his wife Paula Maloles.  I give thanks to God that my grandparents did not practise birth control since my mother was the tenth among 11 siblings.  Otherwise, I would not be writing this tribute to him.

          Although I have written a couple of times in the past about my Lolo Miguel, I am taking occasion of this centennial celebration to refresh the memories of my readers about the role the General played in the Philippine American war.  In an essay published by the National Historical Commission and authored by Ma. Cielito G. Reyno, my Lolo's indomitable spirit is described in the following account: "When President Emilio Aguinaldo swore allegiance to the United States of America soon after his capture in Palanan, Isabela in March 1901, the leadership of the Philippine armed forces passed on to General Miguel Malvar, commanding general of southern Luzon during the Philippine revolution.  On April 19, Aguinaldo issued a proclamation urging the rest of the nation to embrace United States dominion over the Philippines.  Hearing of Aguinaldo's surrender to the U.S., Malvar wrote Aguinaldo that same day and issued his own declaration stating he and the remaining leaders of southern Luzon would instead carry on the resistance. As other revolutionists surrendered or were captured in succession, Malvar took the urgent step of stopping the spread of demoralization in the revolutionary forces by tapping the support (military and financial) of the peasant masses and movements (such as the Colorum of Sebastian Caneo), in this manner acknowledging their importance to the Revolution which, up till then, had been marginalized by the revolutionary leadership.  He waged a guerrilla war in the Batangas-Tayabas region for guerrilla warfare was the only way to possibly balance out the lopsided war--the Filipinos being ill-armed and increasingly outnumbered as the conflict wore on."

          General Malvar could have lasted longer in resisting the American forces if the latter had not used the unethical strategy of including civilians as pawns in the struggle. As Ms. Reyno described in "General Malvar's Last Stand Against the United States":  "Beginning in February 1902 the Americans hounded Gen. Malvar without let-up. At the same time they increased and widened the scope of punitive operations (against the civilians) drawing hundreds more civilians into the vortex of suffering and death.  Towards the end of March, Gen. Malvar's life was reduced to that of a fugitive, as the Americans stepped up their pursuit and closed in on him in the area of Rosario, Batangas where he was assumed hiding.  At the same time the lives of the people, especially in the zones of concentration in Batangas, became more unbearable by the day as hunger and death increased.  The last straw came in the form of a cholera epidemic in March, which had spread from Laguna, resulting in more loss of lives."  The main reason why he surrendered on April 13, 1902 was to end the sufferings inflicted by the Americans on the civilian population. 

          After his surrender, Gen. Malvar went back to civilian life, refusing any offer of a position in the American colonial regime.  He returned with passion to his love for agribusiness.  Before he reluctantly became a military fighter, my Lolo was a successful farmer and trader of agribusiness products.  Already more than a century ago, he had the vision that Laguna and Batangas should be the fruit and vegetable basket for the surrounding urban areas, especially Manila.  He was especially focused on fruits, in particular the local orange variety called poncan.  In fact, there is a poncan variety named after him.  In a recent address I gave to entrepreneurs from all over the CALABARZON region in a Rotary Club meeting in Sto.  Tomas, Batangas, I told them to implement the same strategy of my Lolo:  transform the farms still remaining in Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon and Cavite into producers of high-value crops, especially fruits, vegetables and livestock.  In fact, if my Lolo had lived long enough to be President of the Philippines (he was supposed to have been the second President of the Republic when Emilio Aguinaldo was exiled to Hong Kong and he took over as Chief of the Armed Forces), he could have inspired our early leaders to focus on rural and agricultural development in the same way that the King of Thailand was the inspiration for the tremendous Thai success in agribusiness. My Lolo could have laid the foundation for a sound foundation of a highly productive agricultural sector.

          Another inspiration one can derive from the personal example of my Lolo is the great importance he attributed to quality basic education.  Because of the demands of family and country, he dropped out after second year of high school.  But he obtained such a high quality of basic education under the tutelage of Fr. Valerio Malabanan that even just those eight years of basic education sufficed to make him a well-rounded leader of men and a successful entrepreneur.  This thought should inspire our present leaders in education to put most of our resources at present on improving the quality of primary and secondary education and to encourage many of our high school graduates to immediately take up technical and vocational courses without the need for university degrees.  We have overemphasized a college diploma to the detriment of many technical and vocational occupations that are crying out for skilled workers.

          The most important lesson members of the Malvar clan have received from our Lolo Miguel is the highest priority he assigned to family solidarity.  Even while in the battle field, he made sure his wife and children were with him.  Among his last words to his children who were at his death bed was "Love your mother."  Although my mother was only two years old when Lolo Miguel died, the culture of family unity that my Lolo and my Lola Paula Maloles built was so strong that my mother's devotion and love for her parents was exemplary. My mother lived heroically the commandment of loving and honoring parents mandated by the Fourth Commandment of the Decalogue.  I have always maintained that my mother has lived up to a ripe old age of 102 (as of October 9, 2011) because of the promise of Christ that those who honor their parents will have long lives. In brief, the examples for virtuous living set by my grandfather are to be drawn more from his ordinary life as a husband, father, farmer, and entreprenuer than from his life as a revolutionary general.  For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia.