Bernardo M. Villegas
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My Lolo Miguel the Hero (Part 1)

           My maternal grandfather, General Miguel Malvar, was born on September 27, 1865 and, therefore, we his descendants together with the whole nation will be celebrating his 150th birthday on September 27 this year.  I beg the indulgence of my readers if I use my column to remind Filipinos here and abroad about why my Lolo Miguel is considered a national hero.  I am not particularly happy that he is especially   remembered for his being the last Filipino General to surrender to the Americans. I don’t even care if, as some contend, there were other generals in other parts of the Archipelago who surrendered after him. The fuss about who was the last to surrender reminds me of how we used to celebrate the “fall of Corregidor” or the “fall of Bataan”.  I am glad that we have since given more positive labels to these national feasts.  As I hope to demonstrate in this short biography of my Lolo Miguel, his surrendering to American General J. Franklin Bell, who took command of operations in the province of Batangas and practised scorched earth tactics that took a heavy toll on guerrilla fighters and civilians alike, was an accident.  His greatness should be attributed to the way he lived heroically many human virtues during his short life of forty six years, having died of a kidney disease which he contracted while fighting in the mountains of Makiling in the company, not only of his officers and soldiers, but also of his wife and children.  Among the virtues I will highlight, in addition to the obvious valor or courage he displayed in waging war against both the Spaniards and the Americans are his humility, prudence, generosity especially to the poor and needy, honesty, and fidelity as a husband and father.  I will also elaborate on how I, one of his numerous descendants, have tried to emulate him in these virtues with the hope of encouraging as many in the Malvar clan to do the same.

          My Lolo Miguel was born in San Miguel, a barrio of Sto. Tomas Batangas, now well known for the hundreds of manufacturing firms that have located in the numerous industrial zones in this town south of Metro Manila and strategically located along the STAR Highway.  His parents were Maximo Malvar and Tiburcia Carpio, who belonged to the landed families of the town and were highly regarded for their generosity and diligence.  The young Miguel learned how to be generous and caring to others, especially the poor and needy, from his parents.  He was also fortunate for having a virtuous teacher in the person of Father Valerio Malabanan, who ran a private school in the nearby town of Tanauan, Batangas, where the future revolutionary general had Apolinario Mabini as his classmate.  Early in his youth, he already showed his love for agriculture and working with his hands to make the land productive by deciding not to pursue college studies, although he highly appreciated higher academic pursuits. He did everything he could to support his brother Potenciano to become an accomplished medical doctor, financing his studies in Spain.  In this regard, I consider him a role model for many high school graduates today (especially with the introduction of the K to 12 system) who should be persuaded to either become farm entrepreneurs, tilling the land of their ageing farmer fathers, or following the path of technical education becoming skilled carpenters, plumbers, electricians, mechanics, etc. who are very much needed in the continuing agro-industrialization of the country.  For that early decision in his life, I already consider him a hero.  Lolo Miguel, like his brother Lolo Putin (who later became Mayor of San Pablo City), could have pursued any university study of his choice.  But he regarded the vocation of a farmer equally dignified.  I have more of this say later when I describe his investments in high-value crops such as vegetables, fruits, and livestock before and after the revolutionary war against Spain and the United States.

          At the age of 26, he married Paula Maloles, the beautiful daughter of Don Ambrocio Maloles, who was capitan municipal of Sto. Tomas.  My grandmother bore him thirteen children, but only eleven survived:  Bernabe, Aurelia, Marciano, Maximo, Crispina, Mariquita, Luz Constancia, Miguel (Junior), Paula,  Isabel (my mother) and Pablo.  Again, I celebrate the fact that my maternal grandparents were pro-life.  If they had the contraceptive mentality being pushed by some sectors in our country today, I am sure I would not be around because my mother was the second to the last of her siblings.  In fact, my mother was only two years old when my Lolo Miguel died on October 13, 1911.  Despite the fact that Lolo Miguel only belonged to a middle-class family, he was able to attain sufficient financial resources so that all his children finished university studies and became successful professionals.  My mother was a practising dentist and was the school dentist of the Assumption Convent for twenty years. Her older brother Maximo was Governor of Batangas province.  Her eldest sister, Tia Reling, was the super-active First Lady married to Feliciano Leviste, who was Governor of Batangas for almost two decades.  Their youngest brother Pablo rose to the rank of Judge of the Regional Court of Pateros, Rizal.

          In fact, in the biography written by U.P. historians Doroteo Abaya and Bernard Karganilla, Malvar’s great appreciation for education is recognized:  “…he placed education among his foremost priorities in life.  At his death bed, for instance, Señor Miguel admonished his children:  ‘Study, for knowledge is a good friend and companion of man.’  When he was in in command of Southern Luzon during the Revolution, he was deeply concerned with the education of the next generation.  In his General Orders and Instructions issued between October 28 and November 11, 1901, he directed the political-military chiefs of towns, provinces, zones and departments to foment the elementary instruction of the children as a base of real education for the regeneration and progress of the country.  ‘They will be instructed in the worship of God, their duty to their fellow creatures, in the love for their country and in the history of our wars for liberty.’ ”  If I consider myself first and foremost as an educator before anything else, I am certain that it is because of the genes I got from my Lolo Miguel.   (To be continued)