Bernardo M. Villegas
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My Lolo Miguel the Hero (Part 3)

           My Lolo Miguel was fundamentally a man of peace.   He was only accidentally a revolutionary general.   That is why, as we can read in the biography of Abaya and Karganilla, after his surrender, “the general rededicated his life to his initial passions, first among which was his kin. As his arch-rival in the field of battle, General Bell said, ‘When he surrendered he did so in good faith, assuring me he intended to leave politics alone and to work to repair his fortune and to accumulate as much as he could for the future protection of his large family.”  As mentioned above, he could not even bear to be separated from his wife and children while in the battlefield.   He always tagged them along.  Now in peace time, he thoroughly enjoyed the companionship of his wife and frolicking with his increasing number of children.  My only regret is that my mother was too young when he died.  It was my great grandfather, Lolo Imoy who actually became father to my mother.  Lolo Imoy is a model for many of the grandfathers today who are taking a very active part in the rearing of their grandchildren.  Since my generation is replete with retired grandfathers who are  still in good health and are  helping out in the upbringing of their grandchildren, I have often heard now of  the new Taglish word “apo-stolate”, which is the positive role of grandparents in the education of their “apos.”

          To prove that my constant reference to the passion of Lolo Miguel for agriculture is not just a product of my imagination resulting from my own magnificent obsession with farming and everything that has to do with it, let me quote profusely from the biography of Abaya and Karganilla:  “Malvar devoted his remaining years to business concerns, raising poultry and growing sugarcane, rice, orange and other fruit trees, shipping his produce to Manila and neighboring provinces.  He also had a bungliw (trees used for making match-sticks) joint venture in Bataan and dealt with Germans (two of whom were called Hauer and Sapta) and other foreign partners.  Malvar supplied a German match factory in Manila with lumbang trunks that earned a weekly net of P500…Like his father, Malvar’s first love was agronomy.  He poured resources into the vast tract of land at Makiling that he had bought with hard-earned earnings before the Revolutionary Wars.  He was so suited to tilling the soil that he managed to develop a new variant of the orange which was named after him—the malvarosa.  He was consulted by fellow farmers from Laguna and Tayabas.  In 1907, he told an agri-conference in his hometown that they should all grow more oranges, coffee and cocoa, punctuating the priority of cultivating one’s own yard with banana, eggplant, gabi, kamote, papaya, squash and string beans.”  As my readers can verify, I have always been advocating the growing of high-value vegetables and fruits, especially in areas surrounding urban centers like Metro Manila.

          Anyone who has been reading my books and columns over the last forty years would know that I am just a reincarnation of my Lolo Miguel.  I have been a voice in the wilderness crying out for more support for agricultural and countryside development.  If only there were more leaders who thought like my Lolo Miguel during the U.S. commonwealth and after we obtained our independence from the Americans in 1946, our country would have taken a completely different path and would have not gone astray with inward-looking, import-substitution industrialization that wittingly or unwittingly led to the total neglect of agricultural development.  We would have competed with the likes of Thailand, Malaysia and now Vietnam that reached heights of agricultural productivity,  making them very large exporters of rice, fruits, palm oil and other high-value crops—very much the same crops that my Lolo Miguel was enamored with.

          I must also mention the outstanding example of my Lolo Miguel in his immediate reaction to give substantial relief to the victims of the Taal volcano eruption in January 1911. Again, let me quote from the Abaya and Karganilla biography:  “Having been spared from the eruption (the ashes did not reach Sto. Tomas), Malvar knew that he had to move quickly…He brought rice from Binan and sent it by train to the victims.  He donated the rice and refused to collect payments form the recipients.  He also handed out clothes and food and comforted the evacuees.  This speedy act of generosity was made doubly significant by the fact that there was at the outset a woeful lack of appreciation of the magnitude of the calamity, because accurate accounts were rather heavily discounted, both by the Manila public and by the government officials.”   With all the destructive natural calamities we are witnessing today, we need more people like my Lolo who can act quickly to come to the rescue of disaster victims. 

          All modesty aside, I also consider myself a clone of my Lolo Miguel in my having refused to accept any role as a public official from the time of President Marcos to the present.  Like him, I always believed that I would be able to do much more in the private sector promoting the common good.  My only involvement in the various governments in the last fifty years was as a   private sector representative in the Productivity Development Council during the time of Marcos; a member of the Constitutional Commission under President Cory Aquino; a member of the advisory board to President Ramos; and a private sector representative in the Board of Investments and National Development Company under President Macapagal Arroyo.  Under both President Estrada and the present Administration, I have participated actively in road shows promoting both foreign and domestic investments in the Philippines.  Like my Lolo Miguel, I consider the private sector as the channel through which I can contribute to national development.  I am proud to say that some institutions which I have helped to establish, like the Center for Research and Communication, the Makati Business Club, and the Dualtech Foundation, among others, are still very much involved in delivering important research, policy advice and technical training programs in the service of the national economy.  I have considered my Lolo Miguel, after his retirement from the revolutionary army, as a role model in choosing the private sector as a means of promoting the common good.  For comments, my email address is