Captain Remo of San Pedro Tunasan

My friend, Pepe Alas, handed me a copy of his first book, “Captain Remo,” last Sunday. It’s short but a good read even if you’re not the history buff kind. I finished it on my flight back to Singapore yesterday.

According to the author, that sepia photo is the only extant picture of the hero. Unacceptable in today’s standards of course where everything is captured by our tiny phones for eternity

 

There are interesting historical anecdotes in the book. Like how San Pedro Tunasan, the old name, remained popular for decades even after it was officially shortened to San Pedro in the early 1900’s. I read President Marco’s diary last year and he still referred to it in its old name in the 70’s.

In page 6 Alas writes, “Cuyab was begininning its duck raising industry, San Roque was well known for its healthy farm produce…San Vicente for its numerous rice farms.” The rich barrios of the old days are the poor barangays of today. The traditional livelihoods and industries are all but gone. Even sampaguita, once the biggest in the country, somehow vanished. But according to the author, “although sampaguita shrubs were already aplenty, it was not yet an industry until after the war.” For some reason, the shrub easily grows and blooms in San Pedro. I wonder if this was the reason why the old locals started farming it. I can still remember seeing sampaguitas, from above the bridge (tulay), harvested in the early mornings along the railroad.

I collaborated with Alas on a book project before (remains unpublished). He made several revisions and additions over the years. I’m uncertain what the book would be like when, and if, it finally hits the printing press. Captain Remo’s biography is sponsored once more by San Pedro’s local government. Another project that they could explore is the history of the sampaguita trade. The town used to pride itself as the sampaguita capital.

The autobiography of Abelardo Remoquillo, popularly called Captain Remo, is an attempt to introduce a local hero, a Sanpedrense, who died in the Battle of Ba’y. The author’s observation that all prominent Filipino heroes are almost exclusively from the Spanish epoch is accurate.

It’s true what Alas said that the recognized heroes outside the revolution against Spain are the three faces in the 1000 bill (and Ninoy, if you consider him one). I’m sure not too many knows who the three figures were and what they did or how they died. Ok, if you don’t believe that, try to name them all while reading this, a ver?

If you got it right. Congratulations!

I studied in a school named after Jose Abad Santos and I swear that I have classmates that graduated without knowing who he was and how he died for his country. And the school never really bothered anyway to teach its students the Chief Justice’s story.

Remoquillo was a promising law student before the war started. He died when he was only 21. He figured prominently in the “Raid of Los Baños”.  Considered the most daring and successful rescue mission in modern warfare history. More than 2000 prisoners were freed. The young hero was under the command of Gustavo Inglés. So many books has been written about the rescue, I would leased surprised if one day Hollywood makes a movie out of it, like they did with the Raid of Cabanatuan.

One could only imagine what it takes to have all that courage to make the ultimate sacrifice. My grandfather on my mom’s side joined the resistance at a very young age but he survived the war. Imagine all the young lives, the innocent civilians that perished during those hard years. Capitan Remonquillo never saw his land liberated.

One other thing that this book made me realize is how important the reserve officers training in school was, the ROTC. While it is unlikely, war is a reality that will once more confront us in the future. The ROTC reserves that banded together and fought the Japanese were organized and courageous. We must have the same today.

The first time I saw Capitan Remo’s monument in the old municipio I wondered who he was, how he lived, how he died. I knew that he was a local, a WWII hero but that’s about it. Thanks to Alas’ and Ms. Sietereales’ work, these questions were answered.

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