The Men Behind Dadong
Like in any movie about the lives of great men, the story begins with a flashback. The setting is the town of Lubao during the early 1920s. Three young friends pledge to each other that they would one day, rise above the throng and lead the province and the nation. One did become governor, the other a senator. And the third, he became president.
The "poor boy from Lubao," as he was popularly known during his time, was one man who dared to make that difficult journey from a small nipa hut in Lubao to the Malacaņang Palace. And Diosdado Macapagal has indeed earned his place among the nation's greats. His "loyalists" in the province however, amplify his greatness to the point of overstatement. With the political undertones suggested by the placing of Diosdado Macapagal busts in almost every public elementary and high school in the entire province, his followers may just be damaging his already widely recognized and noble reputation, more that they are doing it good.
As they say, with Macapagal, the Philippines almost made it. Alejandro Roces even labeled him "the last of (the) great presidents." Then again, it is but fair to recognize the men behind the success of "Cong Dadong." For the positions they are occupying now, the current president and Pampanga vice-governor owe part of it to these men. Getting back to our story of the three friends from Lubao, who were the other two?
The one who became Pampanga governor, lost his life in a tragic assassination in 1980. Jose Bulaon Lingad was born in Lubao on November 24, 1914. He took up law at the University of the Philippines and the Philippine Law School and passed the bar in 1938. At age 24, he was elected councilor of Lubao, with the most number of votes.
Joe Lingad was a veteran of Bataan and the Death March. In 1947, at the age of 33, he was elected Pampanga governor, and even became vice-president of the League of Governors. While serving at the Capitol, Governor Lingad clashed with the infamous Nenita Group of Col. Napoleon Valeriano, known for its abuses of human rights. It is said that the CIA was grooming him to be their prime Huk fighter.
If not for the tragic events of Holy Week in 1951, Joe Lingad may have been the first Kapampangan in Malacaņang. This event is widely known as the Maliwalu Massacre. In revenge for the murder of Captain Nonong Serrano by Huks suspected to be from Maliwalu, the men and relatives of Serrano executed nine farmers. Since Serrano was connected to Governor Lingad, in the strongly contested elections of 1951, Lingad was blamed for the massacre, and thus lost his bid for reelection.
It is said that if not for the Maliwalu Massacre, if Lingad stayed on as Governor, he may have been the man appointed by Elpidio Quirino to lead the Department of Defense, instead of Ramon Magsaysay. And we all know what could have happened next.
But despite the fact that he did not make it to Malacaņang, he was said to be responsible for making a future president. Joe Lingad was recognized as one of the strongest political kingpins of Pampanga. And during the elections of 1949, according to a 1988 column by Larry Henares, who was a member of the Macapagal cabinet together with Lingad, it was Joe Lingad who selected Macapagal, who was then serving as Second Secretary of the Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C., to run for the 1st Congressional District of Pampanga, a fact that is missed out in Macapagal biographies. If Lingad did not single out his old friend to run for office, who knows what could have happened next?
In a vindication from his earlier loss, Lingad ran for Congressman in 1969. He won, and even garnered 90 percent of the votes in Maliwalu, since he was proven to be blameless for the incident. During Martial Law, Lingad was arrested and jailed for three months. He was about set to retire to his fishponds, which were later foreclosed together with his Manila residence, when he received a letter from Ninoy Aquino asking him to run again for Pampanga governor in the 1980 elections.
Joe Lingad ran together with Jose Suarez as his running mate. They were obviously cheated and Lingad fought back. The two were granted a Special Election. On December 16, 1980, while buying a pack of cigarettes along MacArthur Highway, Lingad was gunned down by a military man, PC Sgt. Roberto Tabanero, who later died in a mysterious car accident. He was the first of the Marcos political opponents to fall under the hands of the military. Lingad preceded a list of political martyrs that would later include Ninoy Aquino and Evelio Javier of Antique.
The words of Chino Roces at his funeral is a perfect image of what has become of Lingad's legacy and memory today: "Today, no songs are sung in praise of Joe Lingad, the seed that bore fruit and gave us shade. How easily we forget!" In a political arena were "utang na loob " is the name of the game, people who beckon at the greatness of their ancestors should first remember why their ancestors reached the top in the first place.
Up next is the matinee idol who became senator.
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above column was published in Sun*Star Pampanga.