Finding Tang Vecio

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    History is supposed to be written by the winners. However, in today’s modern world of information and communications technology, history and events have often been given the desired interpretation and spin by those who have access to this technology and the power of resources.

    Those who can write or control records and conventional wisdom are often able to bring to popular acceptance their versions as well as vest their persons with iconic stature.

    Or else the services of public relations and advertising and promotions firms are always available to market politicians and business leaders along with movie stars and laundry detergent.

    Recently, because of the All Saints and All Souls Days, I roamed around San Fernando, Pampanga.

    Along with visiting the cemeteries where our relatives were buried and during which we gathered to keep touch with the relatives who were still alive, I took the opportunity to walk around the town center, where the municipal building, the cathedral and the marketplace were and still are, according to the old Spanish tripartite geographical arrangement.

    A lot of developments have changed over more than 40 years and yet still a lot have remained the same.

    These brought a great deal of nostalgic memories, which I feel deserve an entire article if not more to their exposition.

    Since we used to live at the Sta. Lucia, I walked to our old place which was now dilapidated, passed through all the places and houses of old neighbors, the Panlilios, Keh Yengs, Eusebios, Aquinos, and others.

    I walked across the road at the foot of Baluyot Bridge and crossed over to Del Pilar, where I remembered in my mind the places of the Quiwas, Dizons, Abad Santos, Davids and, to my delight, of the Cuyugans.

    For, lo and behold, there was still the old Cuyugan house standing there looking inhabited as if time has stood still. I remember this house where an old student of mine 40 years ago in UST, where I moonlighted, lived, Vivencio Cuyugan, Jr. or Otic in San Fernando or Vince when he went to the USA.

    Otic became a friend and a comrade and kindred spirit in our activist movements in the early seventies.

    During those times of the nationalist fervor of the youth, I got to know his mother, Ka Isang, Felisa Amurao, who was a personality in her own right.

    It was unfortunate that the father, Tang Vecio, Vivencio B. Cuyugan, Sr. was already an invalid and I had no chance to get to know him directly.

    With all these memories, I boldly knocked at the gate. And behold, Otic himself came out and greeted me warmly. We have not seen each other for more than 30 years.

    He went to the USA in 1975, worked there, made his home and retired from the insurance business in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We traded stories and updated on acquaintances and events. It was heartwarming and a welcome respite from the daily toil.

    Specifically, I noticed a monument and a bust of Vivencio B. Cuyugan at the yard in front of the house.

    It has a marker with the insignia of the City of San Fernando, Pampanga, inscripted with:

    “Vivencio Cuyugan Y Baron ( 1895-1971) / Vivencio Cuyugan Y Baron , born in San Fernando Pampanga on January 13, 1895 to Saturnino P.Cuyugan and Antonina Y. Baron, was the first Socialist Mayor in the Philippines and the first Mayor of San Fernando under the Commonwealth from 1935 to 1941 and from 1945 to 1946./ In his lifetime he was a voice of the oppressed and a champion of the poor./ He died on March 16, 1971.”

    This marker was unveiled on January 13, 2009 under the administration of Mayor Oscar S. Rodriguez.

    I remembered Tang Vecio. I remember stories about him from my father, Romeo,Sr., grandfather, Sergio Navarro, my ninong Angel G. Baking and from published books like Kerkvliet’s

    The Huk Rebellion, and articles of Ruben Santos Cuyugan and Ivan Anthony Henares, from whom I will quote quite freely.

    Tang Vecio was a giant of a man,” unusually tall, large and bulky” looking more like a “ powerfully-built Caucasian.” When he was in the US to take up law at the Northwestern University, his slim grant of support from an aunt made him take up professional boxing where he supported himself as the “Big Brown Filipino”.

    However, he had to leave America he got into a brawl against a group of Americans who resented his presence together with another Filipino in a cabaret which prohibited Filipinos.

    He beat up the Americans, landed in jail, became a celebrated cause in the Chicago newspapers, was given support by the Filipino community, had Clarence Darrow defend and get him acquited and decided to return home.

    Vivencio, Sr. became the first mayor of San Fernando although he was identified and was a founding member of the Socialist Party under Pedro Abad Santos. He fought against the big economic interests.

    He already had environmental concerns at that time having combatted the dumping of waste which was polluting the San Fernando river.

    Among many other things, he started the central slaughter house of the town to regulate and ensure the sanitation of the meat being sold. And the present Giant Lantern Parade was started during his term to honor Dona Aurora Quezon.

    A famous incident involving Tang Vecio and President Quezon was written by Luis Taruc in The Manila Times, August 19, 1968 issue and corroborated to me by my grandfather.

    In February, 1939, there were rumors circulating that the socialists of Pedro Abad Santos were really communists-anarchists and were planning to assassinate President Quezon during one of his weekend trips to Arayat.

    In line with his flamboyant personality, Quezon directly confronted the issue. At 7:30 am, February 12, 1939, Quezon arrived in front of the cemetery in San Fernando unannounced and with no escorts or security except for his driver.

    He got off his car, ordered the driver to follow from afar and proceeded to walk with his cane and dressed in a pair of riding pants with a dark sweater and a light riding cap towards the Baluyut bridge and the municipal building.

    When he reached the front steps of the municipal hall, Mayor Cuyugan, a Socialist, was there to receive him.

    After assuring Quezon of the falsehood of the rumors, Mayor Cuyugan escorted Quezon in his trip to see Pedro Abad Santos at his office around 100 meters away. Mayor Cuyugan said, “ It is my honor to be your escort and bodyguard, not because there is any danger from our Socialist side, but from the provocative reactionary side.”

    Along the way, Luis Taruc joined them and they flanked Quezon on each side. In meeting Pedro Abad Santos, Quezon agreed to face and speak before a mass meeting of a rally to be assembled by them. Quezon promised to address their concerns and proclaim his Social Justice Program. Wow!!

    It is time to complete the history of Vivencio B. Cuyugan, Sr. I have just selected a few incidents. He had no publicists nor was he a writer. He was a doer and his heart was in the right place. We have just began to find and discover him.

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