Ramon Magsaysay deserves the title ‘Man of the Masses’. I remember this incident vividly about this well loved president. I was still in shorts and was playing with other kids at the town plaza in my hometown of Porac when a car stopped and a hunk of a man with a buri hat alighted from a car and seemingly sought a direction from an old lady waiting for a ride to Angeles City.
The old lady must have been shocked and unbelieving with a her eyes fixed on the tall man. When she was able to collect herself she was so agitated and waved to everyone she saw and started shouting: ‘Hoy, hoy I Magsaysay, i Magsaysay’. I wouldn’t know what was President Magsaysay’s doing in my laid back town, but my young mind was so impressed.
When Magsaysay was voted president he wanted nothing more than to achieve peace. But standing in between was the Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan (HMB) a dissident group led by its Supremo Ka Luis M. Taruc, a tailor from San Luis Pampanga who earlier founded the Hukbo Laban sa Hapon (Hukbalahap), a guerrilla unit that fought the Japanese invaders during World War 2. He became a member of the congressmen of seven who opposed passages of Bell Trade Act, Parity Rights and the RP-US Bases Agreement. Then President Manuel Roxas reportedly initiated moves to unseat the oppositionist Taruc. He was removed from congress and went back to the hills.
There was this young reporter of the Manila Times, the largest newspaper in the country during those years, who in 1951 covered the Korean War and made a good account of himself. It was his passport to fame. The young Benigno S. Aquino Jr. aka Ninoy of Concepcion, Tarlac was invited by Magsaysay to Malacanang and tasked him to seek for Taruc and convince the latter to lay down his arms. There was an arranged meeting between the two on a hillside somewhere in Porac. The young Ninoy was able to convince the dissident leader to surrender. Taruc requested Aquino to send his son Romeo to school.
(As a sidelight, the Aquinos of Tarlac are originally from Angeles City, but the Aquino patriarch, Braulio moved to Concepcion town, then a barrio of Magalang. He had a son named Servillano who became a war hero. Braulio had a son he named Benigno who became a senator and was married to Aurora Aquino. The couple’s most popular son was Ninoy, a junior of his father).
As promised, Ninoy sent Romy to College of Medicine at the Far Eastern University, the school owned by Nicanor Reyes, husband of Josephine Cojuangco the older sister of Ninoy’s wife Corazon aka Tita Cory. Romy in my interview with him said he has to take a ten day government exams and should pass the qualifying program of the Bureau of Education at that time for high school dropouts. After finishing his medical studies and passing the board he served for several years in Hacienda Luisita.
Ka Luis Taruc was given a long jail sentence. Magsaysay met his untimely death in a plane crash in Manunggal in Cebu province and wasn’t able to redeem his pledge to the jailed Taruc. It was only during the time of President Ferdinand Marcos when he became a free man. He died in his early nineties.
Editor’s Note: Formerly newspaperman of Daily Inquirer and other major dailies; former TV and radio Broadcaster. Former Director of various corporations like Clark Development Co.; and a former City of Angeles Councillor. Now a regular columnist of Sun Star Pampanga.