Who was the biggest political thorn on the side of President Manuel L. Quezon during the pre-war years? Not General Emilio Aguinaldo nor Bishop Gregorio Aglipay who both ran against Quezon in the 1935 Commonwealth elections for president. Not Sergio Osmeña Sr. and Manuel A. Roxas who led the campaign for self-government and US recognition of the Philippine independence, which brought home the Hare-Hawes-Cutting Act in 1933.
His most noteworthy political nemesis was a young political upstart from a small town in Camarines Norte that now proudly bears his name. He had the gift of gab and the power of the pen. He was awarded the Quezon Gold Medal in the UP Oratorical Contest and was the voice of the youth during the formative years of our government. He served as the editor in chief of the Philippine Collegian and president of UP Student Council during his time. While still in high school, he had published several short stories in various national publications and won practically every writing contest while he was in UP. He co-founded the College Editors Guild and became its first president. He was the captain of the UP Debating Team whose members included Ambrocio Padilla, Arturo Tolentino and Estanislao Fernandez who all became distinguished senators. He founded the Young Philippines Party, which counted as members Arturo Tolentino, Lorenzo Sumulong, Diosdado Macapagal, Ferdinand Marcos, Domocao Alonto, Jose Laurel Jr., Macapanton Abbas and many others who all became prominent figures in Philippine politics. He led the first students demonstrations before Congress to protest the insertion of a provision in the appropriations act, which granted the legislators a salary increase. He organized the Pan Malayan Movement comprising of students from the Philippines, Siam, Malay Peninsula, Dutch East Indies and Polynesia. He placed third in the 1933 Bar Examination despite his involvement in various extracurricular activities.
He campaigned for Aguinaldo for president in the 1935 election. Quezon won by a landslide, but lost in three provinces: Cavite, Aguinaldo’s home province; Ilocos, Aglipay’s home province, and Camarines Norte, the young man’s home province. After elections, he strongly denounced massive election fraud in a political rally in Cavite. He was charged with sedition for which he was convicted and sentenced to imprisonment. He appealed and was acquitted by the CA. He was the Benjamin of the 1934-1935 Philippine Constitutional Convention. He was still underage at the time of the election but the Convention decided to retain him. He was elected governor in 1940 and congressman in 1941, where in both occasions he was one of the only two oppositionists around the country to win against the administration bets. He was an oasis in the vast wasteland of Philippine politics.
Soon after the outbreak of the war, he organized our country’s first citizen army and just 10 days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and Clark Airfield, his troops ambushed the advancing Japanese forces on its way to Daet. This signaled the birth of the guerilla resistance in the Philippines. Deserting USAFFE soldiers joined and reinforced his ragtag army, which also included Aeta elements who used bows and poisoned arrows to fight the invaders. They engaged the enemies in fierce battles, attacked Japanese garrisons and staged ambushes. His forces recaptured the town of Daet from the hands of the invaders and occupied the capital town for 25 days. The infuriated Japanese spared no resources to capture him. And the rest is history.
He and his family were eventually captured. The Japanese high command asked for his cooperation by urging his men to surrender in exchange for his freedom, but he gallantly declined. He was dead at age 31. And what a glorious death it was at the hands of the enemy who also killed his father, wife and two of his children. Their remains lie in unlocated and unmarked graves. In the words of former Speaker Jose B. Laurel Jr. who lamented his loss: “But brilliant though his record was in the council of peace, it was to shine with greater brilliance in the demanding crucible of war.”
He blazed a political trail, which is unparalleled up to now. “His brand of politics—fearless, principled and uncompromising—would awe many readers and cause them to wonder where indeed had gone politicians of his ilk.” Those were the apt words of UP President Alfredo Pascual who wrote the foreword of his only known biography. He was the voice of the future, the best and the brightest of his generation and the hope of his country. He was one of a kind and we may not see the likes of him again. His saga is chronicled in a biography written by Efren Yambot: “Wenceslao Q. Vinzons: The Hero the Nation Forgot.” Tomorrow, September 28, we will observe his 109th birth anniversary.
This was the first time I read the biography of Winceslao Q. Vinzon. My parents are both from Vinzons, Camarines Norte. Ho w I wish I had read Mr. Vinzons great and noble story when I was only a young man. Now, I am already 57 yeras of age but I am inspired to serve the place of birth of Mr. Vinzon’s and of my parents parents. Indeed he was a forgotten hero not only of Camarines Norte but most of all the entire Philippine archipelago. His name and all he had done for his country and country men must never be forgotten by the Bicolanos and the Philippines. We must also be inspired to love our country and not be afraid to face all odds and dangers for our beloved country like what WQV deed when he was still alive. After reading his biography I am now more proud and grateful that my parents both came from Vinzons, Camarines, Norte.