Heroes are not born . . . they are made. At the moment I’m still wondering what it takes to make one. And wonder of all wonders what makes an Ilonggo a hero. The Ilonggos in the past are never wanting of brave men and women who share the glory and the honor accorded to the more popular heroes of our country. But what makes him, what triggers his soul to rise above the ordinary to espouse with courage noble causes which could bring fame to our land and to our people?
I am asking these questions because of some events which has made marks of notoriety on the Ilonggo reputation. We are known for our bravery, no question about it. Anyone who does not agree with this statement has either never known an Ilonggo or has never read a newspaper for years. Bank robberies, kidnap for ransom gangs, killers for hire, the once notorious Ilaga terrorist group in Mindanao, you name it, you’ll find a fellow Ilonggo in them, pure breed.
The persistent question which is bothering me is this: why is it that during our contemporary times our famous Ilonggo bravery is put to use in an infamous way unlike before. Is this just media hype or is it fact? If fact, how then can an Ilonggo put to good use by espousing nobler causes his unchallenged bravery? If Ilonggo heroes are not born . . . how are they made?
Permit me to answer the question by retelling a story of Ilonggos who made good use of their bravery by rising above to meet an occasion - a noble cause that will bring fame for generations to come. These brave Ilonggos were led by an equally courageous general by the name of Martin Teofilo Delgado, of Sta. Barbara, Iloilo. He was born on November 11, 1858 and was educated at the town’s parochial school and then at the seminary of Jaro which was then a Colegio. Finally he went to study at the Ateneo Municipal de Manila where he obtained a diploma for teaching.
After graduation he returned to Sta. Barbara to practice his profession as a teacher. However, he was soon appointed as teniente mayor of the town. In 1891 he was elected capitan municipal and in 1893 he served as juez de paz of the same town.
When the revolution against Spain broke out in Luzon in 1896 it did not immediately spread to Iloilo. Thinking that the city would remain “la muy leal y noble ciudad” the Spanish authorities recruited Ilonggo volunteers who will help them vanquish the Filipino revolucionarios in Luzon. Being a mestizo they appointed Martin Delgado as commander and gave them guns to train with. Unknown however to the Spanish authorities Delgado and his companions have strong links with the revolucionarios of Panay and are only waiting for the appropriate time to launch the revolution in Panay. That appropriate time came on October 28, 1898, when Martin Delgado together with his companions declared publicly that they were for the revolution by taking over the municipal building of Sta. Barbara and the offices attached to it. That was the signal our Ilonggo revolucionarios was waiting for to launch it in other towns - a signal from a strong willed leader. Because of such man like Martin Delgado Sta, Barbara is credited today as being the first to raise the Filipino flag outside Luzon.
After the inauguration of the Revolutionary Government of Panay, Gen. Delgado launched a campaign to liberate the whole province from the rule of Spain. And in December 24, 1898 after surrounding the last stronghold of the province, Iloilo City and Molo, the Spaniards decided to surrender.
The following day the triumphal entry to the city began and it was one of the most memorable Christmas the Ilonggos ever had.
However, the celebration was short-lived for a new enemy came - the Americans who came to claim the Islands for themselves. However the Ilonggos refused to give in to American rule. They have fought for freedom and have offered their lives for it and now the Americans come out of nowhere to claim it for themselves. And so the Philippine - American revolution began and it was here in Iloilo that the Americans suffered their first defeat in the hands of Ilonggo fighters under the leadership of Martin Delgado. It was a hard fight so that ultimately the Ilonggos were forced to surrender. The fiesta of Jaro, February 2, 1901 marked the end of the Philippine Independence in Iloilo, when the signing of the formal surrender took place - witnessed by thousands of people who came to celebrate one of the inglorious fiestas of Jaro.
The Ilonggos have shown their bravery by espousing a noble cause. All these because somebody named Martin Delgado lead the way.
So how are Ilonggo heroes made then? Three things: the known bravery of Ilonggos, the occasion which presents a noble cause and the quality of leadership. The former two we always have, the latter it seems we don’t. For the Ilongos to claim its rightful place in history, whether in society, in the church or in our communities we need three.