Gen. Miguel Malvar, the forgotten hero
Wilma Yamzon (The Philippine Star) - June 12, 2011 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - About five years ago, a group of Hollywood producers, led by Robert Brown, came to Manila to interview the only surviving daughter of a Filipino National Hero — Dr. Isabel Malvar Villegas.

Their plan: To make a movie on the life of Gen. Miguel Malvar, the last general who surrendered to the American expeditionary forces at the end of the Philippine-American War in 1902.

The movie intended to highlight the Fil-Am war since there has not been any film of that particular battle at the outset of the 20th century.

Producers planned to adopt the like-plot of the Mahatma Gandhi movie or William Wallace, the hero in Braveheart that depicted the British-Scottish war.

In Braveheart starring Mel Gibson, Wallace is the Scottish rebel who led an uprising against oppressive English ruler Edward the Longshanks and freed Scotland.

In Malvar’s case, producers, who wanted Antonio Banderas to portray the general, wished to show the Filipino rebellion against the Americans.

But recession hit the US and the plan on the movie was shelved.

About half a century has passed, Malvar, the second president of the Philippine Republic, seems to have been a forgotten hero.

Today, the Philippine-American War Centennial Foundation  (PAWCF) will honor Isabel, now 101, in the historic Lapu-Lapu City in Cebu.

The event is in recognition of the legacy the Malvar family has left to the Filipino people, both in social and political arena.

Isabel is the youngest daughter in a brood of 11. Her eldest brother, Bernabe, became an executive secretary of Commonwealth President Manuel Luis Quezon, while her younger brother, Maximo, was elected provincial governor of Batangas for several terms.

Another brother, Miguel Jr., served as director of the Philippine National Railways, while Malvar’s youngest son, Pablo, a lawyer, became a judge of the Court of First Instance (now regional trial court).

Isabel’s sister, Crispina, married the late Bibiano Meer, the longest reigning commissioner of the Bureau of Internal Revenue who served during the time of Presidents Manuel Roxas, Elpidio Quirino and Ramon Magsaysay.

Meer’s son, Antonio Jr., co-founded with Antonio Cojuangco Jr. the Philippine Long Distance Company (PLDT).

Isabel herself was one of the first graduates of Assumption College and the Philippine Dental College. Her husband, Dr. Jose Villegas Sr., was former undersecretary of the Department of Health.

Long after the death of Gen. Malvar, Isabel pressed for the return of the famous Balangiga Bells of Samar that was brought to the US as war booty by the American invaders, called for an end to apartheid, and opposed the RP-US military bases agreement.

As a mother, she always advises her children to “love your country and work hard to protect the family.”

Her ideals and principles found fruition in her sons Eriberto, a revolutionist detained during martial law and co-founder of economic data center Ibon Foundation; Bernardo, an economist, is member of the 1987 Constitutional Commission, co-founder of the University of Asia and the Pacific, and a newspaper columnist.

Another son, Jose, is a staunch anti-crime and pro-labor lawyer. He co-founded the Lapiang Manggagawa and the Citizens Crime Watch.  

Art Lumagod, PAWCF executive director, said the occasion on Independence Day coincides with the launching of the Gen. Miguel Malvar Achievement Award for persons who excel in their chosen fields.

“This is our way of thanking the Malvar family for their great contributions to the country and Filipino people,“ Lumagod concluded.

ANTONIO BANDERAS ANTONIO COJUANGCO JR. THE PHILIPPINE LONG DISTANCE COMPANY ANTONIO JR. ART LUMAGOD ASSUMPTION COLLEGE AND THE PHILIPPINE DENTAL COLLEGE BIBIANO MEER BRAVEHEART BUREAU OF INTERNAL REVENUE COMMONWEALTH PRESIDENT MANUEL LUIS QUEZON MALVAR
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