There is a photograph taken during the “Battle of Mendiola” on January 30, 1970, showing a truck full of young people, ramming the gates of Malacan͂ang Palace. They were symbolically storming the seat of power, in a show of new-found confidence and strength by the country’s youth restlessly seeking change.
Romulo Jallores’ picture atop that truck, wearing a beret just like Ernesto “Che” Guevara, the legendary revolutionary of Latin America, made him famous after that. Activists called him Che. Like the picture itself, splashed across the pages of a national magazine, Jallores became a symbol of the emerging struggle for national emancipation.
He had been born poor, one of six children that their mother raised by herself. Jallores loved to read and discuss all sorts of topics with his friends. As a child he enjoyed playing war games with the others, always taking the side of the weaker opponent, she said. After second-year high school, however, he dropped out and set off for Manila to work for a living.
He supported himself by doing garage work, construction work, machine shop work. Towards the end of the 1960s, rising student and youth activism drew him in and provided answers to his questions. He began attending teach-ins and demonstrations, joining marches and other protest actions.
Shortly after the Battle of Mendiola, with his brother Benjie he returned to his native Bicol region to organize among the landless peasants and the workers in the fields of abaca. To the activists still in Manila, the Jallores brothers became a symbol of a higher form of struggle in the countryside, one that demanded utmost dedication and sacrifice. Romulo Jallores became famous as “Tangkad,” reputed to be among the top guerrilla leaders there along with his brother.
In 1971, government troops surrounded a house in Naga City where Jallores had been meeting with some comrades. He refused to surrender, and went down in the exchange of fire, in which a constabulary lieutenant also died. News of his death electrified the surging protest movement in Manila, providing a glimpse of the risks and glories of the path that Tangkad had taken.
When martial law was declared by President Marcos the following year, many among “the best and the brightest” of that generation were inspired to follow Romulo Jallores in going to the grassroots and working among the people to bring about radical change, no matter what the cost.
BORN : November 8, 1948 in Ocampo, Camarines Sur
DIED : December 30, 1971 in Naga City
PARENTS : Edilberto Jallores and Marcela Acetre
EDUCATION : Elementary: Moriones Elementary School, Ocampo, Camarines Sur
Secondary: Sta. Clara Academy, Tigaon, Camarines Sur
On July 5, 1972, Benjie Jallores was killed in a raid by constabulary troops in a remote area of Ocampo, Camarines Sur. See Ricardo Lee, “Ang Mahabang Maikling Buhay ni Kumander Tangkad,” Asia-Philippines Leader, Pebrero 18, 1972, pp. 34-36.