Wenceslao Q. Vinzons, Filipino exemplar
The greatness of Wenceslao Q. Vinzons, as well as his advocacy for clean government and moral leadership, constitutes an example worthy of emulation by the present generation. Vinzons was an intellectual and visionary leader who applied himself to studying and analyzing the conditions of his country. He noted the deep problem of poverty and dug deeper into its primary causes. He saw the excesses and abuses of the powers-that-be and worked to find an intelligent solution through collective action in order to curb them.
Born on Sept. 28, 1910, in the town of Indan, Camarines Norte, Vinzons, nicknamed Bintao, studied at Vinzons Elementary School and graduated at the top of his class. He then attended Camarines Norte High School and finished valedictorian in 1927. This gifted Bicolano pursued his college degree at the University of the Philippines and graduated cum laude from the UP College of Law. He later on took the bar examinations and placed third in the 1933 bar exams.
He earned his fame as a father of student activism when he led several mass actions of his fellow students against the self-aggrandizement of the lawmakers at the time. He distinguished himself in UP as an orator and debater par excellence. He became a youth leader, an activist and a well-regarded writer while in college.
When World War II broke out, Vinzons quickly organized a resistance group against the Japanese Imperial Army. Under his valiant leadership, the Vinzons guerrilla movement was said to have killed over 3,000 Japanese soldiers. Because of his war exploits, Vinzons became the most wanted guerrilla by the Japanese in Bicol. After months of being hunted down, he was finally captured, along with his family, by the Japanese through the help of a fellow Filipino guerrilla who turned traitor on Vinzons. He was asked to cooperate with the Japanese government, but refused to do so.
Vinzons endeavored to face up to the greatest odds and the most stern realities confronting him in order to hold aloft the torch of freedom, the dignity of the Filipino, and the value of national salvation. He was a martyr and a hero, a student of noteworthy diligence, a prolific writer, a brilliant orator, an intrepid student leader, an eminent politician and statesman, and an outstanding intellectual.
His pursuit of personal excellence did not lead to self-glorification; instead, he used his talents to serve higher ends, such as to champion the interests of the underprivileged and uplift the conditions of the working class, as exemplified by his stint as a young lawyer for mine industry workers and as an advocate for nationalistic solutions to put order to a ramshackle commonwealth bureaucracy.
The heroism of Vinzons awakened the sense of nationalism and patriotism among Filipinos of his time, and served as an impetus toward regaining the freedom that had been snatched by the Japanese invaders. His defiant exploits would be remembered as among the most daring counteroffensives against the superior firepower of a foreign enemy.
Today, as the nation reels in unsettling and uncertain times, it would do well to be inspired by Wenceslao Q. Vinzons. His example can help make us become better Filipinos, by inspiring us to pursue integrity, patriotism and heroism in our own everyday situations. May the life and legacy of Bintao become a guiding principle and philosophy for all of us who are in constant search for national meaning and purpose.
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Abel C. Icatlo is a cum laude graduate of the University of the Philippines Diliman and a distant relative of Wenceslao Q. Vinzons.
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