Local Heroes

Giant Lantern


Bail was set for two hundred thousand dollars. But the Filipino community rallied to his defense. They hired one of the greatest criminal lawyers, Clarence Darrow, to plead his case. He was soon acquitted and decided to return to the Philippines afterwards. While in jail, Cuyugan was subject of newspapers in both Philippines and Chicago. He was now returning home, a celebrated hero.
A short while after his arrival, in 1927, Cuyugan was appointed municipal vice-president of San Fernando. He would later be elected to the same position in 1931, and later, the first mayor of San Fernando under the Philippine Commonwealth, the first Socialist in the Philippines to be elected mayor.
Vivencio Cuyugan was one of the voices of the oppressed, a mission he had lived for even while in Chicago. Here, he became the defender of the laborer, the landless and the peasant farmer. Although part of the upper class, he was also able to identify himself with the lowly and soon joined socialist movement leader, Pedro Abad Santos, in creating the Socialist Party.
As mayor, Cuyugan dared to go against big economic interests in the town. In another celebrated incident, he went after PASUDECO, the biggest sugar central in Central Luzon, for dumping waste into the San Fernando River and polluting it.
Then councilor, and later mayor of Manila, Manuel C. dela Fuente was one of those who sided with these big economic interests and commented adversely to Cuyugan's action, calling a "no-brain" mayor. And just like a repeat of his Chicago experience, Cuyugan immediately challenged de la Fuente to a personal duel. De la Fuente accepted. But when the appointed hour of the duel approached, de la fuente was a no show, running off the batangas to seek the invention of Jose P. Laurel.
When the Japanese Imperial Army invaded the town, Cuyugan resigned as mayor and together worth other Socialists, who included Luis Taruc, Mayors Castro alejandro and Mariano Sampang, Apung Banal and others, founded the Hukbong Bayan Laban Sa Hapon (Hukbalahap). He served as its first Commander-in-Chief. But due to a stroke, he was forced to turn over the helm of the guerilla movement to Luis Taruc. Meanwhile, the Japanese used the sequestered Cuyugan Residence as the temporary seat of the municipal government, since the municipio was burned down. This adds to the historical significance of the house.
His life was endangered because every time Rizal came to lilario's house the whole household and all the buildings and garden were searched by the Spaniards. There was a time when his daughter did not succeed in burning all the books when the Hilario's house was searched so the Spaniards got hold of some of them. They arrested Tiburcio and imprisoned him. It was mere luck that he was not persecuted.
After the war, Cuyugan was reinstated as mayor of San Fernando, but was soon replaced due to his uncompromising position in defense of the continuing struggle of the Hukbalahap. He lived in semi-retirement after this save for few incidents. He was asked to testify against Claro M. Recto on charges of collaboration , but refused saying "over his dead body". He was also imprisoned for six months in 1953, during the term of President Ramon Magsaysay, on the charge that he was one of the leaders of the Communist Party Cuyugan died in 1971.
We may have lost the Abad Santos house, but there are many more structures worth saving in the city of San Fernando, such as the residence of Vivencio Cuyugan. Each edifice has its own story to tell. And little known accounts such as these make us value our historical and cultural heritage more than ever.

Mayor's Corner

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