Today is National Heroes Day. Normally, we take this opportunity to remember the prominent figures in our history. We usually commemorate the heroism of Rizal, Bonifacio, Mabini, Jacinto, Tandang Sora, Plaridel, General Luna, among others and their contributions to our history.
Then there are the heroes who were not as fortunate to be as honored as the aforementioned figures. The closest to an honor they would get is a street named after name, as well as a monument if they are more fortunate. Even so, because no one has bothered to educate the people with regards to the identities of the people behind these street names and their contributions to the country, such honors would be in vain as people never get to know to appreciate their role in shaping our country’s history. Sadly, this is the case of many of the streets named after famous and less famous figures in our history.
This National Heroes Day, the Urban Roamer pays tribute to the unsung heroes immortalized in our streets with this humble tribute as we remember the heroism of some of these unsung heroes in the struggle for freedom during the Philippine Revolution.
MASANGKAY: A HERO’S CONFIDANT IS A HERO HIMSELF
One of the most prominent streets of Manila’s Santa Cruz-Binondo area is a street called Masangkay, named after a prominent figure in the Kataastaasang, Kagalang-galang na Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan or the KKK/Katipunan movement. But more than that, he was also a good friend and confidant of Andres Bonifacio, the movement’s founder and Supremo.
Guillermo Masangkay was born on June 25, 1867 in the area known before as Meisic, now known as the place where you can find Lucky Chinatown and 999 shopping malls. He grew up in a poor family, finding himself working as a boatman early in life but was a voracious reader enough to know the dire conditions of the country under the Spanish colonial regime. He eventually befriended Bonifacio as they both shared the same ideals and aspirations for the country. Soon enough, when the Katipunan movement was founded on July 7, 1892, Masangkay became one of its earliest members. He eventually became Bonifacio’s confidant and adviser; Masangkay was with Bonifacio when the first cry of independence was declared in Pamitinan Cave at Mt. Tapusi (known as the Cave of Bernardo Carpio) in Montalban (now Rodriguez) outside Manila on April 12, 1895 and it was he who helped make possible the establishment of a Katipunan chapter in Cavite, which paved way for the rise of one Emilio Aguinaldo.
Masangkay would later figure in the Philippine Revolution as a Katipunan leader then of the Philippine revolutionary forces. After the war, Masangkay retired to tend to his own family and business while serving as an advocate of Bonifacio and the Katipunan movement. In fact, he helped raise a considerable amount in helping realize the construction of the Bonifacio Monument in Caloocan. He died on May 30, 1963.
THE HEROES OF SANTA MESA
Unfortunately, not much is known about these people known as the heroes of Santa Mesa, save for very scant accounts about them. Yet they played an important, if overlooked, part in the Philippine Revolution, especially when it first broke out.
Sancho Valenzuela was one of those who heeded the call of liberty when the Philippine Revolution broke out in 1896. He was a self-made businessman, running one of the many rope-making industries located in what is now known as Bacood. This makes him one of the very few successful businessmen at the time who had no foreign blood. But his Filipino pride is not only about business. You see, he and his workers secretly made weapons after work hours such as bolos and spears. Right after the events of the Battle of Pinaglabanan on August 30, 1896, he proceeded to lead an attack on the police barracks in Sampaloc, along with Ramon Peralta, (said to be a cabeza de barangay living in Santa Ana) and Modesto Sarmiento. However they were to be defeated along the way by a more superior Spanish artillery in Santa Mesa. They were later captured and executed in Bagumbayan (aka Luneta or Rizal Park) on September 4, 1896, the first revolutionaries to be executed there by the Spaniards during the Philippine Revolution. They were buried in a common grave; their relatives would never be able to identify their remains so they can be re-interred in a more dignified manner.
With no remains identified and no monuments built for them, they were given the honor of having the streets of Valenzuela, Peralta, and Sarmiento in Manila’s Santa Mesa district named after them. Despite the honor, their heroism remains to be unfamiliar, especially among many in the district who deserve to learn the heroism they have done for the country.
KALENTONG: THE MANDALUYONG HERO
For many denizens of the metropolis today, Kalentong would refer to that busy major thoroughfare in Mandaluyong connecting to both San Juan and Manila. But not many people know about the person in whose honor the street was named after. Heck, some don’t even know that this road was named after a person in the first place.
Kalentong itself is not a name but an alias of Vicente Leyba, a native of Barangka in the old suburb of Mandaluyong. Born in 1874, Leyba came from humble beginnings and he made a living by selling milk. He eventually joined the Katipunan and when the Philippine Revolution broke out, he distinguished himself as a skilled and courageous soldier of the revolution. One notable mission he carried out was delivering the order for the Katipuneros based in Pateros to begin their attack, resulting in what would be the ill-fated Pateros campaign of the revolution. Unfortunately, he was mortally wounded during a battle in Baliuag, Bulacan in 1898 where he eventually died. He was buried in Biak Na Bato and was honored by being raised to the rank of general by Emilio Aguinaldo.
In addition to the street named after him, a monument honoring him, Bonifacio, and Laureano Gonzales, a notable Katipunan leader in Mandaluyong, was built in Mandaluyong’s Barangay Hagdang Bato.