IT WAS my personal mission to be in San Jose, Antique last February 11 (Tuesday) to attend a morning ceremony for former governor Evelio Bellaflor Javier. At 10 a.m. on February 11, 1986 while talking to Cory Aquino’s supporters in front of Antique Provincial Capitol in San Jose, three to four gunmen peppered his body with bullets.
I am serious about this because my grandparents and parents who worked as ‘sacadas’ in Silay and later decided to settle permanently to become ‘dumaans’ (permanent workers) in Hda Adela in Silay were original residents of Brgy. Rombang in Belison, Antique. For the people of Antique, Evelio Javier is their idol, their hero and their model political leader. The Javier death commemoration that morning was simple but meaningful. Governor Rhodora Cadiao and Congressman Loren Legarda were there spearheading the occasion. A big group, the Friends of Evelio, made a solemn wreath laying.
Evelio Javier was a strong supporter of then presidential candidate Corazon Aquino in the February 1986 snap election. The assassination of Javier helped inflamed the EDSA People Power Revolution that kicked out dictator Ferdinand Marcos. He was a resident of Barangay Lanag, now Barangay Evelio B. Javier in Hamtic, Antique.
He was born on October 14, 1942. He spent his college years at Ateneo de Manila University where he finished Bachelor of Arts in History and Government in 1963. He finished his law degree in the same university in 1968 and passed the bar exam also on that year.
In 1971, he was elected governor of Antique at the age of 28, the youngest governor of the Philippines during that time. He served that post until 1980. When Marcos was pressured by the America, he announced a snap election. Javier supported Corazon Aquino, the widow of the slain Benigno Aquino, Jr.
As I mentioned earlier, he was attacked by gunmen. He fled across the park (in front of Capitol), fell in a pond, continued to run away from his killers, went inside the comfort room of a shop and in that dead end he was finished off. The governor was only 43 years old when he returned to his Creator.
His funeral on February 20, 1986 attracted thousands of mourning Antiquenos with their yellow shirts and yellow wrist bands. He was the Ninoy Aquino of Antique. They played his favorite song, ‘The Impossible Dream’. He is always remembered for reminding his fellow public officials, “The public office is not a source of livelihood, not an inheritance.”
Javier’s killers are presently detained at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City, Metro Manila. Some residents of Antique alleged that the mastermind was also a top political leader of the province. That mastermind has never been identified after a thorough investigation.
That morning, I was there with the other Antiquenos commemorating the 34th death anniversary of the slain governor, the people’s hero. He is close to my heart because after his death (while I was still a teacher), I wrote a seven-minute declamation piece, ‘Over the Death of Heroes’.
The piece was about what Evelio Javier and Benigno Aquino, Jr. did for their people. The piece was performed here in Silay and in Negros Occidental by Arlene Villanueva. She won first place. It was performed by Sheila Marie Siason during the regional competition hosted by Antique.
Sheila Marie Siason was the champion. After her delivery, the Antiquenos at the hall stood up while clapping their hands but all of them were crying. After she was declared winner, Sheila was requested to perform again. This time Sheila was no longer Sheila, the contestant. She delivered the piece while crying.
Evelio still dreams for that ‘Impossible Dream’. Antiquenos hope that with Legarda and Cadiao working together for Antique, there will be peace, unity and prosperity. Kruhay Antique!