Rosario Prosia Dongallo: A humble legacy of public service

ROSAURO P. Dongallo, Sr. was just like the typical “Yano” from Cebu who braved leaving their humble beginnings to seek their fortune elsewhere against great and seemingly insurmountable odds.

He was born on August 31, 1916 in Barrio Macaas, municipality of Catmon, the fifth child of Angelo Dongallo and Anastacia Prosia. He completed his primary and secondary education at the Catmon Central School.

Education was his dream and greatest frustration. "Ross" was able to complete high school, but there were twelve other siblings who relied on their meager family income, so he decided to leave his home. And along with it, he also left his childhood dream of becoming a doctor.

He became a Sacada, a farm worker in the harsh sugarcane haciendas of Bacolod, to sustain himself. He knew the importance of education early on that he sought it, first, by enrolling in the Cebu School of Arts and Trade in 1939 to enhance his skills.

Though Ross grew up having some knowledge of farming, his father being both a farmer and fisherman, it was in this trade school that he began to appreciate gardening, saying that: "There was something in this work of nature that fascinated my young mind and I would look on a seed with the wondering thought that inside pulsated life just waiting to reach into the earth to be born."

At the age of 20, Ross was drafted as a military trainee and was sent to Camp Dau in Mabalacat, Pampanga. He became an Army officer in 1940. He once wrote: “Achievement always came with earnest determination, so long as I was also prepared to take the risks."

When World War II broke out, he was assigned to Camp Carmen in Bohol; in Majuyod, Negros Oriental; and eventually in Bugo, Misamis Oriental.

Ross later married the former Didi Valmores Dongallo of Balingasag, Misamis Oriental on November 15, 1944. They have five children: Rosauro Jr., Beverly, Emmanuel, Jessie and Josephine and 18 grandchildren.

"Military Service"

Dongallo was commissioned as Third Lieutenant of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in 1940 and was called for active duty the following year.

In 1942, he was assigned in Misamis Oriental where he actively engaged in warfare. That same year, he led in the ambush of 38 Japanese soldiers at Cabadbaran, Agusan Del Norte.

As an Army Captain in 1943, he raided Japanese garrisons in Gingoogand Talisayan. There was no loss of life among his troops. Dongallo’s company was able to recover valuable documents and equipment, such as radio transmitters, barges, rifles, and grenades from the Japanese soldiers.

He was promoted to the rank of Major and his stint as a guerilla office made him a recipient of many awards given by the United States Army Forces in the Far East (Usaffe), which included one for bravery.

A few months after World War II ended in Asia, Major Dongallo retired from his active military duty on April 29, 1946.

"As a Businessman & Socio-Civic Leader"

Upon his retirement from the military service, Dongallo ventured into several business and socio-civic activities. He also believed in the value of education; that an educational institution is the best avenue to prepare oneself to face the challenges of life.

When the chance to invest in an educational institution presented itself, he grabbed the opportunity as he wanted to help young men and women like him reach their dreams and ambitions through affordable but quality education.

He was not one of the original founders of the Cagayan de Oro College-Phinma Education Network, which was then named Parent Teacher College.

But he was one of the very few, among the many businessmen in Cagayan de Oro, who risked investing his resources to bail out the school from financial difficulties and possible bankruptcy. It was during his tenure as president that the PTC was renamed Cagayan de Oro College. He also invested his personal resources to build the first multi-story building of COC, which unfortunately burned down sometime in the 90s.

Aided by his astute and business-minded wife, he became a successful businessman with interests in logging and real estate. He established the Dongallo Enterprises, Inc. in 1951 that was engaged in logging concessions in Butuan City. He was also the Chairman of the Board of Directors and President of the Cagayan de Oro Industries, the Adgawan Timber Inc., the Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao Construction and Supply Co., the Desamparados Real Estate Development Inc. and the Himatagon Lumber Inc.

"Life as a Politician"

Governor Dongallo was initially reluctant to go into politics. In 1959, he was invited offer to run for the gubernatorial seat of Misamis Oriental and received a bid as a Congressional candidate for the First District of Cebu. He declined both offers. He eventually said "yes" to the call of politics when he decided to run for vice governor in 1969.

He was sworn in as vice governor by Judge Meynardo Tiro on January 1, 1972.

When Governor Concordio Diel was appointed as Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government in 1974, Dongallo became the Acting Governor of the province. His oath of office was administered by Judge Benjamin Gorospe.

On March 30, 1976, Rosauro Dongallo was sworn into office as the twentieth Governor of Misamis Oriental by President Ferdinand E. Marcos at Malacañang.

Governor Dongallo’s administration focused on the promotion and development of the cooperative programs of Misamis Oriental.

“The foundation and the center of my administration is not only for political and social development, but more importantly for the development of our people’s economic welfare through "cooperativism" to instill in them self-reliance and discipline,” he once said.

He ensured that farm-to-market roads were built so farmers would be able to transport their products to market towns and distribution centers.

One of the highlights of Dongallo’s stint as Governor was the inauguration of the Philippine Sinter Corporation in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental in 1977. This event was graced by President Ferdinand Marcos and First Lady Imelda Marcos.

On June 6, 1977, Governor Rosauro Dongallo and officials of the National Electrification Administration (NEA) and the Misamis Oriental II Electric Service Cooperative (Moresco II) signed a loan agreement at Medina, Misamis Oriental that granted the cooperative the investment to penetrate far-flung areas to serve power needs of people and afford them better entrepreneurial opportunities.

On May 4 to 6, 1979, United States Ambassador Richard W. Murphy conducted a state visit to the Province of Misamis Oriental and led the laying of the cornerstone of the Moresco-1 International Training Center on Rural Electrification for Developing Countries in Laguindingan.

Under Governor Dongallo’s stewardship, the province of Misamis Oriental was a recipient of the Philippine Government and the United States Agency International Development’s (USAID) Provincial Development Assistance Project, which provided direct technical and commodity support assistance to selected provincial governments. USAID provided technical and financial assistance in the building of bridges and farm-to-market roads to increase the productivity and income of the farmers.

It was also during Governor Dongallo’s term that the Iligan-Cagayan de Oro-Butuan Highway materialized. The groundbreaking took place on June 18, 1975 at Tagoloan.

As a public official, he belonged to the “old school” of public service, which meant that he denied himself the benefits and trappings that came with his office. Some of the old people still remember him as the governor who took the “motorela” to office. In 1976, he was awarded “Most Outstanding Governor of the Philippines.”

In one of his journals, he wrote: "Anything that I love or hold dear, even the smallest thing, will always matter to me. My sense of loyalty is such that I will always rise to protect what are of value to me. Or grieve over them if they are lost. I certainly will have no respect for a person who would attach importance and value only to articles that command a high price in the market. That is to place a premium on love and loyalty. There are values, after all,that cannot be measured in terms of money; values that lie in how they mean to you. It is in the heart that you find the true value of anything."
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