THE BIRTH OF OCAMPO

In 1949, when the post-war Congress was convened, Sebastian Moll, Jr., Congressman for the Second District of Camarines Sur, sponsored a bill creating the Municipality of Mabatobato. But the Municipality of Pili from where Mabatobato had been attached as a mere barrio since the first year of American occupation, fearful of the potential loss of a large portion of their territory and the revenue which went along with it, made a vigorous opposition to this plan. Represented by Mayor Justo Cansuncad and Anastacio Prila, a member of the provincial board of Camarines Sur, went to the Presidential of the Republic and lodged their opposition. When the bill was approved, apparently in compliance with his promise to his party mates from Pili, the President promptly issued his veto. But congressman Moll’s relentless campaign to have it signed paid off. On July 15, 1949, President Quirino signed what came to be famous among the municipality as EO No. 243 or Executive Order Number 243 “Organizing certain barrios of the Municipality of Pili, Camarines Sur, into an Independent Municipality under the name of Ocampo.” The Official text of the order reads:

Upon the recommendation of the Secretary of the Interior, and pursuant to the provisions of Section 68 of the revised Administrative code, the barrios of Mabatobato, Ayugan, Hanawan and Moriones, all of the Municipality of Pili, Province of Camarines Sur, are hereby organized into an Independent Municipality under the name of Ocampo, with the seat of government at the barrio of Mabatobato. The boundaries of the Municipality of Ocampo shall be the same as those of the former Municipality of Mabatobato before it was Annexed to the Municipality of Pili. 

The Municipality of Ocampo shall begin to exist upon the appointment and qualification of the Mayor, Vice-Mayor, and a majority of the Municipal Councilor thereof.

This Executive Order was signed in Manila on July 15, 1949, by President Elpidio Quirino and by his Executive Secretary, Teodoro Evangelista.

A month after it was signed, on August 10, 1949, the Jubilant Officials and residents of the newly created town, with their guests such as speaker Perez, “inaugurated,” the event, as one local chronicler put it.

The name adopted by the town was derived from Julian O. Ocampo, the first proponent of its separation from Pili. Born in the Town of Nabua on 1 February 1880 to the renowned and wealthy family of Eugenio Ocampo and Jullian Oleta, Julian was married to Amparo Enrile. With their wealth, Julian was able to enjoy the privilege of pursuing higher education from some of the best schools in the country. Beginning with his studies in the seminary, Julian later pursued his Bachelors of Laws in the Liceo de Manila where he also acquired his facility for the English Language. 

As politics ran in his blood, Julian was Elected Governor of Camarines and served in that office from 1919 to 1922. He was also elected Representative to the National Assembly from 1912 to 1916. In 1935, he was again elected Provincial Governor of Camarines Sur. His commitment to serving the Province was dramatically demonstrated when he refused the office being offered to him to be the Assistant Secretary of the Interior. His office as governor was achieved without much personal effort, for even when confined for more than a year in the Hospital of San Juan de Dios due to sickness, Julian still earned a resounding victory. Even in his professional career, Julian earned the reputation of being one of the best Lawyers the province had. He died June 24, 1946, and was buried on July 1, 1936.  

THE CHALLENGES OF THE MUNICIPAL GOVERNANCE

The elevation of this once sleepy barrio into a vibrant Municipality ushered in the exuberant mood among its residents. Three years after the term of the appointment Mayor, a Municipal Election was held, and Ocampo had their first duly elected Municipal Mayor, Antero Flor.

A native of the neighboring town of Baao, Flor was born on January 3, 1911, to Pablo Flor and Vicenta Robosa. He was the 5th child among the 8 children. A teacher by profession, he was assigned to primary schools in various municipalities before the outbreak of the Pacific War. He married Estela Valencia Cezar whom he met during his teaching stint in Pili. An accomplished poet, composer, musician, an eloquent orator, and a prolific writer having written an article in an American newspaper immediately after the Liberation, he tired his luck in politics and in 1952, ran for the mayoral position in Ocampo and won.

Flor inherited a municipality beset with lingering post-war problems. As a man of action, Flor addressed the most basic and immediate needs of the municipality such as the appropriation of lands for public use and the construction of a deep well pump to provide the residents access to safe potable water.

One of the priorities of his administration was the determination of their long-standing problem with their boundaries. This was one of the municipal concerns which promptly addressed as soon as he assumed his post. But the slow-moving wheel of justice caused him concern which he voiced out in his message in the Town Fiesta Program in 1954: 

Our fight for boundary question settlement seems to be ignored or is being stalled. What shall we do? The longer the status quo is maintained, the more Ocampo’s right is trampled. I could possibly force a complete decision in our favor for we have the papers and evidence but I need money. I need money. And so I need your backing aside from the council’s backing. 

Without adequate local resources, Flor had to rely on outside help, particularly on his project of having a local municipal building: “We are about to be a recipient of the ₱10,000.00 Municipal Hall to be built on an already donated and documented half hectare site…”

To encourage entrepreneur not only from the locality but from outside, Flor invested in a half-hectare lot for a market building in the heart of the town and also on the other strategic locations such as at Cagmanaba and Hanawan through a loan in the amount of ₱30,000.00 from the Revolving Fund or from the R.F.C. But aside from those already in place, Flor also planned to realize the acquisition of a one-hectare plantation in the Poblacion, a public cemetery, the completion of the Ocampo-Ayugan-Caranday-Tapul Road and the Gatbo Road, and also the construction of more barrio School Buildings and opening of extension classes and newly opened barrio schools. But Flor knew he had limited time to accomplish all these, which he openly confessed in one of his speeches: “There is only one year and a few months left and only one more fiesta celebration for my administration unless by some dictates of the Miraculous you will put me back to finish and make more firm and solid the foundation of the newly recreated Municipality”.

Barely five years since it rises as a town, Ocampo experienced unprecedented economic growth and a vibrant social climate. Such economics milestone was dramatically demonstrated during the fiesta celebration on that year which was overwhelmed with pump and variety of festive activities. In 1956, Gervacio Marpuri was elected to succeed Flor. A native of Iriga where he was born on June 19, 1898, Marpuri migrated to Mabatobato where he was elected as pre-war municipal councilor of Pili and continued to serve under the Japanese Government until his selection as the second Mayor of the Town. It was to his credit that the projects earlier planned by Mayor Flor were realized under his administration. One of these was the Municipal Building, realized through the assistance provided by Senator Edmundo Cea and Governor Juan Triviño. The project was a Public-Private Endeavor since the lot was acquired as a donation by Pedro Pural, one of the wealthy residents of the town. The same was true with the public market which was realized because of a land donation by the Family of Juvenal Briones. Marpuri made a public report of his accomplishments in the Ocampo Town Fiesta Invitations Program in 1957:

To date, we have a newly constructed Market building. Our Municipal as well as social halls are being built today. I believe it will not be amiss to mention the sources of funds that make the construction possible. For the Market Building, we utilize the allotment given by the Hon. Senator Edmundo B. Cea of ₱10,000.00. for the Municipal Hall, we have again the help of Senator E.B. Cea of ₱15,000.00 and Congressman Felix A. Fuentebella of ₱10,000.00. the social hall is being constructed with the funds raised through benefits and solicitation from various civic spirited individuals and civic organizations from within without this municipality. These gestures of our generous benefactors bespeak laudably of their concern for us. For these, I would like to extend to them my profound gratitude in addition to those here who I believe are deserving in their hearts.

Aside from his infrastructure projects, the Mayor was also interested in the beautification of the streets and devoted his efforts to animating the social life of the town by holding the first street dance ball with the music rendered by two local orchestras.

A DECADE OF HOPE

“Ocampo is young and struggling Municipality, with its dreams and desire to possess all the public edifices and improvements that appertain to truly progressive town,” wrote Mayor Marpuri, “at present, we are engaged in a comprehensive construction program to carry out these dreams and desire into fruition”. But such enthusiasm could only find the translation to actual structures if adequate funds could be acquired and thus this indefatigable Mayor declared his intention to accomplish his plans through serious fundraising: “to make these possible, we are launching an intensive land Tac collection and various fund campaigns”. 

Local funds however were inadequate and thus had to seek them from the National Government. The Mayor laid down the measures he had adopted.

We passed a resolution requesting Congress to appropriate additional funds to finance the construction of Feeder Roads to outlying barrios, the erection of a Puericulture center building, the repair of damaged schools, and the construction of new ones in such other public projects. The campaigns and solicitations are geared to make out dreams and desire not only mere wishful thinking but a practical as well as concrete proof that this administration has in heart improvement of the town and ultimate welfare of the people. 

The first five years of the post-war era in Ocampo began to show signs of past recovery. Aside from the rehabilitation of the basic infrastructure, commerce began to indicate as steady movement towards a rebound with the gradual rise of stores particularly owned by the Chinese such as that of Lee Ping Sim Store, Uy Se Tua (Togna) Dealer of Abaca, Copra and Palay, Ching’s Store, and Tan Ka. These Chinese stores were also competing with the growing number of those owned by Local residences such as Agaton Rosales Store, a dealer in Palay, and Sari-sari, which also operated one of the earlier rice mills in the Municipality. Socorro Briones, and bigger variety stores such as Our Sotre Shoes and General Merchandise, owned by Pedro Toral. It also had a restaurant The Akoy restaurant and Café. An orchestra enlivened the Municipal celebrations through the Celino Brother’s Orchestra, owned and managed by Luis Celino. Large scale investment was made by the Valencia Brothers in the Ocampo Piggery and Poultry Farm, the growing demand in the commercial and legal transactions encouraged the Mayor, Antero R. Flor, to open his own office as a Notary Public.

By 1957, more commercials establishments were added to the expanding list which included Flora’s Store, owned by Flora Tenorio. Godo’s Store, renowned merchants and palay dealer, the P. Montale’s Store, General Merchants own by Lorenzo Formalejo. In the 1957 souvenir program. 

Firm or ProducerArticles ProducedLocation
Gregorio Plazo and Sons Faustino De Vergara Epifania Bonas Juan Tagum Dominador Flores Antonia BascunaAbaca shingles Bolos, scythes and sickles Takba Bamboo Sawali Fancy wrapped rattan whip Decorative stonesSta Cruz Hanawan Moriones La Purisima Nuevo Poblacion Hanawan

A major texture of development in the town was the opening of a private secondary school, the Ocampo High School with Antero Flor as Director and Principal while Fr. Jose Rey its registrar.

The town renamed dependent on Agriculture with rice as the major crop. Other plants being raised in the Municipality included corn, abaca, coconut, fruits, and vegetables. Bamboo which grew almost anywhere had become a major source of revenue. A large-scale agricultural plantation was being developed in what was called Hacienda Tenorio owned by Atty. Briccio Tenorio. The residence had also exploited other resources in the locality for their additional income such as the quarrying of sands stones and gravel from the river beds.

An incipient tourism consciousness began to promote the provincial agricultural Nursery and Propagation station at Hanawan, as well as the Medicinal water found near the barrio of Gatbo, Minastransahan on Mt. Isarog, aside occupied by the ordinance division of Filipino insurgents during the Filipino American war. 

THE ROAD TO THE NEXT MILLENNIUM

The next decade, the sixties, opened a new chapter in the life of the residents of the Ocampo. With a registered population of 14,572 in 1960, Ocampo ranked as among the more densely populated towns in the province, outranking even some of the oldest towns in the province, such as Canaman (8,988), Milaor (8,551), Magarao (8,501), and Camaligan (8,529), among others.

Another chapter in the political life of the town was also unfolding that year with the election of a new chief executive, Alejo Jallores. A native of Tigaon where he was born on July 17, 1913, in the family of Jacinto Jallores and Andrea Encarnacion. At the age of 10, Alejo was adopted by his childless auntie. He thereafter settled in Mabatobato where he married Esperanza Martinez from Sagnay. Alejo was not a neophyte in the local politics of Ocampo as he already served as municipal councilor for several terms, first, when Mabatobato was still annexed to Pili and later on when it was created an independent municipality.

As chief executive, Jallores enjoyed the confidence of his constituents as evident in his elections for three consecutive terms from 1960 to 1971. Jallores had the distinction of being one of the longest in politics, from 1948 until 1971.

One discernible pattern among the elected chief executives of the town, from Flor to Jallores, was that all of them had roots outside Ocampo, the next mayor was not an exception. Arturo Gollon Gernale was elected mayor in 1972. Born on December 29, 1929, in Bulan, Sorsogon, Gernale was assigned as Sanitary Inspector in Ocampo in 1954. After spending almost 2 decades in Ocampo, Gernale ran for public office and won. While the seventies was among the most subdued era in politics, it was nonetheless a prolific episode in terms of the municipality’s infrastructure development. “Sani” short for Sanidad, Gernale’s popular monicker among the local residents, had accomplished a number of monumental projects. The constructions of the Alcantara Bridge, the market building, the May-Ogob-Tinago road, a rural health building, and the opening of the Ayugan-San Vicente extension road, were among the projects he accomplished. Education was also given importance in his administration with the establishment of del Rosario Community School and the Ocampo High School, enabling the young people of the town to have access to secondary education right in their municipality.

The sixth elected mayor of Ocampo was the first to break the pattern, being the first native of the town, as he was born in the barrio of Hanawan on August 15, 1942. He was Rolando Belaos, son of Rolando Belaos and Modesta Bringino. A comparatively educated man, he was lured to politics upon his marriage with the daughter of the mayor of the municipality, Ludmila Jallores. He was initiated in politics as a municipal councilor in 1972 until his election to the mayoral post in 1978.

Among the accomplishments of his administration were the improvement of barangay roads, school facilities, the irrigation and the water supply system such as the establishment of BIRWAC, the local waterworks system, the construction of two market buildings, and the granting of life insurances to barangay tanods.

The eighties were a major turning point in national and local administration as the long-running president, Ferdinand Marcos was ousted by People Power. Its domino effects reached the farthest corners of the century including Ocampo where a new set of officials was appointed. The highest post in the local political arena was assigned to Florencio Celino, a well-loved public servant since he entered politics in 1967, as a municipal councilor.

Born in the same municipality on February 23, 1938, to Luis Celino and Maris Briones, Celino was among the earliest mayors to sit with a degree appropriate to a municipality undergoing rapid infrastructural changes. In the 1988 elections, Celino won in the same seat and his engineering expertise was thus put to good use. After exhausting his allowable terms, Mayor Celino retired from his mayoral post in 1998.

As the old millennium was coming to a close, a new set of local officials has also welcomed the beginning of the next thousands of years. On July 1, 1998, Mayor Fidel Carido was sworn to office as the same town on March 23, 1957, Carido came from a family of well-to-do farmers and politicians of Benigno Carido, Sr. and Fermina Carreras, both from the nearby town of Ocampo. His administration earned renown for his pro-poor and caused-oriented advocacies. From this time on, the municipality of Ocampo joins the other municipalities in the racetrack of the local development program and the rest is history in the making.

REFERENCE: Gerona, D. 2018.1 Ocampo: From a Franciscan Mission to a Municipality with a Vision. Local Government Unit of Ocampo, Camarines Sur