05 | Narciso

Narciso’s story is about brotherhood betrayed. And the story of family grappling with the law and a government that kept turning a blind eye to injustice.

Narciso had fought with President Quezon’s Own Guerrillas (PQOG) during the Japanese Occupation, in a unit attached to the US First Cavalry Division, officially declared a “Major, Infantry” of the US Armed Forces in 1945. After the war Narciso began a new life, building family and serving community as manager of the Escuderos’ Cooperative Coconut Factory, also in Tiaong. He also involved himself in facilitating the surrender of ex-PQOG comrades turned Hukbalahap members.

Narciso would help one Marcial Punzalan, admitted and surrendered Huk, whom the Herrera Umali family would help install as mayor of Tiaong.

Narciso himself ran for the post of Representative under the banner of the Nacionalista Party. The year was 1949, and the whole family would take to the campaign trail as a matter of course, and win votes with only their good name and a clean collective conscience. Narciso would become congressman of the 1st district of Quezon, even as the town of Tiaong was slowly falling into the grip of Mayor Punzalan's terrorist governance and illegal activities.

Narciso couldn’t stand by and watch his kababayans suffer, which would lead to his – and the family’s – unraveling. The events were as swift as witchhunts in times of redbaiting could be: in 1951 the mayor’s house was burned down and Narciso voluntarily went to be interviewed by the Army. He would be detained and jailed, never allowed bail, as the case filed against him by Punzalan proved heaven-sent to a government bent on impressing America. With Ramon Magsaysay as President Elipidio Quirino’s defense secretary, Narciso became the one big communist fish they would fry.

No matter that he was innocent. Neither did it matter that the key witness against him had recanted, nor that military officials testified to documents proving that the Huks were culpable for the arson and deaths.

This is the story of Congressman Narciso H. Umali, unjustly jailed, a victim of his political milieu. This is about five Philippine presidents refusing to grant Narciso his absolute freedom, and the countless familiar names that fought for him in the halls of Congress. This is about Philippine politics and governance, and the ties that bind it to America.

This is about the Herrera Umali's growing family, and how they kept it together in the most dire of circumstances, the most painful of tragedies.

Cover Design & 'Elias' Illustration: Mervin Malonzo
Book Design & Map Illustrations: Adam David