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Col. Roman Ibañez’s memorabilia

/ 07:59 AM December 22, 2011

Congratulations to Cebu Gov.  Gwendolyn Garcia and Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama on their successful collaboration to beautify Osmeña Boulevard. It was the governor’s original idea to harness  suppliers and contractors of the province to help in the project by donating materials and labor, thus reducing government expenditure to almost nothing. It is now the turn of the Visayan Electric Co. (Veco) to begin burying all those wires criss-crossing over this broad avenue so that the picture will be made more perfect. If this is done, there would be no more need to trim those beautiful narra trees on the sidewalks, and we would end up with the kind of lush vegetation and cool atmosphere that pervades Orchard Road in Singapore, to cite an example.

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Museo Sugbo, the Cebu Provincial Museum, received a very welcome Christmas gift yesterday. Sr. Ofelia Ibañez, ICM, of St. Theresa’s College, bequeathed to the museum the memorabilia of her father, Col. Roman Ibañez. These comprise three United States Army-issued trunks or footlockers, a leather suitcase, boxes and the most significant and extremely important of them all, the colonel’s personal effects as a Bataan Death March survivor and subsequent prisoner of war at Camp O’Donnell in Capas, Tarlac, where all those who made it through the brutal and arduous 97-kilometer march in 1942 were detained and subsequently indoctrinated.

Sr. Ofelia and Museo Sugbo  personnel actually began transferring an initial set of one footlocker, a suitcase and a large carton—all full of uniforms and documents—some time in September this year. The Death March mementos had to wait till this month because these were still being photographed in detail. Included in the final transfer were the two other trunks and more cartons of papers, letters, speeches and more uniforms. A shin-gunto sword or katana, probably a souvenir from some fallen Japanese officer, is also part of the collection.

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The most prized is kept in a small, unpretentious pastry box containing the shirt worn by the colonel (who was affectionately called “Ban” by colleagues) during the Death March and even while he was incarcerated. Also in that box are his POW diary, notes taken during indoctrination sessions, as well as an armband he wore as the leader of the “grass detail.” His team of prisoners were assigned to cut grass to be fed to the horses used by Japanese officers and most probably by the artillery division, which also used these animals to carry cannons.

Who was Col. Roman Ibañez and why is this collection of extreme importance to history and Cebu’s heritage?

Col. Ibañez was born in San Simon, Pampanga, on 18 November 1895. He graduated from the Philippine Constabulary Academy (now the Philippine Military Academy) in 1918 and was promptly assigned to Camarines Norte as a young third lieutenant. His connection to Cebu began with his first assignment up north in Bogo town in 1926 where he met his future wife, Clotilde Cabatingan, a resident of Liloan whose paternal family hailed from Medellin. The following year they got married and eventually sired four children, all women, two of whom became ICM nuns, Sr. Ofelia and Sr. Socorro. (ICM stands for “Inmaculati Cordis Mariae” or Immaculate Heart of Mary, the religious order which runs St. Theresa’s College or STC). The eldest, Lydia, who passed away in January this year, was not a nun but also famously taught at both Saint Theresa’s College and the Sacred Heart School for Girls and founded the St. Benedict Childhood Education Center. His longest stint in Cebu was when he became Visayas Zone Commander from 1946 to 1949 after which he became inspector general at the Armed Forces headquarters in Camp Murphy, now Camp Aguinaldo in Manila. He retired in 1951 at the mandatory retirement age of 56 and promptly returned to Cebu to live out a long life devoted to the Lion’s Club. He passed away on 2 December 1975. His wife died three years later on 10 January 1978.

Sr. Ofelia is now the lone surviving member of the family and ever the devoted daughter to a military man, she has seen fit to honor her father’s memory with this endearing gesture. Museo Sugbo is now in the thick of inventorying the thousands of pages of papers, objects, period uniforms and even a large number of Lion’s Club mementos, in preparation for the formal signing of donation papers in time for an exhibit at the museum on April 9, 2012, when the nation marks the Fall of Bataan and the subsequent Death March, the most enduring commemoration of the bravery and sacrifice of her sons, one of whom was Col. Roman Ibañez.

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Space limitations do not allow me to greet each and every person I know   this   holiday season. Let me therefore simply  wish one and all, “A very merry Christmas and an extremely progressive year ahead for Cebu and the Philippines!”

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TAGS: Cebu, Cebu Provincial Museum, heritage, History, Local Governments, Local officials, Museo Sugbo, Museums, Osmeña Boulevard
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