An American soldier assigned in Ilocos Norte during the outbreak of the Pacific War in 1941 once described Doña Manuela Ablan, fondly called Nana Mining, to be an “angel of mercy.”
But to most Ilocanos, Nana Mining was Ilocandia’s grand lady for having figured prominently in public service, a legacy she continued after her husband, the late Ilocos Norte Governor and war hero Roque Ablan, Sr., disappeared and believed killed in 1943 at the height of the Japanese Imperial Army’s occupation of the province.
Nana Mining died on October 26. She was 98.
Aurora Lopez Ver wrote in her book “Bumitalag (Miracles of War),” how Nana Mining and her son, now Ilocos Norte Rep. Roque Ablan, Jr., spent days hiding from the Japanese in a village called Barrio Awan (then located in the boundary of Calanasan and Naguilian towns in Apayao, Mountain Province) while Governor Ablan was somewhere in the mountains of Solsona running a government in exile.
Ver, wife of the late freedom fighter Capt. Felino Sacro, based her book on a diary she wrote when the war broke in 1941 to its end in 1945. The book was launched in 2002.
The governor was said to have organized a guerilla unit and set up a “Little Malacañang” in Solsona town when he refused to surrender to the Japanese. Ablan is said to have chosen the name after Malacañang Palace to keep the spirit of the Commonwealth then under Pres. Manuel Quezon.
Quezon, according to historical accounts, was forced to leave Malacañang but conducted government operations through the provincial governors while in exile in the United States.
Bumitalag used to be a small village between Piddig and Solsona towns and believed to be where Governor Ablan was last seen after being pursued by Japanese troops.
Based on the book, then Technical Sgt. John Chernitski of the United States Army Signal Corps credited Nana Mining for having saved his life from the hands of the Japanese troops. Without Nana Mining, Chernitski would not have been able to return to his country. Because of this, the American considered her “an angel of mercy.”
Chernitski and another American soldier Lt. William Snyder were both assigned to Governor Ablan to monitor messages from Gen. MacArthur through a radio transmitter they set up in the mountains of Bangui town.
After the liberation from the Japanese in 1945, Nana Mining, an honorary Major of the USAFIP-NL (United States Army Forces in the Philippines-North Luzon), worked for the recognition of guerillas, bolomen and Women Auxiliary Service in the rolls of World War II.
She also continued what her husband started since becoming governor in 1937. She headed the Philippine Relief and Rehabilitation Administration later known as Price Control Office. AT one point, Nana Mining was head of the Philippine National Red Cross-Ilocos Norte chapter and went to various points in the province.
To this day, Representative Ablan remembers what her mother taught him: “Give and help those who are in need and never expect anything in return.”