Batanes to Tawi-Tawi
Julmunir I. Jannaral
Ulbert Ulama “Bob” Tugung (November 10, 1939 –November 22, 1986) was a Filipino teacher, newsman, technocrat, civic leader, lawmaker, and politician. He served as Chairman of the Lupong Tagapagpaganap ng Pook (LTP) of Autonomous Region IX in Mindanao from 1979 until his assassination in 1986.
On the day Chairman Bob fell to the assassin’s bullets in the evening of November 22, 1986, I was with him at that time since he and other Mindanao leaders held a Presscon at the Aurelio Hotel at the Corner of Roxas Boulevard and Padre Faura St. in Manila. I was one of the journalists invited to cover the said Press Conference where I represented my outfit the Philippine Daily Inquirer as a News Correspondent for the regional desk known as “Batanes To Tawi-Tawi” where I got the name of my present Column.
Hence, on this fateful 22nd of November 1986, Bob and his aide, Anijay Jumaani who used to write for a local newspaper in Zamboanga City were fatally shot by assassins as they emerged from an elevator of the Hotel Aurelio.
Inasmuch as I still have to write my news story for the Inquirer, I excused myself to go ahead and left from the group of Chairman Bob. In those days where Internet connectivity was not yet used by Media people there was a need for us to personally report to the Editorial office and to manually write the news story by a manual typewriter usually the Olympia brand. Laptops was then a strangest gadget to us.
After writing my story, I filed it with my Editor who assured me considering the significance of the story it will be used in the front page. Of course I was happy then that my efforts have paid off. Thus at that time SMS (Short Message System) or text Message was not yet introduced in the market, we just communicated through a pager, which is a wireless telecommunications device that receives and displays alphanumeric or voice messages. In my case I was subscribed to a Pocket Bell where the model I was using was a national pager that can transmit and receive messages throughout the Philippines.
I sent a pager Message to the late Atty. Susan delos Reyes, a Mindanao Political Leader from Zamboanga City where I informed her that the my News Story on their Presscon will land on the Front Page of the Inquirer and for her to inform Chairman Bob Tugung of the Good News.
However, the reply of Atty. Susan to me was a brief one and was a very tragic one where she answered me “you come here Bob was shot.” She did not specify immediately that Chairman Bob and his Aide were fatally shot. Nevertheless I learned later that both victims succumbed to the bullet wounds they sustained and were pronounced D0A (Dead on Arrival) by attending physicians of the nearby Manila Doctors Hospital at the U.N. Avenue in Manila.
Due to this, I immediately told my Editor that I am going to write a Part 2 of the News Story changing entirely my lead paragraph that instead of what had transpired on the Presscon it announced the Breaking News that “LTP-9 Chairman Ulbert Ulama “Bob” Tugung and his Aide got assassinated after the Presscon of Mindanao leaders at Aurelio Hotel.”
Hence, after writing the Part 2 of my News Story, I immediately rushed to the ER (Emergency Room) of the Manila Doctors Hospital where I got speechless but only to mutter a short Prayer of “Inna Lillahi Wa Inna Ilaihi Rajiun” and recited the Fatiha as well upon seeing the lifeless bodies of Chairman Bob and Anijay whom I was talking with them a few hours earlier.
It was good enough that at that time there was an early morning flight of the Philippine Air Lines (PAL) known as the Bulilit Flight where the cadavers of both victims were immediately shipped out to Zamboanga City for the immediate Islamic burial.
At this point, may I invite my readers to read or follow the blow by blow account on the colorful life and times of Chairman Bob Tugung with the herein well narrated story about his life carefully presented by Wikepedia.
Early Life and Education
He graduated valedictorian at Tubig-Indangan Elementary School (now Panglima Ibrahim Elementary School) in Simunul, Tawi-Tawi then went to Notre Dame of Bongao for high school. He obtained his law degree from the Zamboanga A.E. Colleges (now Universidad de Zamboanga) in Zamboanga City.
Fresh out of college, he ran for mayor at the age of 23 in the 1961 local elections in Bongao but did not succeed. The following year, he married Elnorita Pamaran of Lamitan, Basilan. They both became school teachers at Claret College of Isabela. From 1968 to 1973, he was publisher of the Basilan Newsweek.
In 1970, Ulama was elected municipal councilor of Basilan when he ran as the lone opposition candidate against the slate of former mayor Leroy Brown.
At the height of the Muslim secessionist movement led by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in the mid-1970s, Basilan became the scene of some of the bloodiest fighting between rebels and government forces. Tugung actively negotiated the surrender of thousands of rebels and saw to their subsequent rehabilitation.
When the city of Basilan was converted into a province in 1974, Tugung was appointed provincial board member, and concurrently deputy governor to the military governor and OIC Mayor of Isabela.
In 1976, he was appointed Executive Assistant of the Mindanao Executive Development Academy and subsequently promoted as Director of the Local Government Monitoring Office of the newly organized Office of the Regional Commissioner (ORC) headed by Rear Admiral Romulo M. Espaldon. In January 1977, he became the ORC’s Executive Director.
In May 1979, Tugung was elected Regional Assemblyman of the Regional Autonomous Government’s legislative assembly. He was subsequently appointed Chairman of the LTP (Regional Executive Council) of Region IX in December 1979 and implemented massive infrastructure and social projects in the Sulu Archipelago and Zamboanga Peninsula.
In 1984, he had a falling out with the Marcos administration during the 1984 elections for the Batasang Pambansa, for which he was consequently removed as LTP chairman, although he remained a Regional Assemblyman representing Basilan. He founded the Basilan United Opposition (BUO) and successfully campaigned in the province for Corazon C. Aquino in the 1986 snap election. He was reappointed as LTP Chairman on July 16, 1986.
In the evening of November 22, 1986, Tugung and his aide, Anijay Jumaani, were fatally shot as they were emerging from Hotel Aurelio in Manila after a long day of conferences with other Mindanao leaders. He was interred in a Muslim cemetery in Tabuk, Isabela, Basilan.
His widow, Elnorita, was appointed by President Aquino to succeed him as LTP chairman on November 28, 1986. In 1992, she was elected as Member of the House of Representatives for the Lone District of Basilan.
In 1988, the Bob Tugung Peace and Development Foundation was founded with a focus on education by granting scholarship to deserving students and other education-related activities.
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