The Imperials in Bicol History (Last of the Series)

In the early part of 2008, I wrote a paper for the Institute for Popular Democracy (which I also presented in the PPSA) on the decline of the Imperials of Albay Province. The paper concludes that if the clan will not reinvent itself and if the members of the clan’s later generation will not step their foot in politics, the clan will eventually lost its hold on local power.

Cong. Carlos "Papay" Imperial

Indeed, on April 11 this year, the clan’s political patriarch died and it signaled the death of the clan in local politics. He is Carlos “Papay” Imperial, the son of Domingo. Papay served as the Congressman of the Second District of Albay from 1965-1972; an Assemblyman from 1978-1984; and a Congressman again from 1987-2004.  His wife, Norma, substituted for him to fill-in his term limits from 1998-2001.

Because of branding, Papay is known to many but only as a congressman and political patriarch. A very limited few, mostly those within the political circles, is aware that he is a lawyer by profession, that he is a Third Placer in the 1957 Bar Exams, and that he also has a degree of Master of Laws from Harvard University. In the surveys I also conducted in 2006 and 2007, only 5% knew that he authored significant laws like the Bicol University Charter and the Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital, among others. The reason: Papay do not want to flaunt his accomplishments especially in the later part of his life. According to Mayor Gerry Jaucian of Daraga:

Kan kita nagsirbing mayor sa Daraga, yaon si Congressman na pirming naka-antabay para kita suportaran lalo na sa mga proyekto na kung saen limitado lang an pondo kan munisipyo. Kaiba sa mga proyektong katabang niyato si Congressman Imperial iyo an mga infrastraktura arog kan mga tinampo, line canals, school and barangay facilities.

There are also claims that the destruction and death caused by the mudslide in 2006 after the Typhoons Milenyo and Reming could have been greater if the Congressman did not provide funds for the desilting of the rivers from Mayon Volcano. “Kaya lang,” explained one of the persons close to him, “habo niya lang talaga ipang-hambog an mga naginibuhan niya dahil naniniwala siya na aram iyan kan mga tawo.”

Papay was also one of the founders of the Bicol Block, “a strong political group committed  haggling development programs and projects for the region in exchange for delivering a united vote from the Bicol peninsula.” The members of the block includes the Albertos  of Catanduanes, Espinosas of Masbate, Fuentebellas and Alfelors of Camarines Sur, the Pimentels of Camarines Norte and the Imperials of Albay. They were active and highly respected from the 1950’s to the 1980’s.

Papay’s Cousins in Public Office

During Papay’s stint as Congressman and Assemblyman, a number of his relatives also occupied elective posts. These include his first cousins   Gregorio Jr., Antonio and Benjamin who all became mayors of Legazpi City, and second cousin Felix, Jr., who became the governor of Albay.

The Imperials are tagged as political elites but this does not seem to apply to Benjamin. He is the Erap Estrada of the mayors of Legazpi City less the open womanizing,and the cases of plunder. “Masyadong maka-masa si Benjamin mala ta maski saen mo masabatan, puwede mo siyang ranihon dahil pirmi nakangirit”, Lolo Siyano, a barber from the mountain barangay of Legazpi explains. “Maski naglalakaw sa kalye, pag inagadan mong tabang, mabotbot tulos sa bulsa. Masyadong mahamot an pangaran niya sa masa kaya kan magadan siya, dakul namundo asin nakidamay”.

Benjamin was being looked up to as the clan’s patriarch for his “masa appeal” but he died even before finishing his term as mayor. While Papay’s expertise in on legislation, Benjamin’s is more on governance especially on the execution part. His death, however, cut short his political career and was succeeded by his vice mayor, the late Imelda Roces.

The New Generation

If the death of Benjamin led to the ascension of the Roces clan in Legazpi, the death of Papay also resurrected the  Bichara Clan in provincial politics. Papay’s decline in power also strengthened other political players including the Salcedas and Rosals. Because of the lack of political heirs, there are claims that the late Papay fully supported the incumbent governor Joey Salceda who is now on his second term after spending his years in the Third District. Similarly, the lack of heirs also led the Imperials to lose their bailiwick, Legazpi City, to the Rosals — former mayor Noel Rosal and his wife, Geraldine.

The Imperials, Salcedas and Rosals were allies. But while the Salcedas maintained its alliance with the Imperial Clan, Rosal, through Noel, broke ties. From then on, Noel and Papay’s nephew, Michael, engaged in an almost perennial fight for the mayoralty seat. Noel won and, consistently, Michael lost. It appears that Michael lacked the proper strings to pluck in times of the campaign as well as the political database housed in the head of his uncle, Papay. Likewise, surveys also show that he lacks the “masa charm” of Benjamin as the grapevines portray him as an elite though in reality, he can also sway like a bamboo and flow like a river. This is more of a problem with imaging and communication.

But Michael was able to prove his worth by also serving as a city councilor of Legazpi prior to running for mayor. In 2010, he ran for vice mayor but lost. The good thing is, his vote-generation figures are rising and, if he gets the proper strategies in 2013, chances are, he could be the next Mayor of Legazpi.

Aside from Michael, Papay’s nephew, Harold, also tried to revive the name of the clan. When Papay and Michael lost in their bids in 2007, Harold got the clan’s banner and planted it in the halls of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan. This 2010, Harold was elected vice governor beating the longest occupant of the post, James Bayan Calisin, with more than 40,000 votes. Political gossips have it that Harold will soon become Albay’s governor as Joey Salceda is being considered for a cabinet post under the Aquino Administration. If this happens, then the clan will be able to fully resuscitate itself politically and once again carve the glory it once held.

The third Imperial who also cast his fate in the 2010 elections is Nino Imperial, Papay’s son. Nino run for the provincial board representing the Second District and won. This was his first attempt. He was hardly known but because of the clan’s machine, he made it on the third spot gaining 19% of the total votes cast. The highest was Neil Montallana with 26% followed by Ralph Andes with 23%. Montallana and Andes are both re-electionists.

Looking Back, Moving Forward

No doubt, the Imperials also made a significant part of Albay’s and Bicol’s political history. Their contributions, however, are largely unwritten courtesy of our historians who thought that history is nothing but the affairs during the Spanish period.

The clan’s case is also the case of other political players in the region. At present, only the Fuentebellas of Camarines Sur have a book  of their own courtesy of Lilia Realubit. The book is entitled “Jose T. Fuentebella: Nationalist and Statesman“. But the Fuentebellas is only one of the players. There are also significant Bicolanos who made contributions not only in politics but in other aspects of human life as well. They also bridge the gap from the stone age to where we are now and possibly possess the answers why we are not moving in some aspects and advancing in others. Sabi ngani, “It is only by looking back that we learn how to move forward”.

The previous parts:

The Imperials in Bicol History (Part I)

The Imperials in Bicol History (Part II)

The Imperials in Bicol History (Part III)

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20 thoughts on “The Imperials in Bicol History (Last of the Series)

  1. Pingback: The Imperials in Bicol History (Last of the Series) « Bik-Lish | Planet Bicol

  2. I have my own personal observation about the political demise of the Imperials in Albay. I will only speak for myself, but it’s not totally impossible that this view is shared by majority of Legazpeños, especialy with regard to the rise of the Rosals.

    I personally believe that the rise of the Rosals in Legazpi is closely intertwined with the doings (and undoings) of the Imperials in Legazpi. It should be remembered that Noel Rosal was an accidental candidate of then congressman Papay when he failed to stop the congressional bid of three term mayor Mely Roces. Papay’s compromise offer then was that he would support Roces’ son as mayor, but that Roces herself would not run against him. When the deal fell through, Papay fielded Noel, and fortunately or unfortunately, depending on whose side you are, Noel won. Although Noel credited Papay for his help, the subsequent arrogance of Papay’s nephew councilor Michael, irked Noel, and they parted ways since. Which thus gave rise to a new political dynasty in the city.

    The political charisma of Noel Rosal is nothing short of phenomenal. Perhaps he just happened to be at the right place, at the right time, and he may even invoke destiny, but his rise can simply be attributed to the maturing political views of the Legazpeños. Rosal just seemed to be the perfect choice for a city on the rise, a promise of new leadership versus decades of regression. For a while, Legazpi had a new Moses that will lead its people to the promised land.

    But Noel was just lucky to be the right person, at the right position, at exactly the right time when investments started pouring in. From the year 2000s, SM and other groups were already aggressively expanding to the provinces, and Legazpi, though not the richest city in Bicol in terms of median income, was the natural choice because of its geographic location. At one point even Shangrila had reportedly taken over MIH and would be transforming the same into a 5 star hotel. The Sunwest group also had aggressive high end projects lined up in a bid to spark up tourism in the region. All these projects were not directly nor indirectly spurred by Rosal’s policies, since he did not have a tourism program in the first place, his only campaign battlecry being Buhayon ta ang Legazpi, a cheap take on Atienza’s Buhayin ang Maynila.

    Perhaps the only thing which made people stick with Rosal especially during the 2010 elections was his (and therefore his wife’s) image as a lesser evil. Many people I know who voted for him also knew he’s corrupt, but at least he was able to improve Legazpi. This is further reinforced by the fact that his nearest rival is the wife of an allegedly corrupt DPWH official. At least, the people believe, the Rosals are the lesser evil – that is exactly the point.

    Perhaps the only way for the Imperials to get back Legazpi (as if they own Legazpi in the first place) is to reassess the maturing political constituency of Legazpi and from there study where they went wrong. Restoring people’s trust in their name may be a difficult process, but that’s the nature of politics, and they will have to deal with that.

  3. im very proud to your support and all the positive feedback to my family. thank you and god bless all albayanos.- BM nino imperial 2d albay.

  4. Good day jay!

    im happy to know that you had this article, it has a great impact to the public more specifically to the new generation in knowing the politicaly history of Albay. Keep it up my batchmate and more power.

  5. Am a descendant from Elias Imperial. My mother, Miriam, is the sister of Gov Felix Imperial,Jr. Have you interviewed Gov Imperial for your series? Should you be interested, I could arrange for you.

  6. There is a lot of information in the Sanguniang Panlungsod. Check the archived Journals. I’ve been doing some research as well, mostly about my father.

  7. Dear Mr. J.A. Carizo. I am a Greatgrandson of Don Felix Alcala of Malinao Albay from Virac, Catanduanes. I read comments by Mr. Sunny Tinio about surname change of Jose Alcala Del Rosario to Jose Del Rosario and relatives Timoteo and Felix Alcala Del Rosario to Felix Alcala. The Felix Alcala Clan has a Facebook Group and want to know our roots. Will us locate the source of his information. I heard there is a court decision on their petition. Thanks. Larry Alcala is our uncle?

  8. The Alcala’s are mestizos whose origin is from Binondo, Manila according to hearsay. My great grandfather is Don Felix Osias Alcala, a Gobernadorcillo (1904 to 1907) of the small Municipality of Malinao, Albay. He has 4 legitimate children and 3 children out of wedlock. One of his legitimate children Victorio married Josefa Amata Francisco from Virac, Catanduanes whose father Valentin Aguilar Francisco also served as town mayor of Virac, Catanduanes, Albay(1906). The former Governor of Albay, Timoteo Alcala(1919) is a relative of Felix. Timoteo is the grandfather of Larry the famous cartoonist. According to my older relatives the Alcala’ surname used to be Alcala Del Rosario but for political reasons they petitioned the court to shorten it to Alcala and the other Del Rosario because writing Alcala Del Rosario on the ballot is very long and politically risky. So the elders amicably choose Alcala and the others Del Rosario. Congressman Carling Del Rosario Imperial the longest serving congressman in Philippine history is a relative. Her mother is the daugther of Jose Del Rosario Alcala who choose the surname Del Rosario when his relatives Felix and Timoteo dropped the Del Rosario in their family name. I think you are a good researcher. My elder sister Amy Moratalla Alcala now based in California told me that 50 years ago she met Ramon Alcala Sr., then the Municipal Treasurer of Daraga at the now Ago Hospital when my sister Ludy was confined at the hospital after an appendectomy conducted by his son Dr. Ramon Alcala, Jr. He (Ramon Sr.) showed her a bound book with the decision on the change of name granting the petition. She also shared story of Larry Alcala’s father visiting their radiowealth appliance store called MEAM Marketing located at the Imperial Building in front of Funeraria de Oro to reconnect with long lost relatives from Catanduanes before his death. She also said that sometime in the late 1970’s the manager of Imperial owned bank went all the way to their rented house at Salugan, Camalig to invite Amy and all the Alcala Clan from Catanduanes to attend Carling mother’s birthday party at Rawis, Legazpi City. Amy says Carling’s mother calls my grandfather Manoy Torio (Victorio). My father told me that the late Mayor of Tabaco Solon Demetrio is a relative. Prominent political figures from Malinao are my relatives. Former Mayor Lolo Doring Regalado is the husband of Lola Pining Alcala the sister of my Lolo Victorio, former mayor Eddie Alcala Kare is the 1st cousin of my father , former Mayor’s Emily Kare and Dindo Moll are my 2nd cousins. Please help us trace the title of the said decision so that we could publish it at our Facebook Group. Mabalos.

  9. I believe there is a Rene Cecilio Imperial somewhere along the line? Just curious cause I do not know much of my mothers side…the Cecilios.

  10. This is one of the most profound history about my family, is there any way you could write an article about my grandfather Jose Imperial? Thank you!

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