Amidst the chaos of World War II, the greater part of Zamboanga was destroyed by the mighty Imperial Japanese Army who sought to erase the existing form of government and establish imperial rule in the city. However, several far-flung areas of Zamboanga remained free from the influence of the Japanese. These areas sought to establish some form of government that was free from the Japanese invaders. It was during this time that one Zamboangueño would shine prominently as a leader. He would later become the man responsible for resurrecting the city of
Don Gregorio Eijansantos Ledesma was born on April 23, 1893, in Bolong,
Ñor Goyong, as he came to be known, was educated in one of the early schools established in Zamboanga. During his time, the highest educational attainment that one could obtain was the intermediate level. Although Ñor Goyong wanted very much to pursue higher education, the opportunity was simply not there for the young man. At the time when he was growing up, there was no high school and colleges in Zamboanga. Yet the intermediate education of Goyong’s time was the equivalent of a college education, and so, armed with an intermediate diploma, Ñor Goyong was ready to face the challenges of life.
Ñor Goyong met and fell in love with a pretty Zamboangueña named Juliana Macrohon. With the blessing of their parents, Goyong and Juliana were married at the Immaculate Conception Parish Church in 1916. They were blessed with six children, four girls and two boys, who were named Aurora, Wilfrido, Amelia, Teresita, Luciano and Milargros.
It was during the outbreak of World War II and the subsequent invasion of Zamboanga by the Japanese that Ñor Goyong would gain prominence as a leader in the community. Ñor Goyong was appointed governor of the areas that remained free of the Japanese Imperial Army. Being the only civil authority free from Japanese rule, Ñor Goyong did much to extend help to the civilians who were escaping from the invaders.
Immediately after liberation, Zamboanga was a wreck, and everything was in disarray. There was no political organization to speak of. The American forces did not want to hand over the helm of government to those who had served under the Japanese, most of whom were held up for interrogation. Ñor Goyong stood out from among the rest, having continued his defiance against the Japanese. He was fluent in both Spanish and English, intelligent, and had a full grasp of the local situation. He was therefore appointed Mayor and served the city in that capacity from 1945 to 1946.
The ravages of war left Ñor Goyong with a Herculean task. It would be his responsibility to set the stage for the establishment of civil order in Zamboanga and to rebuild the city. Ñor Goyong saw to it that the first thing he would accomplish was to appoint civilian officers and to fill the different civil offices with qualified officials. He also had to contend with the displaced civilians who needed help.
Even after his term as Mayor of Zamboanga, Ñor Goyong would remain active in politics. He was credited with organizing the Nacionalista Party in the city.
Ledesma was an active member of the Knights of Columbus. In 1958, he ran for councilor to fill up a vacant seat in the council. Ñor Goyong died on September 4, 1966, at the age of 73. The younger generation of today may no longer remember the name of Ñor Goyong, but to those who survived the ravages of World War II, Ñor Goyong will always be a hero.