by ALEX P. VIDAL
“The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.” HENRY A. KISSINGER
Before we further insult Ilonggo history and culture by electing more mediocre and incompetent leaders into public office in the May elections, we must always remember that Iloilo was once the chief producer of the country’s quality executive leaders, legislators and even diplomats.
This was the era when the electoral system was not yet impaired, when leaders were chosen based on their competence and qualifications, when political zarzuela wasn’t yet at fever-pitched.
Good leaders elected even without the help of deceptive and confusing propaganda machine that blurred the demarcation line between reel and real world, when chaffs were separated from the grains.
We had Amado Avanceña (first district), Nicolas Jalandoni (second district), Salvador Laguda (third district), Adriano Hernandez (fourth district) and Regino Dorillo (fifth district) as our first representatives in the Philippine legislative body in 1907. A pride of Molo, Avanceña became governor of Iloilo.
The first Speaker pro tempore in history and the youngest in the first Philippine legislature was Nicolas Jalandoni of Jaro. The famous general of the Revolution was Adriano Hernandez of Dingle, Iloilo who became the first secretary of agriculture. During the first world war, he was the commander of the Second Regiment of the Philippine National Guard. He would have been sent to Germany during the first world war.
The famed Evangelista brothers -- Daniel and Jose, simultaneously represented the fourth district of Iloilo in the Philippine Legislature.
An Ilonggo delegate to the 1935 Constitutional Convention, Tiburcio Lutero had been assemblyman in third and fourth districts of Iloilo. Former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo’s grandfather, second district Assemblyman Jose Ma. Arroyo also became senator. His brother, Mariano, served as governor.
Senator Ruperto Montinola had served governor and assemblyman in the second district of Iloilo. He was also delegate and vice president of the 1935 Constitutional Convention. His daughter, Gloria Montinola Tabiana, became congresswoman. According to lawyer and historian Rex Salvilla, President Manuel Quezon called Montinola “El Coloso del Sur” (Colossus of the South) for being a principled oppositionist.
Wartime Panay and Romblon Governor Tomas Confesor also was assemblyman in the third district of Iloilo and delegate to the 1935 Constitutional Convention. Known as the Stormy Petrel in the Legislature, Confesor became senator and the first secretary of commerce and interior and senator. His brother, Assemblyman Patricio, also became governor.
Assemblyman Jose Ma. Lopez Vito Sr. of the second district was governor, justice of the Supreme Court and first chairman of the Commission on Elections. His grandson, Rafael Lopez Vito, became the first congressman of the lone district of Iloilo City.
Salvilla said there was a time when three Tomases served simultaneously in the Legislature – Tomas Confesor of the third district, Tomas Buenaflor of the fourth district and Tomas Vargas of the fifth district. Confesor later became senator and Vargas governor. A grandson of Buenaflor, Roberto Armada was former vice governor.
Congresswoman Gloria Montinola-Tabiana of the third district is the first Ilongga lawmaker. She succeeded her husband, Ramon C. Tabiana, a second termer. She was a daughter of Senator Ruperto Montinola. Congressman Ricardo Y. Ladrido of the fourth district was the only dentist lawmaker in Iloilo. Congressman Pedro G. Trono of the first district was the only pharmacist-doctor legislator in Iloilo. His wife, Lourdes Trono, was delegate to the 1973 Constitutional Convention. Congressman Licurgo Tirador of the third district was delegate to the 1973 Constitutional Convention, governor, mayor and provincial board member. His father, Federico Tirador, Sr. was assemblyman of the fourth district. Congressman Jose C. Zulueta of the first district was the President of the Senate. He was also governor.
Fernando Lopez was senator and the only three-termer Vice President of the Philippines, city mayor and secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources. His son, Alberto Lopez was congressman of the third district and daughter-in-law, Emily Lopez was governor and first congresswoman of Guimaras. Congressman Oscar Ledesma of the second district was senator, governor and ambassador to the United States. He was one of those who refused to receive his backpay as assemblyman after the war. Congressman Fermin Caram, Jr. of the second district was the son of Fermin Sr., governor and delegate to the 1973 Constitutional Convention. His daughter-in-law Tita Caram was city mayor. Congressman Pascual Espinosa of the second district was the only labor leader lawmaker of Iloilo.
Assemblyman Venancio Cudilla of the fifth district opened northern Iloilo by building the San Nicholas mountain road from Barotac Viejo to Ajuy, added Salvilla. Before this, people from the northern towns go to Iloilo City by a circuitous route via Roxas City or by sailboat from various ports of Ajuy. Assemblyman Atanacio Ampig of the third district died during the sinking of SS Corregidor in Manila Bay at the outbreak of the war.
Assemblyman Esperidion Guanco of the fourth district became senator. Assemblyman Francisco Villanueva of the second district was a high ranking official of the Estado Federal de Bisayas during the Philippine Revolution and later senator.
With all these Ilonggo greats carving a niche in national politics in the pre-internet epoch, the responsibility rests on our shoulders to elect the most qualified if not the best mayors, governors, congressmen and representatives in the May 2013 elections. We deserve only the kind of leaders that we elect. No ifs. No buts. /MP