“The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.” – Henry Kissinger
Before Ilonggo history and culture is further insulted by the election of more mediocre and incompetent officials, it must be recalled that Iloilo was once the chief producer of the country’s quality leaders. It was an era when the electoral system was not yet impaired; when individuals were chosen based on competence and qualification, and before political theatrics reached a fever pitch. There was no deceptive propaganda that blurred the line between real and “reel.”
The first representatives to the Philippine Legislature in 1907 were Amado Avanceña from the first district, Nicolas Jalandoni from the second district, Salvador Laguda – third district, Adriano Hernandez – fourth district, and Regino Dorillo – fifth district. While Avanceña was later elected governor of Iloilo, Jalandoni served as the first speaker pro tempore and Hernandez was appointed the first Department of Agriculture secretary.
Families also made a name for themselves in the province.
Daniel and Jose Evangelista represented the fourth district in the Philippine Legislature; Jose Ma. Arroyo represented the second district in the Philippine Assembly, while his brother Mariano served as governor; and Jose Ma. Lopez Vito, Sr., who served as second district assemblyman, governor, and Supreme Court justice, had a grandson, Rafael Lopez Vito, who served as the first Iloilo City lone district congressman.
Tomas Confesor served as governor, third district assemblyman, senator, and secretaries of both the commerce and interior departments, his brother Patricio was elected both assemblyman and governor. During his time in the Philippine Assembly, there were three Ilonggo officials named Tomas serving in the legislative branch simultaneously – Confesor represented the third district, Tomas Buenaflor represented the fourth district, and Tomas Vargas represented the fifth district. Vargas was later elected governor, while Roberto Armada, Buenaflor’s grandchild, was elected vice governor in 2001.
Ruperto Montinola, who represented the second district in the Philippine Assembly, along with serving as governor and senator, had a daughter, Gloria Montinola-Tabiana, elected congresswoman; she succeeded her husband, Ramon C. Tabiana.
Pedro G. Trono represented the first district in Congress; his wife, Lourdes Trono, was a delegate to the 1973 Constitutional Convention.
Licurgo Tirador represented the third district in Congress, served as a delegate to the 1973 Constitutional Convention, and was elected governor, mayor, and provincial board member; his father, Federico Tirador, Sr., was an assemblyman for the fourth district.
Fernando Lopez served as vice president, senator, mayor, and secretary for the then-Agriculture and Natural Resources department. His son, Alberto Lopez, represented the second district in Congress and his daughter-in-law, Emily Lopez, served as Guimaras governor and was the first congresswoman elected from the island-province.
Fermin Caram, Sr. served as governor; his son, Fermin Caram, Jr., served in Congress; and the latter’s daughter-in-law, Tita Caram, was elected Iloilo City mayor.
Assemblyman Venancio Cudilla represented the fifth district; Assemblyman Atanacio Ampig represented the third district; Assemblyman Esperidion Guanco represented the fourth district, and later became a senator; Assemblyman Francisco Villanueva represented the second district; Oscar Ledesma represented the second district in Congress, and also was elected into the Senate, served as governor, and appointed as Philippine ambassador to the United States; Jose C. Zulueta represented the first district in Congress, and also served as senate president and governor; Ricardo Y. Ladrido represented the fourth district in Congress; and Pascual Espinosa, Sr. represented the second district in Congress.
These Ilonggo greats managed to carve niches in national politics in the pre-internet age. The responsibility now rests on voters to elect the most qualified (if not, best) mayors, governors, and legislators.
We only deserve the kind of leaders that we elect./WDJ