Don Fortunato U. Arban

Don Fortunato U. Arban

FATHER OF RIZAL, LAGUNA

By Atty. Rogelio C. Isleta

The last five decades of Rizal, Laguna’s existence as a municipality have seen a handful of men who invariably contributed to what the town is now; but the name of Don Fortunato U. Arban stands out among these brilliant men. His record as a political leader is yet to be surpassed and the achievements of his administration, yet to be equalled to those who succeded him.

“MA TATO” as he is known to the younger generation was born on April 18,1868 to spouces Clemente Arban and Mauricia Urrea of Barrio Laguan, then a part of municipality of Nagcarlan, Laguna. His boyhood were no different from that of the ordinary country lad, spent amidst the towering palm trees and green ricefields occasionally broken by a trip to the poblacion. His education was limited to the cartilla. As a young man, he already manifested a deep sense of responsibility. Aside from helping his father in the plantation and in the ricefields, he engaged in the business of buying coconut oil and sell them in Bay, Laguna, then a flourishing commercial center in the province. Thus, he cease to be a burden to his father and instead contributed greatly to ¾ the upkeep of the family. At the age of 18, he came across a young lass by the name of Marciana Virina. She was four years his junior and came from a well do family in Barrio Banilad, also of Nagcarlan. Soon they were married and settled down.

The couple turned out to be a perfect mate, they lived peacefully and unsatiable leadership and burning sense of responsibility of “Ma Tato” filled their married life with incessant activity.

As early as 1909 “Ma Tato” tossed himself into local political arena when he assumed office of Cabeza of barrio Pauli also of Nagcarlan. This began his political career which spans a period of half a century 1909 to 1959. When Pauli became a barrion of Rizal, he ably represented it in the municipal council of Nagcarlan as a councillor. As a municipal councilor, he become obsessed with the prospects of townhood for his barrio. Almost singlehandedly, he spearheaded the move to give barrio Pauli an independent existence. Thanks to the able assistance of Mr. Agustin U. Vista, Another equally great Rizalian, the challenging task of realizing this objective was somehow lightened.

Together, this two great men of Rizal went down their way and asked Governor Juan Cailles, Assemblyman Crisanto Guysayko and Senator Pedro Guevarra and Rafael Palma to help them. Soon enough Acting Governor Charles E. Yeater promulgated Ex. Order No. 58 creating the municipality of Rizal, province of Laguna, out of the barrios Antipolo, Entablado, Talaga, Maiton , Laguan, Paule, Tuy and Pook effective the first day of January, 1919.

It may therefore be sain that if Quezon and Osmena are to the Philippine Statehood, “ Ma Tato” and “Ma Usting” are to Rizal’s townhood. And as if to compensate them from their efforts and sacrifices, they were appointed Municipal President and Vice- President repectively. Thus began the independent political existence of Rizal, Laguna under the able and dynamic stewardship of “Ma Tato”.

In the first local elections of 1919 both were elected to the same positions. From then on and the most of the productive years “Ma Tato” was the dominant figure in Rizal. His thinking, action and means wrote history for the town. With the able assistance of “Ma Usting” he made a picture of the town out of a prospect of a barrio. He made Rizal a better place in by providing it with basic facilities like paved streets, school buildings, public market and other improvements. Stories has it too that when drugstores was a requisite for townhood, he established one out of his means and hires a pharmacist from the nearby province. Moreover, he organized a brass band and furnished them with musical instrument to provide music for his constituents.

At the end of his term, he graciously gave way to “Ma Usting” his ever loyal ally. Inspite of his relagation to the background of Rizal’s politics, he still loomed as a power to reckon with.

After a succession of two municipal presidents “Ma Tato” sought re-election and easily got elected for the term 1928-1931. In the next election, he gave way again , now in favour of Mr. Clemente Sombilla whose candidacy had also his blessing. After “Ma Inte’s” term he again sought the municipal presidency for the third time and got elected. He was followed again by “Ma Usting.”

Inspite of his political activities, “Ma Tato” never lagged in his social life. The house which he built in the heart of the town become a bijou of Rizal as it glittered the brilliance of provincial personalities who graced its hall and the long line of cars parked on its front. Unfortunately, this house did not escape the brutalities of the Japanese invaders. It could have stood as a reminder of a glorius past not only of the “old man” but of the town itself. Rarely now do we witness a conglomeration of personalities housed in so hospitable a home.

No one can accuse “Ma Tato” of discrimination for as his house had been a gathering place of the greats, it is likewise a haven of the have-nots. Not only have many unfortunates found their way to the dinning room but also have they gone out with their two or three meals assured. It was even told that “Ma Tato” would not like his stairs cleaned because it will make people hesitate to go up. Such an attitude can only be engendered by one who is down to earth in his dealings.

Living in the place and at he time when illiteracy was a rule rather than the exception, “Ma Tato” pioneered in the education of his people. Himself a victim of very limited education, he was often heard repeating that if knowledge can be purchased and be placed on ones head, he would have spent his fortune of buying them. As already stated he caused the establishment of the town’s elementary school. He helped finance the pursuit of a higher education of some of his townmates. When highschool was still concentrated to the provincial capital, he build a house therein in order to bring his people closer to the foundation of learnings.

When high school education dispersed in almost all the towns, he once again one of the pioneers in establishing quarters in Manila for students pursuing a college education. Thus’ with the minimal charges he collected, he in a way helped so many students finish their studies.

By the end of “Ma Usting’s” term, the grim prospect of war hovered over the Pacific. At the same time, age has overcome the indefatigable and indomitable “Ma Tato.” The ensuing election resulted in the election of Pablo Urrea, another protégé of “Ma Tato.” However, the Vice Mayor post was a hotly contested one. Two scions of former municipal presidents vied for the position. Bitter was the strife. It was anybody’s game until “Ma Tato” threw his support to Ismael Sombilla. In the end Sombilla emerged a victor with “Ma Tato” providing the difference.

When the war brokeout and the Philippines succomed to the ouslauhgt of the Japanese forces, Local leaders formed their own resistance movement. The grand old man already weary and waned did not permit himself to be left behind. What he could not do with his physicalpowers, he made up in the form of financial support. As supply officer of STRAUGHN’S FAIT (Fil-American Irregular Troops) David’s Command with the rank of Major, he supplied the local guerilla’s with food and his residence became their trusting place.

Upon the liberation of the Philippines, “Ma Tato” still very much concerned with the twons attair persuaded one of the guerrilla leaders in the person of Isidro Urriquia to run for Mayor-ship. The latter rub unopposed. Meanwhile, “Ma Tato” completely retired from politics, Instead he devoted his remaining years to the rearing and education of his grandchildren Melencio, Feliciano, Illuminada, Flora and Ponciano, all surnamed Arban. Thus ended the political adventure of “Ma Tato.”

And when final day came on May 19,1959. A grateful town people filled the streets from church to cemetery to take him to his final resting place. Thus in life and in death, Ma Tato drew the love and loyalty of the people he has so generously served and as if to confirm once more the hold which the Grand Old Man exercised among his people, his eldest grandson, Melencio, was catapulted to the same position he had so nobly held by the same people who loved and revered him.

No marker stand to perpetuate his memory, no day set aside to honor him, but the town of Rizal itself, a alittle nad unknown though maybe stands as a lasting monument to his greatness.

Don Fortunato U. Arban and his heiress

Don Fortunato U. Arban and his heiress

Pasinaya sa rebulto ni Ginoong Fortunato U. Arban

Pasinaya sa rebulto ni Ginoong Fortunato U. Arban ika 18 ng Abril, 1976

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