Monday, August 28, 2006

NHI Opposes Renaming of Comision Civil to F. Lopez St. in Iloilo City

Several months ago, the City Council of Iloilo passed a resolution urging Congressman Raul Gonzalez, Jr. to sponsor a bill in the House of Representatives renaming “Comision Civil Street” in Jaro District into “F. Lopez Street,” in honor of the great Ilonggo statesman Fernando “Nanding” Lopez. Dutifully, Congressman Gonzalez passed House Bill No. 5462 renaming “Comision Civil Street” to “F. Lopez Street” and a committee hearing was held at the Batasan Pambansa last week to deliberate the bill. But before I proceed, let me first write a short biographical sketch of the man whom our city leaders would like to honor by naming a street after him.

A member of the rich and influential Lopez family of Iloilo City, Don Nanding Lopez was born on April 13, 1904 to Iloilo Governor Benito Lopez and Doña Presentacion Hofileña. He earned his Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Santo Tomas in 1925 and after passing the bar the following year, he returned to Iloilo City to help manage his family’s myriad business interests there. Together with his brother Eugenio “Enying” Lopez, Don Nanding established Iloilo College (now University of Iloilo), Iloilo-Negros Air Express Company (the first Filipino-owned commercial airline), El Tiempo (Iloilo Times) and ABS CBN Broadcasting Corporation.

But it was not in the field of business that Don Nanding Lopez was destined to make his mark. He distinguished himself more in the realm of Philippine politics than in the world of business. His rise in Philippine politics could only be described as “meteoric.” In 1945, Lopez was appointed by President Sergio Osmeña as mayor of Iloilo City. Two years later (in 1947), he ran for Senator under the Liberal Party and won the election. In 1949, he became the Vice President of Elpidio Quirino and concurrently worked as secretary of agriculture. He was then elected once again as Senator and re-elected in 1959. In 1965, he again won as Vice President under Ferdinand Marcos and was re-elected in 1969. In the field of Philippine politics, Fernando Lopez holds the distinction of being the only Filipino to have occupied the post of Vice President for three terms. But when Martial Law was declared in 1972, the Lopez family fell out of favor. President Marcos abolished the position of Vice President and he stripped the Lopez family, whom he branded as “oligarchs,” of their economic assets. Fernando Lopez died on May 26, 1993, luckily after being vindicated for all the suffering he underwent under Marcos and only after seeing the redemption of the Lopez family assets that were seized from them during the Martial Law period.

So in recognition of his achievements and legacies to the city of Iloilo, the City Council decided to name a street after him. But during the Committee hearing held last week, noted Inquirer columnist and National Historical Institute (NHI) President Ambeth Ocampo objected to the renaming of Comision Civil Street to Fernando Lopez Street on the grounds that NHI has a policy of “preserving street names which have attained a certain degree of historical association and an importance of their own.” Ocampo concluded his position paper by saying that “it is therefore recommended that the memory of the late Vice President Fernando H. Lopez be perpetuated in other equally significant ways by naming new and unnamed streets in his honor.”

Frankly, I tend to agree with Mr. Ambeth Ocampo’s recommendations. While I feel that the late Don Fernando Lopez rightly deserves to have a street named after him, I do not agree with the City Council in their choice of Comision Civil as the street to be renamed. As far as I know, it is only Iloilo City which has a street named Comision Civil: there is no other street anywhere in the country which is named Comision Civil. So why would we want to change a uniquely-named street which, according to NHI, “has already attained a certain degree of historical association” when there are a host of other streets out there in Iloilo City just begging to be named? I feel that the City Council and our Congressman should seriously reconsider their position. They would do well to look for another street; preferably a much longer and grander boulevard that would befit the greatness of Don Fernando Lopez and not just a middling sidestreet at the back of Jaro District.

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