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TOMAS CONFESOR: CHAMPION OF DEMOCRACY

Speech delivered by Pelagio N. Gomez, technical assistant of Gov. Tomas Confesor during World War II, in the banquet tendered on March 2, 1963 on the occassion of the 72nd birth anniversary of Governor Confesor, at the municipal hall of Cabatuan, Iloilo.

Honorable Secretary of Commerce and Industry Rufino G. Hechanova, our American friends, Mayor Tobias, ladies and gentlemen:

We are gathered here today to pay tribute to the memory of the greatest man that Cabatuan has ever produced. I see that many people in this banquet are men who at one time or another were connected with or friends of the late Honorable Tomas Confesor. There are also young men and women who are eager to learn something from the life of their truly great town-mate and draw inspiration from the example he set for us to follow.

Mayor Tobias could not have invited a better guest of honor than the Honorable Secretary of Commerce and Industry Rufino G. Hechanova, to grace this occasion in honor of our beloved Tomas Confesor. Tomas Confesor’s life was intertwined with the life of the people of Jaro. When he made an appointment with love, he married a darlingest wife for a governor, the late Rosalina Grecia Confesor.

When he decided to stand against the Japanese, they went to the hills and the mountains of Panay together. When they made a rendezvous with death, they died within a few days of each other. When he was first sown in as governor, he took his oat of office in the plaza of Cabatuan before Secretary of Interior Elpidio Quirino. In his second inauguration, he swore before Chief Justice Avanceña in the plaza of Jaro. Now that we hold the best celebration in honor of Tomas Confesor in Cabatuan lasting for nine days, we have Secretary Hechanova as our guest who is a Jareño. Whether this is just a coincidence or a stroke of fate, we are happy that we could not have done better than we are doing now in keeping alive our nostalgic memories of the late Tomas Confesor.

I often wonder why Tommy Confesor decided to run for governor of Iloilo even before the expiration of his term as congressman of the third district of Iloilo in 1937, yet I love to think that this was not mere accident but rather an ingenious design of his Maker that he had to become the governor of Iloilo at that time not only to administer the affairs of the provincial government for the good and welfare of its people, but also to prepare him for a bigger task while he was yet in the prime of his life. Thus, he became the Island Governor of Panay during the darkest hours of our history when the Japanese Imperial Forces overran our country in order to keep our people united and to gear them to withstand the perils of the atrocities of the Japanese Imperial Forces which eventually came to pass.

No other governor or resistance leader could have written that famous letter than Tomas Confesor sent to Dr. Fermin Caram wherein he reflected his sparkling thoughts on democracy and its corresponding principles, for the preservation of which he and his followers were willing to pay the supreme sacrifices even at the cost of their very lives. His was patriotism of the first order. That letter alone, in going down the Congressional Record of the United States, demonstrated that once against the Filipinos had in their midst a leader who not only had the willingness to fight for liberty and freedom during the night that has befallen Panay but one who offered his all.

The Americans were aware of his greatness and gave him that distinction. Much as we are doing now for the observation of this day, yet it is a pity that we leave the people of Cabatuan the burden of perpetuation his name. The observance should have a wider coverage. Tommy Confesor was not for Cabatuan alone. He was not for Iloilo entirely. He was for the country but above all for posterity. Here again, Tomas Confesor demonstrated his being at par with Graciano Lopez Jaena, again a man from Jaro. Both were fighters for liberty and freedom of the people, both abhorred tyranny and oppression.

If he were alive today, he would have been very, very happy to see the different exhibits in the fair put up in his own town and which could have reminded him of his days while he was Director of Commerce. He well knew that a fair like this, aside from being an important medium of advertising, inspires people to produce not only more and more but better products. Visitors in seeing the different exhibits gather information on a variety of articles displayed, especially so when demonstrations are conducted in connection with such exhibits. It would have gladdened his hear to know that the Honorable Secretary of Commerce, a Jareño for that matter, had taken a special interest in the holding of this fair.

Tomas Confesor was endowed with a wonderful mind and a very good memory. I took notes of his speeches, letters and memoranda. There were times when we were thus engaged, we would be interrupted by a visitor for something that he would ask from the governor. He and that visitor would chat for half or a quarter of an hour and when his visitor left, he would not ask me to read what last I jotted down in my notes. He simply went ahead and I think you would be surprised to know when I tell you that his next words were continuation to the last word in the middle of the sentence and life a master tailor, it was a perfect cut. The sequence was there. This belied the belief of the audience that when Tommy, on delivering his speech would appear stuck up, he did not know the next word to say. This was his technique to let the audience fill up the gap, to keep them from being bored or to arouse their interest in what he was saying. Did I say the “audience from being bored?” I think I told you a big lie. Tommy was a forceful speaker. His dynamic personality commanded attention. Whatever he said was interesting. He enjoyed good jokes and injected them into his speeches. Like President Lincoln, he liked to hear good ones from his friends just as Lincoln did from Orlando Kellogg.

Some of our friends in those days wondered why Tommy Confesor had to deliver his speeches and public addresses reading them. Some of our younger generations may be surprised to know this and they may ask, “If Tommy was such a great man with a wonderful mind and a good memory, how come he had to read his speeches?” I will give you the answer. Because Tommy Confesor, in all his public speeches and addresses, had always a point to drive, some concrete suggestions to make, some constructive criticisms of the President or of other public officials. Tomas Confesor had to prepare his speeches and I took stenographic notes of them. After that, I transcribed his speeches and addresses, gave them to him and would read those speeches during the occasion.

Besides being his secretary, I had to be a really good stenographer and a fast one to make an accurate transcription of my notes as oftentimes when he was hard pressed for time, he had to read those speeches and address without reviewing or correcting them. No press correspondent or reporter would dare to publish his speeches and addresses without written press release from him. They were afraid to misquote Tommy Confesor. If ever he had to deliver his speeches extemporaneously, he had to take me along with him to take stenographic notes in the process of delivery so that these reporters could get from me a copy of his speeches. He was sympathetic to the press people, almost very fond of them. He used the press for the expression of his ideas and also to crystallize his opinions. Thus, you will see why Tomas Confesor wrote his own speeches. He never employed any ghost writer. That would be an insult to his intellect.

There was only one instance wherein he required assistance in connection with his public addresses. That was when he was preparing his speech to be delivered in his second inaugural address in the plaza of Jaro. It was late in the afternoon of December 31, 1940. After I transcribed the speech that he was to deliver that same afternoon at the University of San Agustin, then a college, he dictated his inaugural speech. After I took down the last stroke, he told me “Pelay, you transcribed my speech now. Send Imoy to Cabatuan to fetch Toto. Both of you go over my speech.” Pat came and we went over the speech together. We finished it just on time for delivery in the plaza of Jaro at midnight on December 31, 1940. That was the only instance wherein Tommy had asked for help. He was confident it would be in proper shape when we got it done. Another Confesor brother was taking over.

He was a champion of the masses, common tao as he called them. He learned to love them. And when he needed their support, in fighting his bitterest political battles against a combination of formidable forces, they responded to his call by giving an overwhelming majority for his reelection. Tomas Confesor was imbued with a high sense of responsibility as governor of Iloilo. He held his office with dignity, lofty ideals and high standards of moral conduct. He know the defects in the organic act of the provincial government during the transition period of our Commonwealth, knowing that the existing laws then were outmoded and no longer applicable to conditions at that time. He was asked by President Quezon to head a committee on local governments so that revisions of our laws might be made, basing on the recommendation of that committee which was to work for the betterment of our people. He was a living symbol of democratic ways of life and processes attendants thereto.

When our young people today could speak their minds and discuss public questions as intelligently as did Tomas Confesor, when they live with kind regard for each other, making themselves serviceable to the best interest of the community, when they behave as good citizens and do to other way they would expect others to do unto them, when they shall have learned to stand up for the right and fight the principles and processes of democracy in order to have freedom from want and freedom from fear to make this country really the land of the free and a happy place to live in, then and only then can we say that we are glad that Tomas Confesor once passed on earth this way and that he had not died in vain.

 

 

 

 

 

 
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