By Rolando O. Borrinaga

(This article was first serialized in The Tacloban Star in 1993. This was reprinted in Eastern Visayas Quarterly, June 30, 1995 issue.)

Go around any city or town in the Philippines, and you will find that many of their streets have been named after illustrious national or local historical personalities. However, the reasons for their fame are a totally different story. Indeed, when measured according to their contribution to Filipino nationhood and independence, some of these personalities had in fact betrayed the Filipino cause and, therefore, are national embarrassments. Yet, these personalities were once been glorified, and their names have been preserved for posterity as names of city or town streets.

Let us describe some embarrassing historical personalities behind the names of several Tacloban streets:

P. Paterno Street

This street, with an extension at that, was named after Pedro Paterno, who was a "national hero" according to our grade school teachers. Who really was he?

Pedro Paterno was an aristocratic, young and brilliant, but opportunistic Manila lawyer about this time 100 years ago. In the hope of being rewarded hefty cash and a royal title (i.e, as a Spanish Duke) for services rendered to the Spanish Crown, Paterno negotiated the betrayal of the Philippine Revolution of 1896 through the "inexistent" Treaty of Peace at Biak-na-Bato in 1897. As a result of this "treaty," the momentum of the revolution was disrupted with the exile to Hongkong of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo and other prominent revolutionarios.

After the rout of the Spanish Navy in Manila by the US Navy under Commodore George Dewey on May 1, 1898, and following the proclamation of Philippine Independence from Spain by the returned Pres. Aguinaldo in Kawit, Cavite, on June 12, 1898, Paterno proposed to negotiate again on behalf of the Spanish government. This time he offered provincehood for the Philippines under Spain. But he was promptly rebuffed and maligned by the revolutionaries for his renewed mediation effort.

It therefore surprised the revolutionary rank-and-file, and even the invading US Army, that Pedro Paterno became the President of the Malolos Congress three months later, in September, 1988.

When the Malolos government collapsed, Paterno left the revolution and ingratiated himself with the Americans.

The presence of and the selfish influence exerted by Pedro Paterno demeaned the image and integrity of the Philippine Revolution at the turn of the century. Paterno was a balimbing three times over, who personified the Revolution’s mockery and provided its comic relief for the Americans.

F. Torres Street

This street near the Tacloban Supermarket was named after another lawyer, Florentino Torres, a well-known American sympathizer. He was assigned by Pres. Aguinaldo to negotiate with the Americans in January, 1899, in the hope of easing up the Filipino-American tension on the eve of the Philippine-American War, which broke out early the following month. Torres’ panel was tasked to demand official recognition of the Philippine independence by the United States. Instead, contrary to expressed orders, Torres and his panel sought a protectorate status for the Philippines under the United States.

Torres later became a leading member and founder of the Federalista Party, which proposed the impossible (then and now) annexation of the Philippines as a state of the United States. For his display of loyalty to the Americans, Torres was later appointed Justice of the Philippine Supreme Court by American colonial officialdom.

Arellano Street

This street near the People’s Center was named after yet another lawyer, Cayetano Arellano. Arellano was appointed by Pres. Aguinaldo as Secretary of Foreign Affairs in 1898. He did not exactly refuse the appointment during those revolutionary years of Philippine nationhood. Instead, he hew-hawed and feigned ill health. When the Americans had effectively controlled the country, Arellano pledged allegiance to them. As reward for his loyalty to the new masters, he was appointed the First Filipino Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

T. Claudio Street

This street was named after Private Tomas Claudio, supposedly the first heroic Filipino soldier to have died fighting for America in Europe during World War I. T. Claudio was in fact no different from the neighborhood thug who got conscripted as a soldier-trainee and became the first casualty from a provincial town during the Moro Wars in Mindanao in the early 1970s. Yet streets all over the country had been named after T. Claudio, while the first thug-soldier from town who died in Mindanao was at most accorded a town parade towards his grave, because of official pressures from the top to render such rites. However, after the initial hoopla, the subsequent casualties brought only Philippine Flags to the bereaved families.

Of course, Tacloban also have other streets named after venerable national heroes, for instance, Rizal Avenue, P. Burgos Street, Del Pilar Street, and A. Mabini Street. And even after noble local forebears such as Esperas Avenue, Capitan Tarcela Street, Salazar Street, and Gen. Lukban Street. But these street names are easily blighted or crowded out by the embarrassing names.