The Climaco legacy PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 17 March 2016 14:04



Los Angeles, CA. — Erratum: In my last column, the sentence, “Inspite FOR the love of...”, should have read, “Inspite OF...”

“Operation: Brotherhood” was Cesar C. Climaco’s passion in the 1950s — a call to civic action that was remarkable for being people-oriented. It could easily be the slogan of the entire Climaco clan who was and still is devoted to public service.

Summoned to duty in 1951 when he was in Vietnam (I think) doing a civic duty for the Philippine Jaycees, CCC responded to become Mayor Manuel D. Jaldon’s secretary. Eventually, he went on to be Jaldon’s heir-apparent and became the first elected mayor of Zamboanga.

He built a dam in Pasonanca to withhold the surge of Tumaga River that flooded the entire city save for Fort Pilar. Inspired by his love for Zamboanga, CCC created a park where the public could experience solidarity and pleasure — trekking through a mini forest that had deers and other animals. He called it Pasonanca Park. There at, he built the first-ever tree house in the country,  a boys scout camp, an auditorium and an amphitheater where bonfires would be done by campers. It was a milestone in the Climaco public service legacy.

Nor Cesar in his lifetime read all the isms, including catholism and communism. He would converse with newsmen with the tongue of a politician-statesman, but sometimes bad-mouthing a Marcos regime that was wrought with corruption. He ran and won as mayor in1980 because of his burning desire to use that public office as his instrument for doing good, as any Jaycee would and as did his brother, Associate Justice Rafael C. Climaco.

Regardless of how they wanted to serve the public — as a judge, notary public, doctor or businessman — the Climacos share a zeal of public service that has endured the test of time. And, it all started with CCC’s heavy emphasis on brotherhood and family. CCC’s younger brother, Jose (Jolly), instilled in her daughter, Mayor Ma. Isabelle , a sense of obligation to contribute civic obedience to the world outside the walls of a convent. It was a teaching that required “Beng” to do something to make Zamboanga better. And she has responded well.

In some mornings before driving to city hall in his Honda 75 motorcycle, CCC would browse at the local newspaper — the old lino-typed Zamboanga Times, especially Mr. Efren C. Pena’s editorial. Nor Ef wasn’t as controversial as his former assistant editors Atty. Vic Solis (when he was still in college), Emilio Rene R. Fernandez and Vicente Arevalo.

One fine morning, he told newsmen (there were only three of us covering city hall) that much was required of him as mayor. “It’s how to feed the hungry, providing housing for the poorest among the poor.” He was citing part of the Beatitudes. Often, he would toss loaves of bread to soldiers manning checkpoints at night and distribute “pansit” to policemen on the graveyard shift. When he had money to spare, after selling rubber to a Chinese merchant from Ipil, he would also treat newsmen to a pansit lunch in his house. To the street kids, he’d hurl a bunch of candies as they cheered for him with his favorite tune, “Ay si Cesar...”

CCC, as many of Marcos’s enemies, was assassinated. He was recognized by both local and national leaders. He was one of the foremost advocates of democracy. His passion for freedom was driven by the detention of his political friends, one of whom was Sen. Benigno Aquino, Jr.

Subsequently, with the passing of the grand old Climacos, Rafael, Cesar and Jose — as was the end of Camelot — Beng — where Julio Cesar Climaco failed to accomplish — has emerged to continue the family tradition of service. It was her father who encouraged her to join politics because he saw the passion in her about issues confronting Zamboanga and her positive outlook of life. Thus, she followed her uncle’s footsteps, and even her father’s, who was a vice mayor and a city councilor.

After the bloody September 2013 attack on Zamboanga, Beng vowed to rebuild Zamboanga. The energy that she has brought will surely light up our dull city and glow from that light for years ahead.