Virac honors pre-war leader who built roads thru “atag”
posted 23-Dec-2018  ·  
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Capitol officials and current leaders of the capital town recently honored Florencio Arcilla Tacorda, Virac’s pre-World War II leader and its first post-war mayor who was responsible for building many of the town’s roads through voluntary cooperative labor.

Two concrete markers symbolizing his “feat of selfless human endeavor and profound commitment to genuine public service” were unveiled at Gogon junction and at Palta Small junction last Dec. 6, 2018 by Mayor Samuel Laynes, Vice Governor Shirley Abundo, Provincial Administrator Lemuel Surtida, the Sangguniang Bayan headed by Vice Mayor Arlynn Arcilla, and barangay officials.

The marker described Tacorda thus: “A beloved leader, embracing the ‘ATAG’ doctrine of cooperation, he and countless number of Viracnons  built the early road network with simple tools, grit and muscle, now a predecessor of the barangay roads from Gogon Junction-Palnab del Norte-Palnab del Sur-Pajo San Isidro-Pajo Baguio-Antipolo del Sur-Antipolo del Norte-Igang-Talisoy-Casoocan-Magnesia del Sur-Magnesia del Norte-Buenavista-Hawan Grande-Hawan Ilaya-Palta Salvacion-Palta Big to Palta Small Junction.”

The marker also renamed the route “FLORENCIO A. TACORDA ROAD” by virtue of Provincial Ordinance No. 001-2018 approved by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan last Jan. 4, 2018 after it received the Virac SB’s Resolution No. 2017-11-311 urging the renaming of the road.

In 1955, just three days after Tacorda died at the age of 74, the Provincial Board led by then Governor Juan Alberto and member Lino Azicate (third member Jacinto Vargas was absent) passed Resolution No. 33 naming the road passing through Palta, Hawan, Magnesia, Talisoy, Antipolo and Palnab the “Florencio A. Tacorda Route.”

On behalf of the grandchildren and great grandchildren of the late leader, Edwin Tacorda Palomer Soneja extended the clan’s deep appreciation to the municipal government for initiating the effort to rename the provincial road in honor of his great grandfather.

In a story written by his son Santiago, Florencio was born in Virac on July 14, 1881, the third son of Ciriaco Tacorda and Guillerma Arcilla. Instead of attending formal schooling, he became a farmer and and “vaquero”. In his spare time, he went to a Catholic school and through his own efforts learned to read and write and a little arithmetic.

When he became an acquaintance of Chinese millionaire merchant Cayetano Tan Jong Yu, the latter turned over his herd of cattle for the young man to take care of and sometime later asked him to work in his warehousing firm.

In no time, due to his knack of doing things efficiently, he was made “almacenero” or overseer. It was this job that gave him the confidence of starting a family at 18, marrying the former Florentina Vargas of Gogon. From this union, nine children would be born: Filomena, Andres, Epifania, Lourdes, Dolores, Agapita, Santiago, Delfin and Estrella.

His opportunity to render public service came in 1905 when the barrio of Gogon chose him to as “Teniente Segundo” for a year and as “Teniente Primero” from 1907 to 1909. He showed distinguishing marks of leadership and initiative that the Provincial Board of Albay, upon the recommendation of the Virac municipal council, appointed him as councilor from 1910 to 1911.

Due to his selfless love and devotion to public service, he was elected to the same position with an overwhelming majority in 2012, a feat he repeated in 1916. It was during the latter campaign that he discovered his prowess for public speaking. Assailed by his opponents for his illiteracy and lack of education, he would often retort, “Ang tawo nahiling sa guibo bacong sa sarong canastrong libro.”

Florencio was then drawn to the opposition headed by Don Eustaquio Joson, then the Lieutenant Governor of Catanduanes, and this association gave him the opportunity to learn the art of politics and leadership.

In 1919, having no candidate strong enough to win the town presidency, the opposition chose Florencio, pitting him against veterans Don Pedro Alberto, Don Potenciano Obien and Don Ramon Amata. Despite entering the race at the last hours, he gave a good account of himself, losing to Alberto by just 70 votes.

Inspired by the defeat and learning its lessons, Florencio ran again for the town presidency in 1922, scoring a resounding victory which he replicated in 1925 and 1928 with overpowering majority of the votes.

It was during this nine-year stint as administrator of the capital town that, through his dynamic leadership, he rallied the people as one man to build roads, bridges and numerous public and civic improvements by their own sweat through “atag.”  Virac then was an opposition country and thus deprived of much-needed national aid.

During this period, Hamis, as he was then fondly called, and his army of cooperative laborers constructed at least 21 “camino vicinal” or routes to populated areas, as well as the Plaza Rizal grounds and kiosk, concrete culverts, the road from the market to the pier.

“As municipal president, he had one magnificent obsession: to make Virac not only progressive but the cleanest and most beautiful town of them all,” his son recalled.

Coming upon violations of municipal ordinances while walking around town, the president, armed with his ubiquitous whistle that he would blow often, would admonish the erring citizen right then and there.

Such was his splendid service to the people of Virac that when Governor-General Leonard Wood visited the town in 1924, he was so impressed with the orderliness and cleanliness of the town that he awarded Tacorda a Distinguished Service Medal.

Wood’s report in the Registry of Inspecting Officials attests to the basis of his award: “April 26, 1924, I have inspected this town today and found clean, orderly and generally well conducted. One provincial prisoner. No municipal prisoners. Records as far as a hasty examination permits appear in good condition. People happy and contented. No hunger and taxes levy paid. President has medal for having cleanest town. The general conditions was same when I inspected the town in 1922 June 14. Generally speaking, the town and sub-provincial officials are to be commended. No constabulary in the island. Children well vaccinated. Collection today better than last year. Leonard Wood, Governor-General (churches well attended).”

In 1931, Florencio was appointed chairman of the Boy Scouts of America, Troop No. 164, Virac, Catanduanes, but his highest tribute came when he was chosen presiding officer of the Albay Municipal Presidents League.

After completing his third term, he went back to his simple life in the farm but soon he was offered several positions in government, accepting the job of road inspector of the Public Works in 1935. When the post of provincial warden was offered to him, he did not hesitate accepting the opportunity to be of service to the people.

But his advancing age, he was then already 60 by the time World War II broke out in 1941, forced him back to the farm where he spent the four years of Japanese occupation.

After the war ended, the US Army organized the Philippine Civil Affairs Unit to restore and reorganize civilian government, with one Major Sims, in-charge of the Bicol Sector, looked around for one to lead the effort in Virac and had no better choice than the grand old man, Florencio A. Tacorda.

Asked to lay aside the plow in favor of public service, he responded to the call at the risk of his failing health and became Virac’s first post-war mayor.

Upon his death on August 12, 1955 at the age of 74, a grateful and grieving town, speaking through Gov. Juan M. Alberto, remembered him by naming the road he pioneered to build from Palta to Palnab the Florencio A. Tacorda Route.

In 1969, the sitio Daguindingan was reborn as barangay Florencio Tacorda Village, its people having voted to name their place in honor of the late mayor.

For decades, except for the barangay’s name, his memory was lost to the succeeding generation of Viracnons, the wooden signpost marking the road he built having disappeared.

“But in the hearts of his people is a monument more enduring than anything else, and, on that monument are inscribed the following: FLORENCIO A. TACORDA – Leader Among Men and Model Public Servant.”

ON ALL SAINTS DAY IN 1955. the family of Florencio A. Tacorda gathers at his tomb at the Virac Catholic Cemetery. Among the family members in the photo, only Jose Tacorda Buebos (standing, extreme right) would enter politics, becoming a councilor and vice mayor of the capital municipality.
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