Vol. 1 Issue No. 2 January-February 2016 page 2
He was a PEOPLE PERSON. Two words that can best describe a father, a leader, a builder, a tough politician, a farmer, an educator by his own right and many other attributes he had left behind that can be emulated by anyone.
By his own standards, generosity is a virtue. He is well-known as a regular churchgoer. Uncle Ardo or Tang Ardo or Lakay Ardo or even Apo Ardo lived by all these good traits.
His biography is almost synonymous to the history of Flora, a once virgin forest which became the center of timber cutting operations in the 1940s to 1970s. He was employed with two of the biggest logging concessionaires in the lower Apayao area — that of the Maqueras and Puzons.
Being a ‘bodigero’ of the late David Puzon, once the most powerful political and business figure in Far North Luzon, helped Tang Ardo’s management skills that eventually led him to a political life.
Puzon, who was a Governor of Cagayan before settling to Kalinga-Apayao where he also became its first Governor, pushed Tang Ardo to the political limelight and he eventually became Flora’s second Mayor in 1967 after that of Mayor Juan Madriaga.
Flora at that time was almost neglected of development. It took several hours to reach the place from junction Ayaga.
Tang Ardo held the mayoralty post for an unprecedented 32 years, interrupted only after the so-called EDSA revolt that catapulted President Cory Aquino, who then replaced all existing local officials with officers-in-charge.
He regained the post from the late Atty. Madrid and won in 1987 elections and again in the next election. It was during his time that seven more barangays were born making the current total of 16.
His son Richard continued the De San Jose’s strange-hold of political power when he won in 1998 and served for full nine-year term.
Another son, the late Dr. Efren, won three times before he died of lung cancer in July 2015. A few years back, Tang Ardo’s eldest son Benjamin also died of heart attack during his last term as Punong Barangay of Pob. East.
At the mass burial at St. Joseph’s High School catholic church on December 30, his daughter Dr. Josie Ferrer, who is living in the United States since the late 1980s, paraphrased what has been said during the necrological service by those who were close or worked to Tang Ardo.
“Loving father (for making sure his family gets all affections and attentions and support including material needs), a great builder (for leading and guiding his municipality into its gradual growth and development) and a legend (for all his good deeds and generosity to the ordinary folks).”
Mr. Victorino Agmata mentioned some of the schools that were initiated and founded during Tang Ardo’s term including the Flora National H.S. and primary schools in the interior barangays and the secondary school in Sta. Maria was named after him — Mayor Ricardo De San Jose Comprehensive H.S. Mrs. Ermelinda Putulan talked of his long-time superior’s kindness to municipal employees and their families while Ligaya Taberna remembered all his help during his college days. Mayor Rodolfo Juan considers him his political mentor.
My family was not spared from that ever-present generosity when Uncle Ardo rented a three-storey apartment in Oroqiuieta St. in Sta. Cruz, Manila, where we stayed with his immediate family for 13 years. It was during those days that Auntie Tinang asked me to make close companionship with Mang Ben and Mang Efren or look after them in times of troubles and good times.
When Richard came, both Auntie Tinang and Uncle Ardo asked me the same guidance to provide for the “bagong salta sa syudad boy” that was Itchay. It was a simple thing to give back to the huge generosity of the De San Joses to my family. It was during those days that I saw Uncle Ardo the only time he cried. He came upstairs holding a copy of TEMPO (the national tabloid which I was employed as a regular sports writer and part-time news editor a few years later).
The banner story that day was when the New People’s Army stormed to the downtown of Flora and razed its municipal hall and the De San Jose family’s house in 1985.
Another unforgettable story was when one night many years ago, my father came home to tell the bad news that Uncle Ardo was shot by a gunman during a speech at the town fiesta during his first term as Mayor in 1972.
Well, he survived but a plastic tube was planted in his body to make his heart work. He had that condition in all his lifetime. He also had two heart operations in the United States for two occasions to replace and recharge the batteries of the artificial heart artery.
One time during my human rights advocacy days in the early 1990s, I led a group of church workers, media men, medical personnel, lawyers and justice and peace workers from Manila to document cases of human rights violations committed by the military stationed in Flora at that time.
That particular occasion was unforgettable for him about me for he always look for me to ask help because of the volatile situation here in Flora at that time when many residents were either killed or missing due to suspicion that they were supporters or couriers of the NPA. He was so worried that the army and the LGU were not in good terms.
When I came back from a long stay abroad and Richard asked me to work with him, Uncle Ardo was very glad to know about it (He was also thankful when he learned that Ma’am Jessica included me in the Vice Mayor’s office staff.) and said to me that my coming here in Flora is long overdue. He told me that he could have also given me a lot to build my own house for free as what he had done to many people of Flora.
It was not a big surprise because it is natural for Tang Ardo to share what he has to other people. Yet, giving lands for free is a tough act to follow. Well, that’s all it takes to know Tang Ardo as Fr. Dawaton said it in three words — MAN OF OTHERS.