Past Officials


                   NAME      POSITION  INCLUSIVE DATE
1.  Hon. Christopher Fredrick Bader City Mayor 1912-1914
2.Hon. Victoriano Tarroza City Mayor 1914
Hon. Nicasio S. Valderrosa (Deceased)City Mayor1937-1939
4.Hon. Pablo R. Lorenzo (Deceased)
City Mayor
Hon. Agustin L. Alvarez (Deceased)
City Mayor
Hon. Gregorio E. Ledesma (Deceased)
City Mayor
7.Hon. Pantaleon A. Pelayo (Deceased)
City Mayor
Hon. Vicente C. Suarez (Deceased)
City Mayor
9.Hon. Manuel D. Jaldon (Deceased)
City Mayor
Hon. Cesar C. Climaco (Deceased)City Mayor
(1st term)
(2nd term)
(3rd term)

11.Hon. Hector C. Suarez (Deceased)City Mayor
(1st term)
(2nd term)
12.Hon. Tomas F. Ferrer (Deceased)
City Mayor
13.Hon. Joaquin F. Enriquez, Jr. (Deceased)
City Mayor
(Straight 3 terms)
14.Hon. Vicente F. Atilano II
City Mayor
15.Hon. Manuel A. DalipeActing City Mayor1984-1986
Hon. Rustico M. Varela (Deceased)OIC-City Mayor1986-1987
17.OIC-City MayorApril 10, 1987 to June 1, 1987
18.Hon. Vitaliano D. AganOIC-City MayorMay 28, 1987 to Nov. 30, 1987
  City Mayor1988-1988
19.Engr. Efren F. ArañezOIC, City MayorMarch 23, 1998 to June 30, 1998 
20.Hon. Maria Clara L. Lobregat (Deceased)City Mayor 
(1st term)
(2nd term) 

2001- 2004
Hon. Erico Basilio A. Fabian
 Acting City Mayor
January 4, 2004 to June 30, 2004


Frederick Bader had the distinction of being the first appointive mayor of Zamboanga when it became a commissioned city under the American regime. Bader was of German-American descent. He came to the Philippines during the Spanish-American war in 1889 together with a group of Americans and was detailed in Zamboanga as part of a construction brigade tasked to build bridges, roads and other infrastructure projects.

On June 1, 1903, the Philippine Commission passed Organic Act No. 787 which was known as the Moro Province Act. This act of the American Colonial Government brought about the creation of the “Moro Province,” which provided for a semi-military government. It was under such a decree that a large portion of Mindanao and Sulu was placed under American governance, comprising five districts. One of these five districts was to be Zamboanga, with Zamboanga proper made into a municipality. It was under this regime that Zamboanga municipality became the capital and seat of government of the Moro Province.

Under General John J. Pershing, the most famous of the three military governors of
indanao, Zamboanga was recommended to be commissioned as a city. The Legislative Council approved the Pershing recommendation through Legislative Council Act 272, which was passed on January 1, 1912. Hence Zamboanga for the very first time became a city.

Mayor Frederick Bader’s administration recorded no significant accomplishment except that it paved the way for the transition to civil governance. Bader’s term was after all limited to just slightly more than a year. By the end of 1913, the Moro Province was abolished and replaced with the Department of Mindanao and Sulu. Under this new setup, Zamboanga reverted to the status of municipality until the signing of the charter which established it as a city in 1936.


With the transition from the Moro Province to the Department of Mindanao and Sulu came a new style of governance, characterized by more key government positions being given to native leaders. With the reversion of Zamboanga to a municipality and the end of the term of Mayor Frederick Bader, Sr., a native Zamboangueño was to be appointed as Mayor of Zamboanga municipality. He was Victoriano Tarroza, or Ñor Nano. Tarroza was born in Mercedes, Zamboanga City and was married to Mercedes Robinson, a woman of American descent.

He was appointed on March 1, 1914, and held the position until October 15 of the same year. Very little is known about Tarroza and his short term as mayor. His granddaughter Lulu Javier, remembered the old man as a highly principled individual and a very strict and orderly person. According to Lulu, her mother Mercedes recounted an instance when Ñor Nano’s only son, Armando, parked his bicycle in a no-parking zone. A policeman called Armando’s attention and reported the matter to the father, who was then the mayor. Without much ado, Ñor Nano ordered the policeman to arrest his own son for breaking the law.

Tarroza remained as mayor for the municipality of Zamboanga and continued as municipal president of Zamboanga when the Department of Mindanao and Sulu was abolished and replaced with the Bureau of Non-Christian Tribes, then later the Department of Interior. The position of mayor would not be re-established until the year 1936 when Zamboanga became a chartered city.


On October 12, 1936, President Manuel L. Quezon signed the law making Zamboanga a Chartered City, but it was not until February 26, 1937 that the first officials of Zamboanga City were sworn into office. At the forefront of this group of newly appointed Zamboangueño leaders was Nicasio Siason Valderrrosa, who was to become the first mayor of Zamboanga as a chartered city.

Valderrosa was born on October 11, 1891, in Bacolod, Negros Occidental. His parents were Domingo Valderrosa of Lucban, Quezon, and Lorenza Siason of Bacolod.

Mayor Valderrosa began his public career as a schoolteacher in Bacolod from 1906 to 1908. He was assigned as chief clerk at the Office of the Division Superintendent of Schools in Negros Occidental from 1907 to 1917. His superiors were so impressed with his performance that in 1918, Ñor Nick, as he was fondly called, was appointed to the Provincial Treasury.

Valderrosa came to Zamboanga in 1930 when he was appointed to the position of Secretary and Treasurer for the Province of Zamboanga. He was to hold this position until 1937. This was to be turning point in Valderrosa’s life as this gave him the opportunity to serve as acting provincial governor for the province, which at that time was undergoing a period of transition.

His management skill did not go unnoticed. It helped him capture the appointment as city mayor. Mayor Valderrosa’s term would be a landmark in Zamboanga City’s history as it was the very first civil government under the Commonwealth, a government that would be run by Filipinos. However, the position of mayor at that time was still an appointive one, and the mayor served at the pleasure of the President. In 1939, Mayor Valderrosa on the request of President Quezon, was assigned to the newly created chartered city of Baguio, which was experiencing administrative problems as a fledgling city. President Quezon felt Baguio needed Valderrosa’s administrative hand.

Despite his reluctance to leave Zamboanga, Valderrosa took up the challenge and served as Bagiuo’s mayor until 1944. He would be the second Filipino to hold the position of mayor of that city until the outbreak of World War II. However, immediately after the war, he was designated by the military authorities through the Philippine Civil Authorities Unit (PCAU) as mayor of Baguio again in order to reorganize its government.

After his assignment in Baguio, Ñor Nick came back to Zamboanga and took up residence here until 1948. When Basilan became a separate city from Zamboanga, he was appointed by President Elpidio Quirino as Basilan’s new mayor, a position he held until 1953.

In 1954, Valderrosa retired after 47 years in public service. After retirement he devoted much of his time to farming and the family business. 

As mayor of Zamboanga, Baguio and Basilan, Mayor Nicasio Valderrosa left behind a legacy of accomplishments. In Zamboanga City, he was responsible for the transfer of the Moro village from Cawa-Cawa Boulevard to Campo Islam. He was credited with stabilizing the financial problems in Baguio and the establishment of the workmen’s village. It was also in Baguio where he relocated squatters to Aurora Hill and at the same time started the Sto. Tomas waterworks. The Basileños would always cherish the memory of Mayor Valderrosa as the man who was responsible for the road network in the province. It was to his credit that the Isabela Market and Basilan Electric Plant were constructed.

Mayor Valderrosa was not only energetic as public servant but was also equally very active in civic activities. He was responsible for organizing the Boy Scouts of the Philippines local council and was also involved in the National Red Cross and Anti-Tuberculosis Society.


The transfer of Mayor Nicasio Valderrosa to Baguio City in 1939 left the mayoralty in Zamboanga vacant. President Manuel L. Quezon saw to it that Valderrosa would be replaced by an equally qualified man who could spur the development of Zamboanga during the Commonwealth. The responsibility would fall on a Zamboangueño of Spanish descent, Pablo Rojas Lorenzo.

Lorenzo was born on March 1, 1887. He was the son of a Spanish sergeant, Pablo Lorenzo, who at that time was serving in the Southern Philippines. His mother was Manuela Rojas from Cavite. Young Pablo grew up in Zamboanga but the family later moved to Manila where he received his early formal education at the Ateneo Municipal de Manila. After finishing his high school, he enrolled at the Philippine University College of Law. Among his contemporaries were Elpidio Quirino, who later became the Second President of the Philippines, and Jose Yulo, who was to become the Speaker of the House. Pablo graduated from his law course in 1914, and returned to Zamboanga to practice law after becoming a full-pledged lawyer.

At that time, Zamboanga was the capital of the Moro Province under the American regime. The American Circuit Court was stationed in Zamboanga, and it was the perfect setting for the young and brilliant lawyer to make his mark among the legal luminaries of the time. Eloquent and dedicated, Lorenzo became well known as a trial and corporate attorney who traveled to practically all parts of Mindanao to defend cases. His clients came from all walks of life.

Don Pablo met a beautiful lady from Cebu by the name of Luisa Rafols. After a period of courtship, Don Pablo proposed to and married Miss Rafols. He brought his beautiful wife to Zamboanga where they started a family, having five children. Don Pablo and Doña Luisa had three girls in a row- Isabel, Maria Clara, who would one day become the congresswoman and later mayor of Zamboanga, and Maria Luisa, who was to become a professor at the University of the Philippines. Don Pablo and Doña Luisa also had two sons, Pablo, Jr., who would become a lawyer like his father, and Luis, who became a prominent business executive managing several corporations in Bukidnon, Cagayan and Davao.

Don Pablo’s first experience as a public servant was when he was elected as the representative of Zamboanga to the first Philippine Legislative Assembly, which was the lawmaking body of the Philippine government at that time. This was in preparation for the Commonwealth Government, which would eventually lead to the granting of Philippine Independence.

The Commonwealth Government was to train the Filipinos to be self-governing people. Don Pablo was also elected as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1934, representing Zamboanga City. In 1939, President Manuel L. Quezon appointed him Zamboanga Mayor, a position he held until 1940.

Don Pablo had to let go of his position as mayor of Zamboanga when, on the request of President Quezon, he and his family transferred to Manila after he was appointed Immigration Commissioner. He was to hold this position until the outbreak of World War II.

Don Pablo had the honor of serving under two other presidents of the Philippines aside from Quezon. He served as Secretary of Education during the term of President Quirino, in which post he was credited for the elevation of the Vocational High School in Nueva Ecija to a State University.

He also held the distinction of serving as the Secretary of Public Works and Communications. Under the term of President Macapagal, he served as Chairman of the Development Bank of the Philippines before he retired from public service.

 AGUSTIN L. ALVAREZ (1940-1942)

With Don Pablo Lorenzo’s relinquishment due to the Immigration portfolio, the responsibility of running the affairs of the government in the City of Zamboanga fell on another illustrious Zamboangueño by the name of Agustin Alvarez.

Alvarez was a native Zamboangueño whose parents were Fausto Alvarez and Mariquit Lucero, who were all from this city. He had two brothers and two sisters. “Titing”, as he was fondly called by his friends and relatives was a lawyer by profession.

Titing Alvarez belonged to a wealthy and respected gentry of Zamboanga, and so his parents could afford to send him to Manila where he pursued law. Like most Zamboangueños during his time, Titing came back to Zamboanga to practice his profession. He married Jacina Marquez, a marriage blessed with only one child, Roberto.

As a lawyer, Titing was popular among the people of Zamboanga and his popularity bolstered his political career in the city. Alvarez was appointed Governor of Zamboanga Province when the Department of Mindanao and Sulu was established under the Colonial Government in 1914. He was to hold this position until 1921. Alfonso Ramos took over the post in 1921 as Acting Governor of the province, when Titing was sent abroad as a pensionado to study government administration in the United States. He came back and reclaimed the position as governor in 1922.

Alvarez had the distinction of being the first Zamboangueño to be sent abroad as a government scholar.

With the vacancy created in the mayoralty post due to Don Pablo’s designation as Immigration Commissioner, Alvarez was appointed mayor of the city and held the position until 1942. He however, had to resign from office due to poor health, giving way for his secretary, Efren C. Peña, a transplanted Ilocano, to take over as officer-in-charge of Zamboanga City until after the liberation of Zamboanga from the Japanese on March 10, 1945.


Amidst the chaos of World War II, the greater part of Zamboanga was destroyed by the mighty Imperial Japanese Army who sought to erase the existing form of government and establish imperial rule in the city. However, several far-flung areas of Zamboanga remained free from the influence of the Japanese. These areas sought to establish some form of government that was free from the Japanese invaders. It was during this time that one Zamboangueño would shine prominently as a leader. He would later become the man responsible for resurrecting the city of Zamboanga from the ashes of war.

Don Gregorio Eijansantos Ledesma was born on April 23, 1893, in Bolong, Zamboanga City. His father, Dionisio Ledesma was a native Zamboangueño. As a boy, Don Gregorio grew up with his two brothers and two sisters in a typical Catholic atmosphere, rich in moral values and religiosity.

Ñor Goyong, as he came to be known, was educated in one of the early schools established in Zamboanga. During his time, the highest educational attainment that one could obtain was the intermediate level. Although Ñor Goyong wanted very much to pursue higher education, the opportunity was simply not there for the young man. At the time when he was growing up, there was no high school and colleges in Zamboanga. Yet the intermediate education of Goyong’s time was the equivalent of a college education, and so, armed with an intermediate diploma, Ñor Goyong was ready to face the challenges of life.

Ñor Goyong met and fell in love with a pretty Zamboangueña named Juliana Macrohon.  With the blessing of their parents, Goyong and Juliana were married at the Immaculate Conception Parish Church in 1916.  They were blessed with six children, four girls and two boys, who were named Aurora, Wilfrido, Amelia, Teresita, Luciano and Milargros.

It was during the outbreak of World War II and the subsequent invasion of Zamboanga by the Japanese that Ñor Goyong would gain prominence as a leader in the community.  Ñor Goyong was appointed governor of the areas that remained free of the Japanese Imperial Army.  Being the only civil authority free from Japanese rule, Ñor Goyong did much to extend help to the civilians who were escaping from the invaders.

Immediately after liberation, Zamboanga was a wreck, and everything was in disarray.  There was no political organization to speak of.  The American forces did not want to hand over the helm of government to those who had served under the Japanese, most of whom were held up for interrogation.  Ñor Goyong stood out from among the rest, having continued his defiance against the Japanese.  He was fluent in both Spanish and English, intelligent, and had a full grasp of the local situation.  He was therefore appointed Mayor and served the city in that capacity from 1945 to 1946.

The ravages of war left Ñor Goyong with a Herculean task.  It would be his responsibility to set the stage for the establishment of civil order in Zamboanga and to rebuild the city.  Ñor Goyong saw to it that the first thing he would accomplish was to appoint civilian officers and to fill the different civil offices with qualified officials.  He also had to contend with the displaced civilians who needed help. 
Even after his term as Mayor of Zamboanga, Ñor Goyong would remain active in politics.  He was credited with organizing the Nacionalista Party in the city.

Ledesma was an active member of the Knights of Columbus.  In 1958, he ran for councilor to fill up a vacant seat in the council.  Ñor Goyong died on September 4, 1966, at the age of 73.  The younger generation of today may no longer remember the name of Ñor Goyong, but to those who survived the ravages of World War II, Ñor Goyong will always be a hero.

 PANTALEON A. PELAYO (1946-1947)

The passage of time left as a blur in the minds of Zamboangueños the memory of Pelayo, the man who served Zamboanga as an appointive mayor from 1946 to 1947.  Yet no history book about Zamboanga would be complete without mentioning the magnificent contribution of the man who had unselfishly served the country and this city, especially at a time when it had to re-establish a civil government after the outbreak of World War II.

Pelayo was born in the Municipality (now City) of Zamboanga, Province of Zamboanga, on August 31, 1901.  His mother died when he was only five years old.  He graduated from the Zamboanga Provincial High School in 1921 as the salutatorian of his class.  He later enrolled at the Philippine Law School where he earned an LLB degree and graduated in 1925.  He took the bar examination that same year and passed it, obtaining an average of 99% in International Law.  An article in the January edition of the Weekly Graphic Magazine in 1941, entitled “Who’s Who in the Philippines,” gave an account of his early life as a young lawyer.  The article said that in 1926, he settled in Davao, where he immediately set up a law office in the provincial capital.  In no time, he was regarded as one of Davao’s prominent lawyers. His coterie of admirers has gotten to be so big that a political faction headed by a late governor nominated him as a candidate to the Constitutional Convention.  He and his running mate Atty. Rafael Castillo, won by a wide margin.

It was at the constitutional convention that Pelayo made a courageous speech denouncing Japanese landholdings in Davao. This stand was all the more courageous considering the power of the Japanese landholders who at that time had numerous laborers under their employ.

It must be remembered that at that time, Davao was nicknamed Davaoka because it was considered as the little “Tokyo of the Philippines.”  The Japanese were in control and their influence in the community was tremendous.  No one dared to antagonize them.  Pelayo’s denunciation of the Japanese landholdings was considered by many as his political doom.  But it was Pelayo’s revelation in the convention that influenced the body to adopt the constitutional precept contained in Article 13, Section 5 of the constitution, which reads: “Save in cases of hereditary succession, no private agricultural land shall be transferred or assigned except to individuals, corporation, or association qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain in the Philippines.”

Pelayo’s revelation also caused the then Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Eulogio Rodriguez, to order in 1934 a full dress investigation of Japanese landholdings in Davao and other parts of Mindanao.  As a result, leases of public agricultural lands which were cultivated and developed by the Japanese were ordered canceled.  This almost caused an international problem with the Japanese government, and President Manuel L. Quezon had to make a trip to Tokyo.  What transpired in Tokyo between President Quezon and the Japanese government was never revealed, except that the President upon his return said that there was no “Japanese problem”.  The Japanese landholders were told to file motions for reconsideration regarding the cancellation of their lease contracts and applications affecting public agricultural lands.  These motions remained pending and unacted upon until the outbreak of war.

Without his knowledge and without having sought the position, Pelayo was appointed City Mayor of Davao by President Manuel L. Quezon in October 1940.

The appointment was to be a major surprise for Pelayo, and for many of his detractors.  Pelayo set down the policies of administration in his inaugural speech on October 12, 1940, when he emphasized that he would not tolerate vices and corruption, and promised the people a clean and honest government.  To those disappointed over his appointment, he pledged “to serve them more and serve them best” (Mindanao Recorder, Special Edition, December 1940).

Pelayo’s term as mayor of Davao was cut short when World War II began.  Davao was invaded by the Japanese on December 20, 1941.  Mayor Pantaleon Pelayo refused to surrender to the Japanese forces and instead went to the hills together with his family.  The invasion was so sudden that he did not even have time to bring with him his personal belongings, including valuable pieces of jewelry which belonged to his family.  He joined the resistance movement under Col. Wendell Fertig, commanding officer of the 10th Military District USDIF.

One week after the liberation of Davao by the American forces, Pelayo returned to Davao City to reorganize the Civil Government.  A few months later, President Sergio Osmeña sent him to Zamboanga to reorganize its government and to be its City Mayor.

After the defeat of Osmeña in the 1946 election, Pelayo resigned from his position as City Mayor of Zamboanga and returned to Davao to continue his law practice.  He served Zamboanga for only one year.

After his retirement from public office he continued to be active in youth and civic movements.  He became the president of the Hijos de Mindanao and Sulu Association.  He was the president of the Davao Youth Welfare League, and was a national committee man for Mindanao in the Philippine Veterans Legion.

 VICENTE C. SUAREZ (1947-1949)

After the term of transition under the administration of Mayor Pantaleon Pelayo, President Manuel Roxas appointed Vicente Carvajal Suarez as the next mayor of Zamboanga. He was to hold office as chief executive of Zamboanga from 1947 to 1949.

Suarez was a native Zamboangueño, born in Baliwasan, Zamboanga City, on October 26, 1888, to illustrious parents. His father was Don Basilio Guerrero Suarez, an immigrant from Ermita, Manila, while his mother was a native Zamboangueña named Raymunda Carvajal.

As a child, he grew up with his four brothers and two sisters and took up his elementary and secondary education in the newly established public school system in Zamboanga during the American regime. After his graduation from high school, his parents, being affluent, decided to send the young Vicente to Manila to pursue a degree. Vicente chose to enroll in law school and became a lawyer.

During his early days as a lawyer, he met his first wife from Laguna. The couple had four children, Gustavo, Ester, Fe, and Noemi. Unfortunately his first wife died, leaving the young lawyer to take care of his four children alone.

Life as a widower was not easy for Vicente. On one of his trips to Laguna, he met a beautiful young lady with whom he started a courtship. She was Caridad Fernandez, the sister of a well-known lawyer in the country, Estanislao Fernandez. Caridad was from a well-to-do family in Laguna and was a pharmacist by profession. Vicente and Caridad decided to get married, a marriage which gave Vicente five more children, two boys and three girls. They were named Vicente, Jr., the eldest, Gloria, Renato, Inez and Nelia, the youngest. Together, Vicente and his family decided to reside in Zamboanga where he continued his law practice, slowly gaining prominence among the city’s residents.

It was his popularity with the people that propelled Vicente into a political career. In 1947 President Manuel L. Roxas appointed him mayor of Zamboanga City.

Don Vicente as an individual, valued the importance of public opinion so much so that he started the pre-war newspaper, El Criterio. It was actually the newspaper which gave him prominence in Zamboanga society. He was also the founder of the Lions Club in Zamboanga, and was the organization’s first president.

Mayor Suarez’s legacy to Zamboanga was multi-faceted, yet it can all be summed up as his passion to accomplish the sincere commitment to serve his beloved people with honesty and integrity.


Mayor Manuel Dagalea Jaldon was born on December 8, 1902, in the small village of Bolong to Don Juan Jaldon and Manuela Dagalea. He was the second of six children. His eldest sister, Milagros J. Enriquez, was the mother of former Mayor Joaquin F. Enriquez, Jr. His brother, Adolfo, was the first chief of police of Zamboanga after he joined the peace-keeping force that served in South Korea during the Korean War. His youngest brother, Isabelo, was chief of the detective division of the Zamboanga Police Station.

Manuel Jaldon, “Manolo” to his close and intimate friends, studied at the Zamboanga Normal School before entering the Philippine Constabulary School. He was commissioned in the armed forces and headed the guerilla movement in Zamboanga peninsula and part of Cotabato and Bukidnon during the Japanese occupation.

After liberation, Jaldon joined politics in the 1940’s. He was appointed Mayor of Zamboanga City in 1951 and served as local chief executive until 1953 under the administration of then President Elpidio Quirino. As mayor, he appointed Cesar C. Climaco as his secretary. In the 1953 elections, Jaldon installed Climaco as the standard bearer of the defunct Liberal Party of Zamboanga.

Jaldon retired from active politics in the late 50’s and decided to live a quiet life in Cagayan de Oro after his first wife, Rosario “Charing” Seneca, died at an early age. He had two children from his first wife, Isabelo and Fernando, and two children from his second wife, Flora Yamut, Manoling and Emmanuel.

Jaldon died in Cagayan de Oro in 1976. He was given a military burial that was attended by prominent politicians from Zamboanga City, who included Mayor Cesar C. Climaco, his brother, Jose Climaco, and some members of the City Council.

  CESAR C. CLIMACO (1953-1954; 1956-1961; 1980-1984)

Perhaps the most colorful person ever to hold the position of chief executive of the city of Zamboanga was Cesar Cortez Climaco. To many Zamboangueños, Climaco was the gem of Zamboanga. He was born on February 28, 1916, to Gregorio Climaco and Isabelita Cortez, both natives of this town.

Cesar had two brothers and two sisters. They were Rafael, a lawyer who became a Justice in the Court of Appeals; Jose or Jolly also a lawyer who became a Vice-Mayor of Zamboanga; Leticia, who married a prominent physician in the city, Dr. Espiridion Alvarez; and Lydia.

As a boy, Cesar finished his elementary and secondary education at the Normal School, presently the Western Mindanao State University. He pursued his college education at the University of the Philippines, where he took up law. He took the bar examinations and passed it with flying colors.

Immediately after the war, Julpha became a teacher at the Zamboanga City High School; while Cesar went on to continue his law studies, this time at the University of the Philippines.

As a young lawyer, he was described as flamboyant, dynamic and popular. His experience in the government service started when he was appointed prosecutor in the town of Jolo. Later, he was named executive assistant to the Mayor of Davao. Cesar came home to Zamboanga to serve as Executive Secretary to Mayor Manuel Jaldon.

Cesar’s political career began when he ran for the City Council in 1953, an election which he won overwhelmingly. It was in the same year that he was designated as Mayor of Zamboanga. In 1954, he became the Chief Project Manager and Field Coordinator of Operation Brotherhood in Vietnam, a position which he served until 1955, and which won him international recognition. He came back to Zamboanga in 1956 and ran in the first election ever held for the position of mayor in the city. Cesar went up against an appointive Mayor, Hector Suarez, and had for his running mate Dr. Tomas Ferrer under the banner of the Liberal Party. Cesar won in that election, giving him the distinction of being the first elected mayor of Zamboanga City.

He was reelected as Mayor of Zamboanga in 1959. Under the administration of President Diosdado Macapagal, he tried a position in the Senate in 1961, 1963, and again in 1965, but missing each time, the last one by only 3,567 votes.

If there was one trademark that was Cesar’s, it would be his character as an outspoken critic against corruption in any form. It was because of this that he became an ardent critic and opponent of President Ferdinand Marcos. Even during the time of President Diosdado Macapagal, Cesar was always noted to be the nemesis of corruption. In 1961, he was appointed Customs Commissioner, but later resigned from his post in protest to the corruption practices of some congressmen who wanted to take advantage of their position in government to import Mercedes Benz cars without having to pay the corresponding taxes to the government. President Macapagal begged Cesar to stay in the government service, and offered him the position of Presidential Assistant on Community Development, the forerunner of the present Department of Interior and Local Government. He was later appointed by President Macapagal as chairman of the Anti- Graft Committee.

It was no wonder that when Martial Law was declared in 1972, Cesar Climaco became a staunch oppositionist, becoming one of President Marcos’ most vociferous critics. It was for this reason that Cesar for a while decided to put himself in voluntary exile in the United States. He returned to the Philippines in 1976.

With the creation of the Batasang Pambansa, Cesar decided to run against Joaquin F. Enriquez, Jr., who was then running for the position of assemblyman under the Marcos banner. Cesar lost in that election. For a time he became a private citizen in Zamboanga. He kept himself busy looking after his farm in Titay, Zambonga del Sur. He described himself as “jobless farmer, fighting to dismantle the Marcos one-man rule.”

In 1980, Climaco, egged on by his supporters made a comeback bid for the mayoralty, choosing for his running mate a young Zamboangueño air force major named Manuel Dalipe. He founded the Concerned Citizens Aggrupation, a political party that was to be the rallying point for those who were opposed to the Marcos regime. In this election, he was to be pitted against a political opponent who had once been his political protégée for the council seat, Jose Vicente Fermin Atilano II, the mayor of Zamboanga at that time. Atilano was no match for the Climaco charisma and the local people’s discontent with the Marcos administration only served to bolster Cesar’s political bid. Climaco and his party captured all but one of the elective seats available.

But the cohesiveness of his party was not to last very long. His vice mayor and protégé, Manuel Dalipe, split from the CCA in favor of the KBL party of the administration under Maria Clara L. Lobregat when the elections were held for the city’s lone seat in the Batasang Pambansa. Cesar decided to step down from his post as mayor of the city to run for the position of Assemblyman against Lobregat and Joaquin Enriquez, Jr., both of whom were identified at that time with the Marcos administration. Cesar won in the election but refused to serve in the Batasang Pambansa until after he had served his full term of six years as mayor of Zamboanga. His aides would say that this was Cesar’s way of defying the Marcos regime by denying Marcos his presence in the rubber stamp parliament.

He would continue to be a stalwart of the opposition in the country, and the symbol of the fight for the preservation of the freedom of speech. At a time when few dared to speak up against President Marcos, Cesar would be the only one who could accuse Marcos of corruption and injustice in an open assembly and get away with it.

Unfortunately, his dream and vision for a peaceful and progressive Zamboanga was not realized when on November 14, 1984, he was felled by an assassin’s bullet while inspecting a fire scene on Gov. Alvarez Avenue. He was 68 years old when he died. To this very day, the mystery behind the murder remains unsolved, and those who were responsible for his death have not been brought to justice.

When Cesar was laid to rest at the Abong-Abong Park which he built, an estimated crowd of fifteen thousand mourners marched with the funeral cortege. It was a funeral that would rival that of Gandhi or Ninoy Aquino as mourners wept and sang “ay si Cesar,” an adaptation of the American folk song “Clementine.” People threw flowers as the coffin passed by and openly wept for the man who had given so much to Zamboanga.

Cesar had his frustrations as a man, foremost of which was his continued battle against corruption in government which he found to be deeply rooted in the system. As some friends would admit, Cesar’s idealism was his undoing.

Yet as he was a man who left lasting legacies for his people he so loved. To his credit belongs the development of the Pasonanca National park and later the Abong-Abong Park. He was responsible for the establishment of the Boy Scout Campsite, which was once the site of an international Boy Scout Jamboree. His obsession for cleanliness in the city gained for the city, at one time, the title as the cleanest city in the Philippines. All these were monumental reminders of a person whom a famous American writer, Charles C. Kelly, described as “madcap sexy senior citizen.”

Cesar’s closest friend described Cesar as a highly transparent person who was not afraid to show feelings, one who did not hesitate to expose his opinion freely. Engineer Leonardo Uro said that Cesar Climaco as a person had three “grievous faults”: 1) his lack of tact because he did not mince words when he felt he should call someone’s attention; 2) his irrepressible wit which has often misunderstood, but which was the best evidence of his razor sharp mind and his brutal frankness, for he cared not to whom he was speaking, whether a clergyman, a diplomat, or head of state; 3) his total disregard for his personal safety. He was noted to be the only mayor who went around without a bodyguard as he had complete trust and confidence in his fellowmen. Uro said the last was his greatest fault.

In Uro’s opinion, Zamboanga will have many great leaders as history goes, but there is only one Cesar Climaco.

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 HECTOR C. SUAREZ (1954-1955; 1964-1967)

When Mayor Cesar C. Climaco left for Vietnam in 1953 to take up his position as Chief Coordinator for Operation Brotherhood, another Suarez was to take over the post of mayor of Zamboanga. The brother of former Mayor Vicente Suarez, Hector, was appointed as the chief executive of the city.
Hector Carvajal Suarez was born on February 27, 1907, in the barrio of San Jose Gusu. “Hecky”, as he was called, took up his elementary education at the Burleigh School, which today is the Zamboanga Central School. He finished his secondary education at the Normal School, which is now the Western Mindanao State University. He later went to Manila to pursue his college education and enrolled at the University of Manila where he took up law. Despite the fact that he came from a well-to-do family, the young man decided to pursue his college education as a working student. He labored as an assistant in the Electoral Tribunal until he finished his law course, passing the bar examination in 1933.
He came back to Zamboanga to practice his profession. He became a well-known lawyer who took care of clients from all walks of life. He was noted to have a soft spot for the poor. According to his wife Dulcing, on many occasions he would not even charge for his services in defending poor clients.

His popularity later gained him political prominence. He served as an appointed mayor until 1955. In 1956, when the first election for mayor was held, he ran but lost to Cesar C. Climaco, who had returned from Vietnam.
In 1964, Hecky ran against Ferrer, defeating the latter. He would serve Zamboanga for a three-year term. In 1967, he was defeated by Joaquin F. Enriquez, Jr. After his defeat, Suarez decided to retire from public life.

Mayor Suarez is well remembered for his barrio beautification projects. It was Hecky who thought of bringing electricity to the barrios. Another major project of his was the construction of schools in the rural areas. It was also through his efforts that the income earned by the local water utility in the city was transferred from the national to the city coffers.

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Tomas Francisco Ferrer took over as Mayor of Zamboanga City in 1961 when Mayor Cesar Climaco decided to run for the Senate. He was to be the city’s chief executive until 1963.

Ferrer was born on March 3, 1906, in the barrio of Canelar. His parents were Pedro Francisco and Enrica Ferrer. Tom, as he was fondly called, chose to adopt the family name of his mother. Tom grew up together with a half-brother and three half-sisters. He started his elementary schooling at the barrio school in Recodo and later transferred to the Zamboanga Central School. He finished his high school in 1926 at the Normal School.

The former Teodora Ledesma of the prominent Ledesma family of Bolong does not exactly remember how she met the debonair young man, who came back from Manila as a young doctor. According to her, it must have been a mutual friend named Atty. Jose “Joe” Cabato, who introduced the young man to her. This initial meeting was to spark a romance. The popular young doctor pursued the pretty lass from Bolong until she consented to marry him on September 20, 1941, at the Bishop’s Palace.

Ferrer began his political career in 1947 against the wishes of his wife. He was so popular he could not help getting into politics. Tom won a council seat and served with such vitality that he was elected for a second term.

When elections were held in 1955 for the mayoralty, the very first time that the position would be subject to the ballot, Cesar C. Climaco invited Tom to be his running mate as the candidate for Vice Mayor. Believing in the idealism of Cesar, Tomas Ferrer agreed, becoming the first elected vice mayor of the city of Zamboanga. In 1959, he ran for the same position and was re-elected.

When Climaco ran for the senate, Vice Mayor Ferrer succeeded him as mayor. He would serve as Zamboanga City’s chief executive until 1963 when Hector Suarez defeated him. It was then that he opted to retire from politics and resume his medical practice. Mayor Ferrer as a doctor continued to serve the people of Zamboanga. He died on December 10, 1995, at the age of 89.

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JOAQUIN F. ENRIQUEZ, JR. (1967-1971; 1971-1975; 1975-1978)

Among the mayors, the one who governed Zamboanga City for the longest uninterrupted term was Joaquin F. Enriquez, Jr., “El Hacha”, as people called him.

Jun, as he was known to his friends, would serve the city for eleven years, counting the term extension granted to him by President Marcos during Martial Law.

Enriquez was born on February 23, 1926, the son of Joaquin Enriquez and Milagros Jaldon. He was the eldest of four children.

He had his elementary education at the Burleigh Elementary School and transferred to the Ateneo de Zamboanga for his secondary education. He finished college at the Far Eastern University. In 1953, Jun took the bar examination and passed it.

He was still a student at the Far Eastern University when he met Carmen Joaquin, the sister of the famous writer, Nick Joaquin. Right after he passed the bar examination, he proposed marriage to her. The couple would have six children, four boys and two girls. They are Roberto, Ricardo, Maria Lourdes, Renato, Maria Cristina, and Rolando.

Jun worked for a while in Manila, but later decided that life would be easier in his hometown. He began his political life in 1955 when he was invited to run for councilor under the banner of the Liberal Party. The handsome young lawyer was easily elected, landing among the top ten. In 1959 Jun ran for re-election and was victorious. This time he was number one.

His charisma and performance as councilor gained for the young politician more popularity among the voters of Zamboanga. In 1963, he was nominated to run for the position of Vice-Mayor under the ticket of Dr. Tomas Ferrer, who had assumed the position as mayor when Cesar Climaco ran for Congress. At that time, Enriquez had already assumed the position as vice mayor by succession. Tomas Ferrer lost in the 1963 election, but Jun won overwhelmingly and was retained as the vice mayor, a position he held until 1967.

In 1967, Jun decided to challenge the Nacionalista Mayor Hector Suarez for the chief executive’s job. He became the fifth elected mayor of Zamboanga, serving his term from 1967 to 1971. Because of political differences, Enriquez resigned from the Liberal Party. When he ran for re-election, in 1971, he was an independent candidate. He astounded many observers who thought he could not win without party support. When Martial Law was decreed in 1972, Jun was retained as mayor. In 1976, his term was extended because all elections in the country were cancelled.

The initial years of Martial Law in the Philippines would probably be the most difficult in the country’s political history, yet Mayor Jun Enriquez’s resiliency in adapting to this most difficult situation would turn out to be a boom for the Zamboangueños. His priority was to make sure that Zamboanga would not be left out in terms of development. Mayor Jun Enriquez managed to gain favor from the Marcos administration. He initiated a number of infrastructure projects for Zamboanga like the construction of farm to market roads, the building of emergency hospitals in Quiniput and Labuan, and the initial phase of the rural electrification project of the city. It was during his term that the Sta. Cruz Public Market was constructed.

When the Batasang Pambansa was created in 1977, Enriquez decided to run for assemblyman, a position which he felt would give Zamboanga and Western Mindanao the proper voice in a changing government system. He won resoundingly. In parliament, he fought for the creation of a separate and autonomous district for Zamboanga.

In 1981, when elections were held again for the Batasang Pambansa, Jun went for re-election. Unfortunately, this time it was going to be three-cornered fight for Jun. On one hand, he had to contend with his former party mate turned political nemesis, Cesar C. Climaco. On the other hand, there was the rising political star by the name of Maria Clara L. Lobregat.

The divided loyalty of the Zamboangueños took its toll on Enriquez’s candidacy. The oppositionist Climaco only had to play on the growing hatred for the Marcos administration to defeat his opponents. It was Enriquez’s first experience of defeat, which signaled Jun’s retirement from public life.

Carmen said Jun spent most of his retirement years reading, writing and hunting. His blissful life as a private citizen was cut short when he was diagnosed with cancer of the throat. He died on June 25, 1986. The man with a ready smile and a ready helping hand had passed away.

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The handsome and boyish-looking Vinnie Atilano was mayor from 1978 to 1980. He was born on November 28, 1938, and belonged to one of the city’s oldest families, one that traced it lineage to Subanon royalty. His parents were Jose Tarroza Atilano and Josefina Machado Fermin. Vinnie was the elder of two children. The second was a girl named Maria Dolores Teresita, or Maridol.

Vinnie had his elementary education at the Tetuan Elementary School. He later enrolled at the Ateneo de Zamboanga where he finished high school. He went to the Ateneo de Manila for college education and graduated with a degree in economics. After graduation, he returned home to take over the family business.

In one of the parties that drew the young bachelor, a young lady from Boalan caught his eye. Maria Nelida Santiago Fernandez, the youngest daughter of another well-known family became Mrs. Atilano after a three-year courtship. Bishop Juan Velasco of the China Mission united the pair in holy matrimony on March 17, 1963, at the St. Joseph Church. The young couple was to be blessed with three sons. They are Jose Vicente III, Jose Gerardo and Jose Luis.

Vinnie would be the first person to admit that he had no ambition of entering politics. He was after all educated to be a businessman. This changed in 1963 when Mayor Climaco practically pushed him into running for councilor. “Politics was never my cup of tea, but then how could one say no to Cesar,” Vinnie said in an interview.

At the age of 24, Vinnie became the youngest councilor at that time. As a councilor, his grasp of economic needs of the city and his innovative fiscal reforms in government were to win him admiration. He was easily re-elected, topping the council slate in the election. During his last term as councilor, he was offered the chance to run for vice mayor against Francisco “Paquito” Evangelista of the Liberal Party. Vinnie won easily, becoming the youngest elected vice mayor of the city. He was to hold the position until 1978 when Mayor Joaquin F. Enriquez, Jr. decided to run for the position of member of the Batasang Pambansa. Vinnie served Enrqiuez’s unfinished term.

It was during Vinnie’s term that the city administration began the requirement for government employees to wear a uniform. Vinnie felt that this was one way to make city government employees look more dignified. He also felt that it was one way to identify government employees who liked to play hookey. He implemented cost-cutting schemes in the different government offices, stressing the proper use of office supplies and materials.

Mayor Atilano pushed a sport program for Zamboanga. During his term, Zamboanga City was a champion in several athletic events. This was understandable considering that Vinnie was a very athletic person himself. He enjoyed playing tennis. Nelida said that Vinnie’s athletic nature was probably what saved him when he had a heart attack, which required him to undergo bypass operation. Another favorite pastime of the mayor was puttering around in his sprawling garden where he tended to a collection of exotic plants.

After the retirement from public life, Vinnie spent most of his time with his children and grand-children. Vinnie and Nelida are the proud grandparents of six as of this writing.

Vinnie continued to be active among the civic clubs of Zamboanga, particularly the Jaycees, in which he was honored as a Jaycee senator for life for being an outstanding member. He was also president of the Rotary-east.

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The murder of Mayor Cesar C. Climaco on November 14, 1984, came as a shock to the people of Zamboanga. For a brief moment in Zamboanga’s history, the people felt they were without a leader. The responsibilities of the mayoralty fell on the young shoulders of Climaco’s Vice-Mayor, a former air force major named Manuel Agustin Dalipe.

Dalipe’s assumption as mayor of Zamboanga was met with mixed feelings by the people of Zamboanga, especially the old supporters of the late Mayor Climaco. Dalipe had come into the political scene as a neophyte candidate under the wings of Climaco’s Concerned Citizen’s Aggrupation. However, Dalipe had his political differences with Cesar Climaco which later led him to resign from CCA when Climaco ran for the Batasang Pambansa. He threw his support for Climaco’s political opponent, Maria Clara L. Lobregat. Dalipe’s assumption as mayor was to bring innovations to the city government, for the new mayor was more of a technocrat than a politician.

Manuel Agustin Dalipe was born on March 31, 1946, to Porfirio Dalipe and Perfecta Agustin. His mother was a native of Zamboanga, while his father hailed from Iloilo. Manny, as he was known to his friends, had two brothers and two sisters. Growing up in Zamboanga, he took his elementary education at the Tetuan Elementary School where he graduated with honors in 1958. He enrolled at the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Zamboanga, where he was a consistent honor student and graduated as the class valedictorian in 1962.

Burning with enthusiasm and youthful ambition, he left for Manila in 1965 and took the entrance examination for the Philippine Military Academy. After four years as a cadet, the young Zamboangueño once again proved his intellectual prowess when he graduated number 7 in the PMA Class of 1967. His classmates included many figure generals like Roberto Lastimoso, Edgardo Espinosa, Orville Gabuna and the late Romeo Abendan, who would have been a general if he had not perished in the infamous Cawa-Cawa mutiny.

Dalipe joined the Air Force in 1969 and enrolled in the flying school to become a combat helicopter pilot. It was during his stint at the flying school that he met a pretty young lady who was to become his wife. She is Maria Rosario Mendoza of Gumaca, Quezon, and niece of the late Senator Lorenzo Tañada. After four years of courtship, they got married on November 11, 1972. By this time, Manny was already the operation and training officer in the Presidential Unit. Their wedding took place at the Malacañang Chapel. Senator Tañada and the late General Fabian Ver stood as sponsors. The union was blessed with eight children, seven of whom are boys. They are Jose Manuel, who was elected councilor for Zamboanga city in 1998 and Vice-Mayor last May 2007; Michael Vincent; Mark Anthony; Jose Marie; Jess; John, was elected SK Federated President; Maria Victoria; and the youngest, Champ, elected SK Chairman of Tetuan last October 2007 SK Elections.

Dalipe’s life as a military man was one of the constant shuffling from one place to another. Finally, after being assigned to almost all parts of the Philippines, he felt the need to return to the place of his birth. He asked to be assigned in Zamboanga and brought his family over. He later resigned from his military commission to devote himself to civilian pursuits. This sudden change came about when Cesar Climaco invited him to be his running mate in the local elections of 1980. Manny said this was the turning point of his life. He was trained as a soldier but not as a politician.

Manny would be caught by surprise by the bigger role that he would have to play as mayor of Zamboanga City when Climaco was gunned down by an assassin in 1984. Manny, a holder of an MBA degree from the Asian Institute of Management approached his new role like a business manager and tried to cut the red tape at City Hall to make sure that services would reach the people in a more systematic manner. He initiated the Barangay water projects, which brought water to the farthest barangay in the city. He also fast-tracked infrastructure projects by giving them over to private contractors. This move was to charge up the construction industry in Zamboanga City.

It was mainly due to his efforts that water systems were established in far flung barangays like Quniput and Curuan, and in the district of Mercedes. He was to initiate a livelihood program in the barangays, wishing his city to be the economic center of the south.

Dalipe’s radical moves towards development were to gain the ire of his political opponents, mainly politicians from his former party, the CCA, this time headed by then Councilor Vitaliano D. Agan under the new party called the Unido.

In 1986, the EDSA Revolution toppled the Marcos administration.  The transition government of Corazon Aquino removed all those identified with Marcos government; hence, Dalipe was replaced by Rustico Varela, former city administrator, who was named OIC-Mayor.

Dalipe ran again for mayor, but this time his politician opponent, Councilor Vitaliano Agan, had the backing of the administration.  All Agan had to do was to link Dalipe to the Marcos regime and to denounce his projects as too extravagant to defeat him.

Away from the spotlight of politics, Dalipe was involved in other endeavors. He put his own business and founded the Dalipe Trading Corporation where he is the president. He is also the chairman of the Dalipe Livelihood Foundation, founded in 1996.  He owns and manages the Dalipe Game and Fish Farms.

Prior to his resignation from the military service he had served in various positions such as being appointed as the administrator of the Zamboanga Barter Trade Association under the guidance of the Southern Command from 1976 to 1978; Regional Director of the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development for Region 9 from 1978 to 1983. He was appointed chairman and administrator of the Zamboanga City Special Economic Zone Authority and Freeport in 1996 upon the recommendation of then Congresswoman Maria Clara L. Lobregat.

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RUSTICO M. VARELA (1986-1987)

Rustico M. Varela was born on October 10, 1972, in Binondo, Manila. His parents, who migrated to Zamboanga City, were Santiago Varela from Tanawan, Batangas, and Arcadia Medina from Nueva Ecija.  Tic, as he was known to many, grew up in Zamboanga with three brothers, Dominador, Victor and Illuminado, and two sisters, Purification and Rosenda.

He was educated as an Atenean, taking up his elementary and secondary education at the Ateneo de Zamboanga, where he graduated in 1939 and 1946, respectively.  Tic attended the Far Eastern University in Manila where he finished his Bachelor of Arts then later took up law for three years.

Tic met his wife, Rosa Falcatan Macrohon, in the city of Zamboanga. He was a family friend of the Macrohons, and his sister happened to be Rosa’s best friend. A romance began, and on December 24, 1949, Tic and Rosa got married.  They were blessed with four sons, namely: Santiago, a lawyer, Rustico Jr., Roberto and Raul.
Before working in the government, Tic was connected with several private firms and enterprises.  Even before he got married he was already the vice president and general manager of the Universal Enterprises Inc. in Manila and Baguio in 1948.  He became the Director for the College and High School Department at the University of Mindanao, in Tagum, Davao; Dean of Discipline and college instructor at the Southern City College of Commerce in Zamboanga City; Executive Secretary to the President and college instructor of Political Science, History and English at A.E. Colleges.

Tic’s political career started when he was appointed Secretary to the Mayor during the time Mayor Hector Suarez from 1954 to 1955.  In 1955, Tic became one of the appointed city councilors, then later the secretary of the Commission on National Integration (CNI).

In 1960 until 1963, Tic was taken in as Secretary to Zamboanga del Sur Congressman Canuto Ms. Ernerio.  He came back to Zamboanga and was subsequently appointed as secretary to the mayor by then Mayor Hector Suarez who was this time an elected mayor of Zamboanga City.  He would serve as secretary to the mayor from 1964 to 1967. Tic ran for the council in 1967, an election which he won.  He would serve as city councilor until 1971, and was re-elected for another term until 1975.

After serving as councilor, for a time he got away from government service and worked as President of Davao Savings Western Mindanao, and at the same time as Vice-President of the University of Mindanao Broadcast Network, and manager of the DXRZ radio station in Zamboanga.

When Cesar Climaco was elected back to office as city mayor of Zamboanga, Tic was immediately the first person in mind to take over the position of city administrator.  Tic held this position briefly, taking over as caretaker of the city when Cesar was assassinated in 1984 until Mayor Dalipe assumed office. He then continued as the city administrator under the Dalipe administration until the 1986 EDSA Revolution.  After Mayor Dalipe was removed from office after the takeover of the Cory revolutionary government, Tic was designated OIC-Mayor of Zamboanga City until June 1, 1987, and then returned to his position as city administrator when President Aquino appointed Julio Cesar Climaco the son of Cesar, as mayor of Zamboanga.  Tic was again to become the OIC-mayor of Zamboanga City when Rini decided to run for congress.

Tic Varela was a multi-faceted person.  He was not only a politician, but also an educator, publisher, columnist, radio commentator, singer, musician, orator, debater and talented newspaperman.

Being an active and energetic person, he was very much involved in civic and political organizations.  He founded the United Militant Youth Organization. He was also the President of the Development Academy Training and the National Federation of Market Administrators. He also became the Vice-President of the Nacionalista Youth Party.

He died on May 19, 1993. His death was greatly felt by the people in the city government. When Rustico Varela passed away, Zamboanga Star, a local newspaper wrote that “it is not everyday that someone with the stature of Rustico Varela comes out of the firmament to share his life with the people of Zamboanga.  The number of years that he served at city hall, about five years as secretary to the mayor and over 12 years or thereabout as City Administrator doubling at times as caretaker and OIC-Mayor or make him one among the very few career officials who had a direct hand in  administering the affairs of Zamboanga.  In actuality, Tic has been the unelected mayor of Zamboanga for over a dozen or so years.” 

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The period in which Julio Cesar F. Climaco served as mayor of Zamboanga City was relatively short, yet he would hold the distinction of being the city’s first mayor after Edsa Revolution.

Julio Cesar Floreta Climaco was the third child in the brood of six of Cesar C. Climaco and Julia Floreta. Rini as he was fondly called by his family was born on June 28, 1944, in Sta. Maria, Zamboanga City. Rini was to grow up under the influence of his outspoken and militant father, and mother Julia, who saw to it that Rini and his other brothers and two sisters would grow up as accomplished citizens.

Rini took his elementary education at the Normal School, later moving to the Zamboanga City High School for his secondary education. After graduation from high school, Rini went to Manila where he studied at the University of the Philippines, taking up a course in Bachelor of Science major in Political Science. This was to prepare him for what he wanted to do, which was to become a lawyer. He enrolled at the university’s college of law and took the bar examination in 1970. He became a full pledge lawyer the following year.

As a young lawyer, Rini’s first experience as public servant was when he accepted the appointment as special prosecutor in 1974. He would hold this office for only ten months.

At the height of his bachelorhood, Rini met and fell in love with Esther Nimfa Peña. The two were married on April 9, 1976, at the Sta. Maria Church. They were blessed with four children, two boys and two girls, namely: Dennis, Julio, Jr., Julie Anne and Sherina Marie. Two of his sons became physical therapists, all now working in the United States.

Rini had no intention of being in politics, yet fate would set the course of his destiny when his father was assassinated in 1984. In 1986, immediately after Edsa Revolution, the Cory Administration felt that a Climaco would help unify the Zamboangueños to adhere to the changes of the new government. It was because of this that they offered Rini the appointment as acting mayor of Zamboanga under the Interim Government.

As acting mayor of Zamboanga, Rini was to pave the way for the policies of the Cory Administration, to include its policy of attraction for both the Moro National Liberation Front and the New People’s Army.  Rini was to make a very bold move when he invited MNLF Chairman Nurulaji Misuari to Zamboanga, a move which came after the controversial meeting between President Aquino and Misuari in Sulu.  Rini’s action was received by the Zamboangueños with mixed feelings, and it would later affect his political career.

There was not much to accomplish during the term of Rini Climaco, which ran for only a few months. According to Rini, the city government did not have the sufficient fundings to undertake any major projects, and there were no funds coming from the national government, which at that time was more concerned with doing an accounting of the money allegedly, absconded by the Marcos administration.  He was, nevertheless, responsible for the concreting of the roads from Gov. Ramos to the Airport, and the concreting of the road from Suterville to Baliwasan.  The city’s Annual Budget at the time when he took over was only fifty million pesos.

In 1987, regular elections for the local government and congress were resumed.  Rini, instead of running for the position of Mayor, decided to throw his hat into the congressional race, giving way to Councilor Vitaliano  Agan to run for the mayoralty against Manuel Dalipe, the mayor who was removed from office after the Edsa revolt.  Rini was to run against a formidable opponent by the name of Maria Clara L. Lobregat.

Public opinion at this point in time was against Rini because of his rubbing elbows with Nur Misuari, who at that time made it very clear that he had the intention of establishing an independent Mindanao.  To the Zamboangueños, Rini and the Cory Administration had only succeeded in reviving a dead issue.  Rini lost badly in that election.  On the other hand, his mayoralty candidate, Vitaliano Agan, who capitalized on the alleged excesses of the Dalipe Administration, emerged victorious.

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VITALIANO D. AGAN (1987-1998)

Vitaliano Duhaylungsod Agan was born on January 27, 1935, in Kulambugan, Lanao del Norte to Dionisio Agan from Baliangas, Misamis Occidental, and Francisca Duhaylungsod of Siquijor, Negros Oriental.  He had two brothers, Frigido and Edilfonso, and an only sister Lorita.

Vit, as he is called by his friends, was a self-made man.  He became an orphan at the age of 13, and he had to work for his education.  An uncle employed him as a “sota” or stable boy.  He took care of his uncle’s calesa horses.  According to Agan, he became the success that he is through determination.  He said that what made him an achiever in spite of all the odds, were “patience” and the stamina for survival.”

He started his elementary education at the Siquijor Primary School.  Later he transferred to the Zamboanga Central School where he graduated with honor in 1955.

He took up his secondary education at the Zamboanga City High School and after graduation enrolled at the Zamboanga A.E. Colleges and finished his Associate in Arts degree in 1957.  He later proceeded to take up law in the same school.  In 1962, he passed the bar and became a lawyer.

On November 11, 1971, Agan was elected as city councilor.  This was to be his debut in politics.  On January 30, 1980, Agan was re-elected for a second term.  Agan’s political career rose to a higher level when he was appointed officer-in-charge of the City Mayor’s Office on May 28, 1987.  He assumed office on June 2, 1987, when Mayor Rini Climaco, then the appointive mayor under the Interim Revolutionary Government of Pres. Corazon Aquino, resigned to begin his campaign for congressional seat.  This was to be the turning point in Agan’s political career, giving him the opportunity to run for the mayoralty as the incumbent.  On January 18, 1988, Agan ran against former Mayor Manuel Dalipe, who in 1986 was removed from office following the Edsa revolution.

Agan had the advantage as he was being supported by the Cory Administration.  Meanwhile, Dalipe had to carry the burden of being closely identified with Marcos regime.  All Agan had to do was to capitalize on the past administration’s excesses to gain the voters’ nod.  He assumed office on February 2, 1988.  Agan’s victory at the polls would also be a watershed in Zamboanga’s political history because it was the first time a non-chavacano would be mayor.  It was significant because it marked a change in the attitude of the electoral majority who normally voted for the traditional native Zamboangueño candidates.

Agan’s administration would be innovative in the sense that he would introduce programs for poverty alleviation, and began implementing a policy of human resource development program in government.  Under his administration he made it a policy to bring education to the barangays.  It became his priority program to construct high schools in the major barangays of the city.

Other impressive projects of Mayor Agan were the completion of the concreting of all major roads, street lighting and traffic lights.

Agan would adopt the same strategy of undertaking infrastructure projects by using private contractors, a method of which he had strongly criticized the Dalipe administration during the election campaign.  Yet all these accomplishments were to impress the electorate in Zamboanga that Agan was re-elected in 1992, and then again in 1995.

However, a significant event in Mindanao’s history would gravely affect Agan’s political career.  The Philippine government, this time under the helm of President Fidel Ramos, was so bent on solving the MNLF problem in the south that it had initiated several peace accords with the MNLF in Zamboanga City.  The MNLF was insisting that Zamboanga be made part of the projected autonomous region, but the national government could not accede to this, considering that an earlier referendum signified that 99% of the Zamboangueños opted to be out of the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao. As a compromise, President Ramos, through a presidential decree, created the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development, with Chairman Misuari of the MNLF as its head following the signing of a peace agreement. This act would get the ire of the Zamboangueños when the Ramos government decided to include Zamboanga under the SPCPD.

When the people of Zamboanga City were expecting the mayor to speak for their cause, Mayor Agan instead supported the Ramos decision, an act which would turn public opinion against him. It would also turn Congresswoman Maria Clara L. Lobregat against Mayor Agan despite the fact that they were signatories to a compact of peace and development. Lobregat was strongly against the city’s inclusion in the autonomy scheme and SPCPD coverage.

The anti-SPCPD movement staged several massive protests in the city and initiated the recall of Mayor Agan that failed when the majority of the barangay captains remained loyal to the mayor.

Mayor Agan tried to regain his popularity through revitalized infrastructure program for the city, including the street lighting projects and several concreting projects, including the controversial Quiniput-Licomo road. However, the projects backfired on him of overspending and overpricing. Celso, the son of Congresswoman Lobregat, brought the matter to congress for investigation. This would be the first time in Zamboanga’s history that a city executive and several members of the city council would be summoned by congress for questioning in connection with graft and corruption. It devastated Agan’s political career. Before the end of his term, Mayor Agan stepped down from office in favor of Vice-Mayor Afren Arañez to file his candidacy for a congressional seat against Celso Lobregat. Agan lost, the first time he was to savor defeat in his political career. He had served the people of Zamboanga for ten years, nine months and twenty-five days, a term almost as long as Joaquin F. Enriquez, Jr.

Perhaps only history will judge the administration of Mayor Vitaliano Agan, but no one can deny that it was during his term that so many things had been accomplished for Zamboanga. No one can deny also that he was a leader who
served the city the best he can.

It was during his term that Zamboanga was given due recognition by the national government under the Ramos administration. He had served as Chairman of the Regional Peace and Order Council and chairman of the Regional Development Council. He headed the local Lakas NUCD chapter and the City Reconciliation and Development Council. He became the Vice-President for the Confederation of Mindanao Leaders, the Mindanao League of Mayors of the Philippines.

Mayor Agan likewise gained for Zamboanga economic recognition nationally and internationally when he represented the city in various seminars and conferences like the Pacific Congress of municipalities held in Taiwan, and the 4th Ministerial Meeting of the BIMP-EAGA held in Brunei. He went to Germany as a DSE scholar.

Agan said that he wanted the people of Zamboanga to remember him as the only orphan who became a mayor. He would always stay true to his favorite maxim, “Think global, act local for global excellence.”


Efren F. Arañez served as mayor of Zamboanga City for only three months after Mayor Vitaliano Agan announced his candidacy for congress.

A civil engineer-turned-politician, Arañez was born on September 21, 1938, in Zamboanga City to Rufino Arañez and Pura Ferrer.  Efren grew up with two brothers and six sisters in Sto.  Niño. Efren’s parents were so poor that they could barely afford to send their children to school.  Yet through sheer determination, proper motivation and right values, they managed to get all their children educated.  All their children were to become professionals.  Efren, who was the eldest in the family, became a civil engineer, Esmeralda a CPA, Floridel and Clarissa both became nurses, Thelma became a lawyer, Fatima a CPA, Rufina a professor and Danilo an engineer.

Efren finished his elementary education in 1952 at the Central School.  He graduated from high school in 1955 at the Zamboanga City High School.

The young Efren, pursued his college education at the Mapua Institute of Technology in Manila, where he took engineering.  In 1961, he took the board examination and passed it with flying colors.  Immediately after hurling the board exams, he got employed in the City Engineer’s Office on July 17, 1961, as Civil Engineer Aide II.  Arañez rose through the ranks to become assistant city engineer. 

Efren’s career as a politician stated very much later when he was persuaded to run for the city council on February 2, 1988.  Despite of being a neophyte in politics, Efren handily won the lection.  One of his very first projects and perhaps his most memorable one was to provide shoeshine box to every shoeshine boy in the city.  Meldy’s, Efren’s sister, said that he had started out as a shoeshine boy, so he felt that perhaps he could also give the poor young boys the same chance he had to gain an education by earning their way through school.

He was re-elected on July 1, 1992 and served as councilor until March 20, 1995.  After these two terms as councilor, some of his party mates urged him to run for the position of Vice-Mayor, with Mayor Vitaliano Agan as his running mate.   Arañez accepted the challenge which turned out to be a major success, for he was elected to the position on July 1, 1995.  He would serve as the vice mayor of the city until 1998, when he succeeded Agan, who opted to run for congress.

Arañez would stay as mayor for only three months, after which he filed his candidacy for mayor.  He was to face an unbeatable political opponent in the person of Congresswoman Maria Clara L. Lobregat, the very person who had introduced him to politics.  Efren this time was affiliated with the Lakas-NUCD party headed by Agan.

Arañez had a major disadvantage during this election in that the party itself suffered from a credibility crisis with the people of Zamboanga because of the SPCPD issue, and because of the Quiniput-Licomo road scandal.  And as expected, Arañez lost to Lobregat.

Yet Efren Arañez’s contributions to the city should not go unheeded by history.  To his credit belongs the accomplishment of several of the city’s major infrastructure projects under the Agan administration, including the reconstruction of the Joaquin F. Enriquez Jr.  Memorial Sports Complex when he was designated infrastructure officer of Zamboanga by Mayor Vitaliano Agan.  It was also under this appointment that several Barangay high schools were constructed. 

Arañez was in his own right an accomplished government official who had enough training and background in management.  He was also an active member and officer of several religious and civic organizations.  He was the president of the Foundation for the Development of Children, the United Way Zamboanga Chapter, the Zamboanga Jaycees, the Zamboanga City Employees Lawn Tennis Association, Zamboanga City Chapter, and the Los Caballeros de Zamboanga, a Grand Knight, Knights of Columbus, Claret Council.

 MARIA CLARA L. LOBREGAT (1998-2001; 2001-2004)

Perhaps the most endearing person ever to be the mayor of Zamboanga would be Maria Clara Lorenzo Lobregat.  Aside from holding the distinction of being the first woman mayor of the city, she is looked up to by most Zamboangueños as the mother of the city, its protector and benefactor.

Maria Clara was born on April 26, 1921, in Zamboanga City, the daughter of Don Pablo Lorenzo, a man who had served as mayor, Zamboanga’s representative to the first Philippine Assembly and delegate to the Constitutional Convention and Luisa Rafols. Caling, which is her nickname, is the second child in a brood of five.  She would spend much of her life in Zamboanga, Cebu and Manila, places where her father was stationed in his government career or where they owned properties. 
Even as a child, Caling was very much exposed to politics as she was the constant companion of her father at many political functions.   One such historic occasion was the signing of Zamboanga City Charter in Malacañang by President Manuel L. Quezon.  Her early exposure to the public life would be a great influence on the young girl.

Caling was enrolled in the prestigious school for girls, the Pilar College, and then transferred to Maryknoll, later to St. Scholastica in Manila until the outbreak of World War II.  The young Caling was in Zamboanga with her father when the Japanese invaded the Philippines.

Immediately after the war, Caling felt that she had to do something to help the people affected by the war, and she volunteered to work at the Remedios Hospital in Malate, Manila, taking care of the wounded and the sick.  It was while working that she met a handsome fellow volunteer, Celso Lobregat.  Romance blossomed, and Celso proposed marriage.  They were married on January 30, 1945. They were blessed with six children:  Remedios Concepcion (Ditos), Celso II, Pablo, Jose, Lourdes (Ditas) and Jerome.

Caling was contented with the life of an ordinary wife and mother, but this changed when her husband died in a plane crash in May 1968, leaving Caling a widow at the age of 48.  Caling was left to take care of her children all by herself. 
Caling Lobregat’s political career started in 1971 when she was overwhelmingly elected as the Zamboanga City delegate to the Constitutional Convention.  She ran for the position of regional representative to the Batasang Pambansa in the early 80s, but lost to Cesar C. Climaco.  In 1987 she ran for Zamboanga City’s lone congressional seat and emerged victorious.  It was for Caling a grand opportunity to prove her leadership in congress.

She became a member of several important committees.  She used her pragmatic wit, diplomacy and influence to channel benefits for Zamboanga City.  Her congressional fund allowed several barangay projects to be accomplished. 

What particularly marked her political style was her closeness to the people.  She was always there for them, especially the destitute.  She established her congressional consultative office at her residence at Nuñez St. to monitor the needs of the people.  Hundreds of people seeking assistance would troop to her residence whenever she comes home from congress, and she made every effort to find time for each of them.  The people were so impressed with her that she was re-elected in the 1992 and again in 1995.

Congresswoman Caling Lobregat was a member of the Commission on Appointments, and of several committees which included the committee on national defense, trade and industry, transportation and communication, agriculture and food, tourism, women, inter-parliamentary relations and diplomacy, public order and security, education and culture, and legislative franchises.

In the Commission on Appointments, she served in the following committees:  Public Works and Highways (as Chairman); Foreign Affairs (Vice- Chairman); National Defense; Agriculture and Food; Constitutional Commissions and Officer; Education, Culture and Sports; Environment and Natural Resources; Finance, Budget and management; Government Corporation and other officers; Health; Interior and Local Government; Regional Consultative Commissions and Regional Autonomous Governments; Justice and Judicial Bar Council; Labor and Employment and Social Welfare; Science and Technology; and Tourism and Economic Development.

She was a delegate representing the House of Representatives in the Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference in London in 1989; the IPU Conference in Canberra, Australia, in 1993; and the World Conference on Women and IPU Parliamentary Day in Beijing, People’s Republic of China.

She authored or co-authored various measures of national and local importance. In 1996 she was selected one of the Most Outstanding Congressmen by Philippine Graphic Magazine.

It was during her third term in Congress that Congresswoman Maria Clara L. Lobregat would author her landmark legislation for Zamboanga City, which was Republic Act No. 7903, the “Act Creating the Special Economic Zone and Freeport in Zamboanga City,” more popularly known as the ZAMBOECOZONE LAW. The law was envisioned to usher Zamboanga City into a new age of economic development. Congresswoman Lobregat also authored Republic Act No. 7272, which converted the Zamboanga Regional Hospital into the Zamboanga City Medical Center, now a major medical facility in Southwestern Mindanao. She likewise authored Republic Act No. 7474, which converted the Zamboanga School of Arts and Trades into a polytechnic college, now referred to as the Zamboanga City Polytechnic College.

In 1991, Congress approved her bill declaring October 12 of every year a special non-working holiday in Zamboanga to celebrate Fiesta Pilar, now embodied in Republic Act No. 7350. It was through her initiative and efforts that Zamboanga City became a recipient of more than P325 million in various infrastructure and other projects from the national government.

After having served the city for three terms in Congress, Caling could have retired from public office or run for the Senate. As early as 1997 several parties, including the party of the administration under President Fidel Ramos were inviting the active congresswoman to join their party. Yet, she opted to run for the position of mayor following historical events which would forever affect the political climate in Zamboanga City.

The Ramos administration, in its bid to forge a peace pact with the rebel Moro National Liberation Front, came up with several concessions, some of which would clash with the popular will of the Zamboangueños and the people in many places in Mindanao. President Ramos issued an order creating the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development, placing several cities and provinces in Mindanao which had already opted to be out of the Muslim area of autonomy under its coverage. The SPCPD was to be headed by MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari after the MNLF rebel chieftain signed the peace accord with the Ramos government. What made the SPCPD unacceptable to most Mindanaoans, especially the Zamboangueños, were several provisions which they believed to be prejudicial to their interest and deemed unconstitutional.

Congresswoman Lobregat together with other personalities from Mindanao led the opposition in bringing to court the case concerning the creation of the SPCPD. It was mainly due to this that she decided to pit her son, Celso, in the race for congress against Mayor Vitaliano Agan, who had supported the Ramos decision for the creation of the SPCPD and the inclusion of Zamboanga. Lobregat and Agan prior to this controversy had signed a pact for peace and unity, Congresswoman Lobregat felt that Mayor Agan betrayed the trust of the Zamboangueño people, who voted 99.3 percent against inclusion in Muslim Mindanao.

The Philippine Free Press would describe this uncommon quality of leadership in their editorial of September 14, 1996, which in part reads: “Whatever follows the peace agreement and the Christian opposition to it from the clash between the two has already come one unqualified blessing: a quality of political leadership such as Mindanao has never known. The leadership is shown by the Tres Marias (Congresswomen Maria Clara L. Lobregat, Luwalhati Antonio and Daisy Fuentes).”

In May 1998, Maria Clara Lobregat opted to run for the mayoralty against the administration candidate, Mayor Efren Arañez, who took over after Mayor Agan decided to run for congress. She handily defeated Arañez. It would be the very first time that Zamboanga would have a woman for a mayor.

The changing of guard at the City Hall brought a breath of fresh air after a period of controversy. Most Zamboangueños felt that at least they have someone they could trust to look after the interest of the city and not of any political party.

The coming of Mayor Maria Clara Lobregat into office would bring in a renaissance of Zamboangueño culture as the people of Zamboanga became more conscious of their heritage. Mayor Lobregat made it her priority to restore the city of flowers’ lost glory. She also sought to make Zamboangueños historically conscious and proud of their legacy as Zamboangueños. She embarked on a program of rehabilitating and refurbishing the city’s landmarks and required city hall employees to make use of the traditional Filipino attire in the office every Monday. Mayor Lobregat herself had always been the shining example of what a truly nationalistic Filipina should look like. Even when she was in Congress, she was always a refreshing sight to behold, always wearing a mascota dress which became her trademark.

Simple, yet very dignified and glamorous, Mayor Maria Clara Lorenzo Lobregat exudes the grace and sophistication of the modern Filipina woman- intelligent, firm, committed, loving, and above all honest and sincere. To the Zamboangueños, she will always remain the good Samaritan in a mascota dress, a benefactor for the unfortunate, a mother, and a rallying point for Zamboangueño identity.

Mayor Maria Clara Lobregat died on January 2, 2004 due to diabetes complications at the age of 82 years old. Zamboangueños from all walks of life mourned her demise. Everyone felt the loss of a friend, a mother, a benefactor and a great public servant.

National leaders and former colleagues in her span of years in public service paid their last respects to the late Ma’am Caling during the wake held at the Zamboanga Metropolitan Cathedra.

Throngs of people lined up the city streets, openly weeping and offering flowers, while singing the favorite song of the late Mayor Caling “Mi Cuidad de Zamboanga”, during the funeral procession before her remains were brought to Manila for interment at the family mausoleum.

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 ERICO BASILIO A. FABIAN (January-June 2004)

Erico Basilio A. was born on September 12, 1957. His father was a well known painter, Eric Fabian, and his mother, Gloria Apolinario Fabian, was a grade school teacher of the Ateneo de Zamboanga. He is the eldest of the seven children comprised of 3 boys and 4 girls.

Erbie, as fondly called by family and friends, was a true-blooded Atenean. From grade school to his pre-nursing education, the Jesuit-run school was his second home. He then went on to obtain his Nursing diploma at the Zamboanga General Hospital School of Nursing in 1978.

After college, the exciting world of media captured his interest. He became a disc jockey, a reporter, a newscaster and tv host for than a decade. But his desire to serve the people of Zamboanga was so great that he decided to run for public office in 1992.

From 1992 to 2001, he was elected as City Councilor. One of his most important contributions as a councilor was his Think Health program. He crafted the Magna Carta for Health Workers and initiated the guidelines of our present Tourism Code.

In 2001, he ran and won as City Vice-Mayor. During his term, he was elected as Regional President for Western Mindanao of the Vice-Mayors’ League of the Philippines, initiating the conduct of the passage of a resolution supporting the ‘Balikatan 02-01’, Joint RP-US Military Exercise (in battling the Abu Sayyaf and other terrorist groups in Western Mindanao) during the quarterly assembly of the National Vice-Mayors’ League of the Philippines.

In 2004, with the untimely death of our beloved Mayor Maria Clara L. Lobregat, Mr. Fabian became the City Mayor by succession. Within his six-month term as City Mayor, he was able to implement several infrastructure projects and pass the Supplemental Budget for 2004.

In the same year, he was elected as Congressman of the then Lone District of Zamboanga. At present, he is the Congressman of the 2nd District of Zamboanga City and is happily married to Melinda Villanueva-Fabian.