Kin of beloved Manila mayor rue neglect of ‘Arsenic’ image


ARMLESS AND ABANDONED The Lacson statue has fallen into neglect after a storm knocked it out of place in 2011.

Bronze sculptures of illustrious personalities dot the windswept promenade facing Manila Bay along Roxas Boulevard in Manila. But after Typhoon “Pedring” battered the coastline in 2011, one statue has since lain in ruins, left at the mercy of vandals and vagrants.

The image is that of the man considered by many to be the best mayor the city ever had.

The statue of Arsenio “Arsenic” H. Lacson was removed from its place of prominence and consigned “to oblivion toward the US Embassy,” his daughter Millie Lacson-Lapira noted in a letter she sent to City Hall in July 2012.

Nine months later, Lapira’s request for the statue to be restored apparently remained unheeded. Worse, she and her family found more reasons to complain when they saw the spot on Sunday, a day before the 51st anniversary of Lacson’s death.

They found the space once occupied by her father’s image now taken over by another statue.

The Lacson sculpture—a work by Julie Lluch which captured him reading a newspaper on a park bench—was relocated to a spot nearer the US embassy, ironic for a media and political firebrand who was tagged “anti-American” during his day.

The seated figure had lost both arms. Gone, too, was the broadsheet Lacson was reading through his trademark aviator sunglasses. The bench that formed part of the sculpture was still there, but a homeless man had started using the space under it as his closet.

“We are appealing to your sense of propriety and history to give the proper recognition and respect for a man who served Manila so well,” Lapira said in her 2012 letter to the city government.

The Julie Lluch sculpture captured the power and confidence of Mayor “Arsenic” when installed years earlier on the walkway facing Manila Bay on Roxas Boulevard.

“It’s a travesty,” she told the Inquirer in an interview earlier this week.

Lapira recalled that hours before her family discovered the horrors on Roxas Boulevard, they visited Lacson’s tomb at Manila North Cemetery and found it also defiled by informal settlers.

Crops were being grown in what used to be a small garden adorning the tomb. Ducks were being raised in the two ponds next to it.

Other priorities

In an interview, Gemma Cruz-Araneta, deputy chair of the Manila Historical and Heritage Commission, explained that after the statues were swept off by Pedring, workers sent to restore them apparently had difficulty pinpointing their original locations.

“We’re also very concerned about this. But it may have been overlooked because of other priorities,” Araneta said

She said she had talked to sculptor Jonas Roces about restoring the image. (Lapira’s letter said Lluch, the original creator, had also expressed willingness to do the necessary repairs.)

Lacson served as Manila mayor for three consecutive terms from 1952 to 1962, leaving behind a deep imprint on the city that lasts to this day.

The mayoralty was an appointive position until 1951 and Lacson was the first to be elected to the post. Under his watch, the Quiapo underpass and the Manila Zoo were built. The underpass, an elementary school and a street in Sampaloc were later named in his honor.

He also laid down the concepts that later gave rise to the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila and Ospital ng Maynila, projects completed by his successor Antonio “Yeba” Villegas after Lacson died of a heart attack while in office at the age of 49.

“Lacson did more for Manila than most of the mayors before him and after him combined,” Inquirer columnist Conrado de Quiros once wrote.

Before entering politics, Lacson was a journalist and radio man whose sharp-tongued commentary earned him the moniker Arsenic. At one point, then President Manuel Roxas, whom Lacson called “Manny the Weep,” suspended his show.

But this didn’t dim Lacson’s political star; before becoming mayor, he was elected congressman of Manila’s second district in 1949.

Lacson also railed against the presidency of Elpidio Quirino, who later suspended him when a judge sued him for libel. The Supreme Court voided the suspension order and Lacson was reelected mayor.

“Enemies at whom he sticks out his tongue perish completely from popular esteem, so fatal is the Lacson venom,” according to a 1957 Philippine Free Press article by Nick Joaquin.

Lacson kept his radio program

—prerecorded so that an editor could delete the expletives
—while running the city government. He joined the police in street patrols and, according to Joaquin, often took a jeepney to City Hall. “Nobody ever recognizes him without his dark glasses.”

He gave Philippine political punditry the phrase “so young yet so corrupt,” which he first uttered to describe a city councilor who is still very much around.

“It’s a Manila joke that the Tondo goons respect only two beings in this world—Mayor Lacson and the Señor Quiapo (image of the Black Nazerene),” Joaquin wrote.

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  • Mamang Pulis

    napa kilo na yun braso at periodico…sayang man yan nauwi lang vandalismo…

  • Benigno the Turd

    Manila’s sickness is squatters. Get rid of them. Zero tolerance.

    • Penelope Pitstop

      How can you get rid of squatters when they are a source of votes? To get rid of them, we need to amend the constitution by allowing only tax paying citizens the right of suffrage. Maybe the amount of taxes paid should be done on a point system, the more you pay the more votes one can cast. heheh ….wishful thinking

  • Joe Kano

    It’s a wonder that this mess isn’t blamed on the Americans.

    • Rose Lacson- Porteous

      Why blame the Americans? The late mayor may have not have marvelled at the time our puppet republic was officially patterned after Amercia pegging our peso to the dollar but with due respect, monuments in America are respected by Americans and not vandalized. Read the article carefully and you will understand how we Filipinos have really degenerated due to lack of leaders like the late Mayor Lacson. Please think with your head and not the keyboard before making a silly comment..

  • $14334231

    arsenio lacson, also known by most as “namatay sa sarap”, though should not be immortalized, deserves to be given an honor as the mayor that honed manila for what it is today (minus the squatters and corruption)…and he was a no nonsense mayor at that…..he curbed the lawlessness, practically in every nook and cranny of manila…..there weren’t that many squatters then and pasig river was clean and you can walk from quiapo to escolta without covering your nose…..his sculpture must be restored so the youngsters of today who never knew him might learned that this was a man where corruption was never heard of while he was the city mayor of manila….. will mayor lim and the city council pass a bill to fund the restoration, ( though the sculpture looks aristocratic)?….contrary to what many might say, he was a very approachable person who likes to lambast politicians whom he thinks are doing disservice to their constituents….ms. araneta should really worked hard to restore his sculpture and the politicians of manila should get rid of those in the surroundings of his tomb and have it restored to once it used to be….that’s the least they can do to a man of integrity, in comparison to them…..need i say more?……

    • Rose Lacson- Porteous

      Excuse me, do not sling at a dead person by saying “namatay sa sarap”! You have been listening to dirty gossips and believing in fiction. About time you do your proper homework before you make derogatory remarks. Have some respect and proper knowledge before you do a public post.

      • $14334231

        i liked him a lot, probably next to “my guy”, the best president the philippines never had, but did you ask charito?????….

  • tra6Gpeche

    The City of Manila just don’t have any respect for anything of historical values! Escolta is a mess. Not only that Pasig River is the world’s dirtiest river but Manila is one of the most polluted Cities in the world! Nothing is sacred for the officials of the government of the City of Manila. That really shows who and what we are as a human being! How did we become to be irresponsible, undiscipline, no shame and disgustingly unmindful of our past? Ms Gemma Cruz-Araneta is busy making excuses just like every City officials. Ms Cruz, please get out of your airconditioned office and walk around to see the decaying historical Manila streets and buildings!

  • $5699914

    Erap? Lim? Atienza?
    Wala kayo binatbat kahit sa guni-guni ng galing ni dating Mayor Lacson!

  • Rose Lacson- Porteous

    Good on you Millie Lacson-Lapira. About time pertinent persons are addressed with these pathetic issues. If Nick Joaquin can express how Tondo “goons” respect the Plaza Sta Cruz statue which still stands as a monument not vandalized, why can ‘t the City of Manila clean up the squatters from AHL’s graveyard plot? Surely, they owe your father the greatest of honour and respect for his lifetime service not only to Manila but to the whole country! That plot of his tombstone represents how the only incorruptible politician in Philippine history took all his glory to his grave, leaving not a cent for his own family!

  • Rose Lacson- Porteous

    Before any further silly comments are posted may I just remind those who never knew the person what made this man so great amongst all our political leaders. This was his original living motto and he died with this motto:

    “It has always been an inflexible principle with me that personal friendship and partisan loyalties do not count in the face of public interest. Where the fundamental welfare of the people is concerned, I recognize no loyalty to any man, woman or child, but only to the nation as a whole.”

    City of Manila, Ms Gemma Cruz Araneta, kindly overlook trivial things and not this particular one who deserves to be honoured and immortalized. Wake up!

  • Rosemary Wilson

    Is this the kind of treatment AHL receives from the people of Manila? Where is the honor & respect? Where is the sense of gratitude for the Mayor that had done so much sacrifices for Manila! Everything he did was for the people of Manila & not for himself, not for his family! He was the greatest Mayor Manila & the Philippines ever had! He was the envy of politicians worldwide! He put Manila & the Philippines in the map! As one Canadian journalist had said, ” If all politicians are like him, this world will be a better place to live in”! It is high time that G. Araneta & the city of Manila address this issue promptly! That is the least the people of Manila could do for AHL who had done so much for the city. Be proud of his memory!

    • Rose Lacson- Porteous

      I totally agree with you. Not a single Filipino politician during AHL’s days to date was the darling of journalists worldwide. Even Time Magazine featured him and his death as Milestones, predicitng beforehand he was the ideal president for the country. If the late Ramon Magsaysay made it – AHL was his campaign manager and stampeded throughout the thousands of islands in the Philippines and delivered his message through different dialects. AHL was considered “hulog ng langit” by the common people then. Magsaysay offered him as running mate to be his Vice president but he jokingly replied: “Look at you Monching. You’re built like an ox. I have to wait for a long time to be President.” Had he taken the offer, AHL would have been the youngest president at age 44 when Magsaysay died in a 1957 plane crash. He openly disliked Marcos, told Marcos: “I promise you this, Ferdinand; over my dead body will you become President of the Philippines.” He predicted: “God help and save the Philippines if Ferdinand Marcos ever becomes president” (taken from the late Primitivo Mijares’ The Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos (Ist published by Union Square in 1976) which was banned in the PI and banned from circulation in the US by President Reagan during its 2nd publication in 1986 .A tragedy he was
      preparing for the 1965 presidential elections when his “still baffling death” (according to Primitivio Mijares) occured. Had AHL lived longer, the Philippines would not be in this mess it is today! Ms Cruz should know from history being a supposed historian herself. Surely, there are archives in the Philippines…

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