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“Life story of Benito Soliven”

Source: Philstar Global

The CAP Family of Companies pays tribute today to Benito Soliven, father of STAR publisher and chairman of the board Maximo V. Soliven, through the unveiling of the Benito Soliven statue and the opening of the Soliven Memorabilia at the CAP Building in Plaza Burgos, Vigan City in Ilocos Sur. CAP pays tribute to great men who have dedicated their lives in the service of God and fellow men through the installation of statues, memorabilia, and holding of symposia in their honor. In the past, CAP had honored Presidents Manuel Quezon, Sergio Osmeña, Manuel Roxas, and Diosdado Macapagal, Silliman University founder Dr. David Sutherland Hibbard, US Gen. Douglas MacArthur, and the Rev. Gregorio Aglipay.

The Formative Years

Born to Capt. Isabelo Soliven of the Revolutionary Army and Dorotea Tagorda in Sto. Domingo, Ilocos Sur on March 21, 1898, Benito Soliven was orphaned at the age of four. Taken into custody of a severe relative who treated him as a menial servant, Bitong as he was called managed to go through primary grades by sheer perseverance. Later, he studied at the Colegio Seminario at Vigan under the Spanish Jesuits and finished law at the University of the Philippines while teaching at the Ateneo grade school in order to earn his keeps. 

During his senior year at the UP College of Law, Soliven won the coveted Manuel L. Quezon gold medal for oratory with the piece entitled Ave Triuamphator. The subject was war, not knowing that several years later a more devastating one would come and overwhelm the country and that he himself would go to fight on the battlefields of Bataan as a major in September of 1921, he had passed the Bar exams and returned to Ilocos Sur. As a legal practitioner and the first lawyer of his hometown Sto. Domingo, he gave his services free to those who were too destitute to hire a lawyer. 

In 1925, after having an unfruitful year in his home province as a lawyer, Benito Soliven made a pilgrimage to Rome as a delegate of the Defensores de la Libertad and visited the leading European countries. In the same year, he toured the United States where he gave lectures in many schools.

"The Man Who Might Have Been the President"

Soliven’s rise and fame in the political arena was not born overnight. Hindered by financial constraints, he extensively campaigned from barrio to barrio always living among the common people. Thus, "the champion of small towns," in his first bid to politics, had made a dramatic entrance by winning over veteran politician Judge Simeon Roxas via a landslide in 1928. 

Around the time, Representative Benito Soliven married Pelagia Villaflor, after almost seven years since their first meeting. 

Soliven’s dedication and zealousness as a public servant brought him overwhelming victory over then Sen. Elpidio Quirino in the 1938 election. His resounding triumph made history as he won over Quirino, who had been the senator and the secretary of the interior. 

Benito Soliven never rested on his laurels. The three-term congressman was twice valedictorian of the legislature as he had authored the most number of bills enacted into law. It was Soliven who presented the first bills amending the Constitution for the re-election of the president and by providing for the establishment of the Senate. He created a Basilan Land Grant to subsidize the UP as a state university. 

Other laws which were authored by Soliven gave birth to Commonwealth Act 628 which called for the revision of all substandard laws. Another law enabled the National Development Co. to provide for the distribution of public lands to homesteaders reserving one-half of all public lands on both sides of the national highways for distribution among settlers. Likewise, he was instrumental in the passage in part of acts such as improving the national defense law, and a bill that created the National Board of Review for Moving Pictures, and many others. 

Soliven greatly believed that a "public man should remember that he belongs first to the people before he belongs to his party." At the 1941 outbreak of the Pacific War, Soliven was called a National Assemblyman as the Congress had been reconstituted into a unicameral body. 

But he chose to volunteer as a Captain in the reserves. He had 10 children but the thought of serving his country and fighting in a war was, to him, a sacred duty. He was promoted to Major on the battlefield. 

After the death march and months as a prisoner-of-war in Camp O’Donnell, Capas, Tarlac, Soliven was released on July 23, 1942. Within a month after his return home, he took a turn for the worse and died of malaria. 

He died on Jan. 10, 1943 but declared in his delirium, "There is so much to do — so much yet to be done." He was 44 years old.

Read more at The Philippine Star Global

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