Tomás Arejola (September 18, 1865 - May 22, 1926) was a Filipino propagandist during the Spanish colonial period, lawyer, legislator, diplomat and a political writer. A mason and a liberal, he openly campaigned for political reforms in the Philippines. But this was to pass and the Americans took over. During the Commonwealth period, Arejola joined the Nacionalista Party becoming its first vice-president and twice in the elections of 1907 and 1911 was elected the Representative of Ambos Camarines.
Early life and education
Arejola was born in Nueva Caceres (now Naga City) in Ambos Camarines, Philippines (now Camarines Sur). His parents were Antonio Arejola and Emeteria Padilla and he had five siblings:Ludovico, who became a General in the Filipino-American War, Leoncio, who became a priest and three women, Fabiana, Encarnacion and Dolores. Prominent and wealthy, his family possessed large tracts of farmland in the province and was into cattle-raising.
Arejola studied Humanities at the Colegio Seminario de Nueva Caceres (1878–1884) and took his Bachelor of Arts at San Juan de Letran. By 1886, he earned a Surveyor's degree at the University of Santo Tomas while also starting a Law course in the same school. He convinced his father to allow him to finish his law in Madrid. He was disgusted with his professors who were favoring the Spanish mestizos in his school. So in August 1886 he sailed for Spain. In 1888 when he was aged 22, he finished his course in Law at the Central Universidad de Madrid.
Life in Madrid
A prolific writer and a brilliant orator, he found common cause with the Filipino propagandists residing in Madrid. José Rizal, Marcelo del Pilar, Lopez Jaena, Juan Luna and many others became his close friends and they all were one in crying out for reforms in the colonial administration of the country. Arejola was bold particularly in writing articles in the more liberal newspapers in Madrid spelling out three demands upon the Spanish colonial authorities: a. institute political reforms in the administration of the colony, b. representation of the Philippines to the Spanish Cortes, c.) conversion of the Philippine as an integral province of Spain.
He became a very active member of the Asociacion Hispano Filipino whose president was Prof. Miguel Morayta of Central Universidad de Madrid. He also joined Colonia Organizada de Madrid whose first president was Jose Rizal. When the Asociacion Hispano-Filipino folded up, he organized the Circulo Hispano-Filipino where he became its first president and its secretary was Mariano Ponce.
His love for his country was unremitting and his articles were almost ubiquitous in La Vanguardia (Madrid), El Paris, El Progreso, La Correspondencia de España, Heraldo de Madrid and in La solidaridad, the newspaper put up by the Filipino ilustrados in Barcelona, Spain. The dominant theme in his articles was for the institution of political reforms in his home country.
In 1896, at the time he was president of Circulo Hispano-Filipino, the revolution in the colony broke out and he was hauled to prison on suspicion he was connected with the rebellion at home. According to Evelyn Caldera Soriano in her book Bicolano Revolutionaries Arejola was detained for four days in Carcel Modelo in Madrid together with Jose Oriola and Francisco Colon as reported in La Correspondencia which wrote of the existence of a club of Filipino separatists sympathetic to the Cuban rebels. He was released after finding no solid evidence against him. To cool things off, he hied away at Lisbon, Portugal. But shortly after, he returned to Madrid where he became the president of the newly organized Filipino Republican Committee which was more militant than the previous organizations he joined.
Sadly, news reached him that amidst the turmoil in his home country, his father Antonio Arejola and his brother Ludovico were arrested and exiled to Fernando Po together with other Filipinos who came from Albay province. But due to his connections with influential Masons such as Dr. Miguel Morayta, Emilio Castelar and Francisco Pi y Margall, he obtained the release of his father Antonio and one albayano named Macario Samson. Afterwards, in February 1898 he obtained the freedom of his brother Ludovico and ten other Filipinos.
Amidst this turmoil, Spain was already about to conclude the Treaty of Paris with the United States of America in the last month of 1898. Taking advantage of the period, Aguinaldo and his men formed the Malolos Congress on January 1, 1898 and after approving a Constitution, declared the independence of the Philippines on June 12, 1898. Arejola returned home previously by way of Hong Kong where he participated in organizing the Central Revolutionary Committee headed by Galicano Apacible. Arejola was one of the four delegates representing Ambos Camarines in the historic Congress. His three other co-delegates were Justo Lucban, Valeriano Velarde and Mariano Quien.
The American Dispensation
By December 1898, Spain formally turned over the Philippine colony to the United States of America thru the Treaty of Paris in the amount of 20 million dollars. This was an exceptional period, Spanish power was on the wane, American power was rising on the horizon and the Filipino aspiration for self-governance was emerging but this was to be nipped in the bud. The Filipino forces under Emilio Aguinaldo battled the American army but the superiority in arms of the latter proved too much. In fact, Arejola's brother Ludovico became the General who met the oncoming American forces in Ambos Camarines but his brother's army was puny and ill-equipped and by March 31, 1901 Ludovico's ragtag army surrendered and entered Naga and was received by the Americans in full honors.
Meanwhile, Tomas Arejola, between 1902 and 1906 was in Japan together with Mariano Ponce and other educated Filipinos who were already planning to carry the fight thru parliamentary means. By 1907, they organized the Partido Nacionalista. Tomas Arejola became its first vice-president and in the subsequent elections he ran twice for two terms as Representative of Ambos Camarines and won (1907–1915).
In Congress, he became the Chairman of the Committee on Public Works, Forests and Mines and member of the Committee on Railways, Schools and Franchises. Thru his efforts, roads in Polangui were built, roads connecting Daet, San Vicente, Talisay and Indan were constructed while a road linking Tigaon to Goa became a reality. The bridge in Tabuco, Naga City and the Pawili bridge in Bula were his pet projects. He was the creator of the town of Canaman. Markets, and many schools he also legislated into existence among which was the Nueva Caceres High School (now Camarines Sur National High School) and other schools in Ambos Camarines but now within the province of Camarines Norte. He was also the major proponent of the law establishing the National Library of the Philippines.
In the election of 1916, Bicol was an entire senatorial district (6th District) and Arejola won the office as Senator of said district. The election for the district, however, was nullified by the Commission on Elections due to irregularities. Still up for a fight, Arejola run as a candidate in the election of 1919 for provincial governors. But it was Julian Ocampo who won in the election. After this, Arejola quit politics for good.
His service to the nation was almost for a lifetime and he only married at the late age of 44. In December 4, 1909 he married a 16-year-old Spanish lass, Mercedes Caldera, daughter of a Spanish surgeon named Bibiano Caldera. They enjoyed a blissful marriage for sixteen years but unfortunately they bore no children. Arejola died in 1926 at the age of 60 due to tuberculosis.
- Malanyaon, Jaime. Istorya kan Kabikolan (Kabikolan: A History), AMS Press. 1991.
- Soriano, Evelyn Caldera. Bicolano Revolutionaries. Manila: National Commission for Culture and the Arts. 1999.
- Reyes,Jose Calleja. Bikol Maharlika. Goodwill Trading. Makati City. 1992