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Cebu News

Remember Sotto’s legacy, youth told

The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - Young Cebuanos have been urged to remember Don Vicente Yap Sotto’s, father of Cebuano journalism, language and literature, contributions to Cebu in time for the commemoration of his 140th birth anniversary yesterday.

Cebu City Vice Mayor Edgardlo Labella said millennials should learn by heart and treasure Sotto’s heroic service for Cebu.

"It is my hope that we can continue to celebrate it (Vicente Sotto Day) every year so that the young people and the generations to come would be reminded that once upon a time, there lived a Cebuano who was able to fight against colonialism — not by force or rebellion, but through the use of his pen,” he said in yesterday’s commemoration speech.

One of the most notable was Sotto’s efforts in penning the Republic Act 53 or the Press Freedom Law, also known as the Sotto Law, which protects journalists, editors, and reporters from divulging the sources of their information. It was enacted in 1946, Labella said.

Attorney Paul Oaminal, the representative of Senator Vicente Sotto III, also recounted the accomplishments of the late Sotto.

Don Vicente fought for what he wrote and championed Philippine press freedom as he was arrested on September 16, 1899 at the age of 22 by the Americans, imprisoned at Cell No. 6 of Fort San Pedro.

Sotto was one of the forerunners of Cebuano literature, paving the way for the use of vernacular language in the radical expression of nationalism and secularism.

Sotto also published "La Justicia," the first Filipino newspaper of Cebu; "La Nacional," a Spanish language weekly; and "Ang Suga," the first newspaper in Cebuano. He also pioneered the "Modern Cebuano Theater" with his "Ang Paghigugma sa Yutang Natawhan."

He was born on April 18, 1877.

Don Vicente's prominence in journalism, language, and literature was his ticket to politics.

He was elected councilor, congressman and senator. Don Vicente while on exile won as the President of the Municipality of Cebu on the election held on November 5, 1907.

The electors of Cebu voted Sotto with 650 votes, Martin Llorente (brother of Governor Julio Llorente, a street in Cebu City is named after him) with 483 votes and Timoteo Castro with 9 votes.

Judge Adoplh Wislizenus of the Court of First Instance of Cebu declared that the votes earned by Sotto were illegal as the latter was ineligible to run as he was a convicted felon.

Ironically, Martin Llorente was installed as the Municipal President of Cebu. Sotto's entire slate won, his Vice President, Francisco Veloso Arias and the members of the council were however dismissed and replaced by Governor Dionisio Jakosalem.

The Supreme Court on January 12, 1909 declared that the ruling of the lower court unseating Vicente was null and void.

Don Vicente died on May 25, 1950 but his legacy continues with his grandson and namesake, Vicente III, the country's most senior Senator, presently Majority Floor Leader (first elected in 1992) and a great grandson, Gian Carlo, a Councilor of Quezon City and married a Cebuana, Joy Woolbright, the daughter of Eddie Woolbright, the Builder of Beverly Hills, Cebu City.

Mary Ann Simetara, a teacher from Lahug Elementary School, said they have learned more about Sotto’s life and legacy through yesterday’s event.

"For us teachers, the information we got from the event can be used in our classrooms especially that we teach Araling Panlipunan. It is part of our subject to learn the history of the Philippines and our heroes’ personal background," she said.

The commemoration held at the Rizal Library was attended by the family’s supporters, including some City Hall officials and employees and educators.

The annual event, which started in 2011, aimed to reminisce and recognize Sotto’s significant contributions in the fields of journalism, literature and politics. — Nova Valizado (FREEMAN)

VICENTE YAP SOTTO
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