Monday, November 14, 2011

*270. Power Couple: Dr. WENCESLAO B. VITUG & JUANITA S. ARRASTIA of Lubao

LIGHTS OF LUBAO. Dr. Wenceslao B. Vitug and Juanita S. Arrastia came from two different worlds--one, from a humble farming family, the other, from an affluent Basque Spaniards who settled in Pampanga. As a married couple, they were known for their compassionate spirit and generosity in running their vast haciendas, and in turn, were highly regarded by their loyal tenants. 16 May 19226. Photo courtesy of Cathy Engstrom).

From Lubao comes one of the town’s most celebrated couple, Dr. Wenceslao Vitug and wife Isabel Arrastia, who were best known for their extraordinary sense of community and magnanimous spirit, along with the wealth and power they wielded as successful landholders and professionals. Theirs is a story of selfless love and of enormous hearts which never cease to give and care, when others needed it most.

Wenceslaso “Beses” B. Vitug was born 28 September 1892, to Esteban and Juana Beltran. The future doctor had humble beginnings—his father was a farmer from Barrio Concepcion who went on to serve as a mayor of Lubao from 1910-13. It was his father who inculcated to the young Wenceslao the values of hard work, education and community service. After his early schooling at the Lubao Elementary School, Wenceslao graduated as Valedictorian of the Pampanga High School Class 1912. He then enrolled at the University of the Philippines as a medical student, and 6 years later, Wenceslao earned his degree in Medicine.

He trained at the Philippine General Hospital where he subsequently became a resident physician from 1918-23 and proceeded to make a name for himself as a professor of medicine at his alma mater, U.P.

In contrast, Juanita S. Arrastia was born with the proverbial silver spoon in her mouth on 8 March 1902, the middle child of Valentin Arrastia and Francisca Salgado. Valentin, originally from Allo, Navarra, a Basque region of Spain, owned a prosperous hacienda in Lubao that included fish ponds. The 10 Arrastia children all grew up in a splendid bahay na bato located right in front of the town hall.

But when it was time to seek an education, Juanita was sent off to the Colegio de Sta. Rosa where she aspired to be a nun. But fate intervened when, one day, Juanita and sister Carmen accompanied their diabetic mother to PGH for a check-up. Wenceslao’s reputation as an exceptional internist had reached LubeƱos, impressing everyone—including the Francisca Arrastia. She did her best to push Juanita to ThE GoOd dOcToR—10 years her senior.

The search for the queenship for the 1926 Pampanga Carnival organized by Gov. Sotero Baluyut would provide another distraction for Juanita. Local organizers approached her mother, Francisca, to seek approval for her candidacy to the provincial fair. Her mother, in turn, referred them to Juanita’s father, Valentin Arrastia, who grumbled and showed no interest at the project. Unfazed, the organizers returned to plead with him. One day, tired of their implorings, he threw his arms in the air to dismiss them, and, walking away, exclaimed "Vanidades del mundo! (Vanities of the world!)" They took that as a yes. Juanita did not disappoint and was elected Miss Pampanga of 1926. Her King Consort was a relative—Gregorio “Yoyong” Fernandez (actor, director and future father of the late Rudy “Daboy” Fernandez).

To everyone’s surprise, the 24 year old beauty wed Wenceslao on 15 May 1926—just a few months after being named Miss Pampanga. The marriage of Juanita to a ‘commoner’ who made good was big news in Lubao, where they settled and became hacenderos themselves, noted for their compassion and kindness to tenants.

It was said that Dr. Vitug personally treated sick tenants while Juanita cared for the welfare of their families, even extending interest-free loans. To religious order, she donated acres of land on which to construct their churches and schools. She also gave away plots of lands to loyal farmhands and offerd their home in Manila to children of family and friends who wished to study in the big city.

The couple themselves were blessed with 5 children: Lourdes (Lulu), Amelia Juana (Melly) , Maria Magdalena (Nena), Antonio Jesus (Tony, a medical doctor), Luis Lamberto (died young, of bone cancer), Mario Venerando (died of aneurysm), and Roberto Nicolas (Bert).

The Vitugs would eventually settle in Manila , living long, full lives surrounded by the love of their children and grandkids. Wenceslao passed away in 7 January 1986 at age 94, while Juanita died in 8 September 1994. Their old Lubao house was acquired by an architect and had it transported to a seaside town of Bagac, in Bataan where it is now part of Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar.

(Many thanks to Cathy Gamboa-Engstrom for the picture and for the biographical sketches of Dr. and Mrs. Wenceslao Vitug, her grandparents.)

2 comments:

acquiroz said...

Dr. Vitug was reknowned as "the" specialist in Internal Medicine in the medical community. He was one of my professors and during my early training in Internal Medicine at UST Hospital, his ward rounds were well attended and he never failed to give us young guys some "nuggets" as he shared his wisdom willingly. He was always serious and I will always remember him thus.

alex r. castro said...

Talaga po? Imagine, ita pung former officemate ku was married to his grandson, so that's how I managed to get these pics and information about him.