The Law of the Sea

Arturo M. Tolentino: I wish people will remember me for The Law of the Sea

At UP (University of the Philippines)

With respect to the future, Arturo M. Tolentino plans to be a lawyer by profession, a physical culturist by advocation with the newspaper work as aside job. Ideal of life is represented by equilateral triangle, meaning equal development in intellect, body, and morals.

Arturo Tolentino Picture

Motto is: “Aim high to hit high.” Major weakness is that he is a poor follower or soldier. Does not intend to engage in politics.

With these words, no doubt written with absolute sincerity, the writer of “Who is Who” in the student Journal of January 14, 1933 concluded his profile of 22 years old undergraduate Arturo M. Tolentino.

But while it is easy for us now to smile at that last sentence, it is well to remember that my father’s entry into politics was almost as unplanned as that into his legal career.

When he started at College of Liberal Arts at U.P., he not only took with him the athletic skills he had developed at high school but also his quick, logical mind and mastery of the spoken and written words.

And it was not long before Filipinos throughout the country begun reading and pondering his frequent discourses on highly controversial matters.


It was then my father began to write; not just letters to editors but short stories and poetry. He sent them to various newspapers and magazines when, more often than not, they were accepted and received the princely sum of one centavo per word for his efforts.

In this way, he was able to pay for his books and university fees thereby relieving his family’s financial pressure somewhat.

Almost without exception the poetry my father wrote was romantic. They all spoke of intimate encounters, and of magical moments only those who have truly loved can understand.

Several of his poems were dedicated to someone. Who that someone was and what their relationship to him was I can only guess, because every time I’ve asked he smiled and said; “well of course it was a long time ago, I was very young and cannot now remember.”

Oratorical contest at U.P. back then worked this way: a representative was chosen by the university or college to compete to deliver on a certain subject.

This speech had to be delivered without notes at the competition. It was quoted from memory and the contestant was judge both on it’s material content and the manner of which it was delivered.

Four men standing on AT

Four men standing on Arturo Tolentino

For several years my father was the light-weight lifting and wrestling champion of the Philippines. His rigorous training session and healthy life-style had not only prevented him from getting tuberculosis, but had molded his once weak form into a lithe, tough, muscular body that wasevident until his late years.

My grandfather however did not share my father’s enthusiasm for competitive weight-lifting and wrestling. When he learned that they were, in his opinion, taking precedent over my father’s studies, he made his thoughts known and barred my father from competing. As result, my father “retired” as undefeated national champion.

Nevertheless, in spite of his successes at university, Arturo M. Tolentino was not exactly a house-hold name in the early thirties. True he had won more academic awards and prizes than anyone else before him; was a published author and brilliant student but there was no indication that he was someday destined to become one of the country’s leading statesmen.

All that changed with the attempted introduction of the 1933/34 Hare-Hawes-Cutting Law. At that time, together with another brilliant student Wenceslao Vinzons, my father had helped found the ”Young Philippines” or “Y.P.” as it was popularly called. This was a radical and vocal, albeit non-violent political organization comprised in the main of the university students.

President Quezon he was so impresses that he told his secretary, “I want to talk with that boy, tell him I want to see him”. So even though he was still a student, Arturo Tolentino was summoned to Malacanan to meet with the president.

UP College of Law 1
UP College of Law 2

UP College of Law