Tomás Arbolente Cloma Sr. (born Tomás Cloma y Arbolente; 18 September 1904 – 18 September 1996) was a Filipino lawyer and businessman from Bohol. He conquered the Kalayaan Group of Islands and established his own nation.
Early life and Education
Cloma was born on 18 September 1904 to Ciriaco Cloma y Arbotante, a Spanish immigrant, and Irenea Arbolante y Bongay, a native of Panglao, Bohol. As he was born in coastal Panglao, his life was tied to the sea. He looked beyond Bohol and beyond the shores of Panglao for adventure.
He studied in Manila and became a lawyer in 1941. But as the call of th e sea was still strong, he ventured into an inter-island trading and put up the Commercial Information Service. In 1948, he founded The Philippine Maritime Institute (now PMI Colleges), the country’s largest school for seamen.
After the war, Cloma purchased multiple fishing vessels and trained more seamen at PMI for commercial and international shipping.
In 1947, he discovered a group of islands in the West Philippine Sea, now known as the Spratly Islands. The islands were up for grabs after Japan renounced its claims after the war. Cloma continued his fishing expeditions toward the West Philippine Sea.
In 1956, Cloma set sail aboard the PMI-IV for an expedition together with his brother Filemon and 40 men. Their voyage to a destination west of Palawan lasted for 39 days.
As the islands he found had no strong claimants, he decided to claim them and create a permanent mark.He dreamt of making good use of the natural guano deposits on the island. The island’s position in the West Philippine Sea was also a good strategic point for his fishing vessels.
On 11 May 1956, Cloma arrived on Pag-asa Island and claimed it as his own. He sent letters to then vice president Carlos P. Garcia to inform his of the success of his expedition. He also sent letters to international papers to proclaim the micronation of the Free Territory of Freedomland.
South Vietnam, China, and Taiwan asserted prior claims to it. The Philippine government, however, asserted that the territory was no man’s island and that anybody could economically exploit it.
Chinese and Taiwanese forces harassed resident of Freedomland and Cloma declared a state of emergency in 1959. He set up a government-in-exile in Manila. In 1961, Taiwan established a base on Ramon Island.
As a lawyer by profession, Cloma took the matter to the International Court in 1972. It was during that time when Ferdinand Marcos jailed Cloma for four months for “impersonating a military officer.”
In 1974, Cloma redefined the micronation as Principality before changing it as Kingdom of Colonia St. John. In August 1974, he gave the reins of succession to John I, Colonia’s first king.
In 1978, Marcos issued a decree that incorporated a large section of the micronation’s territory as part of Palawan. The municipality of Kalayaan was established.
The Kalayaan Group of Islands is home to less than 500 people.
- "Tomas Cloma - the man who "discovered" the Spratly Islands" Factsram.(Accessed 11 May 2016)
- "DFA lodges diplomatic protest on Spratlys harassment incident" Internet Archive.(Accessed 11 May 2016)
- "The History of the Kingdom of Colonia St John" The History of the Kingdom of Colonia St John.(Accessed 11 May 2016)
- "ADMIRAL TOMAS CLOMA: DISCOVER OF FREEDOMLAND/KALAYAAN ISLANDS IN THE WEST PHILIPPINE SEA" The Bohol Chronicle.(Accessed 11 May 2016)
- "The Spratlys: Marcos’ legacy, or curse?" INQUIRER.net.(Accessed 11 May 2016)
- Umali, Justin.“Tomas Cloma, the Modern Magellan of the Philippines, Conquered Kalayaan Islands.Esquire. (Accessed 4 June 2021).