Election day is just around the corner. So I might as well blog about this.
Mayor del Mundo (1901-1975) traces his roots to Lemery, Batangas. He was married to Marieta Calivara. They had several children; Yeyette’s maternal grandmother, Inay Zenaida (the mother of my mother-in-law), was the second eldest. As mayor of postwar Abra de Ilog, it was said that he had worked for the moral and economic recovery of his town mates from the damages brought by World War II. He administered Abra de Ilog twice: from 1942 to 1947, and then from 1960 to 1963, a total of eight years.
Few people know that, in 1960, Mayor del Mundo worked for the elevation of Sitio Sablay Uway to the status of a barrio (now called barangay) as petitioned by its residents. This sitio south of the town proper had become populous anyway, with parts of a nearby forest cleared to give way to a growing community. When the municipal council approved the petition, Mayor del Mundo immediately submitted it to the provincial board. Upon its approval by higher authorities, the sitio leaders proposed that Mayor del Mundo’s first name be made as the official name of their newly proclaimed barrio as a show of gratitude. But since it was a Filipino custom during that time to assign names of saints to newly established places, they ingeniously added San (saint) to Mayor del Mundo’s first name. The barrio was thus named after him but was entrusted under the patronage of San Vicente Ferrer of Spain. That is why Barrio San Vicente, although named after Mayor del Mundo, celebrates its fiesta every April 5th, the Spanish saint’s feast day.
When my wife first brought me to his great grandfather’s house more than a decade ago (my first time in Abra de Ilog), I was utterly surprised to find it as nothing more than a modest abode. I was half expecting to see a huge bahay na bató. What I found was a small, postwar two-story house. The first floor had a low ceiling and had tree trunks for posts. I even remember seeing some of its walls in cement finish. I muttered under my breath, “This was where the mayor had lived?” I know of one mayor who, before becoming a politician, lived in a small house made of light materials. After his term, that house of his became a large bungalow.
The del Mundo house has since been renovated. The only thing original in it is its simplicity.
Yeyette doesn’t know much about his great grandfather; he had died a year before she was born (interestingly, the date of his passing is also our youngest daughter’s birth date). But if there’s one thing I’m sure about him, it’s this: he was not corrupt. He had lived as a just and honest public servant. This I remarked to Yeyette a few years ago. Puzzled, she asked me how I knew about it.
Simple: her family’s not rich.
Mayor del Mundo reminds me of Luis Rodríguez Varela (1768-1826), the nationalist creole poet who was the first to call himself a Filipino. He had been the corregidor (district leader) and capitán of Tondo. But when he passed away, it was discovered that he was penniless, with no hacienda to leave to his children. This, considering the fact that he had many opportunities to enrich himself in office.
Who among our current crop of not-so-rich political candidates will end up as honest public servants like Mayor del Mundo and Capitán Rodríguez?