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Noynoy’s sense of gratitude and loyalty (or the apparent lack of it)

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Much has been said for and against incarcerated senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Ejército Estrada, and Ramón “Bong” Revilla, Jr. Despite alleged evidence against them regarding their double-dealing relationship with pork barrel queen Janet Nápoles, we have to face the sad fact that they are yet to be proven guilty. Same thing goes with the much-hated Bínay father-and-son tandem.

No, I am not trying to exonerate these people. For all we know, they could really be guilty of the accusations hurled against them. But like what I said, they’re still considered innocent until proven as crooks. And I’m inclined to give them the benefit of a doubt because if there’s one thing that we can really be sure of, it is this: they are all opponents of the Liberal Party of the Philippines, the political team of President Noynoy Aquino. It is the same party that had a hand, directly or indirectly, in tormenting its political rivals in the local government unit. The party’s name was palpable in the removal of Emilio Ramón Ejército as governor of La Laguna Province last year, in the disqualification of Calixto R. Catáquiz for his final bid as mayor of San Pedro Tunasán during the 2013 elections, and in the suspension of Cebú Governor Gwendolyn García during the final days of 2012. It was also the same party that tried to remove Manila Mayor Joseph Ejército Estrada not too long ago, but failed.

The funny thing here is that the mentioned LGU personalities were victimized by an obvious witch hunt not because of corruption in office but mainly because of their rivalry with their LP counterparts. But the part that hurts the most is that these political casualties, with the exception of the Ejércitos, Revilla, and García, all risked their lives, careers, and even reputation in EDSA back in 1986 when an emotional crowd was protesting against a dictator whose main rival at that time was none other than President Noynoy’s mother who was not even there (one instance: a young Calex Catáquiz was kicked out from his home by his own parents who were friends with Marcos upon learning that their son was supporting the People Power Revolution). Those politicians who gave their all-out support to the mother have instead gotten the shorter end of the stick from the son.

Has the president forgotten?

This bizarre sense of gratitude coming from President Noynoy comes into question now that his presidency is being beleaguered by reproach, nay, anger from the same voting public which catapulted him to power five years ago on account of his (covert) involvement in the Mamasapano tragedy. And this national anger is being fanned all the more by his seeming loyalty towards the selfish cause of a known terrorist group toying around with the word “revolution” despite this group’s manifest participation in the aforementioned tragedy. Where does his loyalty really belong, to the Filipino people who has supported him and his family throughout the decades, or to those troublesome pre-Filipino savages in the south?

Time and again, the president has beamingly declared that we are his bosses, and he our faithful servant. But looking back to how he has been walking on the tightrope that is contemporary history, it appears that the balance pole he is using has been carved out from the forests of Malaysia.

Follow me on Twitter.

Friendly advice: when you’re fuming mad, stay away from social media

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That’s one lesson I learned… the hard way. And embarrassingly, too.

Two Sundays ago, just a few minutes before going to late afternoon Mass in Barrio Landayan, I was engaged in a filthy word war with a troll account in Twitter (yeah, I know… not a spiritual way to prepare for Mass, mea culpa). The troll account is a supporter of Barrio San Antonio Chairman Eugenio Ynión, Jr., the man who sent me a death threat last summer, and a rabid hater of Mayor Lourdes Catáquiz and her husband, former Mayor Calixto Catáquiz.

The troll account won the word war simply because I fed its trolling. We are reminded of that well-known online adage: don’t feed the troll. But in a rage, I completely forgot all about it. The troll account I was up against is an expert roaster, a veteran even (in real life, this troll —whose identity is not a secret among San Pedrense netizens— is actually already a veteran, agewise). And since my family was hurrying me up to get dressed and my mind was blackened with spite, my replies got too clumsy, giving the troll account  the upper hand. Boy, did it give me some serious a$s-whooping.

I have joined a couple of online forums even before social media became in vogue. The forums that I join usually engage in topics which tackle Philippine History and other related subjects (my forte, I’d like to think). Throughout the years of my online existence, I’ve been a commenter, an observer, a moderator, and even a troll myself, haha. Whenever I am engaged in a heated real-time or live debate, and I am already on the verge of losing my cool, the opponent more often than not gets the better of me. Yes, I confess that I am a slow thinker.

But when I think slowly, I think surely.

Anyway, I already noticed this turtle-paced mental process of mine way back in college when my alma mater, mistakenly thinking that they have at last discovered a new JB Lazarte, entered me in an impromptu essay writing contest. When the topic was revealed, and the moment the timer started ticking, all the contestants were already jotting hurriedly. Me? I was paralyzed with anxiety, sweating profusely on my seat, helplessly watching the rest scribble it out like there’s no tomorrow. Nothing came out from my ink because that tension-filled moment was squeezing my brain. I only started writing when I decided to just give it up — and that was about half past the allotted time.

Now, going back to that online a$s-whooping I received. Nothing comes close to trolling than this Catáquiz hater who has found an ally in the person of one Manuel Mejorada, an Ynión attack dog based in Iloílo City disguised as a respectable a journalist. The troll account got the better of me, especially when I made a major boo-boo: when I referred to the Court of Appeals as “the court of last resort”, haha. And when Mejorada found out about my carelessness later on, he was so overjoyed that he even took time to make a screenshot of it then posted it on his Facebook account…

Thanks for the appeal for forgiveness, Boy Remedio. I appreciate it. I owe you one for your show of sympathy.

 

Before becoming a PR guy for Jun Ynión (and the mentally unstable Rommel Ynión), Mejorada was a former provincial administrator of Iloílo; if I’m not mistaken, he served under the term of former Governor Niel Tupás, Sr. So just imagine my amused surprise that this “VIP”, a self-proclaimed defender of the truth, took time to give me special space on that bastion of justice that is his Facebook account. For Mejorada and that Twitter troller, my “court of last resort” slip up was a huge event complete with fireworks and lechón and marching bands. They were having such a grand time as if it mattered all the world. It’s like, hey, who the heck am I to deserve such attention from a political and journalistic figure in Panay Island? In one comment of his, Mejorada himself even said that I’m just a mere “butete” compared to the others he usually defames… err, attacks rather.

Of course I got annoyed. However, the underlying sentiment I had was that of flattery. To make it more simple, and to Manuel Mejorada’s credit, who in blue blazes am I when made to stand side by side with a giant? (“wow, pinatulan ang isáng tulad có, haha.“) :D Yes sir. Make no mistake. Manuel Mejorada is a giant (figuratively AND literally speaking). That is why inspite of all the insults I received from his august Facebook account, I couldn’t help but feel being a little bit special… I must have surely made a mark to deserve this kind of attention! :-)

Be that as it may, this blogpost, of course, will be deemed by those two Ynión attack dogs as nothing more but a deodorant to hide the stench of my “ignorance” (Mejorada’s words). Rest assured, dear reader, that I am and have always been cognizant of the fact about which institution is the court of last resort. Proof? Why, even those idiotic attack dogs know about it.

So there, dear friends. Let this be a lesson to you, most especially to slow-thinkers such as myself: never ever touch that mouse or keyboard when you are angry and/or in a hurry during an online argument. You might not like what you’ve been typing. When you feel like you are already losing your temper, better leave your opponent for a while. Breathe, take a break, then return to the battlefield once you’ve gone back to a relaxed demeanor. Besides, online arguments are not formal ones, especially with what had transpired between me and that troll two Sundays ago.

Speaking of a relaxed demeanor, I’m now wondering if Mejorada was in that particular state of mind and body when he posted this idiocy on Facebook:

Please forgive his ignorance too. Por favor. Have mercy on this travesty brought about by senility…

As mentioned earlier, Manuel Mejorada, aside from being a seasoned (yellow) journalist in Iloílo Province, is no stranger to politics, as he was once a provincial administrator (I learned that he also used to be the Twitter handler of Senator Franklin Drilón but there was a falling out). Having said that, didn’t it even occur to him that the incumbent leadership in a local government unit incurs advances from a previous administration? At capág may mg̃a dadaúsing eventos, programas, etc., ang mg̃a organizador ang cumucuha ng cash advance, hindî ang alcalde o ang alcaldesa. Naturally, only those who request cash advances are tasked to have them liquidated, and an order is issued to have those advances liquidated within a certain period of time.

Furthermore, it is not uncommon that unliquidated cash advances are handed down from a previous administration to the present one. Besides, even if Mejorada doesn’t do any pestering, these matters are under the watch of a city or municipal hall’s resident auditor from the Commission on Audit (COA).

I reiterate: this yellow journalist-turned-PR guy for the Ynión Brothers was a former “public servant” himself. That is why it is now puzzling as to why Mejorada should “pester” the COA about something which COA is very cognizant about.

So, should we also forgive Manuel Mejorada’s IGNORANCE on LGU state of affairs, something he is supposed to know about?

Congratulations to Eugenio Ynión, Jr., and to his brother Rommel Ynión, for their death threats to me and my family

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I eat death threats for breakfast.

—Míriam Defensor Santiago—

One scene from The Godfather which leaves an indelible mark in the viewers’ minds is the brutal assassination of Sonny Corleone at the toll booth.

I saw this horrible scene only once many years ago, but I still couldn’t forget it. I’m sure that many fans of that now classic film will agree with me that it is the most memorable slaughter clip from the movie.

And it was the only scene which came to mind when Mr. Eugenio Ynión, Jr. —CEO of shady Ynión General Holdings and frequent absentee barrio captain of San Antonio in San Pedro Tunasán City, La Laguna Province— issued me a death threat last April 30. He sent it via private message to a decoy Facebook account during a filthy word war which he instigated (I admit to starting arguments most of the time in online forums, but I don’t start fights). Here’s his first threat, and it’s rather creepy:

It may mean nothing harmful at first reading. But check out the second one below. It’s rather cryptic, but becoming all the more ominous when connected to the first threat above:

Kapitan Ynión mentioning “The Godfather” is an obvious reference to that classic film’s infamous and memorable toll booth assassination scene (see video above). Do the math, friends. :-)

Never mind that this millionaire has fag issues (attention: LGBT community). What matters the most is why he threatened to harm me. My sin? I took sides in our young city‘s political landscape. I defended his twisted and malicious tirades against our mayor, Lourdes Catáquiz. But I did it respectfully, and he knows this. And so I instantly became his number one critic on his Facebook account (whose settings used to be public for everybody to see his wall posts that are filled with lies, lies, and more lies).

True colors

For most part of our summer word war on Facebook, Kapitan Ynión has been accusing me as city hall’s PR man because he knew that I am cognizant of a lot of issues concerning him (my exposé about the LIES he’s been spreading about our city’s fire brigade really blew his top, much to my amusement) While I do not deny my ties with and loyalty towards Mayor Catáquiz —for Pete’s sake, she and her husband (former Mayor Calixto Catáquiz) stood as our wedding sponsors!— I vehemently contest being tagged as such.  I’d rather declare that I’m a PR guy for the whole of San Pedro which he calumnied.

Before we go to how he defamed San Pedro, let me explain first how I made Kapitan Ynión fidgety and livid the whole summer. I first criticized him over a libelous video he posted on his Facebook account wherein he accused city hall of expropriating his land. At first, our exchanges were polite. But bit by bit, he was getting annoyed when he couldn’t get me to side with him. The polite exchanges turned sour. And when he could no longer beat me to the punch, he resorted to childish remarks and ad hominems, surprising me and many others of his behavior. We never thought he’d go down that low, especially since he boasts of being the youngest shipping magnate in the country. And he’s a politician, for crying out loud.

In the end, he deleted his libelous accusations, but not without blocking me (fortunately, some friends of mine who were observing our exchanges were able to make screenshots of his hilarious video and unprofessional remarks towards me). After the confrontation, I began receiving messages from various residents of San Antonio, some of whom I haven’t even met before, congratulating me for standing up to Kapitan Ynión. It seems to me that many people there do not like him. So how did he win last year’s elections? Your guess is as good as mine (and it’s interesting to note that he won by only 885 votes against his rival, Jamie Ambayec, a native San Pedrense).

Anyway, I thought that his blocking me on Facebook would have ended the squabble. But something about his posts bothered me. That is why I thought it best to “troll” him all the more by “hiring” the services of a decoy Facebook account by the name of Fil Acayan. This decoy account added Kapitan Ynión as a friend, signed all his posts as “Pepe Alas”, and the word war was on again. Since then, Kapitan Ynión never had a single day without me inside his head.

Included in that deleted Ynión video, by the way, was an unbecoming comment of his that was meant to taunt the Catáquiz administration but which also became a big insult to the city as a whole. Says Ynión: “the only thing that San Pedro could be proud of is its dumpsite”. Thus the need for me to hire Fil Acayan, the decoy Facebook account. Because I had to avenge our city’s name that was calumnied.

I had to be that PR guy for San Pedro Tunasán and not for the Catáquiz administration.

Kapitan Jun Ynión insulted the whole city of San Pedro

The only thing that San Pedro could be proud of is its dumpsite? Truly, these are the words of a hateful outsider (Ynión’s from Bacólod), an uncouth Filipino skilfully pretending to be a gentleman who has zero knowledge of San Pedro’s beauty and worth and heritage, words of a desperate man who is hell-bent of doing anything he can to achieve his ambition of becoming mayor at all costs, including the pretense of loving a place he is really unfamiliar with, detached even.

The only thing our city could be proud of is its dumpsite? Really? Me and my family have been living in Tagalog San Pedro far longer than this Visayan fellow, but we haven’t even seen nor have been hearing much about this dumpsite, which means its overall impact to our city is next to nil. Now, this fellow currently lives in La Marea, just a stone’s throw away from posh KC Filipinas Golf Resort Club, Inc. Has he even heard of the place? KC Filipinas is not something to be proud of? How about San Pedro’s time-honored tradition that is the sampaguita trade? The prevalence of the national flower gave San Pedro the honorable distinction of being the country’s sampaguita capital. Heck, we even earned a Guinness World Record back in 2009 for having created a 2.1-kilometer sampaguita lei! Hasn’t he heard of this incredible feat? Or maybe his mind was somewhere else? So, our city’s affinity to the national flower is not something to be proud of? We have historical and miraculous churches such as San Pedro Apóstol (home of the iconic Cross of Tunasán), the Shrine of Santo Sepulcro (home of the miraculous image of Lolo Uweng), and Santo Rosario (the first church in the entire Docese of San Pablo to have been consecrated); we’re not to be proud of? And do I even have to mention how this garbage remark of his has insulted the memory of former Vice President Salvador H. Laurel? Because it seems to me that Kapitan Ynión’s beloved dumpsite weighs more than the heritage that is the Salvador H. Laurel Museum and Library found in Holiday Hills.

And how about the awfully friendly people of San Pedro? Shouldn’t we be proud of them, too? So to follow Kapitan Jun Ynión’s crazed rhetoric, the city’s dumpsite is far more worthy than the people of San Pedro?

Why Ynión hates Catáquiz

The real reason why Kapitan Ynión is bitter over this dumpsite issue is because when he befriended former mayor Calixto Catáquiz (a much-loved living legend in our place, if I may add) a few years ago, he asked for favors if he could manage San Pedro’s dumpsite located in Barrio San Antonio, a favor that is not that easy to grant as there are laws and procedures to follow in order to do that. Much later,  Kapitan Ynión requested if he could manage San Pedro’s water distribution facilities.

When both weren’t given to him, bitterness engulfed his mind. And so he started plotting the downfall of the Catáquiz administration. As a matter of fact, he has been plotting this as early as 2008! Check this out:

One problem with Millionaire Ynión is that he’s the type who doesn’t think before he clicks. He’s too talkative (and we San Pedrenses are thankful for it). Other than that, what kind of a CEO and “public servant” stays on Facebook from the wee hours of the morning to the ungodly hours of nightfall? Does this guy even work? Wow.

What was that quote again from David Duchovny? Oh, yeah. I remember now: “In this age of media and Internet access, we are much more talkative than ever before”. :D

Whack job bros?

My golly. The only people I know who receive death threats are politicians, political activists, controversial celebrities, and the like. So just imagine my amusement when a mere Facebook troll such as myself received one from a self-proclaimed public servant who, in apparent fashion, uses his Facebook account primarily to discredit his political rival in as many twisted ways possible. I have to give him credit, though, because Kapitan Ynión’s lies are so believable that even some natives of San Pedro are starting to believe him.

If I may digress for a while. For the past two years, there have been persisting rumors that Kapitan Ynión was behind the assassination of Barrio San Antonio’s former chairman, the much-loved and very popular Art Hatulan (may he rest in peace). I’m not the type who pays much attention to rumors. But after this incident with this mafioso político, I no longer doubt that rumor myself.

And hey, let’s not forget Kap Ynión’s dear brother Rommel who joined the online fracas to rescue him from my online beating. Before the death threats even happened, he once challenged me to a fisticuff in defense of his brother. Now, this Rommel character wishes to outdo his bro by swearing to kill each and every member of my family.

As if one death threat is not enough. What an idiot and a coward.

Such lovely brothers these two are, always looking out for each other. But to Rommel’s credit, I understand his anger. Because the decoy account attacking his “saintly bro” was really mean. But to Kapitan Eugenio “Jun” Ynión’s fans: ever wondered what made that now legendary Fil Acayan account angrily lose his mind and blurt out invectives against your idol? Here’s why — and this is something which Kap Jun didn’t want you to see:

So there’s your public servant. His true colors exposed. Cagalang galang, ¿’di po ba?

And to those who do not know who this funny man Rommel Ynión is, please visit Adobo Ilonggo for more information. But for starters, Rommel ran for mayor in Iloílo City last year but lost in shameful fashion against fan favorite Jed Patrick Mabílog. Even before the elections began, Rommel was arrested due to tax evasion. And according to the grapevine, he’s currently somewhere in Metro Manila (hiding from eventual imprisonment?) and has become a delinquent unit owner of an expensive small office – home office condominium near Asian Hospital and Medical Center (where he is reportedly treated for manic depression). The poor guy reportedly owes the condominium around ₱400,000!

If this is true (and I don’t doubt that it is not), then shame on millionaire Kapitan Ynión. We see how his brother Rommel loves him dearly by unabashedly announcing to the public that the latter will kill each and every member of my family, yet the  former couldn’t seem to pay for his bro’s measly debts. What kind of brotherly circus is this? :D

Doing the right thing

Nick Joaquín once wrote that “some people can rise very high only because they have fallen very low”. Such is the sad, sad case with the Ynión brothers, whose source of wealth is highly questionable

Because of the danger posed by the Ynión brothers against me and my family, pleas from relatives and friends for me to stop criticizing them have been pouring out for the past month, that is why I have not been active in socia media recently. But I cannot remain silent for long. Because “silence in the face of evil is evil itself; God will not hold us guiltless”, says German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. And so I’m back.

Sadly, though, we’re not in San Pedro anymore; concerned officials have already pulled us out from our home for the sake of our safety. Nevertheless, even if we are no longer there, San Pedro will forever be a part of us. It is where our four kids grew up. It is where we have built friendships. It is where we have taken root for the past decade. It is there where I have fully recognized the significance of Filipino township identity which contributes to the general Filipino national identity. My love for the whole province of La Laguna sprang from San Pedro. So wherever we go, we will always tell everyone, with our heads held up high, that we are San Pedrenses, that we come from the blessed City of San Pedro Tunasán.

For practical reasons, confronting Jun Ynión and his brother on his FB account, making him lose his mind every single day, may be deemed stupid because I did not even think of my family’s security with my brash actions. But on hindsight, who will stand up against these devils?

So, a hearty congratulations are in the offing for Kap Eugenio and his equally psychotic brother Rommel for their cowardly death threats to me and my family. They may have succeeded in (inadvertently) driving us out of San Pedro…

…but they have practically destroyed themselves in the process. :-)

So just in case me and my family don’t get to join you all the way to the 22nd century, you know who to blame.

*F*I*L*I*P*I*N*O*e*S*C*R*I*B*B*L*E*S*

Special thanks to Superintendent Fernando Ortega, San Pedro City Police officer-in-charge, for personally assisting me in filing a blotter report against the evil-minded Ynión brothers of Bacólod.

My adoptive hometown’s cityhood is near

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I just saw this a few minutes ago in RAPPLER:

San Pedro in La Laguna to hold cityhood plebiscite on December 28

BY MICHAEL BUEZA
POSTED ON 12/18/2013 6:32 PM  | UPDATED 12/19/2013 8:43 AM

MANILA, Philippines – Four days before the year ends, registered voters in San Pedro, La Laguna, will either approve or reject the conversion of their town into a city.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) scheduled for Saturday, December 28, a plebiscite to ratify San Pedro’s cityhood. Voting hours will be from 7 am to 3 pm.

If majority of the 160,777 voters write “yes” on their ballots, San Pedro would become the 6th city in the province of La Laguna, after Biñán, Cabuyao, Calamba, San Pablo, and Santa Rosa.

San Pedro was converted into a component city through Republic Act 10420, signed by President Benigno Aquino III on March 27, 2013.

RA 10420 states that Comelec should conduct a plebiscite within 30 days after the law’s approval, but the poll body resolved to hold off all plebiscites until after the October 28 barangay polls.

The plebiscite period in San Pedro started on November 28, and will last until Jan 2, 2014. A gun ban is implemented throughout the plebiscite period, while a liquor ban will take place on the eve of the plebiscite and on plebiscite day. The counting of votes will be done manually.

The town’s Comelec office is gearing up for the plebiscite. “We will be putting up tarpaulins in every barangay hall to inform voters about RA 10420 and the plebiscite,” said Mario Loyola, a staff member of the Comelec-San Pedro municipal office. Rappler.com

I can still vividly remember the first time we moved in to San Pedro. It was during the Philippine presidential elections of 2004. That was almost a decade ago. No disrespect to the former mayor back then, but the place was really topsy-turvy when me and my family arrived: potholes in major roads, rowdy vendors, rugby boys, piles of garbage in sidewalks, etc. Whether or not it is the fault of San Pedrenses, command responsibility will always come to mind whenever new arrivals have a first impression of a place.

I can say that I am proud of having witnessed all the positive changes in this place throughout the years. Sana ñga lang, maquisama din ang lahát ng tagá San Pedro, maguíng tubo man dito o dayo tulad ng familia co, sa  positibong pagbabago na itunutulac ng casalucuyang pámunuan.

A hearty congratulations to Mayor Lourdes S. Catáquiz and her team. Of course, former mayor and now San Pedro’s First Gentleman Calixto R. Catáquiz shouldn’t be left out in the acknowledgments; all this was, after all, his brainchild when he was still the Sampaguita Capital’s chief magistrate.

My Filipiniana wedding!

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Stand firm, then, brothers, and keep the traditions that we taught you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.
—2 Thessalonians 2:15—

Jennifer “Yeyette” Perey and I have been together for 14 years. She was my college classmate (the prettiest in class, if I may add), my barcada, my “ate” (she’s three years my senior), my partner in crime, my best friend. Hindí man niyá acó lubusang naiintíndihan, tacbuhan co siyá palagui sa touíng bad trip acó sa cung anó mang bagay sa buhay. And vice versa. She had no fondness for almost everything that interests me. Books and politics bore her to death. And she couldn’t care less for the difference between nationalism and birthday parties. In the same vein, I dislike her diversions: showbiz and fashion, and the usual girl talk.

But as children of the 90s, perhaps the only thing which drew us towards each other is our susceptibility to the frivolities of our youth. It was an era of youth itself, when youth in the history of Time was at its happiest, when “happy-go-luckiedness” was basic canon, an age when democracy in our country was having the time of its life, when hip hop and metal were waging war against each other, and when primetime cartoons and sitcoms were the subject of next-days idle talk inside classrooms. It was a time when rebelling was no longer dangerous but fun, a time when pop culture has reached its zenith to the point of being making itself stale (and it did).

When Yeyette and I met, it was a time when euphoria made itself blatant as the most sought-after objective of man.

We never ignored the future, but we cared less for responsibilities. Unselfishness was but a precipitation on a windowpane on which we merely used to write down our names. Youth was all there was. We thought it was immortal. Although it never lorded us over, it never commanded us to do anything, it, however, tolerated our every whim, blinding us with the “truth” about pleasure.

Fortunately for me, I was not your average petty bourgeois. I was also an observant SOB and a worshipper of books dealing with various subjects. And even before me and Yeyette were already an item, I was already in pursuit of truth. Religious truth, that is. And so: growing up with a non-religious Catholic mom, I freely received various books and pamphlets from her JW cousins; as a teen, I showed interest with my maternal grandmother’s UCCP; I then spent several months with the MMCC; a couple of weeks with the INC; was a fanatic Ang Dating Daan fan for about two years, etc. Becoming more adventurous, I then joined DeMolay.

Looking back, I believe that listening to all those sects led to my disenchantment with organized religion which was further augmented with my activities as a young socialist activist. Imagine just what kind of existential angst I had to go through.

During my training with De Molay, my friendship with Yeyette ended up with her getting pregnant. Then Krystal followed. Then life in its most ostentatious color.

Our frosty windowpane was shattered with just a snap of a finger. All of youth’s promises, lost (I imagine José García Villa mockingly slapping our faces with yellowing rough drafts of his “Footnote to Youth”).

Youth betrayed us. Pop culture popped rather hard in front of us, stinging our faces painfully.

Our first photo together taken at Bacoor, Cavite (circa 1999).

In the difficult events that followed (and being unable to make a compromise with my dad regarding Yeyette’s pregnancy), I resigned myself to the notion that life’s a bitch, so it’s better to love myself. I gave up the idea of God. But not my family.

*F*I*L*I*P*I*N*O*e*S*C*R*I*B*B*L*E*S*

My apologies; it’s not my intention to write a pathos-incensed story of our love life in one blogpost, so never mind the —if you may— kick-a$s intro, hehehe! It might take me forever to write about it. So let me just fast-forward things up to the time when me and Yeyette were already proud and happy parents of four kids: Krystal, Momay, Jefe, and Juanito. It took a family of my own to make me realize that God is real, God is true, God is within us, that family is the covenant He speaks of.

Yes, I became a Christian again, but only after torturous months of joblessness and defeat, reawakenings due to a rereading of Philippine History and philosophy (particularly metaphysics and theology), and wrestling against myself if I was to abort my second child or not. In the end, Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason) won over me. Life became clearer then. And I didn’t even have to read The Purpose Driven Life (as a matter of fact, I haven’t even read it yet).

And since me and Yeyette didn’t want to live a life filled with guilt over what we did (hooking up together much to our respective parents’ disappointment and heartbreak), neither did we intend to continue our lives in “fornication”. Although we were wed civilly, we are not yet married in God’s eyes. A couple of years from now, we’ll be in our 40s. We didn’t have any plans of going beyond that age limit before officially tying the knot.

And so three months ago today, on a dreaded Friday the 13th which was also our 14th anniversary as a couple, me and Yeyette were finally married in our parish church. It was a simple ceremony, really, as it never had the grandeur similar to other weddings. However, it had the elegance, the sacredness, and the character of a true Filipino wedding…

Photo by Mao Joseph Almadrones.

…because we were married using an ancient Catholic rite: the Rito Mozárabe or the Mozarabic Rite which was the original Catholic form of worship in the Philippines from the Spanish times up to the late 1950s. The wedding took place before the entrance of the church; it lasted for about half an hour. Afterwards came the nuptial blessing using the extraordinary form of the Roman rite, also known as the Tridentine Latin Mass. The languages used during the entire ceremony were Spanish and Latin, the way it should really be.

Ours can be considered a historic wedding because it was the first time —at least in the Southern Tagalog area— that a traditional Filipino wedding occurred since the late 1950s; a similar wedding occurred earlier this year, but it was held at the Holy Family Church in Cubáo, Quezon City.

And speaking of Tridentine Masses, it was a startling coincidence to find out later on that our wedding happened on the eve of the sixth anniversary of the promulgation of the celebrated apostolic letter Summorum Pontificum of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI! And our wedding also occurred during the final months of the Year of Faith, probably one of the most awesome things to have happened to someone who was once faithless! Friday the 13th be damned!

Really, AWESOME is all I could muster from my thoughts. :D

Invitation card designed by young Church historian Jesson Allerite.

Our wedding rings on my wife’s Filipiniana bouquet composed of sampaguita, gumamela, ylang-ylang, pandacaqui, camia, and champaca flowers. The bouquet was designed by renowned florist Serge Igonia, a native San Pedrense.

I said goodbye to my long hair on the day of my wedding, LOL! It was Ryan Panaligan, Yeyette’s friend who is a personal stylist of Jed Madela, Luis Manzano and other ABS-CBN stars, was the one who took care of our hair and make-up. And now he’s styling another hunk in this photo.

My bride and our daughter Krystal.

Our boys: Momay, Jefe, and Juanito.

The centuries-old and miraculous Cruz de Tunasán —a “victim” of José Rizal’s satire— became part of our historic wedding!

A modest string of sampaguita flowers are hanging by the church pews on either side of the carpeted nave. San Pedro Tunasán is also known as the “Sampaguita Capital of the Philippines”.

With former San Pedro Mayor Calixto Catáquiz and his wife, incumbent Mayor Lourdes “Baby” Catáquiz who served as our wedding sponsors.

The bride arrives in an elegant looking carroza.*

The Mozarabic wedding is about to begin.

Locution of the admonition and exhortation. Reverend Father Michell Joe “Jojo” Zerrudo, pastor at the Holy Family Parish in Quezon City and also a renowned exorcist, officiates the rare wedding.

Union of our right hands.

Father Jojo blesses our rings and arrhae.

Fr. Jojo places the ring on my right ring finger.

Fr. Jojo gives me Yeyette’s ring which I then insert to her right middle finger.

Fr. Jojo transmits the arrhae to my hands…

…which I then transmit to Yeyette’s hands…

…which she then transmits back to Fr. Jojo.

Done with the Mozarabic Rite wedding! And nope, I’m not doing a rendition here of John Cena’s “you can’t see me!”. I was just proudly showing off my golden ring. :-)

The nuptial blessing begins (using the extraordinary form of the Mass). Both me and Yeyette were led by Fr. Jojo towards the altar. We were holding on to the edge of his stole as he recites Psalm 127. Go figure. :-)

 

The Catáquiz couple. Behind them is Señor Guillermo Gómez, a giant in Philippine history and letters who is also one of our wedding sponsors. Accompanying Señor Gómez is Valerie Devulder, French-Filipina granddaughter of the late Francisco Coching, “Dean of Philippine Comics”.

Sampaguita and camia flowers strewn all over the carpeted nave.

Imposition of the veil as Señor Gómez looks on. Renowned Catholic apologist Carlos Antonio Pálad

Nuptial blessing.

This moment brought me to tears, for I have not received Holy Communion in years. Tita Joji Alas, one of our wedding sponsors, is seated beside Señor Gómez.

My bride’s turn to receive the Body of Christ.

Sorry, no kissing in Tridentine Mass weddings. But of course, a couple should not show an intimate moment right in front of the altar. That is what I call a Novus Ordo Mistake.

Standing behind us: my cousin Jam, Tita Joji, Mayor Baby, my maternal grandmother Norma Soriano, Yeyette’s dad Jaime Perey, my dad Josefino Alas, Mayor Calex, and Señor Gómez.

Throwing rice grains to the newlyweds is an old Filipino custom. I just treat it as tradition. And hey, what our friends and family members flung at us are organic rice grains, LOL!

❤ ❤ ❤

CLICK HERE for more photos! And for an explanation of our wedding’s symbolism or the rite as a whole, CLICK HERE.

*Special thanks to Gerald Ceñir and the rest of the “Tridentine Boys” (Jesson, Mao, Juhnar Esmeralda, Satcheil Amamangpang, Miguel Madarang, and Justin Benaldes) for making this dream wedding come true (Gerald has been helping me in planning for this wedding since 2009!). Thank you also to former Biñán councilor Rómulo “Ome” Reyes for allowing us the use of his carroza, and to Mr. Ronald Yu for sponsoring it. To all who attended our wedding: ¡muchísimas gracias!. And more importantly, THANKS BE TO GOD!

Stay tuned for more of “My Filipiniana wedding!”

Baby Catáquiz vs Norvic Solidum: the Battle for San Pedro!

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Despite the lack of conclusive and official judgment, it is already common knowledge that the late actor and Filipino cultural icon Fernando Poe, Jr. was cheated during the 2004 presidential, legislative, and local elections. Having lost faith in democratic politics, that was the last time I exercised my right to suffrage. Turning apolitical, I swore to myself never to participate in elections ever again.

Incidentally, it was on the same day when I relocated my family from BF Homes Parañaque to Barrio San Vicente in San Pedro, La Laguna. A female cousin of mine who was married to a native San Pedrense (from the well-known Igonia clan) helped us in finding an apartment unit. Having lived most of my life in urban Parañaque City, I was somehow elated with the idea that me and my family will become provincianos and enjoy a rural lifestyle. I’ve been an urban kid for years. That’s why rural life always revs up the sentient patterns of my behavior toward society. Summer vacations in my father’s rustic hometown during my childhood made the thought even more nostalgic. But I was disappointed with what I saw.

As an aficionado of nature and culture, I was expecting farmlands, tranquility, more of nature, more rustic imagery, and more bahay na bató houses in San Pedro. But upon entering it from Muntinlupà City, what greeted me was a vandalized bridge and welcome arch, a garbage-filled estero, pro-promiscuity Sogo Hotel, smoke fumes from numerous tricycles, boorish traffic on potholed and littered roads, and a motley assemblage of unaesthetic establishments reminiscent of dirty Quiapò, Manila in the 80s and 90s. Simply put, the then Municipality of San Pedro was an exuberance of poor municipal planning. I promptly blamed the current town leader, Felicísimo Vierneza. My reason: command responsibility, if not inept leadership. It was but unfortunate, in my opinion, that he won during the said elections.

In 2007, businessman Calixto Catáquiz —half Tayabeño, half San Pedrense— again entered the scene as San Pedro’s chief executive. I said “again” because he has already managed San Pedro before, starting in 1986, when he was first appointed by the late President Corazón Aquino as Officer-In-Charge, all the way to 1998. 2007 was the year that I truly noticed CHANGE in San Pedro.

One more challenge

I’ve been hearing about Mayor Calex since I was a kid because he is actually a family friend; his father and my father are both from Unisan, Tayabas Province. In fact, one of my uncles is a very close associate of his. And whenever I spend my summer vacations  in Unisan as a young boy, I do remember seeing him in the Rural Bank of Unisan (now Entrepreneur Bank) which was owned by his family (he used to manage the bank). It was just pure coincidence that I transferred my family to San Pedro that has been the home of a fellow Tayabeño.

But that is all I know. I never knew Mayor Calex on a personal level until 2008. During that time, my friend and fellow history buff Arnaldo and I were pondering on how we could make it to the publishing scene. We maintain blogs that deal with Philippine History and Filipino Identity. But we believed that the only way we could make it into the big league (or for our body of work to be seriously noticed) is to get published. Publish or perish, as noted authors will always say. But really, we have no idea how to start.

And then it hit me: why not write a history book for San Pedro? That could be a good start. After all, my nose for history compelled me to read everything that I could regarding my family’s adoptive hometown since 2004. I was confident that me and Arnold could write one. But we needed support. I thought of using my connection to be able to reach out to Mayor Calex. And so one day, I contacted my uncle, and he setup a meeting between us (me and Arnaldo) and the Mayor at the old municipal office (fronting the town plaza and the historic Church of San Pedro Apóstol). But like everyone else, we had to wait for our queue (there were many people who had wanted seek an audience with him that day, and he was also officiating a civil marriage for about ten couples or so). Then came our turn to speak to him. We were led to his desk by his stern but polite staff. The mayor turned out to be a nice guy after all, very accommodating, hearing us out well, and not menacingly intimidating (because of my activist background, I then had reservations of dealing with politicians). And despite his tall stature, Mayor Calex was a soft-spoken man, even showing qualities of timidity that I think is unusual for a politician. I immediately liked him.

We never talked about our Unisan connections. We immediately told him our plans: a history book for San Pedro. But much to our dismay, he revealed that there were already two books published about San Pedro’s history. The most recent was made during the incumbency of his predecessor entitled San Pedro, Laguna: Noon at Ngayon (San Pedro, La Laguna: San Pedro Historical Committee, 2007) by Amalia Cullarín and Sonny Ordoña. Prior to that is the now rare Kasaysayan ng Bayan ng San Pedro Tunasán (Manila: Liberty Press, Co., 1963) by Anastacio Olivárez. However, Mayor Calex did not immediately dismiss us. Little did we know that he was actually planning to have his own biography. He was inspired to have one after having read the best-selling biography of his good friend, the late Comedy King Dolphy (Hindi Ko Ito Narating Mag-isa by Bibeth Orteza, Quezon City: Kaizz Ventures, Inc., 2008). He and Dolphy made a movie together, Home Along da Riber, in 2002. Mayor Calex was then the General Manager of the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA), and he conceptualized the said movie to promote environmental efforts for Laguna de Bay, the Philippines’s largest lake.

A book is a book. An opportunity is an opportunity. So we grabbed the chance. And that is how my close association with Mayor Calex started. And I got to know him better.

From municipality to cityhood

While doing research for his biography, we found out that during his first two years as OIC of San Pedro, Mayor Calex was able to accomplish a staggering 110 major projects! It must be noted that the number of projects that Mayor Calex was able to accomplish was already outstanding for a first-time “accidental” politician. Accidental, because he never even planned of becoming Mayor despite his parents’ ties with the late strongman President Ferdinand Marcos. Another remarkable feat: in less than a decade, from his OIC years up to 1995, he was able to raise the coffers of the municipal treasury from ₱6.41 million to a staggering amount of ₱70 million! In 1992, he was able to make San Pedro a 1st class municipality. He could have done more. But in 1998, Vierneza replaced him. And this new leader took hold of San Pedro’s mayoralty seat up to 2007. It was during these years that San Pedro retrogressed into the disappointing municipality that I found it to be in 2004.

In retrospect, how was Mayor Calex able to do such accomplishments even without any formal training in political leadership? He was not from a political family. They were more into business (the Catáquiz family is, in fact, one of the wealthiest —if not the wealthiest— in all of San Pedro). And so with this, he invented a formula: his “50-50″ scheme which means that he had to be a 50% politician and 50% administrator. Using the “banker” side of his character, or his being a 50% administrator, he turned San Pedro’s financial woes into financial gains.

So fast forward to today. For the past few years, Mayor Calex has been working extremely hard for the cityhood of San Pedro. His hardwork finally paid off when, on 27 March 2013, Republic Act 10420 was signed, effectively converting San Pedro into La Laguna province’s newest city.

The failed municipality of San Vicente

Thankfully, this act was signed in due time. Because if not, San Pedro would have fallen into a downward spiral.

In a blogpost that I published last month, I wrote about the selfish plans of Mayor Calex’s political rival, Vice Mayor Norvic Solidum. It turned out that Solidum and his partner/protégé Allan Mark Villena were petitioning the provincial government to split San Pedro into two by having Barrio San Vicente converted into a new municipality. If that ever happened, San Pedro’s income class would have gone down to 3rd class, thus making impossible San Pedro’s bid for cityhood. And as main petitioners, either Solidum or Villena would have been the mayor of this failed municipality of San Vicente.

Such schemes are a pet peeve of mine, for I do not believe in the splitting of towns/cities. Why? Because I always subscribe to this Nick Joaquín dictum, which is logical and highly principled:

Philippine society, as though fearing bigness, ever tends to revert the condition of the barangay of the small enclosed society. We don’t grow like a seed, we split like an amoeba. The moment a town grows big it becomes two towns. The moment a province becomes populous it disintegrates into two or three smaller provinces. The excuse offered for divisions is always the alleged difficulty of administering so huge an entity. But Philippines provinces are microscopic compared to an American state like, say, Texas, where the local government isn’t heard complaining it can’t efficiently handle so vast an area. We, on the other hand, make a confession of character whenever we split up a town or province to avoid having of cope, admitting that, on that scale, we can’t be efficient; we are capable only of the small. The decentralization and barrio-autonomy movement expresses our craving to return to the one unit of society we feel adequate to: the barangay, with its 30 to a hundred families. Anything larger intimidates. We would deliberately limit ourselves to the small performance. This attitude, an immemorial one, explains why we’re finding it so hard to become a nation, and why our pagan forefathers could not even imagine the task. Not E pluribus unum is the impulse in our culture but “Out of many, fragments”. Foreigners had to come and unite our land for us; the labor was far beyond our powers. Great was the King of Sugbú, but he couldn’t even control the tiny isle across his bay. Federation is still not even an idea for the tribes of the North; and the Moro sultanates behave like our political parties: they keep splitting off into particles.

Setting aside his selfish ambitions, it is safe to conclude that, based on the above, Solidum fears bigness and thinks like an amoeba, therefore not fit for public service. Anything large intimidates him.

And because he’s intimidated, he sought to play dirty.

¿Daáng Matuwíd ñga bá talagá?

During the fiesta of Barrio San Vicente last month, a strange document started circulating in various Facebook accounts, pages, and groups concerning San Pedro. The document, dated 5 April 2013, is purportedly from the Office of the President of the Philippines, ordering Mayor Calixto Catáquiz “to vacate his office immediately”:

The strange thing is that these papers first appeared on the internet, that is why it was considered dubious at best. And for many days since the papers first appeared on the web, Mayor Calex still had to receive the hard copies. News of this also reached the major dailies and some radio stations. So upon hearing the news, thousands upon thousands of supporters, many of whom were native San Pedrenses, trooped to the new municipal hall and to the town plaza to show their support for the mayor.

Why these documents first appeared on the web still remains a puzzle. But it is already clear that it is a form of black propaganda to discredit the mayor. It should be noted that Mayor Calex belongs to the Nacionalista Party whereas Solidum is being carried by President Noynoy Aquino’s powerful Liberal Party. Noynoy is known to hate everyone who used to be allied with former President Gloria Macapagal de Arroyo (just ask Renato Corona). And Mayor Calex was an appointee of the former president.

The ghost of LLDA: the real score

The order to vacate the mayoralty seat stems from Mayor Calex’s case with the LLDA. In 2001, ex-president Arroyo appointed him as LLDA General Manager (prior to this, he was already a member of its Board of Directors from 1992 to 1998). One of his well-known achievements as its administrator was securing for Laguna de Bay the “Living Lake” honor from the prestigious Living Lake network, winning the distinction over Brazil’s Pantanal, the world’s largest wetlands, and Poland’s Milicz Pond.

Nothing is too small or too big for Catáquiz as the GM of LLDA. During his administration, he made studies about the feasibility of tapping Laguna de Bay as a source of potable water for Metro Manila, citing that having this as an option would greatly reduce water utility costs. His vision was reinforced by his observance of the Singapore model in which part of used water is recycled. Before leaving LLDA, he had already made this recommendation to the Office of the President.

He was also bent on changing the office culture into a more productive environment the moment he stepped in as its GM. But when he found out about employees playing computer games during office hours, he issued an intra-office memo banning and removing all computer-based games within office premises, much to the dismay of some lazy employees.

This very trivial matter was actually the start of his troubles with the LLDA employees. He was a strict boss, but fair in all his dealings. Corruption? An impossibility. He was already a millionaire even on the day he was born because of his parents banks and other profitable businesses. To put it more bluntly, he never needed the GM job nor any political seat just to enrich himself, as is the practice of many politicians who are not as financially fortunate as him.

Sadly, his strictness was not received well by these employees. Later on, these same employees would join the clamor made by a militant fishing group (whose members lost their illegal fishing fences within the lake courtesy of GM Catáquiz) to replace the GM. Perhaps they were looking for a leader who could tolerate their laziness and other unfair dealings?

GM Catáquiz reasoned out that he always had the employees’ welfare in mind. But he was unwilling to tolerate unprofessional deeds. He was fully expecting that everyone would subscribe to the idea that they would have to abide by the law and that they should have the focused willingness to serve the poor people.

Due to graft charges unfairly hurled against him by some LLDA employees who had personal grudges to bear, Catáquiz parted ways with the organization on a sad note.

NOT convicted

His enemies inside the LLDA prevailed. In 2003, Catáquiz was dismissed as GM “on the grounds of corrupt and unprofessional behavior and management incompetence”. But this is the real score: he was NEVER CONVICTED in a court of law. Instead, he was found guilty of administrative misconduct by a tribunal by the Office of the Solicitor General. Two years later, a resolution from the Office of the President that was based on the findings of the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission imposed the penalties of “disqualification from reemployment in the government service and forfeiture of retirement benefits” on Catáquiz. But he never pursued that anymore because it was already moot and academic.

In simple words, the Supreme Court merely acknowledged that an administrative case was filed against Catáquiz, that it was uncontested, and so that the penalties attached to the case were applied. That was all to it. There was no conviction at all. After this setback, Catáquiz simply went back to private life and just supported his wife Lourdes “Baby” Catáquiz’s political career who was then serving as the town’s Vice Mayor. Eventually, he returned as mayor of San Pedro in  2007.

Simply put, his troubles with the LLDA had NOTHING to do with his being mayor of San Pedro. Therefore, the recent order from Malacañang, signed by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr., is ILLEGAL.

The problem now is that during Solidum’s campaign sorties, his group continuously trumpet that Catáquiz was convicted by the Supreme Court when the truth is that the high court took no action at all with the mayor’s past (and questionable) troubles with the LLDA.

Cracks in the Solidum-Almoro tandem?

But in a twist of fate, as mentioned earlier, thousand of angry residents of San Pedro trooped to the city hall to show their support for Mayor Calex, something that Solidum’s camp never anticipated. And it happened for several days last month. Could this overwhelming (and probably unexpected) show of support one reason why the dubious Malacañang order for Mayor Calex to vacate his position never materialized?

And could this also be the reason why Solidum’s camp was rattled? According to a very reliable source, Solidum’s running mate, Sheriliz “Niña” Almoro, already broke away with him. Not only her but two others who are running for councilors under the Solidum bandwagon:

Ina Olivárez, Niña Almoro, and Kim Carrillo reportedly broke away from Solidum’s camp. How true?

The three, however, have kept mum on the issue.

COMELEC unreliable

Nothing happened with the questionable Ochoa papers. So out of desperation, and realizing that Mayor Calex was still popular inspite of the smear campaign against him, the enemy camp made one final blow.

With just a few days left before May 13, the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) suddenly decided to disqualify Mayor Calex from seeking reelection:

In a resolution dated May 7, the COMELEC first division granted the petition filed by Catáquiz’s rival, San Pedro Vice Mayor Norvic Solidum, and two others to disqualify the local chief executive, who was also recently ordered by Malacañang to step down.

The COMELEC ruling, signed by Commissioners Lucenito Tagle, Elias Yusoph, and Christian Robert Lim, cited Section 40 of the Local Government Code, which bars “from running for any elective local position … those removed from office as a result of an administrative case.”

Catáquiz, a member of the Nacionalista Party, said he has yet to receive a copy of the COMELEC order but vowed to seek “legal remedies” from a higher body to stop his disqualification.

“With three more days to go (before the elections), this is just a strategy of my opponents to discredit me,” he said in a phone interview Thursday.

But COMELEC decisions are highly unreliable these days. It will be remembered that just a few days ago, they implemented COMELEC Resolution No. 9688 which prohibits the “withdrawal of cash, encashment of checks and conversion of any monetary instrument into cash from May 8 to 13, exceeding P100,000 or its equivalent in any foreign currency, per day in banks, finance companies, quasi-banks, pawnshops, remittance companies and institutions performing similar functions.” But the Supreme Court put a stop to it, declaring it unconstitutional. So how can one rely on COMELEC’s wisdom?

Norvic then made a mad scramble and trumpeted the news. Last Friday, an old yellow model pick-up truck (take note: the plate number was covered) was driving all over the municipality declaring, with its megaphone blurting out that Mayor Calex was already disqualified, and that all who would vote for him will no longer be counted.

But Norvic, party’s not over when it’s really over.

Enter Baby Catáquiz

Just when Solidum et al. thought that they had won (especially since another mayoralty bet, Berlene Alberto, is not really well-known), Cataquiz’s wife Lourdes filed her certificate of candidacy last Friday at the COMELEC office (almost at the same time that Mayor Calex received his copy of the COMELEC resolution that disqualified him from the mayoralty race). The move is legal.

Let it be known that under COMELEC rules:

“The substitute for a candidate who died or is disqualified by final judgment, may file his COC up to mid-day of election day, provided that the substitute and the substituted have the same surnames.” (see COMELEC Resolution No. 9518).

So to all registered San Pedrense voters, please be informed that all votes for Mayor Calex will still be counted. And all of them will be automatically accounted for his legal substitute: Mrs. Lourdes “Baby” Catáquiz.

In less than 24 hours, it’s election time! Let it be known that this blog is not supposed to be a political blog. However, I now feel concerned with the elections in my adoptive hometown, San Pedro Tunasán, La Laguna especially since this has been our home for the past nine years. Despite my rather apolitical stance (I’m not a registered voter), I feel I had to do this because it is a civic duty, and not out of political friendship or bias. And I feel the need to endorse and support Mrs. Baby Catáquiz not out of political ties (they never instructed me nor paid me to write this blogpost, believe it or not). Because I know that it is the RIGHT and JUST thing to do.

Yes, Mayor Calex is a friend of mine. And to my observation, I honestly do find Mr. Solidum as an inept and unfit and uncouth public servant (many witnessed how Solidum made a slit-throat gesture yesterday when his motorcade met Mrs. Catáquiz’s). But I never thought of putting myself in the midst of their rivalry by writing a blogpost in support of Mayor Calex (who am I to do that in the first place? I’m just another blogger).

Nothing really personal with Mr. Solidum. But had he not attempted to divide San Pedro, then this blogpost wouldn’t have existed. During the last elections, in 2010, I never wrote any article/blogpost in support of Mayor Calex. Nor did I attack his challenger (Vierneza) back then.

So to my fellow San Pedrenses, you now know where you stand.

And what of Mayor Calex? His story has not yet ended.

His biography is still in progress. :-)

Norvic Solidum, Mayor of San… Vicente?

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Two days ago, the Manila Times ran a rather disturbing story about a political “tug of war” that is happening in the erstwhile municipality of San Pedro in La Laguna province:

Tug of war over La Laguna town seethes

Published on 03 April 2013
Written by ROSELLE AQUINO CORRESPONDENT
SAN PEDRO, La Laguna: Machinations by políticos and their minions seeking to carve their turf in a huge section of this highly urbanized municipality has stirred residents and old-timers into a furor.

Frantic San Pedro residents are begging Malacañang to speed up the conversion of their municipality into a city to thwart attempts at chopping off a large portion of their town.

Officers and members of the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Rotary Club of San Pedro, who asked not to be named for fear of political reprisal, expressed apprehensions over ongoing attempts to slice off Barangay San Vicente —a big portion of San Pedro— and convert it into another municipality.

“San Pedro has a lot of economic potentials that are waiting to be harnessed and a key to unlocking these potentials is the conversion of this booming municipality into a city,” the concerned leaders said, adding that San Pedro’s neighbors Biñán, Santa Rosa, Cabuyao, and Calambâ have turned into booming cities.

Behind the alleged move to split San Pedro into two municipalities is a group led by Vice Mayor Norvic Solidum and his erstwhile political protégé, San Vicente barangay chieftain Allan Mark Villena.

The two successfully swayed the entire Sangguniang Barangay of San Vicente to approve Barangay Resolution No. 11-33 on August 12, 2011 asking La Laguna Governor ER Ejército and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to create the new San Vicente town. The one-page Resolution 11-33 was signed by Villena and barangay councilors Vicente Solidum, Jr., César Caísip, Vicente Facundo, Wilfredo Álvarez, Lolito Márquez, John Dell Blay, and Alfredo Flores.

Solidum and Villena then teamed up in arguing their case before the La Laguna Sangguniang Panlalawigan in a hearing on September 19, 2011. Records released by the SP legislative staff of the La Laguna SP showed that they formally presented their case to the Joint Committee on Laws and Procedures and Barangay Affairs, presided by La Laguna board member Benedicto Mario “Bong” Palacol. Also in attendance during the hearing were board members Floro Esguerra, Gab Alatiit, Rey Parás, and Juan Único.

But there is obviously no tug of war happening. Vice Mayor Norvic Solidum —if the merits and motives of Resolution 11-33 are indeed true— does not appear interested in wresting the whole of San Pedro from his rival, San Pedro Mayor Calixto “Calex” Catáquiz. He is only interested in slicing off a piece from the cake. And that tasty slice, according to the said report, is Barrio San Vicente. At 665 hectares, it is San Pedro’s second largest barrio (or barangay). Before becoming Vice Mayor, Solidum was its capitán del barrio. His brief stint as the head of that barrio must have inspired him to come up with such an ambitious plan.

Or had it?

Reading the news report further:

Homeowners associations leaders, led by Rosario Complex president Ding Latoja, and barangay leaders led by Santo Niño barangay chair Nap Islán, said that should Solidum and Villena succeed, San Pedro will not qualify as a city and would revert and be doomed to a third class municipality status.

San Pedro electorate deplored Solidum and Villena’s attempt to sabotage the town’s cityhood bid via a “backdoor move” to separate San Vicente from San Pedro.

Resolution 11-33 was filed with the La Laguna SP after La Laguna 1st District lawmaker Dan Fernández has filed on August 22, 2010 with the Committee of Local Government of the House of Representatives House Bill No. 5169 entitled “Converting the Municipality of San Pedro in the Province of La Laguna into a Component City to be known as City of San Pedro”. The filing of Resolution 11-23 was suspiciously timed to pre-empt approval by the House Committee of the bill which had scheduled a public hearing on December 2011. The Committee unanimously approved the San Pedro cityhood bill in that hearing.

San Pedro Mayor Calixto Catáquiz vehemently opposed Solidum and Villena’s proposal in a letter to the La Laguna provincial board on September 19, 2011, arguing that the Sangguniang Bayan of San Pedro was bypassed because it “was not notified and given opportunity to be heard”. The Local Government Code requires that all barangay resolutions and ordinances should be submitted to the Sanggunian for review.

Both the House and Senate has passed the cityhood measure which has been submitted to the President for enactment.

A plebiscite will be held upon the President’s approval of the bill. San Pedro’s conversion into a city is expected to further spur its development and further enhance delivery of basic social services to its people, particularly in public health, social welfare, education, employment and infrastructure.

So there. If we are to believe the veracity of this news report, then what do we San Pedrenses make of Vice Mayor Solidum?

Unfortunately for his supporters, it is difficult to doubt this news report. Aside from the fact that it’s not coming from the “Balanced News, Fearless Views” camp, the report made mention not only of the resolution number but also members of the provincial board who participated in the public hearing to hear it out. If this plan of making Barrio San Vicente as a new Lagunense municipality was merely hearsay, then Manila Times has just placed itself in the lion’s den where there are no big cats but big libel charges ready to pounce on it (that is, if Mr. Solidum is the kind of man who does not allow anyone to trample upon his dignity).

So what if you chose San Pedro? No disrespect, but are you some kind of a gem that we should be proud of? My golly. Vice Mayor, your campaign slogan reeks of egomania if you haven’t noticed it yet. Better fire all of your PR staff.

The Manila Times, however, failed to disclose the text of the controversial Solidum-Villena resolution. What was really the motive behind this wretched plan? I say wretched, because there is really no need to make San Vicente into a new town, whether its revenues are increasing or not. And if the the barrio”s internal revenues indeed have risen, then why separate it from the town matrix? Is that reason enough? What kind of greed is this? And how about the people? Walk through the streets of San Vicente and ask around; they will certainly say no to any plans of separating their beloved barrio from their beloved San Pedro.

In view of the above, I am reminded of the late National Artist Nick Joaquín’s observation regarding this immature practice of slicing up towns to create new ones:

Philippine society, as though fearing bigness, ever tends to revert the condition of the barangay of the small enclosed society. We don’t grow like a seed, we split like an amoeba. The moment a town grows big it becomes two towns. The moment a province becomes populous it disintegrates into two or three smaller provinces. The excuse offered for divisions is always the alleged difficulty of administering so huge an entity. But Philippines provinces are microscopic compared to an American state like, say, Texas, where the local government isn’t heard complaining it can’t efficiently handle so vast an area. We, on the other hand, make a confession of character whenever we split up a town or province to avoid having of cope, admitting that, on that scale, we can’t be efficient; we are capable only of the small. The decentralization and barrio-autonomy movement expresses our craving to return to the one unit of society we feel adequate to: the barangay, with its 30 to a hundred families. Anything larger intimidates. We would deliberately limit ourselves to the small performance. This attitude, an immemorial one, explains why we’re finding it so hard to become a nation, and why our pagan forefathers could not even imagine the task. Not E pluribus unum is the impulse in our culture but “Out of many, fragments”. Foreigners had to come and unite our land for us; the labor was far beyond our powers. Great was the King of Sugbú, but he couldn’t even control the tiny isle across his bay. Federation is still not even an idea for the tribes of the North; and the Moro sultanates behave like our political parties: they keep splitting off into particles.

“The moment a town grows big it becomes two towns,” Nick astutely quipped. This is especially true in San Pedro’s case. It has really been growing these past few years, so now outside forces wanted it to be split. However, San Pedro’s growth was already unstoppable; just last month, March 27, it was proclaimed a city by virtue of Republic Act No. 10420:

Republic Act No. 10420

If Solidum still has plans of continuing his political adventurism in San Pedro, it is rather too late. San Pedro is now the newest city in the prosperous province of La Laguna. :D

In his campaign posters spread all over the city, Solidum proudly states: “San Pedro ang Bayan Ko, Ito ang Pinili Ko!” (San Pedro is my town, it is what I chose). It should be noted that Solidum is a native of Romblón. He is not a native San Pedrense like Mayor Calex but has been living here for about three decades already. But still, he wishes to show his adoptive people of his supposedly genuine love and concern for San Pedro. Well and good. If that is true, which at this point is highly doubtful, then why does he want San Vicente to be taken off from San Pedro’s map? Is it merely to embarrass Mayor Calex’s cityhood efforts for San Pedro? And as respect for his adoptive hometown’s history and heritage, shouldn’t Solidum instead create plans of keeping San Pedro intact and united and progressive? San Vicente has been a part of San Pedro since Spanish times. It took centuries and a time-honored history for it to bloom into a thriving San Pedrense community that it is today. And now it will take only a single (and immature) action of just one ambitious OUTSIDER to uproot it from its stronghold?

There is also speculation of a lust for power on Solidum’s part. As main petitioner, he would have automatically become mayor of San Vicente in case the divisive Resolution 11-23 has come into fruition. This is reminiscent of Nagcarlán’s case during the early 1900s. Fortunato Arbán, a municipal councilor, led two of his colleagues in filing a petition to separate the barrios of Antipolo, Entablado, Lagúan, Maytón, Paúlî, Poóc, Tuy, and Talaga to form a new municipality. Their petition was granted which gave rise to a new municipality: Rizal (of Tayak Hill fame). And as main petitioner, Arbán became its first municipal president (or town mayor). This kind of setup has also happened in other towns inside and outside of La Laguna.

Was this Solidum’s plan all along?

With the 2013 Philippine general election just a month away, Vice Mayor Solidum has a lot of explaining to do.٩(•̮̮̃̃)۶

*******

Incidentally, today is the fiesta of Barrio San Vicente. The barriofolk of San Vicente should have a double celebration: to honor its Spanish patron saint San Vicente Ferrer, and; of its continued status as a proud barrio/barangay of La Laguna province’s newest City of San Pedro!

¡Feliz fiesta al barrio san pedrense de San Vicente Ferrer! ¡Viva!

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