AS of this writing, we have been home in Davao for almost two weeks now and taking a vacation from a vacation. Flying coach on PAL is stressful enough, but with three grandchildren (3 to 7 years) in tow, it is almost unbearable except for the expertise of the parents who are themselves globetrotters. For one, Matt had the foresight to download to two IPads and two cellphones 12 hours’ worth of the kids’ favorite cartoons, games and movies. And with Philippine Airlines’ (PAL) on-seat chargers, batteries never run out. Max was surfing the inter-flight movie channels for his favorite “Star Wars” episodes. Lara had all the back-up toys, the teddy bears (named “Loveys”), bottles of milk, assorted snacks and diapers in color-coded satchels, bags and small luggage; all reachable at arm’s length.

In a four-seat configuration, two kids are seated anchored by nanny Belen beside the youngest on one end and the other by Matt with Sylvie. On the next row are Lara and Momsie putting Max in between them. And “Lolo” book-ending the row ,hoping all along that PAL would upgrade my Premier-Elite status to business class for at least having sired the next generation of Capitan Lucio Tan’s next generation of PAL travelers. Fat chance! This septuagenarian had to suffer the 11 ½ hours flight Manila (MNL)-San Francisco (SFO) and 14 ½ hours SFO to MNL in the sardine-like confines of a plane seat which has diminished in size (or has my bulk grown?).

The SFO immigration area was a breeze, particularly for the eight of us allowed to go through the US passport-holders line, as my grandkids and their parents are US citizens. Lolo, “Lola” and the nanny who are Pinoy just had extra questions to answer from a Korean-American officer, like: “…what is the purpose of your visit,” among others. This stern line of questioning possesses an undertone, not blatant, of course, of a slight suspicion of Lolo, Lola and nanny looking for temporary jobs, hinting on the possibility of being “TNT” (Tago nang Tago) in America. To that question, I was tempted to reply “…to spend my money to help the American economy.” I didn’t come through with that tongue-in-cheek response as my grandson Max was fidgeting to run to the nearest restroom. And, for all we know, this federal immigration employee may be one of Trump’s shutdown victims and was a brave volunteer — without pay.

Overall, our holiday was fantastic. First, my fears were unfounded. And my grandson Max could be right after all that the clash of the Pacific and North Atlantic tectonic plates along the San Andreas fault will not occur for the next 10,000 years or so. But we had our own little tectonic shifts when three tykes ages 6 ½, 4 ½ and 3 are packed into a Chevy Suburban with the two younger ones allowed their impedimenta keeping them occupied for any land trip; to the museums, toy stores or to the skiing areas, and even to Ghirardelli for hot cocoa and mini-golf, the Golden Gate Bridge for sightseeing or the grocery at Target stores; with a ‘devil-may-care’ of a driver of a son-in-law, Matt, who almost gave Momsie a heart attack. Frankly, he did well to chauffeur us safely all throughout — except I prefer my daughter Lara to handle the wheels from time to time.

Driving along American roads, either interstate highways or local roads and even mountain roads, is safe. This is because the roads are basically well-structured, superbly engineered, highly maintained, well-lighted with clear signs and directions. More importantly, traffic rules, regulations and the laws are applied strictly, evenly and fairly. Therefore, drivers are disciplined to drive safely. There are exceptions that could produce tragic results – drunk driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI), overtaking, crossing solid painted lines, going through red lights and ignoring protocols on four-way STOP signs. I have been driving in American roads for decades and I drive safely and well with an American driver’s license – and no accidents.

But in Manila, for years I no longer drive. It is one of the most chaotic road systems in major cities with population of 10 million. With PRRD’s ‘build-build-build’ program, he needs to redo our road and traffic systems, especially in the megacities; more public transport, phaseout of jeepneys and ancient vehicles, more skyways, more feeder roads but more importantly, the forced education of drivers and the enforcement of the rule of law.

This program of the Deegong will effectively open resort areas, encourage visits to provinces and develop internal tourism and perhaps declog cities and eliminate environmental blight. DU30 with his proven political will to do things right has four years to do this. This is in fact more revolutionary than a revgov — at least to start with.

Our flight back, PR 115, was not entirely uneventful as the US immigration inspection areas were manned with a skeletal force — thanks to the shutdown. But the lone incident that got my goat happened at the NAIA airport upon arrival. With eight in our party (and three grandkids), we had 16 pieces of luggage, including car seats between us, inclusive of four balikbayan boxes of assorted pasalubong and clothing. Each of us had to hand-carry on board priority bags for the kids to survive the trip. This was where my fiasco with PAL began. On the ground past NAIA immigration, I remember leaving my black leather jacket at the overhead luggage compartment on row 65F. The ground PAL personnel were informed. As Sylvia and I were to board PR 2813 for Davao within two hours (without the kids) we were asked to proceed to the domestic part of Terminal 2. The PAL personnel were courteous and mindful of my complaint about by jacket informing them of my wallet of credit cards in the left inner pocket and a money-clip with $200 on the right pocket. At the domestic PAL lounge, two gentlemen from PAL security returned my black leather jacket, with my wallet of credit cards minus the $200 cash. My wife was more than happy to have my more expensive jacket returned. But I thought I should complain about the lost cash; which was also the advice of my classmate Sammy’s wife, Rose Lutz – a retired ground PAL supervisor. Thus, my letter to PAL president Jimmy Bautista today.

Overall, this incident did not mar my vacation with my grandchildren – courtesy of my son-in-law Matt and daughter Lara. But after this two-week interlude, I long to be back with my septuagenarian classmates who have been planning to go on breaks like this. Such type of trips is heavy on the pocketbook. On the other hand, septuagenarians have more compelling reasons; to go on the move as a herd as we take comfort in our dwindling numbers, our days are short and the possibility that many will not last the years we allot for ourselves; or illness will overtake our tired bodies leaving only the indomitable souls. But souls don’t travel well as a pack. So, here’s to the AdeDU class 1960’s romp to Coron, Palawan on February 14 — the day for lovers.
The Senate President crowed yesterday that the party he nominally coheads, PDP-Laban, has a “pleasant problem” — too many potential senatorial candidates. Koko Pimentel’s estimate is they have up to 20 possible choices for the 12-person slate for the 2019 senatorial race. But his list includes the five administration-affiliated senatorial incumbents up for reelection next year. This is a group that has made noises that, much as it prefers to remain in the administration camp, it is unhappy with the way PDP-Laban has been designating its local leaders and candidates, and therefore prefers to strike out on its own, perhaps in alliance with the other administration (regional) party, Hugpong ng Pagbabago, headed by the President’s daughter and current Davao City mayor, Sara Duterte.

Setting aside, then, the five-person “Force,” the administration-oriented but not PDP-friendly reelectionists (Nancy Binay, Sonny Angara, Cynthia Villar, Grace Poe, and JV Ejercito), what Koko’s crowing over is a mixed bag. Some of them have been floated by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez (with whom Mayor Duterte clashed in recent months): six representatives (Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who is in her last term in the House of Representatives; Albee Benitez, Karlo Nograles, Rey Umali, Geraldine Roman, and Zajid Mangudadatu), three Cabinet members (Bong Go, Harry Roque, and Francis Tolentino), and two other officials (Mocha Uson and Ronald dela Rosa), which still only adds up to 11 possible candidates (who are the missing three?).

Of all of these, the “Force” reelectionists are only fair-weather allies of the present dispensation; their setting themselves apart is about much more than the mess PDP-Laban made in, say, San Juan where support for the Zamoras makes it extremely unattractive for JV Ejercito to consider being in the same slate. Their cohesion is about thinking ahead: Creating the nucleus for the main coalition to beat in the 2022 presidential election. The contingent of congressmen and congresswomen who could become candidates for the Senate, however, seems more a means to kick the Speaker’s rivals upstairs (at least in the case of Benitez and Arroyo) and pad the candidates’ list with token but sacrificial candidates, a similar situation to the executive officials being mentioned as possible candidates (of the executive officials, only Go seems viable, but making him run would deprive the President of the man who actually runs the executive department, and would be a clear signal that the administration is shifting to a post-term protection attitude instead of the more ambitious system-change mode it’s been on, so far).

Vice President Leni Robredo has been more circumspect, saying she’s not sure the Liberal Party can even muster a full slate. The party chair, Kiko Pangilinan, denied that a list circulating online (incumbent Bam Aquino, former senators Mar Roxas, Jun Magsaysay, TG Guingona, current and former representatives Jose Christopher Belmonte, Kaka Bag-ao, Edcel Lagman, Raul Daza, Gary Alejano and Erin Tañada, former governor Eddie Panlilio and Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña) had any basis in fact.

What both lists have in common is they could be surveys-on-the-cheap, trial balloons to get the public pulse. Until the 17th Congress reconvenes briefly from May 14 to June 1 for the tail end of its second regular session (only to adjourn sine die until the third regular session begins on July 23), it has nothing much to do. Except, that is, for the barangay elections in May, after a last-ditch effort by the House to postpone them yet again to October failed.

Names can be floated but the real signal will come in July, when the President mounts the rostrum and calls for the big push for a new constitution—or not. Connected to this would be whether the Supreme Court disposes of its own chief, which would spare the Senate—and thus, free up the legislative calendar—to consider Charter change instead of an impeachment trial. In the meantime, what congressmen do seem abuzz over is an unrefusable invitation to the Palace tomorrow — to mark Arroyo’s birthday. An event possibly pregnant with meaning.

A FAMOUS NFL player and Coach, Vince Lombardi, known as a stickler to basics and for his single-minded determination to win once said, “Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else through hard work. That’s the price we have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.” Successful people therefore, master the fundamentals then put on hard work to bring about results.

Mastery of the Fundamentals

Purpose-driven leaders are able to inspire and rally their people to achieve dreams which they view as beyond reach. Awareness of one’s capabilities and limitations heightens individuality as an unambiguous self-conviction that enhances transparency and inspires confidence. An indispensable quality is decisiveness, the imprint of exceptional leaders that disavows tentativeness over an undertaking. Everyone lays claim to integrity but only those who practice honesty and humility to accept and rectify one’s mistakes, ever make the grade. Essential to any career pursuit is good education. Getting a diploma is the customary goal that most everyone considers the be-all and end-all. Proficiency however, empowers one to be competitive and achieve the best results. These constitutive qualities and leadership traits would highlight the career of Lawyer and Congressman Rufus B. Rodriguez. Before becoming a politician and even dreaming of a legislator as his life’s purpose, he built his fundamentals not just as a consistent intellectual achiever but with a string of Masters work in the fields of Economics and Law, subjects which in time, gave him an edge in Congress deliberations while serving his constituents as Cagayan de Oro District 2 Representative for 9 straight years. A wunderkind, he further honed his skills through lectures and discourses in various local and international forums and turned to writing in his spare time. A prolific author, his books became requisite academic references which greatly helped students at various levels. Beyond doubt, the pre-eminence of these overlying attributes are what ordain true public servants like him.

Hard Work

Political leaders perform an obligation in their social contract (Hobbes and Locke) with the people. Having reposed in them the authority to hold power, they are expected to deliver on their platforms of government or risk their chances for re-election. Evidently, the electorate in District 2 have expressed satisfaction through the successive terms of office granted to Cong. Rodriguez. He distinguished himself among the City’s past representatives as a man of action. While his peers are content with automatic appropriations and passive acquiescence to congressional proceedings, he introduced landmark bills and followed through until they are enacted as laws. In Congress, bills are thoughtfully deliberated, taking some time to reach even the third reading stage unless one doggedly pursues the agenda otherwise, they are left to the back burners. Hard work then means total immersion in back-breaking legislative work while sourcing out funds to address the most pressing needs of constituents. It’s not a walk in the park.

The Goal

Cagayan de Oro City (CDOC), a regional hub enviably located at the heart of Northern Mindanao and widely promoted and acclaimed as the Gateway to the Land of Promise deserves good leaders. As a first class, highly urbanized city, CDOC is consistently ranked among the top competitive and liveable cities until it dropped recently down the ranks. Still, with resolute leadership and a cooperative citizenry, we firmly believe the City will soon rival Davao and Cebu in terms of economic advancement. The immediate goal would be to earn that elusive Seal of Good Local Governance (SGLG) to boost investor confidence.

The humongous potentials of the City cannot be overstated. Economic prospects for tourism, infrastructure, industry, commerce and real estate and home-grown development initiatives offer a brilliant outlook. This would require however, a concerted synergy between the city’s executives and legislative council with the able support of CDO’s representatives in Congress including the party-list ABAMIN, which would likewise greatly contribute in providing much needed funds for social services, scholarships and livelihood initiatives. The long-term goals can be summarized under three major groupings: First, a world-class infrastructure program that would solve once and for all the city’s perennial problems in traffic, flood, waste management and efficient movement of goods from farm to the city; Second, total mining and log ban and effective reforestation programs to ensure the safety of the city’s residents and to promote tourism; and Third, Health, Education, Employment and Dwelling/Housing (HEED) initiatives that would address problems in peace and order, drug-dependency and criminality. Only a knowledgeable and seasoned legislator could make these aspirations a reality.

With strong fundamentals and experience as a hardworking public servant with clear specific goals, the City would be in good hands with Rufus B. Rodriguez once again as Cagayan de Oro’s representative. He is, undoubtedly, a congressman like no other.

(Renato Gica Tibon is a fellow of the Fellowship of the 300, an elite organization under Centrist Democracy Political Institute  [CDPI] with focus on political technocracy. He  holds both position as political action officer and program manager of the Institute. He is the former regional chairman for Region 10 and vice president for Mindanao of the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines [CDP].)