When I told my father that I was going to run for Congress, his first reaction was, “Why don’t you run for councilor first?”. I told him that with my experience working in the Senate as his Chief of Staff for six years and as Senator Serge Osmeña’s Chief Legislative Officer for two years, I felt that I would be more effective in the House of Representatives rather than the city council since my orientation had already been directed towards national legislation.
My father then asked me if I knew who I was running against, since he knew that I would be going against an established and seasoned politician. I told him that I had done my research and carefully analyzed and calculated the factors involved and concluded that the possibility of winning was present. He then said, “Okay, at least next time, you will already be known”.
That was in 1999, a little over a year and a half before the 2001 elections. Back then, I was my father’s Chief of Staff (COS) in the Senate, managing his office, the personnel and at the same time, serving as his alter-ego in political matters. This is a position of great responsibility and influence since usually, all concerns going in and out of the senator’s office pass through the
All this exposure in a national legislative office gave me the inspiration to try my hand at public service, since I had already gained enough experience in politics and government. I felt a certain sense of fulfillment whenever we were able to implement projects and help constituents. There was also a feeling of accomplished patriotism whenever my father was able to contribute to the crafting of national government policies. Providing support to him in these accomplishments, my staff and I felt a small amount of pride at having a hand in shaping the country’s future through our work.
I guess it was only a matter of time before I felt that I could do the work my father was doing, and that’s when I decided to pitch in and lend a helping hand in trying to uplift the lives of my countrymen.
Despite the seeming apprehension of my father with regard to my decision to run for congressman, my parents gave all the support that only loving parents will give to their son. Actually, not only did my parents help, but my in-laws as well. Later on, the circle of family and close friends who cared enough to help grew larger and larger.
But later on, after I had already won, they would all confess one thing---none of them thought that I would make it. They all thought that I was running with the odds all stacked against me, which, after one thinks about it, was really the case.
The only person who had faith and believed that I would make it was my wife Trina. One person believing in you may not seem enough, but for me it counted a lot. With her loving support, I weathered all the stress, the difficulties and the challenges that came our way. I have never gotten tired telling people that without her by my side during those times, I might have succumbed to the pressure of the campaign and given up.
My wife gave me encouragement and strength just by being there, and her management skills enabled me to forego worrying about how the back office of the campaign was run, and freed me to focus on strategizing and capturing the votes through campaign sorties.
But her most powerful tool was her faith in God and what He has planned for us. She firmly believed and hung on to the Word of God and would constantly remind me that above all else, prayer is my best weapon against discouragement and source of inspiration to achieve what I set out to do.
It was a difficult campaign, but with God’s grace and my wife’s unrelenting support, we successfully hurdled that first political venture, and was blessed with victory. In the end, I had a lot of people to thank, but owed everything to God.
My wife’s support did not end there, but rather extended into the time when I was already serving my first term. She conceptualized projects and made suggestions on how to enhance my constituent services with the tender loving touch that only a mother can give.
For example, when I formulated my “6K Program”, which I intended as a way of maximizing the amount of funds allocated to my district for projects, she gave suggestions on what projects I could do that would directly cater to the specific needs of my constituents. Instead of spreading the resources out too thinly by engaging in projects that cover a very wide spectrum of agendas, I selected some of the most important and urgent services that my constituents are clamoring for.
The “6K Program” consists of Kalusugan (Health), Karunungan (Education), Kaunlaran (Development), Kabuhayan (livelihood), Kapayapaan at Kaayusan (Peace & Order) and Kalikasan (Environment). The projects that I fund, and even most of my legislative proposals, are guided by these specific agendas, so that I can maintain focus and have quantifiable achievements as a legislator.
Being a congressman is not an easy job, and the stress levels vary from one extreme to the other. I can say that this was especially proven during this, the 13th Congress, especially during the political crisis that the country faced when impeachment was the order of the day in the House of Representatives.
For me it was an emotional, mental and physical roller coaster ride, with the tug of war between right and wrong, principles and political convenience, friendships and alliances, draining the energy out of me each day I went to work during the duration of the Hello Garci Hearings and the two impeachment complaints.
Through it all, Trina was there to help me keep my sanity and keep me focused on the one thing that inspired me to be a congressman in the first place--- to serve the people. She was always ready to just listen whenever I had to unload the emotional burden that I brought home from work, and at the same time generous with advice and opinion whenever I needed it. I am thankful to God that He blessed me with an intelligent wife, one who could debate with me on anything from the latest issue in Congress to the color combination of my attire.
Being a public official has taken its toll in our lives. One of the most significant effects of being in this occupation is that Time is no longer exclusively mine. Although it is said that we can always make time for something that we really want to do, the demands of the office often calls for one to sacrifice personal time for the family.
It is not rare for me to miss having dinner with the family all together since first, our sessions are held starting at 4 o’clock in the afternoon onwards, and second, many invitations to me are for activities or events held in the evenings.
But having four young sons, aged seven months old to sixteen years old, necessitates that I should have time for my kids, no matter what. Trina’s constant gentle reminder of this personal responsibility keeps me from drifting away from my personal responsibilities as a father and a husband. This is so important especially since I am the type who has the tendency to put all my effort into a particular endeavor, with disregard for my own need.
We have been married for sixteen years now. It hasn’t been a bed roses all those years, but our marriage is definitely one that we wouldn’t give up for anything. I would even give up my political career for the sake of our family, if needed. While serving your fellow Filipinos is a noble privilege, it is pointless to be a great public servant if you cannot be a good family man.
The Bible in 1 Timothy 3:5 says, “For if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the
If there’s one principle that I can say serves as a foundation of my public service, it is that change in society can only happen if we start with ourselves. Holding ourselves on the same standards that we hold others is a good start. For example, if we demand a high level of integrity for our officials, then we ourselves should be able to measure up to the same level expected of them.
This principle forms the core foundation of what I call my Repormang Bayan advocacy which I espouse among my constituents: “Pagbabago…sa sarili..sa lipunan…sa pamahalaan…ito ang diwa ng tunay na pag-unlad.”
Everyone clamors for good government. But before we achieve good governance, we should all start from change within ourselves. If each one of us has personal transformations, then change in society is eventually achieved. Since government is put into place by society (mainly through the elections), then a transformed society will put into place a reformed government, leading to honest-to-goodness progress.
To be more specific, how we vote our officials into office determines the kind of government we will eventually have. If we vote into office those who do not respect voters by engaging in vote buying, or those who do not present platforms or performance but simply engage in dole outs such as rice or bread, we can be assured that government will treat the people in the same manner---with low regard.
As I face reelection for my third and final term as congressman of
Through this challenge, I will once again have my wife Trina by my side to encourage and support me. Whatever the outcome, I feel blessed by the fact that we are drawn closer to each other by the challenges that we face in life. With the passages of Proverbs 31:10-31 in my mind, I can only say “Thank You” to God daily for the wife He has given me:
A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.
She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.
She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.
She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls.
She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.
She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.
In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.
When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.
She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:
"Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all."
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.