Giant killer of Talisay City
I woke up Tuesday morning hearing updates about the local races and listening to broadcast media colleagues analyze the defeat of Congressman Eduardo Gullas in Talisay City's mayoralty race.
At around 6 a.m. the board of canvassers was yet to tally the votes from barangay Tabunok and the electoral fight felt like it could go either way, although Eddiegul was already primed to win because he knows the political terrain and rival, businessman Johnny V. de los Reyes, a.k.a. JVR, has neither political pedigree nor clout, someone who has in fact never won an election. From what I heard, JVR ran as councilor, vice mayor, mayor and provincial board member in the past seven elections. Ga-balik-balik lag lansar, wa gyuy daog-daog.
I highlighted Eddiegul's political savvy and apparent control of Talisay City during the Mega Cebu forum where I said he was poised to shift gears from Congress to city chief executive. It looked like a neat plan, until I heard the discussion among tricycle and habal-habal drivers, vendors, and ordinary folks near the old Tabunok central market.
Tabunok is Talisay City's commercial district. Because tens of thousands of people converge, trade and interact in this area daily, their sentiments maybe viewed as a political weather vane of south Cebu.
I have been living in barangay Lagtang for at least three years and sometimes buy my food provisions in Tabunok until the market and terminal area was closed down in July 2011.
The chaos that accompanied the decision of the local government to transfer the market to barangay Lagtang lasted less than a month, but the resentment lingered as vendors and tricycle drivers suffered financial losses. People I talked to were gnashing their teeth but nobody was listening.
Eddiegul's conqueror is a character straight out of Horatio Alger's novels.
Coming from a poor family, JVR earned a fortune distributing his own invention for canker sore drops. In 1989, he anchored a radio program that extended free medical assistance. Because the needy came in droves, he bought an ambulance, the better to swiftly answer calls for help. When patients ddidn't make it, their families would go back to him to ask for free coffins.
This track record of kind heartedness spans at least 20 years, never mind that people don't remember him during elections when he runs for office. The stories make me feel ashamed of myself when I think negatively of some relatives I have helped send to school but who can't remember me now that they're well situated. I also think of politicians who are quick to make press releases of giving donations using government money, or even some religious whose charity is merely preached and not practiced.
But more than his humanitarian spirit, JVR is also a principled man.
In the sidelines of 888 News Forum last April 23, he told me that he had been asked many times to run under the party of Gullas but JVR refused because he wanted to win on his own terms.
On Saturday, May 11, I passed by the Tabunok area and saw thousands of people wearing yellow T-shirts walk to the Tabunok multi-purpose center to attend the local Liberal Party miting de avance. I thought that if JVR's supporters were willing to offer a bit of sacrifice to hear the candidate speak in the finale of a campaign sortie, then the issues in Talisay have been joined.
JVR's victory is interesting in many ways. He neutralized Eddiegul in his bailiwicks like Maghaway with a voting population of about 3,800. On May 13, the Alayon Party chieftain managed only with a thin lead of 121 votes. His grandson, Eduardo "Digul" Gullas III, who was elected number 1 councilor in 2010, made it to the city council but the re-election seemed almost like a loss because he landed in number 10.
Meanwhile, JVR won big in vote-rich villages like Tangke and Mohon, but especially in Tabunok where the rage was ignited.
I'm sure Eddiegul will do a post-mortem of his terrible loss, but without intending to rub salt on an open wound, may I offer my two cents worth.
Talisaynons have seen in the Tabunok controversy the sad reality that they are only important during elections, when politicians ask them for votes.
A few hours before JVR's proclamation, a popular radio anchor recalled the epic fight of David versus Goliath in the Old Testament.
Morag duwende batok higante, he said.
But more than that, I think JVR prevailed because he never stopped believing that, "no act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted."