Biyernes, Enero 1, 2016

Our congressmen are better than Zambales' solons

By Mortz C. Ortigoza

In my more than a decade stint as media practitioner, the bursting birthday party hosted by a politician that I attended was the one by then House Speaker Joe de Venecia in early 2000s in Dagupan City and the one in 2011 at the high-end Golden Bay Sea Food Restaurant in Pasay City when he was no longer the top whip of Congress.
Six lanes MacArthur Highways at Urdaneta City in Pangasinan.
This happened through the intercession of former Congressman
Mark Cojuangco (5th District, Pangasinan) to the national 

At his sprawling residence in Dagupan  I saw five or seven roasted calves chopped by the waiters for his literally hungry constituents at the 4th Congressional District to devour and for many of them to ‘balkot” (Pangasinan derisived term for those who wrapped and bring the food home) while the elites, mostly government officials who ingratiate with the Speaker for promotion and favour,  rubbed elbows and patted the backs of each other at the corner as they waited for the rabble rousing top man of the Arroyo Administration descended from the white helicopter he leased from Manila.
His other birthday that was held at the Golden Bay Sea Food Restaurant in Manila saw only the invited elites of the society while the “illeterate Unwashed of the Society” who loved to “balkot” were conspicously absent.
The elites were composed of former President Fidel V. Ramos, many members of Congress who were closed when he was the Speaker, diplomatic community like the U.S and Chinese Ambassadors to the Philippines, lady solons brought by de Venecia's wife Rep. Gina, the members of the media elite like Larry Henares, whom President Ramos introduced to me as half-Ilonggo-half-Pangasinense, and other illustrious members of the opinion section of the national dailies.
As you know the Speaker loved to mingle and discuss with media men worth their salt as he was a journalism graduate of the elite Ateneo de Manila.
All these parties were held for a day or six hours.

Two days and Two Nights Party

Here was the ostentatious party of a politician I attended recently  where for the first time, son of a gun,  all the residents of the entire province were literally invited for a two days bacchanalian feast for people to eat the roasted calves, prawn , ox tongues, fried chicken, variety of tropical fruits served in small plates, others from breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the swanky ground covered by three giant make shift tents that covered hundreds of people sitting on white cloth covered plastic chair and surrounded a red mantled round tables. While they gorged the free foods, bands, one of them the famous Manila pop group Free Style, actors Christian Bautista and Kim Chiu  and stand up comedians entertained them.
I, my son Nico, and broadcaster Harold Barcelona were in another building that hosted the VIP visitors watching the shows and pyrotechnic display as we contented ourselves with the same foods eaten by the governor’s constituents except those sushi bar that provided nigirizushi, makizushi, temaki, other Japanese rice delicacies, where I heartily mixed with Silver Swan, kalamansi, and the hot wasabi paste, served to us by a Bulacan based caterer.

That two days and two nights eating orgies were hosted by Zambales Governor Jun Ebdane, a friend of Harold during the former police’s days, at his over stretching new residences in  a Barangay at Palauig in Zambales.
 “Ten tricycles, countless of refrigerators, ten bancas, and others were raffled by the governor there at the delight of the hoi-polloi in the first night of the birthday party,” one of the waiters told my son.
The last time I attended the party of Ebdane, I was brought there by Floyd Mayweather’s die hard fan and Manila Bulletin's correspondent Jun Velasco, Ebdane’s pal, was in his inauguration in 2010 as governor after he beat long reigning Governor Amor Deloso
Asphalted two lanes highway
at Iba town, Zambale
In that meeting I had a chance to ask the former National Defense Secretary at his huge multi-mllion pesos mansion at Candelaria town about the AFP modernization and the probable purchase of those cheap Bell Cobra Attack Helicopters the Israeli Air Force wanted to be replaced.
After the inauguration at dusk held at the plaza of the provincial capitol at Iba town where thousands of people of Zambales wide eyed for the first time and probably drooled as the emcee announced at the provincial plaza to remain at their seats as waiters distributed food boxes composed of slices of roasted calf from the 10 roasted calves as they watched Manila based stand up comedians strutted their antics.

Asphalt highways in Zambales

Ebdane is running for reelection now against Deloso whose daughter defeated Ebdane’s son Omar in the 2013 election at the 2nd congressional district of the rustic province.
“I was leading by 20,000 votes after I petitioned for the counting at the HRET (House of Representative Electoral Tribunal). You can write on that,” the young Ebdane, the provincial administrator, told me and Harold in a huddle.
Geez, I told Harold, if Omar led by 20,000 votes against the incumbent Congresswoman Cheryl Deloso-Montalla, after the Supreme Court decides it with finality in the year 2016, the last year of the first term of the solon will be over.
“That would happen after Grace Poe becomes president. Those cases filed against her will be decided for a long time by the Supreme Court acting as PET or Presidential Electoral Tribunal after the lawyers of the parties file their charges and counter charges not to mention the delaying tactics and postponements of the litigation”.
He said after his father steps down, in case he wins versus Deloso, his younger brother Rundy, the Mayor of Iba and a former police major, runs for governor in 2019.
“I’ll probably run for higher office but not the gubernatorial, “he said, after Harold ribbed him if he has a moist eye for the governorship.
I told Rundy that Pangasinan would shame Zambales in terms of the highway.
“Doon sa amin sa Pangasinan, bukod sa expanded na ang shoulder ng highways for four lanes, concrete na silang lahat. Bakit dito sa inyo sa Zambales aspalto pa rin”.
My son Nico, who visited my province Cotabato and the nearby Davao del Sur province (whose Governor Claude Bautista is from Binmaley, Pangasinan), told me that he thought those two provinces are already backward especially the sparsely occupied mostly nipa huts we seen near the already four lanes national highways.
Nico said he had a perception turned around as Zambales can be at the sorry levels of those provinces I mentioned in Mindanao.
“Masuerte pa rin kami sa Pangasinan masipag ang mga congressmen namin doon. In Dagupan alone Rep. Gina de Venecia had been moving heaven and earth to get hundreds of millions of pesos of funds so the Department of Public Works & Highway can elevate, elevate and not expand, the already concrete roads around the city,” I told the young Ebdane.
"The asphalt can be easily ruined especially if there are heavy rain. Pag nasira another budget for the asphalting," Harold interjected.

Congressman Boying Celeste

Before I met the Ebdanes, we dropped by at the Caribbean beach liked hotel of Congressman Boying Celeste who invited me to visit him as we are both Celeste (my mother was Celeste).
Since it was a year I went to Bolinao, I was wide eyed seeing the expanded highway from Sual to Bolinao to Infanta which is the last town of Pangasinan in the west and the one that bordered Sta Cruz, Zambales.
“Mga half-a-billion pesos itong expansion ninyo pinsan?”  I posed to the solon.
Hindi lang siguro mga half-a-billion iyan, pinsan,” he told me.
After that we talked about the political landscape of the district where he told me Mark Cojuangco would beat the Espinos there as he got all the incumbent mayors of the nine towns and one city district.
Well, those political nuances would be for another column for me to discuss.
 (You can read my selected columns at and articles at Pangasinan News Aro. You can send comments too at

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