Baguio, the summer capital, now just a capital without summer as storm winds lashed and tropical rain fell in sheets alternating with drizzles.
In one corner of the cake shop at Baguio Country Club on the first working day of the week, I thought I spotted the general, Mayor Benjie Magalong in a socially distanced tete a tete with the club’s GM, Anthony de Leon. Luckily for me I was invited to join them, converting the twosome into a threesome, the third party having no connection to either of the two gentlemen who share a military background. The mayor is an ex-PNP official and product of PMA, while the GM is a reserve officer of the Philippine Navy who lectures at PMA on the subject of submarine warfare.
Without a submarine? “One is coming soon,” assured GM Anthony.
As for warfare, I broached the subject by asking Mayor “Benjie” how his reelection campaign was coming along. The mayor’s quick and easy reply, “I’m not campaigning.”
In short, “No trolls, no offensive language, no mud-slinging.” The first time he ran in 2019, he was determined to show Baguio it was possible to be decent, with little money and still win the race. His wife “Arlene woke up every day at 4 a.m. to go jogging” as an excuse to distribute his campaign leaflets. His part of the bargain was to knock on doors house to house to meet his soon-to-be constituents face to face.
Three years later, he still believes it pays to run clean — even if he’s the only one who thinks so. He will focus on younger voters, for after all his program from the very start has been to grow a greener Baguio for them by paying attention to the city’s sources of water and its soil, and build a forest not only of pines but a multiplicity of species to enrich their growth. For the homeless – here he pulled out his phone to display before-and-after pictures – the plan is a brand-new community to rise in Irisan, 2 km from the city center, where “after spending 15 minutes there your clothes will start to stink from the smell of garbage, for Irisan is Baguio’s Smokey Mountain.” (To be continued.)