Time to Work

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At or before 12 noon today, our newly-elected leaders — Congressman, Mayor, Vice Mayor and 12 Councilors — will take their oath of office in accordance with law. Nothing new really, for we’ve been doing that enshrined act since 1992, in obedience with the 1986 Constitution.

Expectations are understandably on the up side, especially so in the case of our chosen Mayor, who stunned everyone with his landslide win in the May 13 polls. He beat everybody else on the mayoral block, all seasoned men who’ve been in local politics since way back when. The upstart just did it in ways that would make a compelling narrative for newbies interested or desirous to serve.

Of course, he began like the neophyte that he actually is, groping for the light that would illuminate the pathway taken. All his life, he was just a simple public servant, as his desk nameplate indicates, despite being a gentleman and officer that he had been trained, schooled, and immersed in the profession of soldiery. All his life, he was a police official constantly on the rise, on the strength of competencies honed in him through leadership tasks he discharged by dint of hard, honest, honorable work.

An incident of stark infamy ended his stellar career, when he stood his ground and let out a report that unmasked unspeakable betrayal, resulting in the fallen 44. There was no mistaking that the buck went much higher than those directly implicated. When the report was ready to go public, so did the pressures emerge, getting stronger by the minute.

True to the worth of all the values instilled in him, he chose character over career, forsaking what could have been the very summit of every soldier’s aspiration. The fallen 44 had another casualty.

Getting into private life, he quickly rose in corporate estimation, earning quick promotions along the way. Yet, somehow, the public yearning from those who have known him well enough acquired greater strength and definition, also along the way. His city, where he was born, raised and educated, was a siren song that kept on humming in his mind.

It was August last year, when his name begun cropping up as a possible added name to the lengthening mayoral race. Who’s he, what has he done, can he hack it every step of the way? The questions were plentiful and varied. By October, he had made up his mind, he’d present himself as others would, confident that his track record — yes, he had a brimming portfolio worth considering anywhere he’d go — will arouse enough interest and serve as jump-off point in any political conversation.

In the months that followed, he went around, humbling himself to the point of being self-embarrassed, to the point of being insulted. He persisted, and went about the sorties that newbies everywhere else would. Meantime, the political talk had him nowhere in everyone’s radar. Awareness was pitifully low, enough for him to consider stepping out and calling it a day. His believers, and they grew in number and in volume by the day, would’t hear of it. Let’s work harder, let’s punish ourselves even more. Let’s get going. It may be a dark tunnel, and light is certainly just around the bend.

By February, in a six-man race, he inched into being No.5. Not much to crow about, but progress just the same. In March, he was already No. 3, a far No.3 as the front-runners began to sputter down. In April, he ascended further, now at No.2, and menacingly just a shirt away from the pace-setter.

Early May, he finally got on top, despite not earning a religious group’s backing, which thankfully didn’t also go to the leading racer. On the final campaign day, two days before voting day, he was confidence personified. Exhausted from the rigor of it all, he just couldn’t believe what he saw at the final rally — people staying put onsite from morning till early evening, people as teary-eyed as he had been, people perked up and spirited for the final push.

That was enough to make this General cry, not the copious tears of make-believe, but real tears flowing downstream, real tears swelling up the face in continuous bend. “Even Generals also cry!” was all he could say at the start, as the voices rose in joyous decibels, shrieking out his name with an astounding force resonating upward.

The voters did make the choice of their remaining lifetime, most of whom from the majority who were silent no more, most of whom felt how the city had taken the wrong turn in past decades of ill service, not just the governing but even the governed. They have spoken, in so crystal clear a vote that had a simple statement: we’ve had enough, up till here, and are too willing to invest our new-found faith and belief on Mr. Public Servant.

Decades of drifting along, coasting along, just wouldn’t do it anymore, any more than they’ve been willing to take. They just put their belief in him, investing their future and their children’s future in the hands of a Mayor reluctant at first to even think about it, doubtful at first that the people have had it up here in quiet, smoldering patience.

Little did the newbie know that the clamor for change has long been defeaning, for policies at national and local level to be in sync, once and for all, for political will to finally be wielded at the very core of our values as carers of the city we do care for, for its environment that had languished in years, for public services that have gone lackadaisical, for basic concerns that have been babied too much that they have grown too monstrous.

Little did the upstart — yes, that’s what they called him, more in derision than of tolerance — know that the clarion call had always been for leaders who are authentic, willing to listens and openly respects everyone, least of all Mr. Everyman who has been taken for a ride all this time.

Today, he takes his oath, and we do too. For us, it must be a solemn oath to be helpful citizens who are strengthened by a new-found hope swelling in our collective chest. As we entrust faith in him, we are called upon too to do our share, to watch his back as he does to us, to put in our own building blocks to make our life a bit more disciplined, a bit more responsible, a bit more sharing and caring.

What had been said again, on the frenzy of a campaign that was long on promises for a better life, for a better future, for a better community this time around? Indeed, there’s a lot that has been avowed, from the dwindling environment including the fallen trees, all the way to the crippling traffic, to the trash that has been thrashed all these years just so they get out, farther out, from their pretty noses, to the air we breathe (at our risk) and the water we take (just every now and then).

For now, let’s join in as he gets to hit the ground running, surely laying the groundwork to put in place the systems needed, getting all the help that others have begun to extend, having national agencies trekked up here to see what can be done to unmess the mess, reconciling local and national efforts that have to be in sync, even wielding all the hammering force required just to put some sanity to it all.

For now and into the days, weeks, months ahead, let us simply closed ranks behind the greater goal of effecting the changes that our people have wanted. Let the animosities of the campaign remain as mere words exchanged between friends who were simply contenders sharing the same noble goal. Let the misdeeds of the recent past, from the illegal bandying around of his name to the irresponsible calumny so emotionally uttered, be put to a final stop. What you wouldn’t want to happen to you, you wouldn’t want to happen to anybody else.

Dekorasyon ti ngiwat! That’s what it has been all about, isn’t it? That’s what it was, done in one moment of thoughtless indiscretion. Enough said. Time to work it all up, hitting the ground running for the breath of fresh air that should come from all of us. Salute, Mayor Benjie Magalong!

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