I did not attend, because I was not invited to, a meeting of Romblomanons that the late Julius Fortuna—Manong Jules to many of his acolytes—convened on June 20 in Quezon City, three days before he left for a Greater Meeting beyond.
The meeting, according to La Tondena de Bachawan of www.romblonpost.com, was to jumpstart a dialogue by and between Romblomanons on the basic problems confronting us in the province and to find ways to solve these problems.
According to my kumpadre Gen. Orville Gabuna, however, the meeting was Manong Jules’s “feeling the pulse” for what Gabuna said was the former’s preparation to make a run for Congress versus Eleandro Jesus “Budoy” F. Madrona in the May 2010 election, if there would be such.
La Tondena de Bachawan used the euphemism “make himself relevant for the 2010 elections” in describing the meeting.
I do not dispute the above observations. Neither do I doubt them. During one of our coffee powwows at the Century Park coffee shop, I hinted as much to Manong Jules that I wanted him to be in politics.
This, I said, could be an easy transition for him from the parliament of the streets (where he fought so bravely) to the “parliament of pork”, the House of Representatives, where his valuable wisdom would have weighed heavily against many representatives’ idiocy, lying and thieving ways.
Manong Jules’s presence in the House, if elected Romblon congressman, would have been an effective counterweight against the shallowness of thought of many House members, as well as a great opportunity for Romblon to be represented once again by an articulate, hard-working soul.
We could have been witness to a rebirth of Romblon’s glory days in national politics, last seen during the pre-Martial Law days.
When I egged him to run for Congress, Manong Jules would just look at me with his sparkling eyes, smile his enigmatic smile, and say:
“Let’s think about it.”
His answer, using the third personal pronoun in plural form, “us”, was a window to his thinking. He would always be on the side of the people, concerned about what they wanted, not about what the few politicians dreamed of. From his answer, I knew he would not side with the fat cows or overweight pigs of Congress if he was there. He would, instead, roast them with his pointed barbs.
Alas, this was not to be the case, for the Great Maker has other plans for Manong Jules.
Gabuna saw through Manong Jules’s plan, and he expressed his support for it. When he called up to inform me about the meeting, I sensed Manong Jules was building a team. A reformist team.
The meeting, according to La Tondena de Bachawan (the poor fellow didn’t have a name so he hid behind a bottle of wine!), produced a manifesto drafted by Manong Jules.
“We are residents, voters and friends of the province of Romblon who are all concerned about its future. We come together in this manifesto to make a pledge—to help the province and free itself from its many problems,” the manifesto’s opening paragraph declared.
Manong Jules expressed concern about the pervasive poverty of Romblon, saying “we cannot and should not accept this as a continuing feature in the lives of our people”.
He deplored what he called “leadership by neglect” and our leaders’ unmitigated greed and corruption leading to the “common disregard of environment laws and the destruction of our rivers, our mountains and our seas”.
“We are concerned that unabated corruption has led to the depletion of resources for most needed services for our people. Corruption not only depletes the provincial budget . . . . Corruption also comes in the abusive exercise of discretion by some provincial officials in the granting of permits and the tolerance of illegal gambling,” he said.
He had no kind words for the destruction of the environment through logging and mining, and wrote that “the inability of the provincial government to control mining has led to chaos in governance, social problems and unsolved murders”.
The most telling indictment that he had was his observation that, “We are almost a failed province.” This made me very sad I almost cried. Poor Romblon.
In the last paragraphs of his manifesto, he asked that anomalies happening in Romblon be investigated and those guilty prosecuted. “Our people should know about them—for it is they who should judge their leaders eventually.”
He asked our leaders to desist from punishing the province some more. “Maawa po naman kayo sa probinsya natin!” he said, respectfully.
If I were to rewrite this part of the manifesto, I would have said: “Mahilak kiy ra kamo sa ato probinsya. Tur-i ra baga ka namamanwa,” because it seems to me that Romblon is a dying, tubercular patient. Sinupsop piy it ato mga lider ka tanang unor it Romblon, magtuna sa isra, kahoy, mina, ag abilidad nak magtikang pa sa masunor nak henerasyon. Even our provincial morale is so down and low.
Manong Jules called for a dialogue, for us take advantage of the forthcoming election to find solutions to our problems, and expressed hope that “dialogue would lead to the wise selection of our leaders capable of leading our province in the challenging times ahead.”
But he left us with a few questions hanging in the air: “Are there such leaders and if the answer is yes, where are they?”
“Will the people of Romblon—having known of Manong Jules’s reformist views—follow his admonition and “select wisely” those leaders? Or will they continue to believe in Romblon’s two BMs—Ballistic Missiles Budoy Madrona and BatMan—lording it over the province?