Father and son, Benjamin and Benhur Abalos. (Photo: Metro Sun)
Humor can be one of our best survival tools.
— Businessman Allen Klein
AFTER a 14-year hiatus from the limelight and public service, a good friend wants to be back in the saddle and has filed his certificate of candidacy for the forthcoming national and local elections in May next year.
Our friend, Benjamin Abalos Sr. or Pareng Ben, attempts to take back the mayorship of Mandaluyong City with his daughter-in-law, incumbent mayor Carmelita ‘Menchie’ Abalos as his running mate to fulfill a promise both made to the Abalos family’s matriarch, Corazon Abalos, who died last January after contracting Covid-19.
“I am returning to politics to fulfill my last promise to my late wife Cora,” pareng Ben, himself a Covid-19 survivor, told me.
He said he made the last promise to his wife to spend the remaining years of his life serving Mandaleños once again.
He added that his passion to serve the Mandaleños didn’t stop even if he was out of the political sphere for the past 14 years.
“With all the experiences I had when I was a mayor and a member of the Cabinet and my personal experience during this pandemic, I know that I can usher the city to its healing, recovery, and the shift towards new normal–creating the perfect balance to protect the public health and revive the economy,” pareng Ben enthused.
The first time I met the Abalos patriarch was in a media forum where he was a guest panelist of the Round Table sa Holiday Inn, where my humble self hosted the activity as moderator (alternately with the strikingly handsome celebrity host Apa Ongpin). After that it was many years past that we met again in Shanghai, China at the posh Mariott Hotel where I was waiting for the arrival of then-president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who was having a meeting with American billionaire-philanthropist Bill Gates.
“Ano’ng ginagawa mo dito … pakalat-kalat ka?” pareng Ben jokingly asked on chancing upon me while I was walking around Mariott’s luxurious lobby.
He was unaware I was part of the president’s media entourage, along with my favored colleague, the late Melo Acuna, and others, among them Marichu Villanueva of Philippine Star, Ely Saludar (my roommate at the Sofitel) of the Malacanang Press Corps, and veteran journalist Armand Nocum. We were in China for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference and pareng Ben, who was then chairman of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), was one of president Arroyo’s retinue.
Before Ben and I became friends, it was his son, Benjamin ‘Benhur’ Abalos Jr., whom I first got acquainted with. I use to meet him with my friend Manila Bulletin’s Roy Mabasa when we had a few rounds of beer at a favorite watering hole in Pasay City with other close friends and kin, among them my cousin Moti Arceo, who is now a city Councilor, then assistant city prosecutor Ravi Solis and businessmen Roland Lim and Larry Palileo. Those times we had a grand time drinking the booze and discussing philosophies and life—generally having good clean fun.
But I also remember the few occasions I brushed elbows with Benhur’s father. One time I visited him in his house in Mandaluyong with a colleague, PTV 4’s Noel Perfecto, who by the way the other half of the dynamic duo of Mr. Perfect and GMA’s Jimmy Gil. During that visit, pareng Ben told us a remarkably humorous story when he was deemed as one of the youngest court officials in the country (I seem to have forgotten whether he was one of the youngest prosecutors or judges then).
Anyway, I remember the story, or tall tale perhaps, very well. Pareng Ben was out drinking with a friend when their attention was caught by an altercation between one guy bullying a woman.
Our young fiscal (or judge)—ever the knight in shining armor—gave succor to the beautiful damsel in distress. The incident got ugly, prompting the security and staff of the place they were at to call the police.
It was at the exact moment when the cops arrived that everyone overheard pareng Ben introduce himself as a policeman.
So what happened was that those involved in the altercation were brought to the police station.
On the way, pareng Ben told the cop with them that he was a court official and the police officer scoffed, saying a while ago that he had introduced himself as a cop and now he was saying he was a fiscal (or a judge)!
Things, however, was straightened out on their arrival at the police station when the officer-of-the-day recognized pareng Ben and quickly saluted him—to the amazement of the other cops.
Iyan si pareng Benjamin Abalos Sr.—nanggugulat paminsan-minsan.
And now that he’s running to be reelected as Mandaluyong’s local chief executive we expect more surprises for the good of the city.
And with his daughter-in-law Menchie to run the Tiger City and their fair share of experiences in leadership, we will surely see an aggressive administration of Mandaluyong amidst the transition to the new normal. (ai/mmtvn)