The ‘Rambotito’ I Know

The ‘Rambotito’ I Know

Former vice president and United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) senatorial aspirant Jejomar ‘Jojo’ Binay. (Photo: Rappler)

One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.

— Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca

HE says, “Been there, done that.”

Crisp and direct to the point, the campaign ad speaks a lot about senatorial candidate Jejomar ‘Jojo’ Binay.

And it’s true for most Makatizens. The former mayor has seen to the needs of his constituents and he has generally “been there and done that.”

I actually met the firebrand loyal chief executive of the city of Makati—who is also known as Rambotito—during my early stint as a newbie reporter for the Times Journal, the defunct flagship newspaper of the Journal Group of Publications (Philippine Journalists Incorporated or PJI) under the mentorship of veteran newsman Noli Jara.

I had started out as a contributor to PJI’s five publications—People’s Journal, People’s Journal Tonight, People’s Taliba, Times Journal, and magazine Women’s Journal. Six months after dishing my contributions, I ended up applying for a vacancy and was taken the same day I applied.

“Are you sure you wanna be a reporter?” Boss Noli asked me then. I answered in the affirmative and I immediately reported to my beat, covering Pasay and Makati. It was then that I met the mayor they called ‘Rambotito’.

There are several things people should know about Pareng Jojo (Binay), whose last position in government was that of being the Republic’s vice president.
In 2016, he was the first politician to declare his bid for the presidency and as such, he was running against political heavyweights, among them lady senator Grace Poe Llamanzares, former interior secretary Manuel ‘Mar’ Roxas II, and Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) Family Club party-list representative Roy Señeres.

And there was also news that he would be pitted against Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte and another firebrand lawyer in the person of Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who both hinted at a possible presidential bid.

Prior to being elected to the second-highest post of the land, Pareng Jojo served as mayor of Makati City for a total of 21 years. In Makati, Binay is well-loved or criticized, depending on who people ask.

He was also once the chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority from 1990-to 1991 and a member of MABINI, a group of lawyers who advocated for the protection of human rights during the martial law years and from which I first heard the name of Jejomar Binay from a kin, WHO magazine editor Cielo Buenaventura.

This would probably explain Pareng Jojo’s advocacy of helping the needy and serving the public. But do most people know that he came from humble beginnings and used to live in an area known as a ‘red-light’ district.

When he was mayor, his childhood story was a narrative he often brought up in his speeches and press statements. After he was orphaned at a young age, he lived with his uncle in a seedy area known as Kuli-Kuli in Barangay Pio del Pilar in Makati City.

He worked odd jobs then to pay for his schooling, including cooking kaning-baboy or pig feed.

When he was studying law, Binay befriended a socialite who was a provincial girl at heart. She recalled that Binay would hitch a ride with her on his way home, but he always asked to be dropped somewhere else. She revealed in an interview that she later learned that it was because Kuli-Kuli was then the red light district of Makati.

And did you know that he was once an Iskolar ng Bayan—a term referring to the students of the University of the Philippines (UP) system—and for high school, the vice president graduated from the UP Preparatory School after which he then obtained his political science degree from UP Diliman in 1962. The year after, Binay pursued law at the UP College of Law and graduated in 1967, passing the bar examinations in 1968 and eventually becoming a human rights lawyer.

And veering toward his jovial personality, it’s worth noting that Binay’s dark-colored skin had often been the subject of several Internet jokes, but it is also known that he used his complexion to his advantage.

“Binabati ko ang aking mga ‘cousin’ – mga kasing-itim, kasing-tangkad ni Jojo Binay” he often said in humor, even when he was out in his sorties while campaigning or in meeting with people.

One time, when he appeared before members of the National Unity Party (NUP), he told them that he would woo them the same way he wooed his wife, Dra. Elenita Binay.

“Paano ko ba pasasagutin noon ang aking asawa? Ang kaitiman ko ay negative sa panliligaw. Naisip ko di rin ako matangkad,” he shared, telling his audeince that he could not even afford to buy her chocolates because he was sending himself to school. Eventually though, Binay said he was able to make Elenita say yes, a feat he proudly shared with.

After the 1986 revolution, Binay was appointed officer-in-charge of Makati by former president Corazon ‘Cory’ Aquino, the mother of President Benigno ‘Noynoy’ S. Aquino III. Binay also earned the moniker ‘Rambotito’ for wearing army fatigues and lugging an Uzi submachine gun during several coup attempts against Cory during her 6-year term from 1986 to 1992.

These are just a few things that gave color to the personality and character of Pareng Jojo. But personally, these do not trigger the picture I have in mind of my dear friend and kumpadre.

The fact is that when I think of Pareng Jojo as that guy who preferred to suck the sweetness of mango from its seed rather than eat its freshness from the succulent meat of the fruit.

That’s what I would always say about the ‘Rambotito’ I know.

FOR your comments or suggestions, complaints or requests, just send a message through my email or text me at cellphone numbers 09054292382 for Globe subscribers and 09391252568 for Smart. Thank you and Mabuhay!


Leave a Reply