By Kabayan Art Los Banos

My condolences to AKO Bikol party-list representative Atty. Rodel Batocabe’s family, as well as to SPO2 Orlando Diaz’s loved ones. Both were brutally shot several times on December 22 in Daraga, Albay province in Bicol.

I know Rodel personally as we studied in the same high school, though he was one batch ahead of me. His wife is a batchmate of my youngest sister in another school. The last time I saw him was in December 1986 in Legazpi City. Rodel was going to run for mayor in Daraga municipality in the May 2019 elections as he was finishing his 3rd term in the House of Representatives.

The twin killings put to light how politics can easily and quickly end one’s life. This sad event made me ask what would have become of me if I had ran in the 1992 elections? You see before getting into a serious relationship in 1991 with my ex-girlfriend and now wife, Rachel Salinel, I was planning to enter local politics in Legazpi, Albay.

I have political blood on both sides of the Ante and Los Banos clans. My grandfather Luis Los Banos was the first elected mayor of the city from 1959 to 1967. His son, my uncle Jory Los Banos, was city councilor in 1986 as an appointee and then as an elected official from 1987 to 1992.  There is now an avenue in the city dedicated to Mayor Luis Los Banos. You can google it.

I am not directly under the former late mayor’s family. He was the younger brother of my father’s father, Joaquin Los Banos, Sr., who was one of the most successful businessmen of Legazpi from the 50s to the 70s. My father’s family was affluent and he was one of the very few privileged ‘Albayanos’ who studied in the US mainland in the mid-50s. He had my mother’s ‘despedida de soltera’ celebrated on a small yacht they own. 

My first cousin, Peter Ante Sabido, son of my mother’s eldest sister, was an assemblyman from 1984 until 1986 when the Batasang Pambasa or National Assembly was abolished by the then revolutionary government of President Cory Aquino. My mother’s youngest brother, Dr. Rudy Ante, was a provincial board member from 1987 to 1991 and later on was appointed Vice-Governor in 1992. Their eldest brother, Dr. Ping Ante, served as councilor of Legazpi in the 60s. My mother’s family opened the first private hospital in Legazpi which they inaugurated as Sta. Teresita Hospital and renamed Dr. Esteban Ante Hospital in honor of the family patriarch.

My political ambition faded quickly when I prioritized my relationship with Rachel. We got married in 1996 and had our own family in March 1998 when our son Yuji was born. In 2001, we came to Dubai and we are still here in the Middle East.

Serving in government is still a desire. I am not looking at an elective position anymore as I have long been away from Legazpi. My last visit there was in May 2013 when I attended the grand reunion of our elementary batch at St. Agnes Academy.

Actually, in 1987 the year when I graduated from college with a Political Science degree  I almost joined as a key staff of the late Representative Efren Sarte of the 3rd district of Albay. He wanted me to manage his media relations because at that time I was working as a reporter with Congress Week, a special interest publication focusing on the Senate and House of Representatives. I did not accept his offer because I wanted to fully experience journalism work. He passed away in mid-1988 while his term was until 1992.

Hypothetically, I can work in government as part of the public information machinery like being a spokesman of a department or a Government- Owned and Controlled Corporation (GOCC). Or I can work with any entity that deals with Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and/or Middle East and Africa issues.

My only chance of achieving this aspiration is to be appointed. I don’t think I have a high probability. There is a saying in Philippine politics and it goes this way – it’s not what you know but whom you know. I have none. I have no personal friend nor relative working with President Rodrigo Duterte, Vice President Leni Robredo, and the members of the Cabinet.

By the way, Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat is a second cousin but we are not close. He mother is a first cousin of my father from the Valenzuela clan of Polo, Bulacan. We are descendants of Dr. Pio Valenzuela who was known as a member of the Katipunan Triumvirate with Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Jacinto. A distant relative served in the foreign service, former Ambassador Oscar Valenzuela.

I paid a courtesy call on the vice president in August 2018 at her official headquarters in Quezon City. We talked for 30 minutes about OFW issues in the UAE and Middle East. We also exchanged notes on our common friends and batchmates as she is from Naga and she is one batch ahead of me. She studied at UP Diliman. I volunteered to assist her if she plans to visit the UAE. I hope she considers coming here in 2019.

My ultimate goal really is to serve the Philippines using my experiences as a communications expert. In addition, my encounters travelling across the Middle East and Africa can be a source of valuable information in policy making.  I would like to give something back to Philippine society.

Politics is the art of the possible. Let’s see what 2019 will bring. Happy New Year!