“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”
By Alex P. Vidal
NEW YORK CITY — I first met Dr. Jed Patrick Mabilog in the early part of 2003 when he was introduced to me by Councilor Armand Parcon, my kumpare and former media colleague, in the ground floor coffee shop of Robinson’s Mall in Iloilo City.
I was standing when Parcon approached me and quipped, “Pre, I would like to introduce my friend, Jed Patrick Mabilog. He is from Molo (district). He can be a good material for city councilor. Let’s help him.”
Behind Parcon was a neatly dressed and pompadoured man with a soft voice. “Hi, kumusta? Ako gali si Jed (Hi, how are you? My name is Jed),” he enthused. We shook hands and talked briefly.
I was then active with the World Boxing Foundation (WBF) thus I wasn’t able to fulfill Councilor Parcon’s request for his friend other than asking my family to vote for Mabilog for city councilor.
It became moot and academic though as Mabilog, big boss of HALIGI Foundation, ran and won for city councilor in the general elections the following year, May 10, 2004.
From 2004 until 2007 when Mabilog completed his term in the city council, we never met again.
Our second meeting was in the candidates forum sponsored by Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo during the campaign period for the May 14, 2007 general elections.
I was one of the moderators in a “live” debate between vice mayoral candidates Jed Patrick Mabilog and Winston Porras, former chief of staff of Vice Mayor Victor Facultad.
Brilliant and quick-witted, Mabilog routed Porras, who happened to be my friend way back in the 90’s when Porras was legislative staff of then Councilor Victor Facultad and I was writing speeches for the late Councilor Eduardo Laczi and then Councilor Jose “Joe III” Espinosa III (now the new Iloilo City mayor).
From 2007 until 2010 when Mabilog finished his term as vice mayor, I never met him again since that “live” radio debate.
Months before the May 10, 2010 elections, Mabilog, who became my Facebook friend, asked my opinion in a private message about his plan to run for city mayor against then Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez.
I received Mabilog’s message while I was in Vancouver. I was totally unaware of what was going on in Philippine politics; I monitored only the news on the Internet.
The late Secretary Gonzalez and I never had a spat even if he sued our former colleague in Sun.Star, Nelson Robles, for “unjust vexation” over a series of blind items in 1996 when Gonzalez was congressman in the city’s lone district.
I answered Mabilog in the affirmative even if I doubted his chances against Iloilo City’s hitherto political Goliath, famous for tormenting his adversaries with the nerve-tingling “I will make life difficult for you” remark.
I missed the Mabilog-Gonzalez rivalry as a media practitioner; I missed the biggest election upset in the history of Iloilo City: underdog Mabilog clobbered the most powerful cabinet official of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo by a big margin.
Mabilog closed the Facebook account he was using before being elected as Iloilo City mayor (he opened another FB accounts thereafter), thus I couldn’t send a message to congratulate David.
During the years that Mabilog was mayor for three consecutive terms until his “dismissal” recently, I was most of the time outside the Philippines.
I am probably the only Iloilo journalist who has never set foot in the new Iloilo City Hall until today (I was president of the Iloilo City Hall Press Corps for two terms–1998-1999 during the time of Mayor Mansueto Malabor).
I finally met Mabilog again and sat beside him in the cable TV show hosted by Vicente “Danny Baby Foz” at Buto’t Balat Restaurant in Iloilo City three days before the May 13, 2013 elections when I was in the Philippines.
It was the height of Mabilog’s quarrel with former Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada, the man who filed the case against the city mayor in the Ombudsman that resulted in his ouster.
It was only our third physical meeting since the day Councilor Parcon introduced me to the man who would become the most abused and most harassed city mayor in the world.
I will probably meet Mabilog, an innocent man and great Ilonggo leader, again when he become congressman in 2019.