May 13 was a historic day for minorities in Rizal in southern Palawan with 8,575 voters electing independent candidate Otol Odi to become the first Pala’wan mayor.
Seventy-seven-year-old Odi emerged victoriously against contenders Ramon Shita who garnered 3,414 votes; Fred Setiota who received 1,007 votes, and Cesar Magsaysay who collected 4,814 from Rizal’s 19,476 out of 26,692 registered voters in 11 barangays.
In a social media post, Mackie Ong Baluyut who is Odi’s nephew posted that he was already proclaimed mayor by the municipal Commission on Elections (COMELEC) on May 14 along with the newly-elected vice mayor Norman Ong, who is the incumbent mayor of Rizal, and winning municipal council candidates.
“Municipality of Rizal, Palawan elected its first native Pal’awan Mayor, Uncle Otol Odi. Mabuhay ang bayan ng Rizal! Sama-sama para pagtataguyod ng isang Maunlad na Bayan!” Baluyut posted.
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Odi’s son Adonis, said in a brief phone interview with Palawan News that his father was thankful and also overwhelmed by the support he was given by the residents of Rizal.
“Nagpapasalamat siya sa mga sumuporta sa kanya kasi simple lang naman din siya. Nagulat siya sa dami ng bumoto sa kanya pero masaya dahil makakapaglingkod sa Rizal lalo na sa mga katutubo tulad namin,” Adonis said.
In a previous interview, Odi who served as barangay councilor and chairman alternately of Punta Baja for almost 20 years, said it has been his dream to help his family and the indigenous peoples (IPs) of Rizal.
Odi said he has no money for his campaign but his experience as an IP leader and barangay official will help him lead the municipal government of Rizal.
“Noon pa, gusto ko nang tumulong. Gusto ko noong tulungan ang pamilya ko, at ngayon gusto kong tumulong sa mga kababayan ko,” he said.
Although Odi only finished elementary, his wide knowledge about laws and his disposition about life and leadership have earned him the respect of the IPs in Punta Baja and other parts of Rizal.
Among his platforms of government is to help save their lands from allegedly being taken away by large investors, maintenance of peace and order in Rizal, fighting corruption, and education for the children of Pala’wan IPs, believing it is the only way their lives will improve.
“Ito lang ang paraan upang umunlad ang aming buhay, ang edukasyon,” he said.
The candidates for the municipal council who were proclaimed with Odi were Gracia Macasaet – 6,521; Pet Drilon – 6,373; Mariafe Ocampo – 5,960; Jethro Degillo – 5,543; Joey Narrazid – 5,391; Zaldy Magbanua – 5,218; Aping Baluyut – 5,210, and Arvin Fuentes – 5,031.
Rizal is a first class municipality in southern Palawan with 50,096 residents as of the 2015 census. Prior to its formation as a municipality, it is known as Tarumpitao Point under the jurisdiction of Quezon town.
Aside from the Pala’wan IPs, it is also home to their small subgroup Tau’t Bato or “People of the Rock” who live in a bowl-shaped valley called Singnapan.