Manong Tony Macalinao should seriously consider writing Gov. Badong’s bio after the success of “My Haven,” his autobiography, which to a large extent, traces his Palawan journey with the late Governor.
While Manong Tony could now sit on the success of his book, I would like to think he owes it to future generations to tell the whole story of SPS (Salvador P. Socrates). As a prospective biographer, Manong Tony has one distinct advantage: he has unhampered access to the treasure trove of memories of the Socrates family.
Socrates’ first foray into politics in 1963 was a dismal failure, losing the vice gubernatorial race to Nel Setias of Brooke’s Point. And to add to his political setbacks, his patron, then Congressman Gaudencio Abordo, lost his fifth re-election bid to Monching Mitra in 1965. The young Mitra dazzled Palaweños with his promise to get Palawan moving.
With Abordo’s defeat, the Nacionalista Party was in disarray and into a period of transition. A new leader, Atty. Ven Chavez, claimed the mantle of leadership of the party as he prepared for the 1967 elections. But the Abordo faction was wary of him as a leader, not being a dyed-in-the-wool Palaweño. So off they went to NP President Gil J. Puyat to settle the intramural. But Puyat, instead of patching-up party differences, proclaimed Chavez instead as the official NP candidate for Governor. Dejected and bitter for the rough treatment they got from the NP President, the group was in a quandary, until Balabac Mayor Jesus Aban, a close ally of Abordo, proposed that the young Socrates run for Governor as an independent candidate.
And so using the “lantsa” of re-electionist Board Member Vic Pagayona and with fuel provided, on credit, by the Quicho family’s Caltex Station, the Socrates campaign was off to an inauspicious start with Atty. Inigo “Tatang” Pena as the running mate and Dr. Art Carlos as the other candidate for the Board Member.
That election was a watershed in the political history of the province. It was a four-cornered fight among incumbent Governor Telesforo Paredes, a disgruntled Liberal; incumbent Vice Governor Francisco Ponce de Leon, the official LP candidate supported by Cong. Mitra; and Atty. Ven Chavez of the NP.
To the surprise of many, the upstart candidate trounced the established politicians of his day, and thus ushered in his long reign as Governor that would last until that fateful day in Cagayancillo in 2001. His only respite from public service was when he lost the governorship to then-Vice Gov Naning Rodriguez in the first post-EDSA local election.
Gov. Socrates was a rarity. As a politician, he was at home with a drink of “siok tong” with friends in remote barangays, as much as he was conversant with the lingo of technocrats and its nuances.
All through the years, SPS had evolved into a skilled development manager and champion of rural development. As Deputy Minister of the then Ministry of Local Government, his task was to run the Provincial Assistance Development Program, a US AID channel for program funding. Socrates ran his own show with the whole of Merryland building in E. Rodriguez as his kingdom.
Such a man deserves a full narrative, not so much for what had become of him, but as a point of reference for what could have been, as we struggle to make something out of our own lives.
A Socrates biography could also be instructive for leaders in search of a hero at a time when politics is in a state of flux, and in times of hopelessness when audacity and daring are premium qualities.
We can hardly wait for a copy.
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