Gov. Dong Padilla - A Man for All Season
First Episode: The first time I met Governor Dong Padilla of Camarines Norte was when I and two other members (Vicente del Castillo, Jr. and Jigs Inandan) of Man Cave International (a non-partisan fraternal organization, composed mostly of retired professionals from the City of Naga) personally handed our letter of invitation for him to be the guest of honor and speaker on our Christmas Party held on Dec. 13, 2022, at Avenue Hotel in the same city.
First and foremost we found him to be down to earth with genuine humility as we witnessed his dealings with other visitors ahead of us inside his office—not a bit of arrogance exhibited common to persons in power—which impressed us the most.
“Why me?” was the first question he threw to us after he meticulously read our letter. Someone from our group hastily answered back, “because we don’t want a trapo one” and another jokingly blurted, “we can’t find one like you in our province”. He then amusingly smiled and gazed at us with a sympathetic look.
A cordial conversation ensued where I also happened to pitch the idea of the serious scarcity of healthcare workers, notably nurses, because of their migration to other countries, especially to the US. This is happening all over the country. I further expounded that even if the government increases nurses’ salary to P50,000 per month as planned (which I fully agree with) their exodus abroad will not cease as salaries offered in those countries are five (5) to six (6) times larger than what the government can offer them. The best and immediate solution to this harrowing problem I said was to readopt the Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN)—a 20-month course offered before up to the mid-80s in the Philippines and patterned from the US—which was the substance of Cong. Gabby Bordado’s landmark Congressional Bill 3712, filed in August of this year. ADN is not in demand abroad; hence their longer stay in the country is assured.
In the same Bill, I also pointed out to the governor the need for Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA) as well to unburden the overworked nurses (currently Naga College Foundation is pioneering this course). However, because Cong. Gabby is on the other side of the political spectrum, this important bill finds it hard to reach the committee level without strong support from the powers-that-be in the Lower House, I added. Being the brother of a top-notcher Senator— Robin Padilla, I thought maybe he could bring this up to the Senator and for him to file a similar Bill in the Upper House to get a lot of mileage. I came to know later that likewise, Health Care Service is the top priority of the governor.
Then I mentioned to him that when Sen. JV Ejercito had a meeting with some of the mayors of Cam. Norte in 2019 in a resort in Bagasbas, he invited me to speak on the possibility of having a provincial railroad in this province (I was the resource speaker in the Senate Public Hearings on Philippine National Railway (PNR) modernization plan way back in 2015 and 2016 chaired by the same good Senator).
This idea of a provincial railroad if pursued could lower the cost of freight to and from Daet with interlink to the PNR Long Haul South Railway (Calamba to Sorsogon) now in its final stage of implementation. Newer rails and locomotives bought recently from Indonesia with incompatibility issues with the soon-to-be-constructed South Commuter and the mentioned Long Haul South Railway could be commissioned for this purpose. This plan could also very well become the impetus for the future economic development of the province, I further stressed. This monumental project can only happen with the spirited political will of a leader, which Gov. Dong possesses.
We observed that the governor was taking notes in the course of our conversation. He is the kind of governor who listens to new ideas seriously and with great interest. He told me we would talk more in the City of Naga during our organization’s Christmas Party, which he is attending. His office was then beginning to get packed with people from all walks of life wanting to meet with him and it was time for us to excuse ourselves.
Second Episode: Gov. Dong Padilla arrived punctually at 6 PM even ahead of many of our members at Avenue Hotel in Naga City in time for the Christmas Part. He was seated on the presidential table together with Sr. members of the organization; Former Congressman Sal Fortuno, Ret. Provincial Fiscal Pito Rosales, Former Mayor Abang Mabulo (who substituted for Cong. Gabby Bordado who could not make it as Congress was still in session), and myself. Ret. Sr. Asst. Prosecutor Mansueto Saez acted as the Emcee. Known activist and Professor of Law in both Ateneo de Naga and the University of Nueva Caceres, Atty Luis Ruben General aptly introduced the Guest of Honor and Speaker. Gov. Dong’s speech was both heartwarming and inspiring. He delivered a prepared speech. Afterward, he articulated extemporaneously the second part where he intimated the chronological events that led to his running for governor of the province and winning it. With limited campaign funds and hardly any tarpaulins set up in the whole province against the tremendous campaign resources of the deep-pocketed opponent, Gov. Dong overwhelmed the odds of winning with plenty to spare. Only his sincerity in serving the people of his province was his biggest arsenal. It was an awe-inspiring phenomenon indeed and an eye opener to other electorates outside his province whose choices are narrowed down to the color of money handed and the candidates who could burst out a song and carry out an entertaining dance number no matter how outrageous and ludicrous they may look like on top of the stage. And, never mind their qualifications, as many have none.
After the program, we were able to discuss lengthily what we initially talked about in our last meeting—the critical Health Care Services and the suggested railway plans for his province. Hopefully, these can be pursued and started by next year.
Finally, we thank the good Governor for coming all the way to the City of Naga to grace our Christmas Party. It was an affair to remember, hats off to you, Gov. Dong Padilla—you are one of a kind.