Saturday, May 08, 2004

The Mother of Olongapo

Mayor's wife

Public service is nothing new to Amelia. Her father was then mayor of the municipality of Subic, Zambales. In 1965, her husband Jimmy was elected mayor of the mucipality of Olongapo. In 1966, Olongapo became a city-as Jimmy had envisioned it to be. The year after, though, he was felled by an assassin's bullet right in the lobby of city hall. During his term, Jimmy started a massive campaign against illegal logging, fighting well-entrenched syndicates which made Olongapo the center of their business activities. He inevitably antagonized the corrupt rich and powerful who lobbied to protect their vested business interests. His war against crime and corruption cost him his life.

Countless people openly wept over the violent murder of their founding father. Stricken with grief, Amelia had to be strong for her sons and daughters. "It was so painful, so sad," she recalls, "and so many came to pay their respects."


And long before Ninoy Aquino was slain at the tarmac of the international airport, and his widow Cory catapulted to candidacy for the highest office in the land, there already was a clamor for another widow to take over the reins of city hall. "Bring Gordon back to City Hall!" became the battlecry of the people of Olongapo.

The threats on her life notwitstanding, Amelia became the first elected mayor of Olongapo City. She built her campaign on her late husband's platform of good government.

As mayor, Amelia completed the first Master Plan for the city through the Olongapo Land Development and Urban Planning Autority-an interdisciplinary planning group of resident professionals and government officials. This she did 20 years before the end of the Mutual Bases Agreeement. After her term ended in 1971, she served as assemblywoman in the Batasang Pambansa in 1972.

A congressional act Amelia spearheaded enabled the proceeds from the sales of titled land within the city to be retained in the city treasury as the community's development fund. She built new settlements and extended the city's public service to the residents of formerly unserved communities.

"When we're young, we make inner vows not to be like our mothers, but we end up being exactly like them," Bai says. When Bai was young, she told herself, "I will never be like my mom. I will never be in the restaurant business." But Bai now has a flower shop and a restaurant-businesses her mother had while they were growing up.

Bai's advice for Mother's Day? "Honor your parents, that all may be right with you."

As for Amelia, when asked how she was, she replied, "Eto, buhay pa rin. Maraming anak." (Here, still alive. And with lots of kids.)

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