Punchline

In defense of ex-Mayor BSL’s legacy

By Ermin Garcia Jr.

THE recent passage of Ordinance No. 21792019 by the Dagupan Sanggunian is titled  “Ordinance To Protect  the Dagupan Bangus Industry and Enhance Consumer Information  by Regulating the Local Sale of Bangus Sourced from Outside the Geographic Boundaries of the City of Dagupan, Providing Market Schedule and Penalties for Violation Thereof” ostensibly to protect the industry as stated.

But the detailed provisions as authored by Councilors Marcelino Fernandez Jose Netu Tamayo and Teresa Coquia, have, in fact, sounded the death knell for the Dagupan Bangus industry, particularly the Dagupan Bangus brand.

I thought I was reading the last will and testament of the Dagupan bangus industry, directing how the Dagupan Bangus brand should be used for the benefit of bangus growers in other parts of the country, leaving nothing for the Dagupan growers.

I had high hopes for the ordinance when initial public hearings were being held to seek views of the stakeholders in the Dagupan bangus industry, or so I thought. It turned out that it was more like a series of negotiations for the privilege to be granted bangus growers outside Dagupan City, i.e., towns in  Pangasinan, Bulacan, etc.

The first thought that came to mind: What’s going to happen to the legacy of the late Mayor Benjie Lim?  From the day he became mayor, he had made known his vision to see Dagupan Bangus as a brand that can compete in the world market. 

BSL being the consummate marketing man that he is, lined up promotional activities to catch the attention of country and the world. The first bang was the annual Bangus Festival simultaneous with a bid to earn a title in the World Guinness of Records to gain worldwide recognition. And he did so with a lot fanfare and oooohs and aaaaahs!

It was to be his legacy. But that will be erased soon as the ordinance allowing 600 banyeras of bangus from Bulacan to crowd out Dagupan bangus is enforced. 

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SHARED ADVOCACY. Bangus Festival was a successful bright, new economic prospect for the city that even his arch political enemy Belen Fernandez decided to pick it up (not junk it as own would have usually expected in politics), expanded it and made it as one of the region’s biggest annual festival by introducing the open streetdancing competition (Festival of the North) as a new major highlight of the Bangus Festival. Contrary to hare-brained thoughts by some pea brains allied with Mayor Brian, Mayor Belen indirectly helped promote BLS’s legacy, not destroy it. She was never even heard to claim that Bangus Festival was her original idea.

She even introduced more measures to further protect the local bangus industry, so it’s clearly an advocacy she shared with her predecessor Mayor BSL.

Nobody can refute that the successful development, promotion of the Dagupan Bangus brand is BSL’s biggest legacy. But that is now seeing its last days of greatness.  The new ordinance, endorsed by BSL’s wife Celia, as councilor, and approved by his son Brian as mayor, will see to that.

Between that ordinance and efforts by other bangus  growers out to promote Pangasinan Bangus brand over Dagupan Bangus in the world market, BSL’s legacy is doomed to vanish and be forgotten.

Who would have thought it would be BSL’s own family in conspiracy with other similarly-minded city officials would negate his own legacy to the world.  He must be turning in his grave.  BSL’s memory does not deserve to be sidelined by this ordinance.

What surprises me even more is the fact that the Dagupan growers just seem to shrug off the ordinance. Is it because they were told “Yan ang gusto ni mayor!”? And irony of all ironies, there is Mayor Belen who seems to be taking up the cudgels for them and BSL’s legacy.  

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PERSONAL PROFIT MOTIVES. The ulterior motive for personal profit became apparent in Councilor Tamayo’s admission in our exchange in my Facebook account on the issue. The ordinance, he said, was prompted by the lack of supply of Dagupan bangus in the city and therefore, bangus from other areas have to be sourced to meet local demand!  Wow! Translation: Serve inferior bangus in the city as replacement of Dagupan bangus!

It was then when my naive mind realized that the strategy for greater profits for the officialdom is to open the bangus market to more bangus growers and suppliers outside Dagupan.  And is it true that this was a bright idea of Mayor Brian’s core group?

A glaring if not completely blatant offensive action vs Dagupan bangus was the surprise  increase in the allocation of Bulacan bangus from 400 to 600 banyeras a week on the day the proposed law was put to a vote. (If there are 50-100 bangus per banyera, that’s some 30,000 bangus a week of Bulacan bangus to flood Dagupan. minimum!)  What could have been the consideration for the sudden additional 100 banyeras even after Councilor Coquia’s earlier warning that Bulacan bangus is “fed with chicken dung, tastes like mud.”?? The answer is much too obvious.

If the intention was to protect the Dagupan bangus industry, the councilors should have decided to decrease the allocation to Bulacan bangus by 100 banyeras, not increased. By increasing it, the equation could only be to allow more Bulacan growers to take advantage of the selling edge provided by the Dagupan Bangus brand at the risk of Dagupan growers losing that edge.

And or, the committee should have presented and discussed varied incentives to encourage more Dagupan growers to produce more, develop more fishponds, not to backfill fishponds, and make the mayor’s office accountable for failure to strictly enforce city’s fishery ordinances.  But the Fernandez and Tamayo committees did nothing of that sort. 

The six committee hearings, based on the outputs, were clearly just about lobbying and negotiations for more favorable terms for competitors of Dagupan bangus growers.

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KARINA, OUR ANGEL. It was 1963. My father recalled a day in September when our  mother caught her on the the telephone saying in verses “THE BEST DAY TO DIE WOULD BE ON THE FIRST DAY OF NOVEMBER, BECAUSE IT IS FIRST FRIDAY AND ALSO ALL SAINTS’ DAY AND THE NEXT DAY IS THE FIRST SATURDAY?”

Then she had dictated a thought to her friend weeks before she died. “THE DAY WHEN I DIED. IT WAS NOVEMBER FIRST WHEN I WAS SUFFERING WITH ACHES. TWELVE O’CLOCK STRUCK AND NO WORD CAME OUT FROM MY MOUTH. I FELL NTO THE HANDS OF MY MOTHER WHO WAS WATCHING ME FOR THE WHOLE NIGHT WITHOUT ANY SLEEP. SHE KNOWS I AM DEAD AND SHE CALLED FOR MY SISTERS AND BROTHER…  

“MY SCHOOL WAS INNOCENT ABOUT MY DEATH UNTIL THE PHONE RANG AND ANNOUNCED MY DEATH. I KNOW IT WAS A BIG SHOCK FOR THEM.”  

As she predicted, she drowned at the Dagupan Blue Beach with a guest from Visayas on November 1, 1963. We easily recovered her lifeless body because she was floating some 100 meters away from the shore, with her head down unlike most who drowned in the area who were lost for days.

Years later, I’ve been approached by some I never met to tell me that they prayed for Karina’s intercession for their wishes… and their prayers answers were answered.  I really don’t know what to make of that but I do pray to her for intercession as well.

To mark her 68th birthday on November 7, in this issue, we are reprinting an account of my father on Karina, a year before he was murdered in 1966.

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