BY MARLEN V. RONQUILLO
The headline does not seem to wash, given what is common knowledge. Why would Lubao, the hometown of former President Arroyo, celebrate the rise to political prominence of the Abad family? It is public knowledge that Abads turned against the former president and Butch Abad was a cog of the Hyatt 10 Group.
While the opposition to the former president over the past few years came from several sectors, it was the opposition from the Hyatt 10 Group that was most relentless, dogged and sustained.
On the surface, you can’t really square off the two things: the political ascent of the Abads and celebration in a corner of Lubao over the Abads’ rise to prominence. But it is true. I am, in fact, part of the community that is celebrating the event. And this is the full story.
While Lubao has piled up riveting stories of meritocracy, partly because it is an ancient town and partly because the earlier generations had been generations of achievers (unlike now, sadly), two stories really stand out. One is the story of Diosdado Maca-pagal, who grew up dirt-poor in an enclave of people afflicted with tuberculosis, then charted his epic rise to the presidency of the republic. We are all familiar with this story.
The other story is the story of the late lawyer Jesus “Soleng” Razon, the father-in-law of Butch, the father of the Batanes representative and the grandpa of the PMS head. Between these two great stories of meritocracy, there is the unresolved issue on which one is the more inspiring.
Our view, the view in the farming barrios outside of the pob-lacion (the late former president was from the poblacion), is that the story of lawyer Jesus Razon is more inspiring.
Soleng Razon, according to accounts, left our farming barrio of Concepcion before his teens for the big city to escape two things: poverty and illiteracy. He worked at a lumber yard, first as a janitor of sorts, then a kargador of semi-processed timber. Unlike the late former President Macapagal who found a patron in the late Don Honorio Ventura, Soleng Razon finished high school, then law, via the back-breaking job of hauling semi-processed timber.
The route to law was tough, literally a back-breaking one. But this did not make Soleng Razon an ordinary lawyer. According to stories, he was the first head of the entity that is now the PDIC, the one that organized and founded that institution.
While he left to pursue his dreams, Soleng Razon did not forget his roots, and in his trips back to the barrio, he did something life-changing. He inspired parents, based on his own life-story, to send their kids to school, to give the kids, at the very least, a fighting chance in life. We can’t be tied to this lifetime of tenancy, of poverty and of illiteracy, Soleng Razon would tell the parents, in words that came off as more of an appeal and a plea, than an invocation of his own achievements.
The inspiring story of Soleng Razon resonated not only in our barrio but across Lubao. Parents recognized an alternative for the children—one inside the classroom and not a life of tenancy. Illiterate sharecroppers, themselves sons of illiterate sharecroppers, broke new ground for the next generation.
My late father, barely schooled and himself the son of an illiterate sharecropper, struggled to send all his kids to school with the story of Soleng Razon as the driving narrative.
All of us, a brood of six, all learned how to read and write as a result.
The rise of the Abads, from a parochial point of view, has an interesting sidebar.
Throughout her entire presidency, former President Arroyo failed to appoint a cabinet member from Lubao. While she named a few Lubao natives to insignificant or sub-cabinet positions, her preference for cabinet members, from say, Batangas province, clearly stood out against the drought of appointments from Lubao.
In contrast, the first batch of cabinet appointments of PNoy had somebody with Lubao roots, Julia Abad,
the granddaughter of the late Soleng Razon and the youngest appointee. PNoy was not even aware of that nuance but people from Lubao took note.
This is the reason why we in Lubao are celebrating the rise of the Abads to power and prominence. All celebrations—to borrow from Tip O’Neill—are local.