The glory that was Rome: Asean’s only cul­tural cap­i­tal

Manila Times - - Opinion - MAURO GIA SAMONTE Lak­bayin ang Ma­gan­dang Pilip­inas.”

IF there is any­thing that one may call a hy­brid mu­nic­i­pal­ity, it is An­gono, amount­ing to ver­i­ta­bly just a speck in the large acreage cov­ered by the province of Rizal. Nestling at the foot of the Sierra Madre moun­tain range, it was carved out of small por­tions of Tay­tay and Bi­nang­o­nan, and in 1938 was pro­claimed a new mu­nic­i­pal­ity by Pres­i­dent Manuel L.

must have brought about the cre­ation of An­gono, but that is not the con­cern of this present dis­cus­sion. Rather, what may be deemed as

is that de­spite its too small be­gin­nings, it has proven it­self quite at par in the de­vel­op­ment reached by its big­ger Rizal sis­ter towns like An­tipolo and Tay­tay, for in­stance.

An­gono en­joys the distinc­tion of be­ing the 3rd Most Com­pet­i­tive Mu­nic­i­pal­ity; the Clean­est Mu­nic­i­pal­ity in the 1st Dis­trict of Rizal; re­cip­i­ent of the Gawad Gal­ing Pook for Best Prac­tice and In­no­va­tion in Par­tic­i­pa­tory and Sys­temic Gov­er­nance; a Child Friendly Mu­nic­i­pal­ity con­ferred by the DILG; and the re­cip­i­ent of a Sil­ver Award for En­vi­ron­men­tal Com­pli­ance Au­dit, also con­ferred by the DILG. Un­der Mayor Ger­ardo V. Calderon’s watch, An­gono prides it­self in hav­ing at­tained lev­els of zero-waste, zero-squat­ter, il­le­gal drugs-free, com­ple­ment­ing its rise as a com­mer­cial hub.

Never a city

To­day, An­gono boasts an an­nual bud­get of P360 mil­lion, al­ready breach­ing the bench­mark for city­hood in this re­gard as pro­vided for by RA 9009. As to pop­u­la­tion, the town should be in the vicin­ity of the cri­te­rion for cities, at 150,000; An­gono’s fig­ure in the cen­sus of 2015 was 113,283, and al­low­ing for hu­man pro­lifi­gacy at pro­cre­ation, it should now have hit the mark.

So, as far as an­nual in­come and pop­u­la­tion are con­cerned, An­gono should be well on the road to be­com­ing a city. The one great hin­drance, how­ever, is ter­ri­to­rial size. An­gono has only 26.22 square kilo­me­ters, way off the le­gal re­quire­ment of 100 sq km.

RA 9009 has to be amended or An­gono, for all its big strides in so­cial, cul­tural, en­vi­ron­men­tal, and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, will never be­come a city.

Nev­er­the­less, Mayor Calderon does not cease in his many dreams for his town, which cer­tainly by now has com­pletely risen above its ob­scure be­gin­nings.

The great An­gono dream

One re­cent evening I met up with him at his of­fice to dis­cuss an episode in the pro­gram he hosts on PTV 4, “

He made sure to tour me around the mu­nic­i­pal hall quad­ran­gle where he pointed out the ar­chi­tec­ture of the much-ren­o­vated mu­nic­i­pal build­ing. It used to be a modest ed­i­fice, with the fea­tures that were mod­ern back in the 1950s — al­most a flat com­bi­na­tion of in­ter­sect­ing straight lines in all as­pects, be they col­umns, beams, ledges, and win­dow panes. This time around I gaped in awe. I was look­ing at struc­tures whose de­signs went way far back in time — the baroque style with all its ex­trav­a­gantly or­nate touches.

In­deed, the build­ings were rem­i­nis­cent of what Rome was when it was, ac­cord­ing to leg­end, founded by the demigod broth­ers Re­mus and Ro­mu­lus in 753 BC. Al­ready done was the main mu­nic­i­pal hall, with an ad­junct of the same size which he said would be the cul­tural hall to house the great works of An­gono’s artists.

An­gono is home to two na­tional artists, Bo­tong Fran­cisco in paint­ing and Lu­cio San Pe­dro in mu­sic — on top of other famed crafts­men in var­i­ous other artis­tic dis­ci­plines. In fact, it is for An­gono’s art her­itage that it has been pro­claimed as the art cap­i­tal of the Philip­pines, in ad­di­tion to be­ing the only rec­og­nized cul­tural cap­i­tal in the en­tire As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions.

“I in­tend to turn An­gono into the glory that was Rome,” Calderon ex­plained, in­di­cat­ing the two main struc­tures. Then he in­di­cated the gym­na­sium and said, “That gym will be turned into the likes of a Ro­man Colos­seum.”

Art as a way of life

At first glance, Calderon’s is just a grand fancy in art. But delv­ing into the mat­ter deeply, one re­al­izes that de­vel­op­ing An­gono along artis­tic lines ac­tu­ally serves a most prag­matic con­cern. Art is the main at­trac­tion and the ma­jor rea­son for the in­flux of tourists into the town. An­gono takes pride in hav­ing the most num­ber of pri­vate art museums in the coun­try, which pur­vey­ors of art par­tic­u­larly dote on end­lessly. Top­ping a tourist’s visit is his par­tic­i­pa­tion in the an­nual Hi­gantes Fes­ti­val, held in con­junc­tion with the cel­e­bra­tion of the Feast Day of St. Cle­men, which draws tourists both lo­cal and for­eign.

For Calderon, the cul­tural de­vel­op­ment of An­gono is not a mat­ter of fancy but a way of life. That needs to be sus­tained along with other facets of the town’s eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. In An­gono, art is not a thing in it­self but a ne­ces­sity for ad­vanc­ing the peo­ple’s liveli­hood.

Give it then to the ami­able, be­nign town ex­ec­u­tive that he pur­sues his dream for his town re­lent­lessly. He rec­og­nizes that as Rome was not built in a day, so will his dream of turn­ing An­gono into Rome’s glory will not be done within his term lim­its. He has had nine terms, dis­qual­i­fy­ing him from seek­ing an­other.

The daugh­ter also rises

But a vi­sion­ary and gifted with acute fore­sight, he has early on groomed his daugh­ter, Jeri Mae Calderon, to take over once the even­tu­al­ity comes. Still in her twen­ties, the soft- spo­ken, unas­sum­ing young woman has had ex­pert men­tor­ing from her dad, has gone through the same route of pub­lic ser­vice taken by her fa­ther. A grad­u­ate of St. Paul’s Col­lege with a de­gree in busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion, she be­gan her pub­lic ser­vice as Sang­gu­ni­ang Ka­bataan ( SK) chair­man. In that ca­pac­ity, she was elected pres­i­dent of the SK Fed­er­a­tion of An­gono and as such was elected pres­i­dent of the SK Fed­er­a­tion of Rizal. This last­named post au­to­mat­i­cally made her a mem­ber of the Sang­gu­ni­ang Pan­lalaw­igan. So she was al­ready a coun­cil woman, and at the pro­vin­cial level at that, be­fore she be­came the Num­ber 1 coun­cilor, a post she holds up to the present.

At any rate, both fa­ther and daugh­ter went through the rig­or­ous train­ing for lo­cal chief ex­ec­u­tives at the Mayor’s De­vel­op­ment Cen­ter, the ed­u­ca­tion arm of the League of Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties of the Philip­pines (LMP). That by way of say­ing that

for mayor of An­gono, she has been well-pre­pared for the task. -

for vice mayor. Sort of as­sur­ing the An­gono towns­peo­ple that the fa­ther will con­tinue to be around, back­ing up his child in per­se­ver­ing in his dream of achiev­ing for the town the glory that was Rome.

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