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