PILI, CAMARINES SUR - A crowd gathered at a roadside basketball court with a small stage in Pili, Camarines Sur that humid Tuesday afternoon. They were waiting someone to arrive: a young man whose face is all over town, printed on streamers and tarpaulins, and whose name is often heard on TV ads and jingles played repeatedly on radio.
|A son traces his root to the province. Photo by Rem Zamora for ABS-CBNnews.com
The people welcomed Miguel ‘Migz’ Villafuerte as they would a celebrity. Many of them, especially the young girls, rushed towards him as he got off his vehicle and walked to the stage.
“Who wants to kiss me?” he said at one point in the local language, eliciting screams that drowned the sound of his own voice.
On stage during his sorties, he would make people recite funny pick-up lines, crack jokes, sing, and dance to “Oppa Gangnam Style” with lyrics changed to his name. Then he would talk about graduating from the University of San Diego in the US, his experience running a business, his being technology-savvy, and why, despite being only 24, he should be elected governor.
Belonging to the powerful Villafuerte family, Miguel has the name and resources to win. But he faces a formidable opponent in his bid to replace his father, Luis Raymond or LRay, as the head of the province: his grandfather, 3rd district Rep. Luis Villafuerte Sr.
“I have yet to know of a grandson fighting his grandfather. That is against Filipino culture. For that issue alone, he’s sure to lose,” says the 77-year-old Rep. Villafuerte.
Rep. Villafuerte has been in politics for decades. Before being a congressman, he was Camarines Sur’s governor for 15 years—-from 1986 to 1992, and 1995 to 2004.
People all over the province easily recognize him, with many fondly calling him “gurang” or old man.
The elder Villafuerte is confident that his vast experience, accomplishments, and network of supporters among local officials that he has cultivated through the years will catapult him again to the provincial capitol
Miguel is inexperienced, he stresses.
“He has absolutely no experience in management or in local government administration. He needs to study first. He needs to have training,” Rep. Villafuerte says.
Age doesn’t matter
Yet the younger Villafuerte is undaunted, backed by his father who’s at odds with his grandfather.
Miguel says he has observed his father work for many years, and that alone was enough to prepare him for the job.
“It was he who wanted to run,” Gov. Villafuerte says. “He studied in the States, political science. At a young age, he has seen how hard I worked to make Camarines Sur progressive. The clamor in Camarines Sur is for someone to continue my programs.”
And Miguel believes he’s the right man for the job. To questions about why he wants to be in politics, he often begins his answers by mentioning his father: “My father has started a lot of good programs,” “He has done a lot for the province,” “I’m just following my dad’s footsteps.”
For Miguel, age doesn't matter in politics.
“I believe that our province will not vote on the basis of age, gender, race, or religion. They vote according to a person’s skill, sincerity, and honesty, which I believe I have,” he says.
Rep. Villafuerte accuses his grandson of being deceitful, however, because he put “LRay Jr.” as his nickname in his certificate of candidacy. He has filed a disqualification case against Miguel for this.
But Gov. Villafuerte says Miguel is popularly known to the people as “LRay Jr.” He also finds no merit in disqualifying a candidate based on his on her nickname.
Luis Villafuerte Sr. of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) and Miguel Villafuerte of the Nacionalista Party, along with former Solicitor-General Jose Anselmo Cadiz of the Liberal Party, will slug it out in the gubernatorial race.
This contest between the Villafuerte patriarch and his grandson is the latest chapter in the family feud that originally started between Luis Sr. and LRay.
They supported each other back in 2004, when LRay won as governor and replaced his father. But two months into LRay’s term, their relationship soured when LRay fired Luis’s appointees in the capitol. LRay says those people had pending cases and maintains that it was right to dismiss them
|The question dividing the family. Photo by Rem Zamora for ABS-CBNnews.com
Luis and LRay have since been on clashing paths in politics. In 2007, LRay allied himself with a traditional Villafuerte rival, the Fuentebellas—-a move that angered his father, who fielded a candidate against him for governor.
The tides turned in 2010, when Luis bolted Lakas-Kampi and joined the NPC, making him an ally of Rep. Arnulfo Fuentebella. They are now together in pushing for a proposal to create a new province out of Camarines Sur, which LRay opposes.
This year, as LRay grooms his son to be his successor after nine years as governor, he is running for representative of the 2nd district against incumbent Rep. Diosdado ‘Dato’ Arroyo, whom Luis supports.
After almost a decade of animosity, LRay says he hopes to reconcile with his father soon.
“It’s just a matter of time,” he told ABS-CBN News. “He’s my idol. Without him, I wouldn’t be governor.”
Miguel adds that he has always looked up to his grandfather, and also hopes for reconciliation in their family.
Still, there’s turning back for him in the elections. He says he still hopes Luis would give way and give him a chance.
For Luis, however, reconciliation is farfetched. “The only way to end this is for both LRay and Migz to get defeated.”
Not the first time
It’s not the first time that a member of the family turned against Luis Villafuerte Sr.
His nephew, Jesse Robredo—-the former mayor of Naga City who became Interior and Local Government Secretary before his death—-also withdrew his support for Villafuerte early in his career and became a political rival.
Now, their wives, both neophytes in politics, will face each other in the race to be the representative in Congress of Camarines Sur’s 3rd district.
(To be continued)