The Valenzuela of his dreams
DIRECT LINE - Boy Abunda () - July 7, 2006 - 12:00am
In a speech delivered during the first commencement exercises of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Valenzuela at the UP Theater last April, Valenzuela City Mayor Sherwin Gatchalian said, "I will leave you today with one message. No, it is not my meaning of life, rather, a philosophy that guides everything I do. Give. Give as if you have never received. Give as if you are making up for everyone who never has. Give as if you and you alone embody the spirit of our country. And, in your giving, you will one day make it possible for someone to become what you are now, a Trojan, an Achiever, and of course, a Graduate."

Kahlil Gibran once said, "It is when you give of yourself that you truly give; for what are your possessions but things you keep guard for fear you may need them tomorrow? It is well to give when asked, but it is better to give unasked, through understanding; and to the open-handed, the search for one who shall receive is joy greater than giving."

Mayor Sherwin Gatchalian has given Valenzuela City all he can. He is the youngest city mayor of the country at 32. And as city mayor, Sherwin works just as hard as the next city government employee. With his hands-on style of management, his faith in the capabilities of his people, and his corporate acumen, the mayor, indeed, is able to effectively run the city government.

Mayor Gatchalian comes from a family of entrepreneurs. He was exposed to the family business at a very young age. He finished Business Administration at Boston University in Massachusetts and got a Master’s Degree in Corporate Finance at the Euromoney Institute of Finance. Mayor Gatchalian worked as vice chairman of Waterfront Philippines, Inc. soon after finishing his Master’s Degree. He has also had working stints with several other companies including Air Philippines International Corp., Wellex Group of Companies, Omico Mining Corp. and Plastic City Corp.

The call of public service, however, beckoned when at 27, he was elected representative of the first district of Valenzuela. And at the 12th Congress, Sherwin authored several bills and resolutions particularly on the protection of migrant workers, establishment of Anti-Illegal Recruitment Centers, establishment of District Drug Rehabilitation Centers, as well as laws for the improvement of Valenzuela City.

Valenzuela was named after the famous revolutionary hero Dr. Pio Valenzuela. It used to be called Polo, by the Spaniards who established the place in 1623. The town acquired its independence through the efforts of Fr. Juan Taranco and Don Juan Monsod. The first chapel with San Diego de Alcala as patron saint was completed in 1632. It became the town’s center and stood witness to several battles during the Spanish, American and Japanese occupations. On June 21, 1960, former President Carlos Garcia divided Polo into two and created the town of Valenzuela. But by the time of former President Diosdado Macapagal, Polo and Valenzuela again became one through an executive order. During Marcos’ time through PD 824, Valenzuela became an independent town and also part of the Greater Manila Area. It became a city on Feb. 14, 1998 through RA 8526 under former President Fidel Ramos.

Valenzuela today is home to over 8,000 businesses, 2,000 of which are into plastics, metal, car parts, food, etc. Last year, the city’s collection amounted to P1.245 billion compared to 2004’s P1.018 billion which translates to an efficient tax collection, faith in good governance and a stable economy.

The government is also building bridges and overpasses like Lingunan-Lawang Bato overpass which will ease traffic along Maysan Road. More than 100 roads are under construction in Valenzuela. Sidewalks and canals are being cleaned and cleared-up. One hundred fifty classrooms are also under construction which began in 2004.

Peace and order is being beefed up by the city. It has recently acquired 14 patrol cars, 19 motorcycles, 80 radios, 100 flashlights and the police force has an additional allowance of P500 monthly.

By August this year, Valenzuelanos are expected to have their new City Government Center. Also underway are the Valenzuela Astrodome and Auditorium. Very recently, the government launched its Valenzuela City Cares program which will give free health services to all Valenzuela residents.

But for Valenzuelanos, life is not complete without the arts. Wasn’t Valenzuela called Hollywood of the Philippines? It was in Valenzuela where big producers of the ’50s were founded – Premiere Productions and Larry Santiago Productions. Some big names from showbiz also trace their roots in Valenzuela. Among them are Anita Linda, Pablo Santiago and even Lipa City Mayor Vilma Santos.

As a continuing tradition of excellence in the arts, Valenzuela established the Valenzuela City Center of the Performing Arts (VCCPA). In honor of the 137th birth anniversary of Dr. Pio Valenzuela on July 11, Mayor Gatchalian in cooperation with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and VCCPA presents a musical play based on the hero’s life billed Nom de plume: Madlang Away. The play is based on the life, loves and struggles of Dr. Pio Valenzuela. Dr. Valenzuela was an ilustrado who joined the Katipunan and founded Kalayaan, the revolutionary movement’s official organ. The play features six original songs by award-winning composer Arnel de Pano. Playing the lead is Arnold Reyes who made waves in such theater productions as St. Louis Loves Dem Filipinos, Florante at Laura, Romeo and Juliet and ZsaZsa Zaturnnah.

"We are excited about this debut performance of the VCCPA. This is the first step in the realization of our vision to make Valenzuela City the seat of excellence in culture and the arts," says Mayor Gatchalian. "Valenzuelanos are creative and talented people. The VCCPA is a venue for artistic expression and cultural excellence," he ends.

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