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Tayo na sa Antipolo

FUNFARE - Ricky Lo - The Philippine Star
Tayo na sa Antipolo
Antipolo City Mayor Andrea 'Andeng' Bautista-Ynares and husband, former Antipolo Mayor Junjun Ynares, with their daughters Cassandra Danielle and Rebecca Victoria
STAR / File

Sadly, the call (Tayo na sa Antipolo) to make the annual trek to what is popularly known as the Pilgrimage City was unheeded because of the pandemic. The trek is usually kicked off on May 1 or on Good Friday from the Quiapo Church to the Antipolo Cathedral where enshrined is Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage (Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buen Viaje), the 17th century wooden image of Virgin Mary.

“We have to observe the protocols,” said Antipolo City Mayor Andrea “Andeng” Bautista-Ynares.

The trek is one of the many attractions of what is also known as the City in the Sky (population: 800,000, one of the seven most populated cities) which is the home of some showbiz stars including Pokwang, Paolo Ballesteros, John Lloyd Cruz (currently living in Cebu), Ruru Madrid (whose family owns a vacation house), Rocco Nacino (about to move to his dream house) and the late Fernando Poe Jr. (whose vacation house on a hill overlooking Metro Manila and surrounding places has become a landmark).

The rehabilitated Hinulugang Taktak (with an elevator).

“Gradually,” added Andeng, “with the easing of restrictions, we are letting tourists in but in limited numbers.”

The city hasn’t achieved zero point but, “by God’s grace, the number of positive cases has been contained.”

The city government has been training K9 German Shepherds in sniffing those “positive” through the masks they’re wearing, the clothes and the saliva.

17th-century image of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage.

“We do it with the consent of those being tested,” explained Andeng. “In fact, several countries have been using K9 dogs including the US, France, Greece, Iran, Germany, Finland and others. The training is in coordination with the city government and the Universal K9 Training & Services, Inc.”

Another tourist project Andeng is concentrating on is the rehabilitation of the Hinulugang Taktak, a protected area designated a national park by virtue of Republic Act No. 6964 in 1990, managed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Rizal Provincial Government, and declared a “protected landscape” in accordance with Proclamation No. 412 in 2009. The project was among the priorities of Andeng’s husband, Casimiro “Junjun” Ynares III, whom she succeeded as mayor. Junjun served first as Rizal governor (2007 to 2013) and then city mayor (2013 to 2019). His mom, Rebecca Ynares, is the province’s incumbent governor.

Antipolo Cathedral

“Hinulugang Taktak is very clean now. It is senior-citizen friendly; it has an elevator. My dream was to bring my dad (the late Sen. Ramon Revilla Sr.) to the park. Seniors have a soft spot in my heart because you know naman how close I am to my dad. Unfortunately, he passed away (last June) kaya hindi na umabot.

The Pinto Art Museum in the Grand Heights, a subdivision, owned and managed by Dr. Joven Cuanang, is also the city’s main attraction. Built on a sprawling lot, Pinto is an exhibition space and contemporary museum that exhibits the art collection of Dr. Joven, a foremost neurologist and patron of the arts. Also on display are works of other artists.

Scenes from the Pinto Art Museum, owned and managed by Dr. Joven Cuanang.

My friends Danny Dolor (STAR Remember When? columnist) and Dr. Danny David visited Pinto early last year. Dr. Joven took us on a quick tour of the place which has a chapel, a pool, wide gardens full of varied flowers and plants, an art gallery, one wall of which is covered by a huge mural, a playground and a coffee shop that, according to Danny, “served the most delicious halo-halo” he has ever tasted.

One of Antipolo's main attractions.

Like Quezon City’s Joy Belmonte, Andeng is a first-time mayor, and a woman at that, who began her term battling with an invisible enemy.

“My baptism of fire,” was how Andeng called it. “Although we did not foresee the pandemic, we tried our best to fight it. We are blessed to have good soldiers, good department heads. We are all working together. We are thankful that the businessmen are helping us. They let us use their hotels as quarantine facilities and as halfway houses for frontliners, disinfected regularly. I want to thank them; they know who they are. The Bayanihan spirit is alive in our city.”

Like her siblings (led by Sen. Bong Revilla), Andeng could have continued in showbiz after playing a dual role in Dang Dong (1979) but she pursued a different path.

“Being a mayor is destiny,” she said. “Hindi ko inambisyon ‘yan.”

Like (now Batangas Rep.) Vilma Santos who was guided on her first term as Lipa City mayor by her husband, Sen. Ralph Recto, Andeng has Junjun as mentor, aside from Bong and sister-in-law Lani Mercado (Bacoor City mayor) and other relatives (Rep. Strike Revilla and Cavite Vice Gov. Jolo Revilla, among them) as go-to for advice.

“I was asked if I needed somebody who would teach me,” shared Andeng, “but I said, ‘Sino pa ba ang mas magaling na mentor kaysa husband ko?’”

She’s aware of the fact that people may be watching how she will fare as mayor and Andeng said she’s soldiering on.

Your Funfarer, STAR columnist Danny Dolor and Dr. Danny David), which is one of Antipolo's main attractions.

“Noong araw, ang babae housewife lang. But times have changed. Actually, being a housewife is a harder task than being a career woman. I’m proud of being in the league of women in public service. Us women give our job the maternal touch.”

Among those who have exhibited their works at Pinto is Ormoc City Mayor Richard Gomez with Ormoc Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez.

Incidentally, Andeng and Junjun are celebrating their 15th wedding anniversary today with their daughters Cassandra Danielle and Rebecca Victoria.

“With Junjun and my daughters behind me,” she mused, “how can I fail.”

(E-mail reactions at [email protected]. For more updates, photos and videos, visit www.philstar.com/funfare or follow me on Instagram @therealrickylo.)

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