Crash course for new legislators

FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - July 2, 2013 - 12:00am

I met some of the neophyte  legislators attending a “crash” course to familiarize them with the work awaiting  them in  the House of Representatives.  Thirty-two  of the 67 newly elected congressmen/congresswomen attended the first of  two one-week executive courses sponsored by the House and the National College of Public Administration and Governance of the University of the Philippines.

At a dinner held at the UP Executive House in Diliman, Quezon City, UP president Fred Pascual spoke about the university’s record as king maker, producing as it has, four presidents of the Philippine Republic,  outstanding senators and national artists, and  100 percent passers of government exams.

Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte, who proudly said Diliman is  his district,  asked them to do their homework, to make their constituents and country proud. Someone added, “Attend the plenary sessions!”

The Speaker said, “We’re not just members of Congress. We are part of a big machinery that is called upon to deliver answers to great challenges. Each one of us  must give our best, and initiatives — pagkukusa — which is my  favorite word. Our challenge is for the  16th Congress to be better than  past congresses.”

After dinner, Speaker Belmonte said he was sure the new batch of House Representaties  will do a good job. “They’re well prepared,” he quipped.

I had a chat with some of them. A most publicized personality is Leni Robredo, who decided to run for Congress weeks after her husband, Jesse  Robredo,  Secretary of the Department of Interior  and Local Government, died in a plane crash.

The smart and comely lawyer said  she feels privileged to be in the position to continue her  husband’s dreams of pushing for good governance,  transparency and full disclosure of  government expenditures.

Marie Ann Pernes of Siquijor was widowed just a day before the May 13 election, when her husband, Dr. Jay Pernes, had a cardiac arrest.

A practicing dentist, she never thought of running for public office, but immediately after Jay passed away, she informed the local Comelec office she was running  Â­â€” “to work for things Jay wanted to accomplish in the province,” and she won by a landslide.  â€œHe was charismatic, he was very friendly, that’s why people loved him,” said Anne Marie, 49, of  her husband, who ran as a Liberal Party candidate. She will pursue Jay’s programs to improve health services and employment opportunities  in the island province.

I am confident that Malou Acosta of Bukidnon will do much for women’s issues, she having been active with ReproCen, a women’s advocacy organization. Her agenda will focus on health care, education and environment.  She has a BS in psychology from the UP and a master’s in sociology from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She is not new to politics,  having been exposed to the programs of her mother, Coring Olivar Acosta, who served  for 11 years as congresswoman,  and mayor of Manolo Fortich for several years. Malou ran for a congressional seat in 2007, but did not make it. I’m glad she’s in the 16th Congress, as we need legislators who are passionately concerned about gender equality.     

One can be sure of good performance by neophyte Regina Reyes Mandanas of Marinduque. Sounding and looking smart,  she is the wife of Congressman  Hermilando I. Mandanas of the 2nd district of Batangas who was  one of the congressmen who made news when he refused to sign a resolution calling for the impeachment of then Chief Justice Renato Corona. Regina is a  daughter of  Carmencita Ongsiako Reyes, who has served as assemblywoman, congresswoman and governor of Marinduque, and Edmundo Reyes  Sr.,  former commissioner  of the Bureau of Immigration.

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Possibly the most popular of  outstanding Gingoognons is Jed Balsamo, who is making waves in the national musical landscape. The latest we hear about Jed is that his music, along with the well-known Ryan Cabangon, is being adapted by Tanghalang Pilipino associate artistic director Tuxqs Rutaquio in the eagerly expected performance of the musical  â€œSandosenang Sapatos”  to be held at the Tanghalang Huseng Batute,  the Cultural center of the Philippines July 13-21.

“Sandosenang Sapatos” opens the 27th season (2013-2014) season of Tanghalang Pilipino, resident theater company of the CCP.

The musical is about a shoemaker who dreams of having a ballerina daughter but  ironically ends up with a crippled daughter. In the cast are members of the Actors Company, TP’s resident pool of actors. JonathanTadioan  plays the father, May Bayot, the mother, and Trixie Esteban is Susie, the crippled daughter. TP board member Tessa Prieto-Esteban plays a guest role as Sea Princess.

The musical project was commissioned by the Philippine Board on Books for Young People in cooperation with CCP as part of the celebration of the 28th National Children’s Book Day in July.  National Children’s Book Day is celebrated every third week of July to commemorate the anniversary of the publication of Jose Rizal’s “The Monkey and the Turtle.”

Jed learned to play the piano from his mother, Jojie Caballero Balsamo. In high school at the Christ the King Academy in Gingoog (where I also come from), he created stage  projects. Then he graduated to  creating stage adaptations of National Artist for Theater Rolando Tinio’s “May Katwiran ang Katwiran,” and Jay Rey Alovera’s “Damaso.”

He continued to create works while studying composition and piano at St. Scholastica’s College in Manila where he graduated cum laude. His professional career began  as a keyboardist for the Manila and Asia (Hong Kong and Singapore) tour of “Miss Saigon” and as  piano arranger for TP’s “Himala The Musical.” He also did compositions for choirs and orchestras.

Jed received a 2011 PGB nomination for his musical composition of “Crisostomo Ibarra” and won the 2012 Gawad Buhay! for Outstanding Musical Direction for his work, together with Ryan Caybay’s in BP’s “Rama, Hari.”

Jed, who  is also musical director of “Sandosenang Sapatos,” has done a number of children’s musicals. He did TP’s “Mulan” in 2007 and “Dugtongdugtong na Sumbong (Ang Hukuman ni Sinukuan)” in 2012.

Jed is currently a faculty member at Centro Escolar University Conservatory of Music, resident pianist of Mandaluyong Children’s choir, resident music director of Ballet Philippines (since 2012), an active member of Asian Composers’ League Philippines as well as a Red Card member of the Philippine Choral Directors Association. He is an ExeCon music committee member of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

To date, he is still the youngest to have been invited for a 2nd consecutive term as chairman for the 2012 NAMCYA Piano Category A2. He is also part of Kompositor which has published three books of original choral music and is set to expand with the inclusion of instrumental music.

 Jed has also completed “Ándar” for the 2013 NAMCYA Violin Category A2 to commemorate National Artist for Music Lucio San Pedro’s birth centennial (Mr. San Pedro  was one of his composition teachers). He just finished writing a short piece for orchestra and dancers which is set to premiere on August 12.

Now you know why Jed Balsamo is the most talented of Gingoog’s Outstanding sons.

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