A public servant named ‘Bayani’

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva - The Philippine Star

Call it trite, but the late parents of Bayani “BF” Fernando really named their son in Tagalog word that means a “hero.” His initials should actually be “BFF” because his late mother was Remedios Flores. But BF became not just a household name but as the more popular brand name of a “hands-on” public servant.

To his beloved wife though, she lovingly calls him “Bayan.”

“Bayan,” in the English language means country. To BF’s heart, mind, and in deeds, he dearly loved his country.

Such endearing name as “Bayan” is much closer to BF’s heart. In fact, instead of shaking hands to acknowledge people, BF raises and puts his right hand pointing to his heart, with bowed head for sincerity gesture. Such hand and head gestures to him are more meaningful. And much safer, especially at preventing transmission of infectious virus through skin-to-skin contact, he added and would sheepishly laugh.

True to this belief, BF initiated a bill in Congress seeking to implement the hand and head gesture to become the official Filipino way to greet and welcome people.

Unfortunately, it did not pass muster in the previous Congress during his two consecutive terms at the House of Representatives from 2016 to 2022.

But to BF’s credits, the Department of Tourism has adopted the hand and head gesture to all personnel of the hotels, resorts, and other major tourism establishments all over the Philippines.

BF was born in San Juan del Monte, Rizal (now a part of Metro Manila). He finished his secondary education at the Marikina School of Arts and Trades (now Marikina Science High School). He completed college with a degree in Mechanical Engineering at the Mapúa Institute of Technology.

Following the tradition of his parents, BF named their only child, daughter Tala, or the Tagalog word for star. She is married and has three sons with John Paul L. Ang, the eldest son of San Miguel Corp. president and chief executive officer Ramon Ang.

After college graduation, he put up his own construction company carrying his name, BF Corporation in the late 1960s. For more than four decades now, BF still continues involvement in construction projects that took him all over the country and abroad. He proudly pointed as his trophy projects the Rufino Pacific Tower in Makati City and Edsa Shangri-La, Manila along Ortigas Avenue in Mandaluyong City.

BF followed the footsteps in the public service of his late father Gil who was the third Mayor to serve in Marikina.

BF served as the Mayor of Marikina for three consecutive terms from 1992 to 2001. By the time he stepped down from office, BF has been able to transform Marikina into a model bustling city in Metro Manila.

Grateful Marikenos elected his wife, Ma. Lourdes “Marides” Carlos-Fernando, to succeed BF as Mayor of Marikina City and served from 2001 to 2010.

BF rose to the national scene as a Cabinet official all the way to Congress. Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo recruited BF to join her Cabinet to become the chairman of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) where he served from June 2002 to November 2009.

It was his long stint at the MMDA that he introduced traffic engineering interventions to solve the gridlocks in Metro Manila. As the MMDA chief, he paved the construction of pedestrian overpasses at road intersections. Called footbridges, BF had them all painted in color pink, including the makeshift urinals for men along the streets.

He also worked out U-Turn slots in major busy roads to ease traffic jams in large intersecting roads. He at times personally led the MMDA operations that cleared illegally built structures on sidewalks. He battled to win the hearts and minds of organized urban poor groups while MMDA removed people living in shanties along esteros and relocated them to safer grounds. At one time, he was dubbed “Adolf Hitler” by militant leftists groups for alleged anti-poor activities of the MMDA. Despite stiff resistance from the bleeding hearts, BF stood for what is right and legal.

But many of his sound policies and solid structures can be still seen today. Subsequent MMDA chairmen continued many of BF’s contributions, particularly the construction of footbridges.

While concurrently serving as MMDA chairman, Mrs. Arroyo designated BF to briefly served as Secretary of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) from January 15 until April 15, 2003. While in the Cabinet, the triumvirate of karaoke-loving Cabinet officials led by him, the late National Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes, and Interior and Local Government Secretary Jose Lina formed their own version of the internationally famous opera singers “Three Tenors.” Calling themselves as “Three Terrors,” BF, Lina and Reyes even had fund-raising concerts, the proceeds of which went to benefit police, military and MMDA personnel who died or got injured in the line of duty.

But fate did not allow BF to serve in higher office. BF run but lost as vice presidential runningmate of ex-Senator Richard “Dick” Gordon in the May 2010 elections. For a short while BF took a respite from politics. He later run and won as Congressman at the first district of Marikina City. He again run but lost in his comeback bid as Mayor of Marikina in the May 2022 elections. The results of which were still being contested by BF.

Out of politics, BF was one of our Tuesday Club members. On his 77th birthday (which coincidentally fell on a Tuesday) last July 25 this year, BF hosted our weekly breakfast talk shop group at The Heat Restaurant in EDSA Shangrila.

Alas, our country lost a hero in BF. He died last Friday due to severe head injury/trauma. His wife called it as “freak accident” when he slipped and went through the polycarbonate rooftop of their house in Marikina City. Until the last hours of his life, BF was still hands-on on a job he wanted done right.

BF lies in state at the Queen of Angels Chapel at the Riverbanks Center in Marikina City. He will be buried this Wednesday at the Loyola Memorial Park Marikina.

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