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Mayors Bayani and Marides Fernando – the dynamic couple who transformed Marikina

A POINT OF AWARENESS - Preciosa S. Soliven - The Philippine Star

With the UNDP (United Nation Development Program) as lead agency of the United Nations system the “country best practice” project for local governance was established. Due to the Sept. 11, 2001 event in New York, the powerful donor countries and World Bank agencies were more cautious in giving aid unless the beneficiaries have proven themselves as competent and trustworthy. Let us see why they made an exception to Marikina when both Bayani Fernando and wife Marides Carlos Fernando succeeded each other as Marikina mayor from 1992 to 2010, almost two decades of governance. Mayor Del de Guzman and Mayor Marcelino Teodoro succeeded Mayor Marides, the latter being the incumbent mayor now.

The Marikina glasscity hall and thecity court house

What can be more transparent than a see-through glass paneled office of a city hall? What can make the people respect the law than the city courts right across the city hall with the prison cells right above the building? A maximum of 400 inmates can be held at one time.

As one steps into the ground floor of the Marikina City Hall, one would be able to see all city hall personnel in their glass-paneled offices. The employees wear neat white and dark blue uniform with bars on their shoulders stamped with the “shoe industry” seal of Marikina. They look like the military naval base personnel. All offices including the City Assessor, Health Officer, Social Welfare, City Engineering General Services, City Budget Offices, Legal Services and City Planning have clear signages over their doors.

In 2002, our team of 15 school administrative, finance and academic heads from O.B. Montessori Center Greenhills headquarters as well as our school campus coordinators of Angeles, Pampanga, Las Piñas and Sta. Ana were given the Lakbay Aral program by Tom Aguilar, then the city planning officer. We took along our Student Council officers who came in their smart cadet officers’ uniform.

We saw the “early bird” Mariqueños transacting business seated comfortably in the foyer with a city hall personnel listing names and card numbers. After a 30-minute conference with Mr. Aguilar on city management held in the boardroom, the people we saw earlier had already gone having been served efficiently.

What mayorsusually don’t tell

I took along then North Greenhills Association president Atty. Don Alviar and corporate secretary Julie Maningat. In the past 47 years, my family has lived in Greenhills. From the time my husband, Max became the founding president in 1972, the San Juan mayors and the barangay captains have never made us aware of the city revenue due our barangay. “Thirty percent of the Internal Revenue Allotment is due a barangay. That is automatically given,” Mayor Marides said in a matter of fact tone.

People’s day with Mayor Marides Fernando

Although 30 people filled up the waiting room, I confidently checked with the receptionist when I could see the mayor with the People Asia assistant editor and photographer. “I am sorry, Ma’am but you’ll have wait. I am afraid she may not be able to spare time because she is due to speak at the Quezon Sports Club for the Women’s Week celebration.” Before I could get upset, the city information officer, Millette Lorenzo assured me that the mayor would make time for the interview. Before I knew it, all the 30 visitors dwindled fast in number. I requested to listen to the last groups and have the mayor photographed in action.

The organizers of the Riverbank Runners’ Association asked her for support of prizes and a coach. Right away she assured them, “I can give you trophies, medals, Milo drinks, bottled water…” They require about cash prizes to which she readily replied, “That’s your part as organizers. I can give you a list of sponsors you can write to, but I am sorry, I can’t write them myself. As for the training coach we can send you one from our Sports Center Runners’ Club which has 300 member.”

The last two callers were Ateneo University students inquiring about the Marikina river anti-pollution program and the Marikina Settlement Office (MSO) from its chief Boy Ponce. It took almost all of the three terms of former Mayor Bayani Fernando to relocate 10,000 squatters along the Marikina riverbanks. The MSO has been helping then to build their communities by giving P300,000 in goods, never cash for constructing multi-purpose assembly office and basketball court. Mayor Marides did her HRM graduate studies in Cornell University, NY.

Engineer BF Fernando, ‘Bayani’ ng Marikina

In her State of the City address Mayor Marides proudly referred to her husband “Bayani” as the foundation builder of Marikina City who has shaped up the city’s landscape. I arranged to meet both of them for a second session of interview for People Asia on a more leisure-paced day, Saturday. The meeting place was at the riverside at the ‘Nothing New’ restaurant, one of seven food outlets that former Mayor Bayani ‘BF’ Fernando developed from old Utex Mills. This was once the largest textile mill in Asia.

With a red and black steam train, hauled from Pasudeco sugar hacienda, as the most attractive tourist landmark of the Riverbank Park, BF showed me the turn of the century-style concert hall, the STUDIO, which he filled with catwalks, self-elevating stage and automatic window curtains. Next to it is the BOILER Disco or Music KTV Mill, where he cut the old giant boiler into two, one part became the stage for live bands and the other part became the bar. The gallery seats were over the whole length of another boiler, about seven meters long – excellent taste in design. The other eateries he made are PANADERIA, SINIGANG AT SINAING and LA OYA, named after a favorite Marikina beef stew with saging na saba.

Today, BF (as Bayani Fernando is usually addressed by city hall personnel) after three dynamic terms of transforming Marikina, has resumed the chairmanship of the BF Corp., the builder of Philippines’ tallest structures. A mechanical engineer by profession, his innovative design in recycling what others would call junk made me understand why he was able to resurrect the life of old Marikina. A toast to the vigorous couple Engineer Bayani Fernando and his wife Marides! May their tribe increase!

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