Americas Columns

AMERICA IN MY HEART: Governors of California and Pangasinan: Miles apart but their fate are entwined

SAN FRANCISCO – There are two able governors who I know, respect and admire. They are California Governor Gavin Christopher M. Newsom and the governor of my home province Pangasinan, Ramon V. Guico III.

The two governors are both young (Newsom is 55, Guico is 48), dynamic and good looking, assets which could have helped catapult them to their powerful positions.  

In fact, in the May 9, 2022 gubernatorial campaign in Pangasinan, Guico, then Congressman of the fifth district of the province which included Binalonan, my hometown and that of Carlos Bulosan and the governor, was dubbed by the media as “Mr. Guwapo” as he was pitted against then incumbent Governor Amado Espino II, known to many Pangasinenses as “Pogi.” Thus, the race was known as the battle of “Guwapo versus Pogi.”

Mr. Guwapo made history in that election after he roundly defeated Mr. Pogi in his first ever gubernatorial fight.

In an election three years before, Mr. Guwapo (Guico) was not given a yeoman’s chance to win by political pundits being a neophyte pitted against Rep. Amado T. Espino Jr., a seasoned politician, who had served as Pangasinan governor for three terms and congressman for several terms. Besides, according to the pundits, Guico, then a mayor, had only a small town, Binalonan, as his bailiwick, while Espino had the historic town of Bautista where the original National Anthem was composed and all other towns which he had served as governor for three terms and congressman for three years.

But many saw the promising potentials of the young Guico. He is a licensed pilot, founded the first airline and first private municipal airport in Pangasinan and the Philippines, the Binalonan Airfield, complete with modern hangar for its planes and helicopters, spic and span terminals for arrival and departing passengers. Morever, he also founded an aviation, tourism and technological college (WCC Aeronautical and Technological College), another first for Binalonan and Pangasinan, which have been training would-be pilots, aviation mechanics, flight attendants and stewardesses and other airline crews. Earlier on, then Mayor Guico spearheaded the establishment of the town’s local university, the University of Eastern Pangasinan (UEP), as he moved to regain the town’s title as Center of Education or University Town in Eastern Pangasinan. He and his father, now incumbent Congressman Ramon N. Guico Jr., also initiated the opening of the first economic zone in the province in Binalonan, besides the Binalonan airport.

The young Guico demolished then incumbent Congressman Amado T. Espino Jr., father of Mr. Pogi and former three-time governor, in the fifth district, in the 2019 election, earning for him the sobriquet “giant killer of Pangasinan.”

In the 2022 gubernatorial elections, Mr. Guwapo, amassing 885,272 votes, trounced Mr. Pogi who got 697,465 votes or a difference of 187,807 votes. Mr. Guwapo’s victory in 2022 re-affirmed his monicker as Pangasinan’s giant killer.

While their looks have made people, especially women, spellbound, their accomplishments in the offices they have and had occupied over the years had solidified their support from the ordinary folk and the various sectors of the community. 

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California Governor Gavin Christopher M. Newsom and Pangasinan Governor Ramon V. Guico III  have not actually crossed path as they are thousands of miles apart, separated by the vast Pacific Ocean.

But one institution is their strong link to a common goal – service to the people and good governance. That institution is the University of the City of Manila, more popularly known by its Filipino name Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM), one of the top universities of the Philippines today.

The two governors are proud recipients of the degree of Doctor of Public Management (DPM) from the prestigious university both awarded under Dr. Benjamin G. Tayabas, then PLM President.

As a Member of the Board of Regents of the Pamantasan, I had a personal hand in the conferment of the doctorate degrees on both Governor Newsom and Governor Guico a couple of years apart at the historic grounds of the Pamantasan (the trial of Dr. Jose Rizal was held at the Cuarteles de Espana which stood here, the Philippines’ first Royal and Pontifical University (older than the University of Sto. Tomas), the Universidad de San Ignacio or Colegio San Ignacio, once stood here).

During the conferment of the Honorary Doctorate on Governor Newsom which was attended also by then Manila Mayor Jose L. Atienza Jr., and retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Justo P. Torres, Jr., Chairman of the PLM Board of Regents, I was tasked to read the “Citation” for Newsom, describing him as “Dynamic Leader with Innovative and Enterprising Ideas on Public Governance, Outstanding City Mayor, and Exemplary Public Servant.”

The “Citation” states:

“The nucleus of the political commitment of Mr. Gavin Newsom as Mayor of the City and County of San Francisco centers on the use of ideas, innovations and practical solutions to improve the quality of life for all his constituents in San Francisco. The driving force of his administration is on utilizing the greatest asset of the City – the diversity and talents of its people. His unwavering endeavor to provide the best quality of public service to his constituents provides a mark of distinction for Mr. Newsom to be an excellent model for the public servants and the youth.

“With keeping the pride of the legacy of the old San Francisco and meeting the challenges of modern times on his agenda, Mr. Newsom takes on a leadership principle that is dynamic and innovative, one that is based on accountability. He believes that all heads of the local government and every citizen of San Francisco should take responsibility in contributing to the progress of the city. He envisions San Francisco to be a city that places highest regard for freedom – to grow, to speak, to live and to love without the fear, hypocrisy and bigotry that corrupt much of the world.

“Under the current headship of the city, Mayor Newsom confronts San Francisco’s utmost challenge of homelessness with the most comprehensive housing policy reforms ever produced in a generation. He upholds that for a government to be effective and responsive, it must be receptive to developmental and innovative ideas. He maintains an aspiration for the city to continue being a beacon of hope that will serve the diverse needs of its citizens.

“As a community leader with dynamism and novelty, Mayor Newsom places confidence in the youth sector as active members for social progress. He encourages the young people to set in motion the aspirations that will make San Francisco a city of freedom, tolerance, creativity and diversity.

“In demonstration of his genuine concern for the community and the earnest aspiration to provide a leadership of solutions through social transformationa that is committed to serving the diverse cultural communities of San Francisco, Mayor Newsom will continue to be a lodestar in effective public service.

“In view thereof, in recognition of his exemplary contributions to the progress of the City and County of San Francisco, his excellent performance, and outstanding leadership, the Board of Regents, through its Resolution, hereby confers upon Mr. Gavin Newsom the degree of Doctor of Public Management, Honoris Causa, on the 28th day of November, in the year of our Lord, two thousand and six, in Manila, Philippines.”

Mayor Newsom went on to lead the City and County of San Francisco for eight years from 2003 to 2011 and soared to greater heights as he was elected Lieutenant Governor of California in 2010 and was re-elected to the post in 2014. Owing to his accomplishments, Newsom was elected to the highest post in the state, that of Governor, in 2018, and reelected in 2022 following an unsuccessful bid to oust him by recall in 2021.

Governor Guico, the 31st chief executive of Pangasinan, worked and earned his Doctor of Public Management a year before Governor Newsom got his DPM. He presented and defended successfully an excellent thesis on a trailblazing plan to boost what he termed as a still sleepy aviation industry but with big potentials. This led him and family to put up the country’s first privately owned municipal airport, the Binalonan Airfield, complete with runway, hangar, terminals and other facilities. With the support of then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who pushed the government’s Aeronautical Highway of the North, the visionary Guico launched the WCC Aviation Inc. with its own airplanes and helicopters which could be rented out on courier and special trips , and which operated for some time the “Sky Pasada” airline with hub at Binalonan Airport that serves the Northern Luzon provinces of Batanes, Cagayan and Isabela and Baguio City, with plans to expand to Boracay and Puerto Princesa, El Nido and Coron, Palawan. He also put up the WCC Aviation and Technological College and the WCC Flight Attendant School that trains pilots, aviation mechanics and workers, and other airline and tourism-oriented workers.

To be Continued

(Editor’s Note: The writer is a book author, professor and journalist in the Philippines and United States, having been president of the National Press Club during which he linked up with the National Press Club in Washington D.C. and launched NPC chapters in US. He served as a member of the Board of Regents of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila for two six-year terms, Commissioner of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts and Chairman of the Board of Directors, Philippine Postal Corporation, among others. He is the editor in chief of Philippine News Today.)