Kris Ablan

Saramsam Cafe, Laoag City, July 7 (Tue), 6pm.  Kris has undergone a successful Lasik Eye Surgery but continues to wear his glasses because people have difficulty recognizing him sans the spectacles. Interview held while lone bodyguard waited outside.
Saramsam Cafe, Laoag City, July 7 (Tue), 6pm. Kris has undergone a successful Lasik Eye Surgery but continues to wear his glasses because people have difficulty recognizing him sans the spectacles. Interview held while lone bodyguard waited outside.

IT’S BEEN five weeks since I did an interview with the young man, but I have been dilly-dallying on writing about him.

    And it’s not because the congressional-son-cum-Sangguniang-Panlalawigan-member is uninteresting. In fact, Kris is any journalist’s ideal interviewee. He is brilliant, conversant, open, candid, reflexive, and, above all, sincere. He is also sensitive. You can talk to him for hours (in my case three) without ho-hum.

    But then you may say that I am an academic, and, being such, I can stand long conversations even with the nerd of nerds with the thickest spectacles ranting with nosebleed-inducing jargon. Maybe so, but not quite.

    I first met Kris when he ran as chair of the UP Diliman Student Council in 2004. “He is the son of Congressman Ablan,” said my friend, pointing at Kris who was then doing the “otso-otso” routine during a campaign activity in a student dormitory inside the campus. Surprisingly, Kris, then a virtually unknown at UP, won over Atom Araullo (now with ABS-CBN), standard-bearer of STAND-UP, the more popular political party.

    You would expect, dear karikna, that I voted for Kris. After all, he is our kailian, and Ilocanos are known to be a tight group. Nope, I voted for Atom, and for good reason. He was a brother in the struggle. A couple of times in the streets, I had locked arms with Atom to fight a regime Kris’ father so ardently supports.

    Three years after, I would meet Kris again in front of my house at Ablan Avenue, Laoag City. He was then campaigning for a seat in the provincial board. Warm and convivial he was, but, he did not, yet again, earn my vote.

    Roquito Ablan, Kris’ faher, is known to be a skillful politician, you would think that his son’s venture into local politics is part of the former’s political master plan. Barred for another reelection, the old Ablan could just be fielding his son as a dummy (like one mayor in the second district is perceived by many).

    “Not really,” says Kris, who explains that he, the youngest among nine siblings, is the only one drawn to law and politics. Thus, their family does not constitute a political dynasty, unlike other known clans in the country. Kris says his father never pressured him to take up law, but that he was happy, no doubt, when he followed his footsteps. He adds that when he was growing up, his dad was already “just an ordinary congressman,” no longer the force he was during the Marcos dictatorship.

    That Kris is the first district representative’s son is a double-edged sword. On one hand, having an institution for a father means the political infrastructure is laid out on a red carpet for him, which could prove helpful as Kris is now a hundred percent bent on running for the post his father will be vacating next year. On the other hand, a lot of people I know are not inclined to vote for Kris simply because he is his father’s son.

    Remember that Teteng Sales, a lightweight, almost beat the reelectionist congressman in 2007. In fact, Ablan’s win is even under protest as Sales challenges the veracity of poll results. The former Pagudpud mayor almost won not because he had sterling credentials, but simply because the people had grown tired and weary of the old Ablan. Many would say, “Ubingak pay lang ket Ablan idin, awan met mapaspasamak.” (It’s been Ablan since I was a child, but nothing is happening.)

    Kris agrees that his father is not much into doing landmark legislation but it is because he allows the younger ones to carry out that role. He further defends his father by saying, “It is not in the mold of an Ablan (he speaks of the name, fully cognizant of its prestige) to brag about his accomplishments.”

    But a colleague in media texted me this when he learned that I was going to write about the bokal, “Kris is in a bind. He’s sincere but he’s still the son of the prince of darkness. If only you know how much damage the father has and is doing to our Ilocos Norte.”    

    Methinks Roquito Ablan may, by all measures, be a traditional politician, but mainly because it was the game of his time. He served his province by playing politics in ways he saw fit, which include swaying loyalties from one power to the other, and just by simply being the typical congressman who savors receiving his share of the pork barrel fund, a fuel for corruption disguised as aid for countryside development. He may not have been a spectacular legislator, yes, but he was not terrible either. At 78, he will soon take a bow from politics, without getting himself and our province embroiled in any major controversy.

     But, Kris is his own man. In spite of (or is it because of?) his father, Kris consciously packages himself as politician of a new breed.

    He first got my approval when, last January, he released calendars that featured beautiful scenery here in Ilocos Norte. Kris thought well not to include his face in the calendar. He only had his name on a small corner. The print was so minuscule, most people would need a magnifying glass to read it.

    In his blog, window to his ruminant mind, Kris wrote, “The project was actually conceptualized many, many years ago when my dad came out with calendars with his face as the main picture (like all politicians with calendar giveaways). I thought to myself, ‘What if people didn’t want to look at your face every day?’ ‘What if they just wanted to see scenery?'” From then on, he got my attention.

    While opposing parties engaged in a media war at the height of the proposed Laoag mall controversy, Kris worked swiftly, bringing in Ivan Henares of the Heritage Conservation Society to drum up support in the fight to save a rare architectural beauty which the city government and the Diocese of Laoag wanted torn down in the name of profit. He would later sponsor a resolution imposing a moratorium on tearing down or renovating school properties at least fifty years of age, thus saving the majestic Laoag Central Elementary School.

    It is a breath of fresh air that Kris performs his duties fully cognizant that the power he bears is not a birthright, but a mandate emanating from a people he is duty-bound to serve. For instance, even if it’s not required by law, he prepared an annual accomplishment report which details his legislative accomplishments, and his disbursements of public funds for programs and projects. The moment he sat for the interview, he handed me a copy of the report, not unlike a student passing a course requirement to a professor.

    At one point during the interview, Kris was misty-eyed (or so it appeared to me). The struggle he faces is real, and I could feel it. He has to win an election, but our rotten and immature political system makes it very hard for decent people to claim victory without sacrificing ideals, without getting desensitized.

   Still, he is unafraid to make decisions his jaded colleagues consider as political suicide. Also, Kris refuses to engage in tried-but-tired political propaganda, unlike his potential opponent who has cluttered public spaces with “Happy Graduation,” “Happy Fiesta,” and other happy greetings. Likewise, he refuses to have his name bannered prominently in any project, big or small.     The moment I saw some of my students and colleagues at the state university (including fab Ianree Raquel) silently shed tears while the bespectacled young man, in a well-attended forum, detailed his sojourn as a young politician crying for reform, I knew, Kris Ablan is an antidote to politics-as-usual.

   But, while showing qualities that run counter from those of his father, he may eventually have to take advantage of the perks of being an incumbent’s son. That is why he has been seen lately in inauguration and turnover ceremonies of his father’s projects funded by the pork barrel fund. “Unfair!,” cry his critics, but I am willing to blink on this issue. Kris can be a noble congressman, but first he has to win.

    There are many other interesting things Kris told me “off the record,” but I assure you, dear karikna, that they are all good, and they but heightened my respect for the young man.

    Yes, I dilly-dallied on writing about him not because he is uninteresting, but only because I did not want to be so hasty in saying: Let’s support Kris, in spite of, not because of, his father. If you are a decent, mature, forward-looking citizen, there is no way you cannot like him.

    Unless he gets desensitized too soon, Michel Kristian R. Ablan, grandson of a Japanese resistance hero, may yet be his family’s biggest gift to the nation.

Author: Herdy La. Yumul

A hesitant academic pimp, writer

23 thoughts on “Kris Ablan”

  1. i support KRIS ABLAN FOR CONGRESSMAN! thank you for this Mr. Yumul… i admire Mr. Ablan more… the part that struck me most is when you mentioned your students and colleagues silently shed tears…

  2. i really hope that Kris Ablan will be the next Congressman of the 1st District of Ilocos Norte because i know that he can do many good things for the province…

    i am just worried or in angst, are the Ilocano Voters ready for something new like Kris Ablan… i mean, i know that the Ilocanos clamor for change but do you think apo Yumul that the Ilocanos are ready to step forward and leave the stereotypical political setup?

    1. It can be done, but not if Kris is alone. That’s is why he have to actively take part in pushing for this new, virtuous brand of politics. It had been done in Isabela and in Pampanga, why not here?

  3. Herdy… I’ll take your words on Kris since i consider u as a young, brilliant and untainted journalist

    I am happy to know another young man with a new breed of ideas in Ilocos political arena.

    1. Thank you, don. Let’s help him carry on his work as a good politician. As a journalist, I’ll throw in the blows once in a while, when needed, to keep him on track. Every citizen should do his/her part, too. One virtue of Kris is that he listens to what everyone has to say.

  4. Excellent Virtue!!!

    I was suppose to say,, since u have the gut to present Kris to ur readers, u are accountable to shake and wake him in case he will be mislead by ideals of typical personalities in the arena he wants to get into.

  5. i think the candidacy of Teteng Sales for the 1st congressional district is not for the service of the Ilocano people but instead for his self interests… he lost for two consecutive elections already… the “real” voters have spoken… they don’t want him to represent them in the house of representatives! Let us help the new breed of leaders, with the like of Kris Ablan… its going to be hard for him…

  6. For me, Ithink Kris Ablan who will run for the position as a congressman like his father. I think Kris will like his father just like some people said “Ubingak pay lang ket Ablan idin, awan met mapaspasamak” which it is true. So i think we need a changes.

    1. Should we punish Kris or deprive him of the chance to serve us simply because of his father? While you cannot choose your father (and family), you can decide what type of person you will become.

  7. kris will always have my support.since i do not vote in the philippines i will support him in his projects. through herdy….it will be a joint venture

  8. Common guyz aren’t you tired of the ABLANS???? Ano mga projects nya sangkapirgis nga dap ayan nagan na lang ti dakkel Project of ABLAN… agpayso ubingak pay ablan idin awan met nga talaga napasamak nga panagdur as ti distrito….

  9. I should just keep myself on the sideline and watch the theatrics of local politics play its course in our district but there has to be other options for the local electorates to select. This is kinda the same dish being served on the dining table on a three-square-meal a day…nakakaimpatsu.

    My recollection of the local politics in our district was back when I was first grade at Gabaldon Elem and 2nd and 3rd grade in Laoag Central ES, where local stalwarts politicians in the name of Raquizas, Siazons, Ablans, Lady Keon and others reverbs and echoes in the four corners of the district…I do not like to post the year ‘coz it divulge how senior I am in our discussion…some of these political dynasty faded away and some are still going like a “duracel” battery- beating the drum over and over again of the same note and beat counts. The issue here is money talks in a high stake local elections which the locals end up viewing the same menu over and over again. The congressional race is a tight race for the “trapos” in our district and I can not determine who is deserving reps for the locals, but I would like to echo the concerns of the previous poster that folks in this district deserves a better deal for representation in congress.

    1. Kris is a sincere, brilliant, and astute young politician who happens to be the son of the greatest Ilocano trapo of them all. I think he is independent minded, but the challenge in his campaign is to show precisely that he is his own man while using his his father’s political infrastructure to clinch a win. His surname Ablan is both an asset and a liability. I should agree that people are tired of the surname.

      Sir William S., money talks, but we hope against hope that conscience votes will emerge. It has happened in Pampanga and Isabela, where alternative candidates won top posts. It can happen here, too.

  10. That is a good trait of you for never afraid to speak of what is in your mind for the good of the district. A true classy Ilocano journalist who always projects that there is always a silver lining behind the clouds, that is hope for the local folks. I should also remind you that there is just a hairline separation between brilliancy and insanity which happened to few political figures in the world. I would give Kris the “benefit-of-the-doubt” because of your respectable strong conviction founded on previous association of him.

    I do not think that the local folks in our district are smart as those in Pampanga or Isabela. I dare the locals to prove something otherwise. The proof is on the pudding and I will be monitoring the election as it comes closer to the finish line.

    FYI, I also know a brilliant person from Ilocos who has not been given a final resting place to this date =)

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