I received a text message from someone thanking me for an article I wrote the other week. It read, “Herdy, my son showed me your post, ‘Senator Fariñas.’ I am humbled by your kind words. Thank you so much! All in God’s time!!”
I did not know how to respond to the message. Should I have said, ‘You’re welcome, sir’? But I was only expressing my thoughts, speaking out loud about the best senator today we should have. So I put off sending a reply, and then I got busy with a lot of things, including the opening of classes and the reprinting of The He(a)rd Mentality which is now sold out in bookstores.
But the other day I got a call from a Capitol staff, asking me if they got my number right. The congressman wanted to confirm, I was told. Then I received another call from the politician’s son, checking if I received his dad’s message. Shortly after, the congressman sent another message of thanks, to which I finally decided to reply: “My pleasure, sir. Will you kindly inform us when your schedule is not so tight so we local writers and bloggers can host dinner for you soon?” It was three in the afternoon. He replied right away, inviting us for dinner that very night, and insisting that he hosts it. He said he’d invite our colleagues from radio as well, lest he be “accused of favoritism.”
So we found ourselves at the Golden Cow Restaurant in Laoag (original location was at their house in Brgy. Barit, but there was a paint job going on) for a night of spirited storytelling and sharing of insights by arguably one of the most revered politicians in the country today: Congressman Rodolfo “Rudy” Castro Fariñas, he of the Corona impeachment fame.
Apparently, it was the first time Fariñas was talking to the local media regarding his experience in the successful removal of the chief justice from office. There were, dear karikna a lot of amusing “off the record” tidbits I could not share with you, but based on them, I could surmise the following:
Fariñas has gained the respect and admiration of people across political colors, social classes, and religion. As the “bazooka” of the prosecution team nominally headed by Neil Tupaz the certified weakling, Fariñas is looked up to, even by Malacañang. In the penultimate moments of the impeachment trial, he was able to communicate to the masses while also winning the approval of legal eagles. No wonder Kris Aquino, who did a TV shoot in Ilocos recently, referred to him on-air as “best friend.”
Though highly popular in the North, the congressman found his newfound fame humbling. “I didn’t know that many followed the impeachment trial,” he said, that even tricycle drivers and salesladies in malls smiled at him and greeted him. By showing what he can do, Fariñas now enjoys a national fan base.
600. That was around the number of text messages Fariñas received on his mobile phone just minutes after he delivered a summation speech that was the fatal blow to Renato Corona. Many of those messages, he said, urged him to run for senator.
But will he? In a non-showbizy way, the congressman said he is really happy where he is right now, and is content with the power he currently wields.
“Been there, done that,” said the 1987 senatorial candidate. He knows firsthand the difficulty of waging a national campaign: The logistics, alliances, and lobbying, the travels and tight schedules that go with it.
Also, he thinks of his children who adore him and enjoy being around him. Five of them, in fact, were present that night and patiently waited until the meeting ended at 10 p.m. He was wary of the trade-offs. Becoming senator would mean less time with family.
He clarified though that he is open to the possibility of running, that is if survey results show the people really want him and provided a campaign machinery is in place.
Asked by me why he enjoys a very high stature in the legislature though he was out of the political scene for almost a decade, the 1978 bar topnotcher noted that he has a more extensive political experience compared to all current senators—from Lito “Ben Tumbling” Lapid to the gago-mouthed Miriam Santiago (descriptions mine)—but with the exception of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile with whom Fariñas ran for the senate in 1987.
That night at Golden Cow, Rudy was brilliant but not boastful, candid but sensitive, and definitely charming and witty. On that rainy night when there was no twinkling in the sky, Fariñas proved to be a real star. The mood was celebratory and there was a lot of laughter. We know that as journalists we should always deal with subjects with a certain distance and cold demeanor, but just how, pray tell me, could one resist being charmed by a grateful nation’s hero? We felt that his victory is, as his proud constituents, ours too.
After the meet-up, I, together with Ilocos Times colleagues Steve Barreiro and Mitch Esmino, decided to have a few more bottles of beer elsewhere. The two guys are usually cynical and difficult to please, but I know they were, no doubts about it, impressed with the Rudy Fariñas that they saw. And why not? It was Rudy at his best. It was Rudy at his finest. It was, dear karikna, as Rudy as Rudy could get.
This turnaround in a politician’s life, a message more powerful than the punches and lousily memorized biblical verses of another congressman named Manny Pacquiao, is a happy fruition of Rudy Fariñas’ campaign mantra two years ago, “you have seen the worst in me, now is time to see the best of me.”
But here’s hoping the best is yet to come. Though coy about his political plans, we felt that he was already 60 percent sure of gunning for a senate seat. We suspect negotiations have begun with various parties wishing to have him in their slate.
“You’re the best senator we never had,” a lot of people tell him these days. That is a statement we hope to undo next year on the second Monday of May.
And again, one more time with feelings, “no palusot, please.”