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Growing up as a young boy in Baguio City, we lived in an area known as Cariño Subdivision. Located close to Holy Family College, Baguio Central School and City Hall, it was mostly middle class. Almost directly in front of us was the home of Judge Feliciano Belmonte, father of Speaker Sonny. Slightly behind was the place of Bert Nievera, the “Johnny Mathis of the Philippines.” We were all part of the neighborhood.

When I came home from Honolulu where Dad was consul general, I had just finished 8th grade. UP High could not figure out where to place me. So I was required to take a number of back subjects and attend summer classes to qualify for graduation with the class of 1951. It was in high school that I met Betty Go, the eldest daughter of Jimmy and Fely Go. It turned out that Betty’s father, Go Puan Seng, publisher of the Fookien Times and my Dad, publisher of the Philippines Herald, were old friends and colleagues in the newspaper business.

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Today Joy, only daughter of Sonny and Betty, is running for mayor of Quezon City . Let me share some insights on the young lady who is poised to take a giant step into the world of public
governance and service.

Josefina Tanya Go Belmonte was named after Rep. Josefina Belmonte Duran of Ligao City, Albay. The late legislator was a sister of Speaker Sonny. For a while she went by the name Tani Joy — Tani a shortened version of Tanya, and Joy for Josefina.
Later it was just “Joy.”

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Joy finished high school at Poveda Learning Center, where she was the first chair of the student council. At Ateneo she took up social sciences — a combination of anthropology, sociology and some political science. She was president of her class. One would conclude that a career in politics was taking shape.

After graduation, she joined a group of Jesuit volunteers and headed for a 5th class municipality, Kadingilan, in Bukidnon. The place had no electricity, no running water, no roads. Food was often in short supply and marketing was on a daily basis. During this difficult period, Joy never sought the assistance or support of parents or friends of parents to make life a bit more comfortable. Here, she learned about how life was for the poorest of our people, developing in her a sense of compassion for their plight.

How many college graduates from well-off families are inclined to immerse themselves among the marginalized sectors of society in order to better understand and appreciate the daily battle for survival facing our less fortunate brothers?

When her Mom passed away in 1994, Joy decided to take up archeology. She saw the potential of the field for a greater sense of nationalism, unity and love of country. Archeology would be her first love, and when she became vice mayor of Quezon City, her first project was to build a museum, a local history museum known as the Quezon City Experience. Archeology is basically a study of the past. Awareness of our roots provides strength and directions for the challenges ahead.

In an interview with Karen Davila on ANC, Joy was asked about those considered “balimbing” in our political environment. Joy herself moved from the Liberal Party to PDP-Laban. Hers was a candid and honest reply. She observed that our nation has a very weak multiparty system, unlike in the past when there were only two major parties. There are no clear distinctions as far as platforms and programs are concerned. Everything revolves around personalities. In her case, as a local government candidate, she realized that she would need the support of the administration in order to carry out her plans for the city.

For many years, we have lived alongside a community of informal settlers. In the small space that they occupy, their numbers keep growing. Joy has a bold, ambitious if difficult plan for them. It involves massive in-city relocation to high-rise type dwellings for informal settlers. Joy has a vision and a plan for a problem that has confronted Quezon City for so long. It will require a lot of resources and perseverance.

Joy’s father, Speaker Sonny, now moves into a new role, that of an elder statesman. She has the advantage of easy access to the wealth of his experience and the political wisdom and skills that brought him to one of the highest posts in the land. Joy will carve out a future and stamp it with her own brand of leadership. I am reminded of the advice Steve Jobs once gave to new graduates at Stanford University. He said, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life… Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”

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The surveys indicate that Joy Belmonte is the next mayor of Quezon City. Like others of her generation who seek public office, she represents the future of our country and the hopes of our people. For Joy, Quezon City is just the beginning.

[email protected]

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TAGS: Baguio childhood, Betty Go-Belmonte, Feliciano Belmonte Jr., Joy Belmonte, Ramon Farolan, Reveille
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