By Saul E. Pa-a and Robert A. Maico
CALAMBA CITY, Laguna – Vice President Jejomar C. Binay made a surprise visit to Calamba City Barangay 1 Crossing Trade Center and Public Market at 8 a.m. Wednesday as he kicked off his Laguna sorties with market tours and turnover of various government housing and relocation projects.
Mayor Justin Marc “Timmy” Chipeco, Vice Mayor Roseller H. Rizal and City Councilors Moises E. Morales, Ruth Mariano Hernandez, Maria Virginia “Gigi” Alcacid, Leeanne P. Aldabe and Edison H. Natividad rushed to the J.P. Rizal Avenue here to welcome the Vice President.
Other city officials were caught by surprise by the visit of the top government official who sported a white striped polo and dark gray pants and escorted by relatively visible security cordon.
Market vendors, tricycle drivers, stall holders, motorists and consumers stopped to take a glimpse of the visiting Vice President.
From the Jose P. Rizal Avenue, Vice President Binay shook hands with market vendors, fruits and vegetable traders, hawkers and city folks and gamely posed for photos and selfies.
He walked toward a group of youth members of the Vice President’s fraternal organization Alpha Phi Omega (APO) who greeted him and requested for a photo opportunity.
Binay, accompanied by Mayor Chipeco, Vice Mayor Rizal and the city councilors then walked across the street towards the public market’s vegetables, fruits and dry goods section where he again had informal interactions with the vendors and greeted the market crowd.
The Vice President toured the market as he made whistle stops at the rice section to personally inspect the rice quality on sale, the fish and meat section and the city’s “bagsakan” center or trading post for all market goods and agricultural products.
Addressing the market crowd and informal settlers near the unused railroad tracks in the village, Vice President Binay said he always visits public markets every time he goes out-of-town as a customary practice.
“I know how to repay my debt of gratitude. This visit also traces my roots and my humble origin growing up as a ‘market boy’ and orphaned at a young age,” Vice President Binay remarked.
He paraphrased national hero Dr. Jose P. Rizal’s immortal words in Filipino “he who does not know how to look back at where he came from will never get to his destination.”
Binay also revealed his childhood favorite native sweets known as “panutsa” (caramelized peanuts) commonly peddled in public markets and in jest described how he savored then the delicious confections.
He also requested for his favorite coconut “embryo” meat which he missed as this used to be his usual snack while spending his childhood years in the market.
The Vice President thanked Calambeños’ overwhelming support, confidence and trust all these years, saying “these inspired me more to give my best for our people.”
The Vice President said his Laguna sorties include the turnover of land titles for qualified lot beneficiaries especially those dwelling in risky sites and danger areas in the railways and government declared idle lands.
The 45-minute market visit culminated in a “boodle fight”, where Binay’s group feasted on breakfast fare consisting of rice, fried egg, sardines, tilapia, chopped tomatoes, boiled eggplant, okra, shrimp paste and “sotanghon” noodles.
Laid with assorted fruits like pineapple, watermelon and bananas on the sides, the breakfast fare was placed on banana leaves spread through an eight-meter long table.
The “boodle fight” was set up along the unused railroad tracks near the flea market skirting the trade center and public market at Crossing, Barangay 1 in this city.
The Vice President also waved and shook hands with the crowd as he and city officials traversed the J.P. Rizal Avenue to Mayor Chipeco’s residence compound.
He was about to board his official car bound for the next leg of his provincial sortie to Santa Cruz when he noticed an ice candy vendor by the roadside.
VP Binay approached 50-year-old Shirley Aguinaldo who peddled the coconut-flavored frozen delight and bought all the stuff in the ice box which he gave away to the crowd.
From the public market, the Vice President proceeded to the Laguna Provincial Capitol in Santa Cruz at 10 a.m. and was received by Laguna Governor Jeorge ER Ejercito Estregan at the foyer.
Gov. Estregan also assisted the Vice President in the distribution of some 2,010 certificates of entitlement to lot awards (CELAs) and letters of guarantee for the informal settlers who qualified for relocation.
Recipients of the lot distribution include 528 in Santa Rosa City; 358 in Calauan; 245 in Pagsanjan; 87 in Cavinti and 792 in Santa Cruz.
The lot titles are handed to informal settlers who are long-time occupants of the unused lands on declared safe zones from the railroad tracks.
Binay later joined the “boodle lunch” with Gov. ER and provincial and local officials after the tour at the Santa Cruz public market.
Vice President Binay also visited Victoria and Rizal, Laguna to turn over medical equipment and wheelchairs for Senior Citizens Affairs offices.
Binay accompanied by Gov. ER and wife Pagsanjan Mayor Girlie Maita also proceeded to San Pablo City to cap the Laguna sorties with a visit and tour to the city’s famous night market before dusk. (PNA)