Politics: Main story | Examining Bing

(First of three parts)

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The leaves of the mango tree outside a cream-colored house in Rosario Street, Bacolod City hardly moved.

There was nary a breeze.

Inside the house, Evelio Leonardia, a lawyer, heard the news about his defeat.

It was 1998. Summer.

There was no big talk yet of global warming but the country was feeling the heat of the extended dry season.

The El Niño as it was called.

Across the Philippines, temperatures soared, crops wilted, people died, some from eating ill-prepared wild yam, according to 1998 reports of relief NGOs.

It was like a first time for the country to experience the El Nino.

It was also the first time for Leonardia, popularly known as “Bing” to experience a defeat, one that shaped his political endurance and longevity.

The summer of 2019 also saw the mercury soaring as heatwaves struck across the globe. During this long, searing summer, the state weather bureau reported record highs.

Following the May 13, 2019, news outlets reported a record high in Bacolod politics.

Fr. Naring Dela Cruz in a light moment with Mayor Evelio Leonardia and wife, Elsa, during the Mass at the San Sebastian Cathedral that kicked off Grupo Progreso's filing of COCs | Photo by Julius D. Mariveles
Fr. Naring Dela Cruz in a light moment with Mayor Evelio Leonardia and wife, Elsa, during the Mass at the San Sebastian Cathedral that kicked off Grupo Progreso’s filing of COCs | Photo by Julius D. Mariveles

Leonardia won by 144,776 votes over his lone rival, lawyer Jocelle Batapa-Sigue. Previously an independent councilor, Sigue ran under the banner of Leonardia’s political nemesis, Monico Puentevella.

His publicists say this is the highest number of votes garnered by a mayoral candidate in Bacolod City.

From left, Councilor Caesar Distrito, former councilor Greg Gasataya, vice mayoral candidate of Grupo Progreso, Mayor Evelio Leonardia and Vice Mayor Jude Thaddeus Sayson | Photo taken 6 October 2012 by Julius D. Mariveles
From left, Councilor Caesar Distrito, former councilor Greg Gasataya, vice mayoral candidate of Grupo Progreso, Mayor Evelio Leonardia and Vice Mayor Jude Thaddeus Sayson | Photo taken 6 October 2012 by Julius D. Mariveles

A historic first.

Apart from what his partisans call as an “overwhelming win,” Leonardia’s local political party, Grupo Progreso (Group for Progress) has also captured the most number of local elective posts in the city.

Mayor Evelio Leonardia, center, during the singing of the Lord's Prayer | Photo taken 6 October 2012 by Julius D. Mariveles
Mayor Evelio Leonardia, center, during the singing of the Lord’s Prayer | Photo taken 6 October 2012 by Julius D. Mariveles

In part one of this three-part series, DNX will take a look at Leonardia, the first city mayor who rose from middle-class origins to become chief executive of the highly-urbanized city, once just a social hub and prime address of hacendados or wealthy sugar plantation owners in Negros Occidental.

In part two. How a middle-class mayor rose in the city that was once just a stopover for the sugar barons of Negros.

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