BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – The year was 2016.
The driver’s son in his pristine barong was sworn to office – transitioning from vice-mayor to lone district representative of Bacolod – in front of the Philippine flag at the New Government Center by no less than Senator Franklin Drilon.
Bacolod Cong. Greg Gasataya told DNX that THAT moment felt surreal, like he was living another man’s life.
Gasataya has since seen the ups and down of his legislative career – including the passage of bills for government scholars, for barangay health workers, on mental health assistance in SUCs, and Bacolod’s own hospital, and the pandemic that had caused a huge shift in his legislative agenda – but all these, he says, he is willing to give up for one thing and one thing only.
“I am willing to give everything up just for five minutes, or even two, for my parents to see where I am now.”
And here, Gasataya’s voice breaks.
The solon’s father, Rodrigo was a driver; his mom, Thelma was a church worker. Both had passed without seeing the latest accomplishment of their son.
Gasataya credits his parents and the way they raised him to his work ethics and values. Having grown up in a small house along Cometa Street, subsisting on a church workers’ irregular salaries – really just allowances – the congressman had known first-hand how it is be poor, to live a life humbly, to be deprived of even small luxuries.
Gasataya has never been one to disown his roots.
Not even when these were mocked by his opponents during campaign season, as his former colleagues poked fun at his supposed sloppiness (lampagak) that betrays his humble beginnings.
But it is precisely those humble beginnings that the congressman embraced – and is still embracing – now that he is doing legislative work for his constituents.
“There are crucial decisions that you have to make, and one of the things that I have noticed is that a lot of people are relying on government for things like their hospitalization, and schooling,” Gasataya observed.
His humble background had helped him feel the pulse of the people.
And that has helped him feel the pulse of the people since.
Big shoes to fill
Bacolod is a tough arena politically. Big names have been slugging it out both in the mayoralty and congressional seats. Big names have sat in the Bacolod representative’s chair in the Batasang Pambansa: Romeo Guanzon, John Orola, Monico Puentevella, Evelio Leonardia.
Most of them have had varying degrees of success in politics, prior experience in government service or are have earned a political pedigree.
Gasataya, meanwhile, was a dark horse when entered the congressional race in 2016, winning against contender Jude Thaddeus Sayson by a slim margin. In 2019, he had a much wider against a veteran in the congressional race, Newks Puentevella.
But after the polls, the real work begins.
The year 2016, Gasataya said, was the time when he was tested based on the strength of his platform; the 2019 race was a test of his performance.
Gasataya’s platform then was based on the scholarship programs he had been giving out to less privileged students as their Champion for Education. The congressman had also partnered with Youth For Mental Health Bacolod Chapter for his programs promoting mental health in SUCs.
In between were his basketball tourneys as he promotes the sport in the grassroots level.
Then came the pandemic.
With numbers in CoViD-19 positive cases mounting, Gasataya said he knew there are more urgent matters at hand.
Thus, the shift in his priorities.
Up next: Comparing, Contrasting. Bacolod Cong. Greg Gasataya discusses the changing role of lawmakers as time passes.