LOS ANGELES  – On a recent evening, summoned by invitation, about 20 or so distinguished guests arrived at the palatial home of Rupert and Grace Mercado, a haven that flattered their impeccable sense of courtesy and hospitality. The honored guest, Hermilando “Dodo” Mandanas, governor of the province of Batangas, was welcomed over dinner at their Casa del Sol in La Canada.

Ms. Grace Mercado, our host, is a powerful personage, one who only deserves respect and praise. At first glance, nothing in her showed authority or opulence, but you will always admire her for her ideology, and gentle modesty. Her disarming simplicity, Ms. Grace (as she is fondly addressed) seemed concerned only to make everyone around her feel at ease. From a lady, whose power, real or imagined it was a soothing gestures, that elated her guests.

In continuing snatches of minutes, in between photo ops, spontaneous greetings and fellowship with other guests, I spoke with Gov. Mandanas. This was our third meeting, as over the years, whenever, he came to  Los Angeles, he would find time to have me interview him.

We spoke of his core area of interest: the promotion of excellence, creativity and profession in his domain.

His resume is a veritable list of honor. He started out working for the most sterling companies, Carlos Valdes and Company, to being President of Far East Bank, Philippine commercial delegate of the Banque: Di Commerce Exterior, Managing Director of Manila and Hong Kong Capital Corporation to mention a few. The list is enormous, so I dare mention a few feats.

Gov. Mandanas also served as the first general manager of the Human Settlement Development Corporation as Governor of the province of Batangas. Concurrently, he became President of the Federation of Regional Development of the Philippines. It is a long list of achievements that gets longer. His awards and distinctions are especially astounding and worth mentioning like being the most outstanding Governor of Calabarzon, only to ameliorate into the being the most Outstanding Governor of the Philippines.

Of his more noteworthy achievements are his committee membership as congressman:

– Ways and Means – Former Chairman

– Congressional Oversight Committee on Comprehensive Tax Reform Program – Former Chairman

Physical Examination of Imported Articles  - Former Chairman

– Official Development Assistance – Former Chairman.

Below are the highlights of my interview with him:

Moonlighter:  Sir, we are on the threshold of new governance? What are your thoughts?

Gov. Mandanas:  There is a lot more that can alleviate sufferings and needs of one’s constituents – if not our country in general, to each other. On this new beginning, there should be faith, hope, if not charity for all. We should be for each other, not against each other. We can’t hold people’s fault against them – people do the best they can. Instead perhaps ask for tolerance…even to our own.

M:  Sir, It is said that the governorship was yours for the taking. Now at the center ring where intrigues and conjecture thrives, how do you plan to navigate the political landscape of the current politics?

GM:  Sheer sincerity, my willingness to charter my own course through unexplored terrains, responding to changing times, will shield me from all these unscathed.

I’ve not allowed the bruising political, print or the past personal campaign to color my temperament…never.

M:  Sir, do you think it is only experience and dedication that can hold the Batanguenos together?

GM:  Let us clarify that, the governorship can be full of difficulties, which can not be eliminated. The people, our constituents, will always have them.  The realistic thing is to accept them, if possible  survive.  Then…it is a continuing conscious effort to rebuild. Batanguenos hold together by itself with their inherent sense of values. Concerted efforts parallel goals of men and women determined to be more productive, realists and committed in their struggle for a better way of life.

M: Sir, what are your immediate priorities and focus now?

GM:  Health care, expand economics and educational opportunities, promote the needs of children, peace and order above all. Redefining the position to that of that of your constituents. The title “governor” is simply a job that incorporates others’ role whose primary duty is to improve the standards of living for all.  A determined and resolve to build Batangas into a model for the whole region but ensuing and tapping suitable leaders for economic growth and social developments with the help of ones elected crew.

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