Issue of December 3, 2017
     
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Bernie@80

In his lifetime, Engr. Bernardo M. Vergara envisioned himself as a builder, thus, he followed a career path in Engineering and at age 30, became the youngest district engineer in the Department of Public Works and Highways. Born 80 years ago on Dec. 4 in that rustic town of Tubao, La Union, Bernie, as he is fondly called started working in 1960 at the City Engineers Office of Baguio eventually transferring to La Union as a district engineer before he was recommended by then Tourism Secretary Jose D. Aspiras to former President Ferdinand E. Marcos to head the Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA) as general manager in 1978. He and Aspiras were responsible for the construction of the all-weather road, Marcos Highway (now Palispis-Aspiras Highway), which has been proven to propel the economy of the city and its outskirts because it made our products accessible to the Metro Manila patrons.

After the EDSA Revolution in 1986, he entered the congressional race but the anti-Marcos sentiments were at its height and his being identified with the regime dampened his desire to serve the people of the city he considered home.

Not discouraged and because his desire to serve is embellished in his heart, he offered himself again in 1992 and was elected congressman for the lone district of Baguio from 1992 to 2001. I was sectoral representative from 1992 to 1998 and it was an honor and privilege to have served with him and the other Northern Luzon Alliance Solons, whose family names are bigger than life – De Venecia, Aspiras, Singson, Benggson, Estrella, Ortega, Shahani, Perez, Braganza, Dominguez, Bulut, Cappleman, Respicio, and Roquito Ablan – at the Lower House.

We would have coffee during break time at the Northwing of the Batasan Complex and I would learn from him the rudiments of congressional work, especially on the budget process as to where and how to get funds to be brought home to waiting constituents.

I remember Sunshine Joe Aspiras holding his coffee mug filled to the rim with Johnny Walker Black and offering a sip or two to anyone who would oblige. I was a student under the wings of the masters.

BMV, builder, mover, visionary and he created the flyovers, pedestrian overpasses, and infrastructure required. A Saint Louis University professor assisted him and journalist Noly Balatero did an excellent job of communicating to the people what their representative was doing for them.

Former President Fidel V. Ramos was a frequent visitor in the city and whenever he would come up, the troika of Domogan, Vergara, and myself would be there to welcome him and while Bernie would once lose in the golf course he would actually win more for his people by the funding release for projects in the city.

My own windfall was the construction of the PFVR Youth Center, which to this day has become the center of activity for the young – a legacy I would leave in the hearts and minds of our people.

He went on to become mayor from 2001 to 2004 and a fourth term as a representative from 2010 to 2013. Together with Mayor Morris, he founded the local party Timpuyog ti Baguio although his national affiliations included the NPC, the Lakas-NUCD-Kampi and of late, the UNA.

Architect Gloria, his loving wife, has been supportive all these years and they reared good, successful children James, Gladys, Jun, Jona, Gay, and Glenda. As he celebrates his 80th birthday, I join the officialdom of Baguio and its people in saying “Thank you for your service!” Happy birthday, apo Bernie. Sigh!

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