April 20, 2024

(Editors’ note: The Courier is reprinting the columns of the late Atty. Benedicto T. Carantes as a tribute to one of its long-time columnists. This piece was published on Sept. 16, 2018.)

I started writing this column in 1980, or some two to three months after my unsuccessful run for the vice mayorship in the local elections held that year, the very first one since the declaration of Martial Law.
The Cords were naturally stocked in favor of administration candidates, which Marcos puppets loved to brag about in Ilocano – “Asideg ti dalingan.” Roughly translated, it meant “close to the kitchen” – or the powers that be.
A failed political bid is always painful, but in my case, it was both a wonderful and learning experience.
I will not, however, deny the pain.

The funny thing was that I was not quite inclined to go into politics since winning was virtually impossible for opposition candidates to score even an upset of sorts.
All government agencies and offices were controlled if not beholden to the late President Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. and that included the Commission on Elections, police, and military.
Your only hope was the favoritism and anger of the people, but even they went along with the Marcos tide, fearing for their families and lives.
That was the reason and purpose of Marcos rule – to frighten and scare everybody into submission.

But on the day set for the filing of certificates of candidacies, only of that the newly-appointed City Mayor Ernesto Bueno was on file.
Overcame by my venturesome spirit and youthful defiance, I filed my CoC for Baguio city mayor.
But just before the midnight deadline, tata Pete Claravall filed his certificate for the same position, so I withdrew mine.
We were all gathered at the Comelec office then, and someone suggested that I run for vice mayor instead, since the vice mayoralty candidate, Antonio Romero, was himself running unopposed.
I then wrote and added the word “vice” to my earlier CoC, and refiled the same.
Half of the people present jokingly said I had a better chance against Bueno, since Romero was a formidable politician, given his Pangasinense ethnic roots and long service to the people of Baguio, first as councilor, and later on as vice mayor.

But in the course of the 15-day campaign period, people were telling me that I stood a chance, but about the only time I started to believe them was when I met a group of nuns distributing food and relief goods to the destitute City Camp Lagoon residents.
Approaching the good sisters, I told them that I was a candidate for vice mayor, but even before I could tell them who I was or am, they all said “Sorry, but we already have our own candidate for vice mayor.”
And who, I curiously asked, is your candidate for vice mayor, and their quick reply was “Carantes.” I then thanked the three nuns, and took leave of them.

On still another occasion, the late Congressman Victor Dominguez of Mountain Province invited me to have lunch at his house. I had no idea that he had also invited 40 barangay captains, and said to me, “I have already talked to them, but it is up to you to appeal for their support.”
So, with tears in my eyes and in a voice choking with emotion, I told them that it is about time to send one of their own to City Hall, someone who could address the needs of the people of Baguio, particularly fellow Cordillerans.
Given my new found confidence, I consulted a “mambunong” to check my chances. He asked me to butcher a pig, but because the liver showed no indications of how my political future would go, he again required me to butcher another black pig.
With a big smile on his face, he told me that the liver of the second pig showed that I would win.

When the election results came out, the tally was 30,000+ votes for Romero, and 25,000+ votes for me. Given stories that three busloads of soldiers were going around the different precincts casting their votes, and the 3,000 strong Iglesia votes likewise casting their ballots for Romero, I did pretty well.
True, I wanted to win, but my main objective was to call the attention of the people that Marcos puppets were the ones running City Hall, unmindful of the people’s feelings.

Anyway, I went back to the mambunong Kapitan Bayosa, to confront him in his false prediction.
“Attorney,” he said to me, “you actually won, but you were cheated and robbed of victory.”
It was then that I vowed never to go back to active politics.
By the way, perceived to be winners in our opposition ticket were Jaime Bugnosen, Peppot Ilagan, and Rene Cortes.
Mang Jimmy was consistently on top of the other candidates seeking council seats, Peppot was just a shade below the winning magic six, and Rene started out at second spot, and slowly fell rung by rung, finally landing at seventh place.

My grandniece, Pam Cariño, plans to run for councilor in next year’s midterm elections. I urge her, Jojo Cabato, and Jonathan Vergara to give it one more try. Both Jojo and Jonathan are shy fellows, so they need to put a little more pep into their campaign.
As the Ilocano saying goes, “Tira bayaw, uray agdardara.”
The English translation? Go, go, go, until your heart and pocket bleed.