*Larita Kutsarita - n. see THE AUTHOR
*Spoonfuls - n. articles/dispatches/scribbles by Larita Kutsarita
(Background photo by Aiess Alonso)

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Cinderella Man (semi-biography for ANC Storyline)

Everyone’s a sucker for a Cinderella story, especially here in the Philippines where underdogs such as Judai’s Esperanza and Thalia’s Marimar—now Marian Rivera’s, actually—are glorified in local pop culture. The following is an even more inspiring story about a “Cinderella Man” who rose from poverty, overcame its many miseries, and is now facing more challenges in the vast and dirty sea that is politics. What’s more inspiring about this story is that it is, more than anything else, real.


He’s the Man!


“Dati, nanlilimos pa ako diyan...literal na namamalimos....‘Di ko in-expect na diyan pala ‘ko mag-aaral,” he said, his eyes widening, clearly amazed at his own fate. He graduated cum laude from the College of Arts and Letters in the University of the Philippines Diliman, the same place where he, as a child, constantly kept his hands wide open, imploring for pesos; the same place where those hands gradually found refuge in the elaborate dance of ink on paper, and took hold of a diploma with a degree in Creative Writing and some units in Film—“...Kasi mahilig akong magsulat, parang gusto ko [ring] maglaro ng mga imahe.” His name is Dominic Flores, or rather, Honorable Dominic “Minick” Flores.
Minick, who is now 30, has been the youngest recorded barangay captain in the country. Apparently, somebody else broke the record but during his time, Minick was the baby, assuming the said position in Bgy. Pansol, Balara, Quezon City at 25 years old. As early as his elementary days, he was PRO of the barangayette. At 16, he was elected Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) Chairperson. And as a kid, he was too busy playing Chinese Garter and other “girl games” to even wonder why he didn’t prefer water guns in the first place. “...I’m an avowed gay. ‘Di naman ‘yan issue sa akin kaya I am loved by our constituents!” he said cheerfully.
“Loved by his constituents” was, in fact, not your usual “trapo” statement. Old men and women in the barangay all speak of nothing but praises for their young captain. Lolo Agapito Abrera, who already seemed to be in his 80s and an active member of the barangay’s Lupong Tagapamayapa, would even allude to Sonny Belmonte when he said, “Si Dominic ang pinakamagaling sa lahat...pati mayor ng QC, bilib sa kanya.... Kung ang iba ina-appoint lang ng presidente, siya hindi! Utak ‘yan e! Magaling siya magturo. Wala naman kame ditong alam e, pero sinasabi niya kung ano ‘yung dapat gawin.” In the Barangay Day Celebration last year, Lolo Agapito’s council won 2nd place as Best Barangay Lupong Tagapamayapa. Aside from this, Bgy. Pansol bagged 3rd in both divisions, Best in Solid Waste Management Practice as well as Best in Gender and Development Practice and Responsive Governance. They also came out 1st in Best Peace and Order Committee, making Minick’s domain the barangay with the most awards, four in total, among all the 142 barangays in the four districts of Quezon City. Minick himself has been cited as one of the most outstanding captains—all these before turning 30.
“Parang binigay talaga sa akin. I had no choice e,” he remarked on his being Bgy. Pansol’s “Kap,” having gained the title by law of succession. The previous barangay captain, Rodrigo Borgoña, was shot dead in broad daylight in front of the barangay hall in 2003. Up to this day, the case is still unresolved and Minick, who was then First Kagawad—the kagawad who had earned the most number of votes—had to take over. To Minick, it was “destiny.” Even his win as First Kagawad was not expected, either. He was absent during the last days of the campaign season because he was a delegate in Canada for World Youth Day. “Siguro nakita nila ‘yung mga nagawa ko as SK Chairperson,” he reflected. Now, Bgy. Pansol has a newly covered court, a new firetruck, a mortuary, a library and WiFi zones, a fitness gym, 24 speakers—as well as about 20 in two depressed areas each—installed in strategic locations to receive direct announcements from Kap including some words of wisdom called “Thought for the Week” which Minick would write himself, four special citations from the City Hall, and many projects and advocacies such as the enforcement of an anti-discrimination ordinance for gays and lesbians—the only known barangay to have one, in fact—all under the leadership of a “dark horse,” undaunted by the misfortune of his murdered predecessor.
Asked how it’s like to be a young politician, Minick said that it was working well not only for him but also for the barangay because the youth can always come up with new ideas. For example, he used to host a “mini-radio program” every Saturday noon transmitted through the speakers in the barangay. It was called DF, short for “Discussion Floor” and “Dominic Flores” at the same time. This was his medium through which he could give regular public addresses and discussions with experts on, say, prevention of fire, dengue, and what have you. The listeners could even ask questions through a phone line. Sadly, Minick could not sustain its weekly schedule because the barangay kept him too busy. If there is any significant edge for him, though, he said that it is his team’s resolve to have “professionalized the barangay services.” “...Kahit barangay governance, maliit siya, smallest political unit, but dapat leaders should put their hearts into what they’re doing. Kung ano ‘yung mandato ng batas, dapat sundin nila ‘yun. After all, sa grassroots naman talaga dapat magsimula kung gusto nating magbago ‘yung kabuuan ng bansa.... ‘Yang mga awards na ‘yan, bonus na lang ‘yan e. Mas gusto ko ‘yung nasusunod namin ang aming mission at vision...’yung pagiging gender-sensitive, ‘yung pagmamahal sa kalikasan.... Meron akong standard.... Hindi masama ‘yung mangopy ka sa ‘Best Practice.’ Nagvi-visit kami, nago-observe sa mga barangay na ‘Best Practice,’” he declared proudly.
On the other hand, when asked how it’s like to be a gay official, Minick replied, “Ang pagiging lider ay wala rin sa usaping gender...kung ano ‘yung magagawa mo for the community. And in the end, ikaw lang naman din ‘yun e. Sabi ko nga, mas naging advantage ko pa siya kasi yumayakap ako sa mga babae, sa mga nanay-nanay, nakakalapit ako sa mg lalake rin. I mean, ‘yun siguro ang edge ko: kahit kanino, kaya kong makisalamuha.” Heck, even the children in the locale know his name. And a huge percentage of his barangay staff are gay, too! One such staffer who is in charge of the barangay waste management, Joselito Merle, and who is already in his 40s, expressed his admiration for his captain who is a decade younger. “Super improve (sic) ‘yung baragay since napanganak ako dito. Hinayr niya ‘ko. Dati, walang trabaho, nag-aayos lang ng bulaklak. Ngayon, waste naman. Hindi lang siya mabuti, kundi saksakan ng buti tsaka saksakan ng galing! Walang pwedeng tumalo!” he exclaimed in his toothless grin.
Considering all the transformations that Bgy. Pansol has gone through under Minick’s supervision, the place has definitely benefited from that magical “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” touch. And it looks like Bgy. Pansol can only get “prettier” because Minick is barely done with his first term—having finished the unexpired term of the late Borgoña—and the “makeover” may be carried out for the rest of the city as well since the young captain is more than willing to run for councilor if only he has the money. “Mahirap lang ako. ‘Yun siguro yung wala ako e. Kahit sabihin mong matatalino ang mga botante, you still need to have resources,” he said. He also revealed that there are parties encouraging him to run and promising him their aid. To this, he added, “Pero sa tingin ko naman ay kailangan pa ‘ko ng aking barangay. Nararamdaman ko, marami pa ‘kong magagawa.” Cheap talk? Not quite. Minick has since resigned from his teaching post in Miriam College Grade School and is now a full-time “Kapitana,” his only sideline being a graduate student in the UP National College of Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG).
Of course, going full-time does not mean that Minick only sees the world in rosy colors. “Sometimes, you’ll make unpopular decisions pero time will come na mare-realize nilang tama palang ginawa ni Kapitan.” Speaking of “unpopular decisions,” the interviewers also asked Minick about his stand on the President and on being part of her administration. “Unang una, nakatira sa’min si GMA. If she’s in Manila, she lives in Bgy. Pansol.... As a person, I like her. Kaya lang, syempre, nobody’s perfect pa rin. Kung for the welfare ng mga tao, syempre, dun ako. Pero kung may nasasaalang-alang, may nakukumpromiso, syempre, ‘yung kapakanan pa rin ng mga mahihirap [ang mas importante].” He further elaborated, “Oo, may reservations pa rin kasi we have two depressed areas so palagay ko, pwede niyang (GMA) ma-address ‘yun bilang siya ‘yung nakaupo—presidente natin siya...[and since] most of [those na] nakapalibot sa kanya, nakatira rin dito. Pero sa tingin ko naman, performer naman siya. Ganun naman lahat e, lahat ng nauupo diyan, [para sa’tin] walang nagagawang tama.” The interviewers then threw him the ultimate “trapo” question, “Will you run for president?” “Kung may pagkakataon, bakit hindi? Kaya lang wala lang talaga ‘kong pera,” he answered with a smile.
Devoting his time to the barangay, though, has not veered him away from those closest to his heart. Minick comes from a small family, which hugely contrasts with his political contemporaries who all come from big political clans. His immediate family, however, is quite large, he being the fourth in a brood of six. They all grew up without a father. “Umalis si Daddy, noon pa...hindi na siya bumalik hanggang sa nalaman naming namatay na siya nung Grade Four ako,” he related. This left their mother, Estrella, whose very name befits her being “ilaw ng tahanan” and who is fondly called by everyone Aling Estring, to raise all of them single-handedly. “Siguro, without scholarship, wala kami.... Nagkataon lang na may mga honors lang kami,” he added. Among the six siblings, four were high school valedictorians including Kap, two were salutatorians, and eventually, Minick and his younger sister, Diana Dulce, graduated cum laude from the Premier State University, UP. Meanwhile, their bunso, Starson—his name having been coined from their mother’s—has recently completed their list of graduates as he himself donned the toga and cap last Friday, May 8th. Minick was able to get through college because he was an Iskolar ng Siyudad, thanks to his excellent performance in secondary school. Aside from that, he also benefited from the UP Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP) and only paid P71 for his overall tuition fees up until his sister joined him in UP when he was already a junior, making the fees jump to P800 every semester.
Apart from the Flores siblings’ perseverance and competency in school, Minick puts emphasis on their mother’s sacrifices. When they were a lot younger, Aling Estring had to work as domestic helper in Hong Kong for about five to six years and because they could barely get by, all six of them were distributed among their aunts with whom they had bad experiences. “Syempre, nakikipinsan lang kami kaya parang ‘naalila’ kame,” he recounted without the least bit of resentment in his voice. There were even days when they were tasked to dispose of the accumulated urine outdoors as a kind of embarrassment. Aling Estring would send money from abroad but their aunts would keep it for themselves and not tell them about it. “Dumating sa point na nagugutom na kami,” he said. “E ang Nanay ko, kahit wala man kami materially—‘dapat busog ‘yung mga anak ko,’ yun ang katwiran niya. Kasi dati, walang wala talaga kami e.” When their family did get together, their house had holes that were big enough to cause a flood inside when it was raining. He’d remember, “Nagsasalok kami. Sabi ko, ‘Ma, hanggang kelan tayo ganito?’” One of Minick’s friends then asked why their TV wasn’t working to which Aling Estring would answer, “Kahit wala kaming TV, busog naman ang utak ng mga anak ko.” “‘Yun ‘yung hindi ko makakalimutan,” said Minick, his stare distant.
It is a small wonder how their relationship with their aunts is doing at present, though. Minick stresses that they are doing fine but that Aling Estring can’t be blamed if she still has any remaining grudges. “Syempre, nanay ‘yan e,” he said. This is the reason he and his siblings do not hesitate to nominate their mother for “Ulirang Ina” every chance they get. Kap showed the interviewers some photos from his childhood, including shots inside their home. It was, in fact, a plain kind of dwelling with only one piece of adornment: an entire wall decked by gold, red, blue, and white—all the trophies and medals that the Flores siblings had brought home for Nanay.
“Nagsikap ako. ‘Yung edukasyon, importante.... Siguro ‘yun ang dahilan kung bakit ako love ng barangay ko kasi syempre, gusto rin naman nilang ang kapitan nila ay totoong magre-represent sa kanila.... Kaya kong makipag-usap sa mga matataas at kaya ko ring bumaba sa masa,” he said. Education is their mother’s most important legacy, which is why Minick himself struggled to send his siblings to school. “Tatlo ‘yung kapatid kong napag-aral ko kasi dalaga naman ako,” he shared, afterwhich he let out a good laugh.
This brought the limelight on his personal romantic life. Unfortunately, just last year, he and his partner—a man with wife and kids—had to break up after sharing a ten-year relationship in secret. Minick found out that he had affairs with two other women and this broke his heart. When the interviewer asked him if he preferred that such intimate details be off the record, he answered, “E bakeeettttt??!” before he let out another guffaw. “Pero kumekembot pa rin ako....dalagang maraming manliligaw.” And some more laughter.
“Queer Eye for the Straight Guy with more heart”—this seems to be the best description of Hon. Dominic Flores’ leadership. No fancy suits, no fancy cars. No gambling lords for bestfriends. No political clans with special interests. And definitely no mistresses. Minick’s Cinderella story is a whiff of fresh air. And if he does turn out to be just “the man” the country needs, then perhaps the Filipinos won’t mind if Malacañang will be painted a bright shade of pink for that “happily ever after.”
(Interview by Kristin Santos and Lara Mendizabal; Text by Lara Mendizabal)


That Day's Fab Five (Kap is at center)


12 comments:

james oliver mora said...

this is true..naiiyak nga ako habang binabasa itong post na ito...idol ko nga yan si kap eh.. isang mabuting kaibigan... parang magkapatid na kame nyan... love you kap!

mhelodhie said...

nice..

gnda..

very inspiring..

not only 4 d students but also 4 d politicians..

gling nia..
he's intelligent enuf to handle doz ctuaxonz
hapenz to him..


bilib ako sa knia..

:)

Anonymous said...

Well done Kap. Flores...may you and your alliance spread the good politics not only in Pansol but as well as in the entire Quezon City. Hope all Barangay Leader should take you as their example of what public service really all about. I salute you Kap. Flores!!!

Mhen S. Vicente
88-A C.V. Francisco St., Pook Amorsolo, U.P. Diliman, Q.C.

judean said...

i'll share this on fb. :)

Carlos Long Baes said...

galing naman po ninyo...
entertaining basahin
walang palalampasing
paragraph!

nakakakilabot.. naisulat lahat!

Anonymous said...

ur da best kap...ang daming nagbago simula ng naging kapitan kau...sana forever na po kayung maging kapitan..na inspire ako sa kwento ng buhay nyo..nakakaiyak at the same time very inspiring. keep up da good work kap..ur da best...we luv you

warped4lyf said...

wow, was overwhelmed by the responses...thanks, folks ^^

hon. dominic flores is really a bastion of hope in local politics...if were voting in qc, i'd be going for him...which makes me wonder, is he, by any chance, running for councilor?? O.o sorry medyo not updated about qc.

btw, i think i failed to mention that this interview/writeup was done for an episode of anc storyline, which was aired (thanks to pat for believieng in the subject) last year, around july, i guess?? O.o

i'm still very much in love with kap, and i'd like to catch up with him one of these days...indeed, i hope he keeps up the good work!

oh, and feel free to repost this blog anywhere for the world to know about this wonderful person and leader. peace out ^^

Carole said...

Well-written, Lara. I especially like the title--Cindrella Man.

The subject was able to clear all hurdles... I hope he will be inspired further once he reads the above comments.

Carole said...

Well-written, Lara. I especially like the title--Cinderella man.

Your subject was able to clear all hurdles along the way. I hope he will be inspired further once he gets to read the above comments, and oh! not to forget your depiction of Kap's success story.:-)

arabella said...

sana katulad mo ang presidente ng pilipinas sana.........ikaw nalang....

edna said...

minick.....

minick.....

i couldn't imagine you've gone this far my friend!!
hindi dhl sa hindi aq naniniwala na kaya mo....
kung hindi dahil prang sa panaginip lang maaring magkaron ng katuparan lahat ng ito....
im so very proud of you my friend!!!!
c dominic flores ay isang matalino,great team leader,mapagmahal na kaibigan at masayahin....
hindi ko po na isip na si Dominick Flores, na aking naging kamag aral at kaibigan ay may mas malalim palang pinagdadaanan ng mga panahong iyon....
ngunit ganon pa man naitawid nya at napag yaman nya ang kanyang sarili sa kabila ng kahirapan at mga balakid na dumaan sa buhay nya!

mabuhay ka kaibigan ko!!!!

Ipag patuloy mo ang mga nasimulan mo at maganda mo pang hangarin sa kapwa...
Andito lang kami na mga kaibigan mo! d man tayo nagkikita... ngunit sa puso ko kaw pa rin c Dominic na nakilala ko at ako pa rin c edna na kaibigan mo....

minick natatandaan mo ba'to?

Whatever the challenge.....
Whatever the test....
Whatever the striving for.....
Just give all your BEST!!!!

indeed! isinabuhay mo nga yan....

Love you friend!!!!!

Rosie Faye De Leon said...

i rili2 cried after reading this...n admire him a lot..walang kahalong ka plastikan..all the blessings he has now...he deserves it!!!kaya i salute kap dominic for this...n to his mom...shes rili an adorable mother...NUNG NAKILALA LO CLA..GANON CLA KA DOWN TO EARTH..N UP TO NOW STILL THE SAME...SNA MORE POWER FOR KAP DOM N MORE2 BLESSINGS FOR HIM N FOR HIS FAMILY..I LOVE u KAP!!!