The Winning Move
Camarines Sur 1st District Congressman Tsuyoshi Anthony “Hori” G. Horibata proved that politics is not all about name and fame. Even a ‘nobody’ can stand out and gain their spot.
BY CAMILLE CABAL
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ROMEO S. PERALTA JR.
HMUA BY JHEF CADION
On May 10th, 6:35 AM, all the votes from the barangays in the 1st District of Camarines Sur came in, and officially, I won by 6,543 votes, and I was really, really happy,” Congressman Tsuyoshi Anthony “Hori” G. Horibata shares the exact moment he found out he won as the representative of Camarines Sur’s 1st District, putting an end to the long-standing Andaya dynasty. The 2022 elections opened a lot of doors for new faces and names in politics. Horibata’s foray into politics, however, deviates from the well-worn stories of most politicians.
Horibata shares it all started with his mother, Benchie Glinoga Horibata, and his involvement in her philanthropic activities when he was still young. He fondly recalls one of his mother’s memorable acts of kindness when he was around 15 years old. They went to an orphanage in the municipality of Ragay and he asked one kid what his dream was and the kid answered he wanted to go to Jollibee, the famous fast food chain.
“I was fortunate with my parents, Jollibee is something I could get any time I wanted. But for those kids, Jollibee is something they dream of,” Horibata reveals, adding that the moment taught him to not take things for granted.
So his mother, regardless of the distance of the fast food chain from the orphanage, rented a Jollibee van. They gave food and toys to all of the children who were also entertained by the mascots.
The 29-year-old congressman claims that his generosity was inspired by his mom’s compassion. His mother, he reveals, is also the reason he is in Congress now. Horibata says that he was not really planning to run for a position in government but when his mother encouraged him and showed him how badly the district needed change, he had a change of heart.
ESTABLISHING HIS NAME
Being totally new to politics, Horibata knew that his first and biggest challenge was introducing himself—who he is and what he can do for the people. “A lot of people actually suggested not to use ‘Hori’ because in Bicolano, ‘Hori’ means last or late,” he shares.
However, the neophyte politician always believed that his name is his lucky charm. He stuck with using his own name and spread it as much as he could.
When he was already planning to run for Congress, Horibata decided to enter the scene keeping an air of mystery around him. He hosted a mobile game competition that was organized under the name ‘HORI Esports.’ The poster had the logo of the competition without his face. He did this to attract intrigue about him while not letting the opponents know that he is planning to run against them knowing that if he revealed his plans early, they would start destroying him.
He offered a prize in the Mobile Legends competition which generated more interest from the people. From then, everyone was curious about ‘HORI’ and they started asking around about him. On the day of the competition, he appeared on the stage and was introduced as the organizer. People took photos of him and that was the start of his introduction to the public.
Horibata made sure that he always socializes with the people whether it’s a big gathering or a simple chat time between neighbors, and when he does, he always talks to them genuinely and smiles a lot. But opposed to what we have accustomed to, Horibata never stayed with the people until the end of the happenings.
“When you have fun, you tend to stay longer, ako (but me,) when we’re having fun, I purposely leave the event... So as soon as I leave, the topic is about me,” he reveals, knowing that when he leaves earlier than expected, people will start talking about him and his bubbly personality. But he also anticipates negative comments, which is also in line with his plan.
Horibata is the first in their family to enter the politics and he knew how big the wall he was trying to go against so to make people aware of his name, he had to be unique. People’s perception of a politician is a big factor in their winning but Horibata literally changed the game and took the opposite path. For him to be
popular among constituents, he made sure that they will have a negative first impression of him.
“I love psychology and I wanted my name or my reputation to be negative talaga (in reality). Gusto ko (I want a) negative [first impression, like] ‘Walang kwenta yan si Hori, bata yan, walang alam (Hori is young and useless, he doesn’t know anything).’ I wanted it to spread in the entire district,” Horibata confesses, adding that
after his reputation of being a ‘snob’ spreads, he will prove them wrong by giving hugs and smiles.
The Binghamton University alumnus said that a good impression is only good when you are not going to see the person for a long time, but a negative first impression is ironically helpful in the long run if you plan on being present all the time.
Aside from this strategy, Horibata also made sure that he has a fun way for people to remember his name. He used the popular variety show game, ‘Hep Hep Hooray,’ replacing the ‘Hooray’ with ‘Hori’ instead. During the campaign period, he would invite the audience to play ‘Hep Hep Hori’ as a way to end his campaign
rallies to increase name recall.
THE POWER MOVE
Horibata likes to excel in everything he does but he doesn’t like showing people that he is working, which he admits is quite unusual. Growing up, he learned how to play baseball and it became more than a hobby. He stood out in baseball so much that he even got scouted by six Division 1 Universities, and all offered him full scholarships.
After considering his options, the then-17-year-old ended up studying at Binghamton University in New York, United States (US). Horibata claims to hold the record of the fastest pitcher at 93 miles per hour. He also proudly shares that he is the only Filipino that got scouted into Major League Baseball (MLB) and also the only player that played in Division 1 in the entire United States of America.
He kept his training under wraps, so when he got all those recognitions in baseball, they thought that it was
all luck. In the end, he wasn’t seen as a threat and it came as a shock when they lost. Horibata applied the same strategy during his campaign.
Aside from his excellent baseball skills, Horibata is also knowledgeable in computer programming and he
considers this the biggest factor that contributed to his win. With his approachable nature, he was able to
interact with many people on the streets. But Horibata wanted to focus on getting to know the first district
more. With his background, he created a software that served as the directory of his constituents. With this, Horibata can identify constituents who are in most need of ayuda, instead of randomly leaving this to the choice of barangay leaders alone.
“Using my system, I am able to track down the people that I specifically want to provide aid to. I know their name, zone, sitio (barangay). Then I’ll coordinate that with the local leaders who will call those people,” Horibata shares, adding that it reduces the risk of ‘palakasan (favoritism)’ amongst barangay officials.
The same software that Horibata designed himself in the span of one month is another tool he used to excel in the campaign. Whenever he would attend a campaign rally, Horibata would use his software to get the demographics of his audience.
If his audience is elderly, he will make the campaign light and humorous. But if the majority of the audience belongs to the youth sector, then he would change the speech related to their needs or culture. If there are more supporters in his audience, he will mention his programs to maintain their support and when there are more who
are against him, he would try his best to persuade them.
“So with every single barangay, my speech changes. I change my approach based on the surveys. And the best thing is I always make them laugh,” Horibata confidently says.
THE SWEET PROMISE
If there is something else that can be associated with Horibata’s name, it is his chocolate farm. He was raised in Camarines Sur until he was five years old, then moved to Manila where he studied middle school and high school at the International School Manila in Taguig City. After graduating from the US, he worked in Ezaki Glico, one of the biggest food processing companies in Japan.
Horibata only came back to the Philippines to start his cacao farm and a chocolate factory. But little did he know that he was back for a bigger purpose. Not long after he came back, Horibata saw how badly the district needed change.
“[Camarines Sur’s] 1st District is very underdeveloped. We are famous for the worst highway in the Philippines and other than that, wala kaming (there are no) landmarks. There are no businesses, lack of opportunities, ang ganda nga ng natural sites namin (we have beautiful natural sites) but there are no tourists,” he laments.
As an Economics graduate, Horibata understands the real problem in the district and he wants to focus on achieving an ideal economy for their first district. To achieve this, the district must be able to attract money and keep the money flowing within the district. In order to make it happen, the congressman plans to put up a big park. Because the people in the district tend to spend their money outside the district because they don’t have such attractions. This way, the money will circulate in their locality.
He shares that he was able to get funding to the tune of Php70 million to build the facility in Sipocot. It will serve as a trading center and in addition, he wants to place a big LED TV so that when the night comes, people can use it as a public movie place to encourage bonding in the community.
Also on his agenda is to build a colosseum with a stage to organize sport tournaments and music festivals where the district can host concerts of famous local artists. These infrastructure projects aim to give the district its own identity. But beyond buildings, the congressman also wants to pay attention to the beautiful beaches in Camarines Sur and promote them to attract not just local, but foreign visitors as well.
Despite being thrown into a path far different from the one he set when he came home and put up his farms, Horibata still has not forgotten his original goal. But now he sees the bigger picture and knows that his plans have grown to include not only his and his family’s welfare, but also the people of the first district of Camarines Sur.
“I love farming and I will make the 1st District of [Camarines Sur] famous for its cacao,” he ends.