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Success in Perseverance




Much praise has been sung for those who never learned or have shunned the idea of giving up. And while there is undoubtedly wisdom in knowing when to throw in the towel, every person knows the ultimate satisfaction of achieving something seemingly unattainable. In a world full of quick fixes and instant gratification, Manila City 5th District Councilor Roberto “Bobby” Espiritu II trudged forward until he attained a position, eager to bring their family name back to the city’s political landscape. It took him six years (or two electoral bids), but now he’s more than ready to make a difference.


Espiritu’s father, Felixberto, served as a Manila councilor from 1992 to 1998. He then attempted to clinch a congressional seat but lost. From then on, the Espiritus stopped vying for elective positions. After graduating from Colegio de San Juan de Letran, the younger Espiritu then focused his efforts on making their businesses—bars and restaurants—grow.

That could’ve been the end of the line for the Espiritu family’s involvement in Manila politics, but as fate would have it, their political history did not
end there. He shares that when former Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso was running for senator back in 2016, Domagoso approached him to run under his party as councilor. Espiritu didn’t win.

“Siguro matagal din kasi kaming nawala [sa politika]. ‘Yung mga nakakakilala kay dad, matatanda na. ‘Yung mga bago, mga kabataan, ‘di na kilala [‘yung pangalan ng mga Espiritu] (I guess [we lost] because our family hasn’t been involved in politics for a long time. Those who knew my father are already old. Meanwhile, the new generation, the young adults, no longer know us),” Espiritu laments.

But he tried again in 2019, still under Domagoso’s party when he was running for the mayoralty. Once again, Espiritu lost. “Hindi pa rin siguro natin panahon nun kaya hindi pa rin tayo nakalusot (I guess it still wasn’t the right time for us, that’s why we weren’t elected into a position then),” he muses.

Espiritu admits that, at that point, he was discouraged from running again, believing that his loss in the 2019 elections marked the end of the Espiritus’ political career in Manila. Election campaigns are expensive, after all, and perhaps their lengthy absence from the scene became the final nail on the coffin.

“Medyo napanghinaan kami ng loob noon, siguro hindi para sa atin. Kaya lang nung malapit na ‘yung filing [ng certificate of candidacy], nakita namin ‘yung clamor ng taumbayan na lumahok muli kami. Nakita namin ‘yung kagustuhan nila [na iboto kami] kaya sinubukan namin ulit (We were discouraged, thinking maybe [being a politician] isn’t meant for us. But when the filing [of certificate of candidacy] neared, there was public clamor for us to participate [in the upcoming elections]. We saw that they wanted us so we tried again),” Espiritu shares.

“Pero takot na takot kami kasi [tumatakbo kaming] independent (But we were scared during the campaign because I ran as an independent candidate).” The 42-year-old councilor shares that campaigning as an independent candidate was a huge risk, but he was compelled to push forward because of the people. And as can be expected, none of it was easy for Espiritu: “It’s difficult to run as an independent [candidate] because you are alone. No one is there for you.

Down to the setting up of campaign sorties, [you are alone in taking care of] needs like sound system, stage set-up, meetings, etc.” It was quite an experience, and it also taught him that attaining victory depends more on one’s real desire to serve. Because of the challenges he faced, alone, during the 2022 campaign, Espiritu particularly cherishes the memory of winning a seat in the city council.

Espiritu also believes his victory in the 2022 elections was an indication that the people saw his sincerity to serve. He says that while he may be new to the position, he does not consider himself a neophyte to the ins and outs of politics and public service. After all, he served as the chief administrative officer of the Office of the City Administrator during the tenure of Domagoso. Even during his younger years, he would tag along with his councilor-father when the latter would visit their constituents in the same district he now serves. His father would later on serve as city administrator under Domagoso.

Espiritu believes his efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic also helped him win because it allowed him to demonstrate to the people his desire to serve, even without a government position.

He began with his “Isang Linggong Ayuda (One Week Assistance)” project, in which they distributed a bag of pan de sal (bread roll) to low-income families in various barangays every week. Pan de sal, according to him, may not be that much, but he believes that they were more than enough to fill the stomachs of hungry families, especially considering how many breadwinners lost their jobs.

“It’s really difficult if you get sick and you are financially incapable. I am hoping that we will have a good healthcare system here so that even our low-income families would not have a hard time if they get sick. “

As councilor, healthcare is one of Espiritu’s top priorities. This is because he witnessed his family’s struggle with serious health conditions. At the age of 13, Innoh, his younger brother, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), stage four. It was during this time that he had his first failed attempt at running for the city council in 2016. His younger brother is now cancer-free, but their plight during his treatment made the family witness the downheartened situation of cancer-stricken children at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH).

During his time as a councilor, the focus of the older Espiritu was also on medical services, and he brought doctors from the United States (US) to do free surgeries.

Inheriting the same focus, in a way, Espiritu is more concerned about his constituents who cannot afford to spend for medical services. “Medyo pagka wala [kang pera], financially incapable ka, medyo mahirap na kaagad ang laban pag nagkasakit ka. ‘Yun ang pangarap natin na sana one day, magkaroon tayo ng maayos na healthcare system dito na kahit ‘yung ating mga low- income families, hindi mamomroblema pagka sila‘y nagkasakit (It’s really difficult if you get sick and you are financially incapable. I am hoping that we will have a good healthcare system here, so that even our low-income families would not have a hard time if they get sick),” says Espiritu.

To help solve the issue, Espiritu commissioned an ambulance for his constituents who do not have easy and free access to the use of ambulances in the district. He explains, “It is very expensive to avail of ambulance services. The ambulance service from home to hospital already costs Php25,000. So if you are a low-income family receiving only Php30,000 a month, how could you afford it? Moreover, every second matters when it comes to heart attacks and stroke incidents.”

He established the free “Ka-Buddy helps rescue vehicle,” which transports patients to Manila City government hospitals 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Another of his programs
is the “Ka-Buddy Caravan” program wherein they conduct anti-dengue misting, feeding program, and pet anti-rabies vaccinations. The program also provides free haircuts and mostly aims to help students in public elementary schools.

In case of emergencies, the barangays have hotlines, and there are “Ka-Buddy volunteers” spread around the district to help. They also assist in facilitating admission to government hospitals.

Aside from health, Espiritu is also currently focusing on reviving businesses, especially since the 5th District is the tourist belt area in Manila. Their district covers Ermita, Intramuros, Malate, Port Area, San Andres, and South Paco. He recently authored the Anti-Business Harassment Act in the City Council, in support of efforts to make their district more business-friendly in order to attract more investors. After all, it is not only Chinatown in Binondo that characterizes Manila. The local government, according to Espiritu, is currently promoting Korea Town in Malate, and will soon develop a Little Tokyo or Japan Town, and India Town as well.

The councilor remembers the period when tourists flooded Baywalk on Roxas Boulevard and the growing local economy, which soon afterwards spread to Malate. This boosted the economy of Manila by creating jobs and promoting a healthy money flow. Espiritu claims that the economic activity in the Malate area is currently sluggish and that this is why he intends to revive the area’s once-flourishing activities.

“There are jobs if the local economy is very active. Money and the economy circulate if there are jobs,” he stresses.

Although Espiritu ran as an independent in the 2022 elections, he is confident that his efforts and projects will be successful because he feels the support of his fellow councilors.

He takes satisfaction in serving in the Manila City Council, since everyone there is united in their desire to make the City of Manila better. He is hopeful that they will achieve their goals because they are all walking in the same direction under Congressman Irwin Tieng, Vice Mayor Yul Servo, and Mayor Honey Lacuna. With this level of support, Espiritu is looking at a bright future for the people of Manila’s 5th District.

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