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BULAKAN, BULACAN MAYOR VERGEL MENESES



Shooting for Change


BY: CAMILLE F. CABAL


A PBA legend is now building a name for himself in public service, using his basketball experience to serve others.


PHILIPPINE BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION (PBA) LEGEND VERGEL MENESES IS NOW MAKING A NAME IN PUBLIC SERVICE, BRINGING WITH HIM THE VALUABLE LESSONS HE LEARNED AS AN ATHLETE.



THE AERIAL VOYAGER

Meneses was not just a simple basketball player back from the 1990s to the mid-200os.His name is synonymous to titles and praises he earned during his time. He earned the nickname "Aerial Voyager" for his gravity-defying in-game trips to the basket. He holds the record of the most All-Star Game Most Valuable Player (MVP) awards, totaling four. Wherever and whenever he played, Meneses brought excitement to the crowd and he was idolized by many baskteball-loving Filipinos during his time in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).


The PBA star player started his basketball journey in a simple basketball league his dad used to hold in Bambang, Bulakan. Meneses recalls that in one of those tournaments he participated in, he was the first player to score a basket. Following this, his fatherknew he had the skills to play. “Until my father challenged me that for every shot I make, he will give me Php100.” After how many tries, I barely made a shot,” Meneses shares. Discouraged, he went back to Malolos where he met a former Jose Rizal University (JRU) Heavy Bombers player who trained him to be better at playing. Soon enough, Meneses started playing in Malolos. He then played for Centro Escolar University (CEU) at theage of 17, competing with players who are almost twice his age. When he was confident enough to compete, he went back to Bulakan and there they witnessed how good Meneses had become. The rest, as they say, is history.


Despite all the titles and recognitions, Meneses admits that being a professional basketball player was not really on top of his goals. Being surrounded with public servants growing up, Meneses admired their capability to uplift the lives of the people around them. “Not to make myself look good but even when I was still in PBA, I was already extending help to my fellow Bulakenyos.” But for Meneses, his entry to politics will make him more capable to help the people of Bulakan. “Whatever the government gives will reach them,” he adds.


FROM HOOPS TO HALLS OF GOVERNANCE

The mayoralty was not the first local government position that Meneses aimed for. In 2016, he ran for vice mayor of Bulakan but fell short. The following election, he tried his luck for the mayoralty and won with an almost 7,000-vote margin over his relative Piccolo Meneses. He replaced former Mayor Patrick Meneses who is also his relative. “Naging usapan nga dito nung araw, ang pwede lang tumalo sa Meneses eh Meneses din pala, so ako pala yun (It has been the talk of the town that the only one who can defeat a Meneses is also a Meneses, and that’s me), Meneses says. Although related, the incumbent and the current have different goals. Meneses is a witness to how his relatives ran the municipality and he wanted to change it.


With only his experience from the hardcourt, Meneses knew what he was getting into and was prepared for the challenges that come with it. If there is something he earned from playing, it is his ability to lead, which also comes in handyin public service. For him, it is no differentthan handling a basketball team where the coach should be the model to his players. Meneses says he still uses the same strategy in politics; he speaks less and lets the people judge him by his accomplishments.



“Ang pulitika parang basketball yan, mapa-player o coachka, ang tinitignan ng mga tao ang performance mo para patuloy ka nilang tangkilikin. (Politics is like basketball. Whether you are a player or a coach. People continue to support you if you perform well),” Meneses says as he shares what he considers his “baptism of fire” when he dealt with the side commentsof the people regarding their efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic. Meneses shares that he was actually the one who discouraged his staff from dealing with the taunting of the people. Instead, he encouraged them to keep on posting about their projects and accomplishments in the municipality.


MENESES IS CONFIDENT THAT HE IS ON THE RIGHT TRACK IN BRINGING THE CHANGE THAT HE WANTS FOR BULAKAN.


BINAGONG BULAKAN

Meneses expresses his genuine willingness to uplift the lives of Bulakenyos and to do this, he believes there must be changes in the municipality. Above all, Meneses pays attention to the health of his constituents the most. In fact, the first thing that he did as he assumed his position was to provide Bulakan with its own ambulances. “Pinilit ko makapag-provide ng mga ambulansiya, actually lahat ng barangay sa amin meron (I did my best to provide ambulances, actually, each of our barangays has one), Meneses proudly claims. He adds that his family also donated five ambulances. Meneses’ focus on health was the best decision that time because it became a lifesaver for Bulakan during the pandemic.


Aside from the above, Meneses did not forget to care for the senior citizens of Bulakan. From the first 100 beneficiaries, there are now 400 seniors benefiting from programs of the mayor’s office, receiving a one- time payment of Php6,000 and free medicines. During Christmas, Meneses himself goes to the communities to distribute medicines and other medical needs of his constituents who are bedridden or those who are no longer capable to go to his office. And this year, he even involved his childrento share and give something to the people of Bulakan.



“ANG PULITIKA PARANG BASKETBALL YAN, MAPA-PLAYER O COACH KA, ANG TINITIGNAN NG MGA TAO ANG PERFORMANCE MO PARA PATULOY KA NILANG TANGKILIKIN.”

 

By the beginning of this year, Meneses hopes the establishment of Bulakan’s dialysis center will start, which he claims, the municipality obtained through investors. This, for him, will be a big help so Bulakenyos no longer need to travel to nearby towns for their dialysis treatment. Bulakan did not just vote for a mayor but a someone who has established good friendships and connections. As a former Ginebra player for three years, Meneses also gained the support of his former boss, and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of San Miguel Corporation (SMC) Ramon S. Ang. He shares that Ang has consistently supported Bulakan by helping the municipal government build school buildings and barangay halls. The office of Senator Bong Go, on the other hand, provided funds for the construction of their Super Health Centers.



As of writing, Bulakan is expecting the construction of the Manila International Airport, a project proposed by SMC, within its territory. Although seen as a door to many opportunities such as employment, Meneses found it challenging at first to make the people understand the benefits the municipality and its residents may gain from it. So, he asked SMC to assist and help explain the project to the people, which eventually resulted to the understanding of all parties.


Now thriving in his new arena, Meneses never forgets where he came from. Of course he holds basketball tournaments in his town. Aside from the youth, he wants to involve the members of various tricycle operators and drivers associations (TODA). For him, this is not just another way to keep the youth preoccupied but to discover and train players who will follow his footsteps, someone that Bulakan can be proud of or someone or who will be proud to put Bulakan in the map.


"HINDI AKO 'YUNG POLITIKO NA PAGKATAPOS MANALO AY PARANG NAKALIMUTAN NA ANG LAHAT NG PANGANGAILANGAN NG MGA TAO."

 

According to Meneses, whatever he started since his first term in 2019, he is just continuing now in his second term. Ang brand ng politika na gusto ko matatak sa tao o yung legacy ko, gusto ko makita nila yung mga contribution ko para sa kanila. Hindi ako yung politiko na pagkatapos manalo ay parang nakalimutan na lahat ng pangangailangan nila (The brand

of leadership or the legacy that I want people to remember me by is, being someone who had contributions for their welfare. I am not a politician who forgets their needs after winning),” Meneses says. Overall, Meneses is proud of his accomplishments and confident that he is on the right track in bringing the change that he wants for Bulakan.






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