In exactly 29 days, the former mayor of San Juan assumes his newest role yet, as mayor of the capital City of Manila. Joseph “Erap” Estrada, who in his own words is an ex in many ways – ex-actor, -mayor, -senator, -vice president, -president, and –convict – has his work cut out for him. In his campaign speeches to win City Hall, he often referred to Manila as part of the past. Now the future beckons, and the voters who picked him over Fred Lim are waiting with bated breath to see Mayor Erap’s blueprint to turn Manila into a “Paris of the East.”
For 18 years, Erap ruled and made San Juan – or did San Juan make him? San Juan was the prettiest littlest place in Metro Manila, a residential neighborhood curving up and down gentle slopes, adorned with gardens planted to trees, flowering shrubs and vines. The mayor was a living legend, with a larger-than-life image as an invincible screen hero that was to prove the quickest audition for Malacañang.
As I have frequently told the incumbent (and reelected) Mayor Guia Gomez, if I were ever to leave my house in Quezon City, her city will be my first choice for a transfer. According to another ex-mayor, Erap and Guia’s son JV, the newly elected senator, the population of San Juan is not even 200,000, compared to Manila’s teeming 5 or 6 million, and in 2006, it was the city with the lowest poverty incidence.
Months before he lost the election, Mayor Lim rued his inability to convince the Philippine Port Authority to allow Manila to build a modern business and financial hub in Port Area. The only other way to enlarge the congested city was to create land out of water, but reclamation has always been a bad word to the residents of Malate.
Now with Erap in City Hall – an Erap whose hobby is designing and furnishing the interiors of his homes – and following the election of another ex-mayor who’s a frustrated architect, Rep. Lito Atienza, may Manilans expect to see a rejuvenated,
Botoxed, stem-celled Manila? Futurize, beautify and enrich Manila, reduce congestion and poverty, and she’s all yours, Mayor Estrada!