I met him once before, many years ago, and in Chicago while he was visiting one of his old classmates (who was my “ninang”) during one of his U.S. trips to visit his children studying in the Midwest. He became a hero of sorts as he led the House of Representatives in the filing of impeachment raps against Joseph Estrada. And he continued his rise in Politics as he became a member of the Upper House and eventually became the President of the Senate.
I, along with a few other bloggers got a whole morning’s worth of face time with Manny Villar, one of presidential bets for next year’s elections. Just a quiet discussion on a whole range of topics predictably related to his bid next year. I was there to represent the sports bloggers (yes, it's true, that's the reason!), a genre he has started to support in the last few years.
Here are my impressions:
Villar is a very simple man with very big accomplishments. He breaks down the issues into its simplest form before he offers a solution. He seems to be a very practical person and a great manager. He’s still a little shaky talking about the environment as he hasn’t proactively pursued the issue as politician. He has done a lot but really publicized it like others in politics.
As most other politicians, he parades his record as one of leadership and accomplishment. It seems though, the Philippines still has a long way to go in its maturity to consider those criteria as most important for voters. The Senator realizes this, which is why most of his efforts are geared toward his popularity, as much as he’d prefer it not to be.
There were a couple of issues that got his juices flowing. You can tell if a man is passionate about something by the look in his eyes and the conviction of his voice. You start talking about the OFW’s, the unsung heroes of our generations, and he will gladly spend a few cups of coffee discussion how helping them will be a big part of his presidency. He is already helping many, out of his own pocket because of his passion for the issue.
The other issue that made his eyes light up was entrepreneurship. This is a topic that doesn’t excite most people, which is why he hardly brings it up. But the smile in his face and the authority in his voice made it obvious that this was the topic closest to his heart. “Entrepreneurship will be the lifeblood of our economy” he says. “Our people need to learn to compete, and how to grow their money”. These are words full of credibility coming from man who started with nothing to now being one of the wealthiest in the Philippines. He even gave some very practical financial advice to boot (which might be for another entry) but the topic of business and money seems to be his forte.
Lastly, as a sports blogger, we did have to tackle some sports stuff so I asked him about why he sponsors Billiards and his opinion of the Pacman running again for public office. The first was simple, his name sounds like the Filipino pronunciation of Billiards, thus the tie-in. As for the second question, he like most of the Philippine population wants to see more of the other Manny as the boxer who has inspired a nation. “He has done something all of us politicians haven’t done, unite the country at least for brief moments”.
Overall, he seems to be one of the candidates least prone to corruption. He doesn’t need the money, and does have respect of his peers (thus not having to buy loyalty). Only time will tell if he becomes our country’s CEO.