“Sometimes it's the journey that teaches you a lot about your destination.” -- Drake
By Alex P. Vidal
NEW YORK CITY -- Former Iloilo Vice Governor Roberto “Obet” Armada arrived in the Philippines on November 29, 2018 night from a one-month “spiritual journey” in the United States, thus he wasn’t able to “beat the deadline” for the last day of substitution and withdrawal set by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) for the May 2019 elections.
Even if the now 54-year-old life insurance executive was able to land in Manila earlier, he still wouldn’t file his Certificate of Candidacy (COC) for congressman in the third district of Iloilo as replacement for candidate Emmanuel “Manny” Gallar contrary to the expectations of Armada’s supporters.
Board member and former Bombo Radyo Iloilo anchorman Gallar will now face fellow board member Lorenz Defensor, son of Iloilo Governor Arthur “Art” Defensor Sr.
Political leaders and supporters wanted Armada to run against Defensor instead of Gallar who was mistaken as only a “token” candidate.
They believed that Armada “would have strong chances compared to Gallar as he still has vast and solid followers and supporters particularly in Cabatuan, Janiuay, Lambunao, Pototan, Badiangan, Mina, Calinog, and Maasin.”
Did he intentionally “escape” to the United States and wait for the Comelec deadline for substitution and withdrawal to pass before coming home?
“No,” was Armada’s quick answer when I asked him point-blank during our meeting at Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn on November 14, 2018, where he was accompanied by his Staten Island-based brother, Nestor, a retired industrial engineer and scientist.
“I have decided with finality not to join in politics again next year,” confirmed Armada, who was sworn as Iloilo governor by Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary (DILG) Secretary Ronaldo Puno during the “Capitol siege” on January 17, 2007.
When I asked him “how about after 2019?” He just smiled.
He went to the United States “not to escape the heat of political climate in Iloilo,” he swore, but “to find closure in this chapter of my life.”
A devout Catholic, Armada went to San Juan Capistrano Church in San Juan Capistrano in the Orange County, California on November 19th.
It was there where Armada’s late “Mommy Thelma” heard mass on July 2, 2006.
“It was a beautiful Sunday. The sunny but cool California weather was an ideal time to be outdoors. The place was meaningful to her ... and my Dad. This was where she spent the last couple of hours of her life on that fateful day,” narrated Armada.
“I took the road where she traveled from the church and the time Zach, my Nephew who lives in the neighboring area of Rancho Palos Verdes, noticed that she was more than just sleeping at the backseat of the car.
The Journey for me was painful. But I'm glad that, at last, I will be able to find closure in this chapter of my life.”
The former vice governor, who had also served as vice mayor of Janiuay town in Iloilo, added: “It took me more than a decade to muster the strength to confront and reconcile with this ‘Tragedy!’ I know I was not an ideal son to her, perhaps by any standard I was way below being good. But I have done, in the last score of her life, what I could possibly do to make her happy, however short, when she was alive and well. I hope I have given her, with what I have become, the pride and honor she truly deserved. I hope.”
Armada’s US trip was all dedicated to frolicking and visiting America’s historical and spiritual hubs from the East to the West Coast.
He also went into a pilgrimage in Philadelphia on November 17th and visited the chapel where the incorrupted body of St. John Neumann was placed in a glass.
Armada recalled that “Neuman died over a century ago. When his body was exhumed recently (30-40 years ago) it remained intact. He was the Archbishop of Philadelphia and made a lot of contribution in evangelizing most of the East Coast States. Coincidentally, he belonged to the Redemptorists (C.S.s.R.) Order. The 5th Saint along with Sts. Patrick, Alphonsus, Gerard and our school's Patron Saint, St.Clement.”