This girl Bettina

By Jose B. Perez

A HEX hangs over the second district of Camarines Sur. Not one of its congressmen since Raul S. Roco has been lucky enough to enjoy a second-term.

Congressman Roco became senator after his first term expired. Pol San Buenaventura lost twice before he finally won in 1995 over then incumbent Celso Baguio who succeeded Raul. A betrayal by a contractor-friend did Baguio in over a graft issue.

But San Buenaventura, who wanted to make eunuchs out of rapists, was not good enough for a second term. He, along with comebacking Baguio and over-confident Bong Villafuerte were badly mangled by James Jacob who raced to a convincing lead, thanks to Mayor Jesse Robredo and the Naga electorate who gave the former city councilor and Bar topnotcher a record margin of more than 14,000 votes over the closest rival. Jacob did not seek re-election as Cho Roco aimed for Congress at the end of the latter’s first term as mayor to pave the way for Robredo’s comeback who in 1998 enrolled at Harvard for masteral studies after having served as mayor for three consecutive terms.

The last time we heard about Pol was when he bid farewell to ward leaders after his failed campaign to become mayor of his tiny hometown of Gainza. Would he be around in the next barangay election?

Like Baguio and Pol, Cho fell in disgrace on his second try. While Cong. Roco won in Naga, challenger and outgoing Gov. Luis Villafuerte pulverized him in the rest of the second district towns. LRV’s triumph became a vindication of his two sons’ previous defeats. Brothers L-Ray and Bong were one by one routed by Cho in the 1998 mayoral and 2001 congressional contests, respectively.

Will the older Villafuerte stay as congressman beyond 2007 and thus break the jinx that has been haunting the second district for the last 15 years?

Politics aside, there is for sure one woman who will stand out when members of the Philippine medical associations of Metropolitan Washington, D.C. and Chicago come to Naga for a 5-day medical/dental/surgical mission on January 10-14, 2005.

She’s pretty, she’s gorgeous, she’s articulate, she’s tall, she’s bubbly as ever. She’s Bettina Obias-Gancayco, the 1983 Miss Bicolandia.

She’s the point person of the Bicol Association of Metropolitan Washington, D.C., which, together with the Naga City Government, is sponsoring the biggest ever medical mission by Fil-Am surgeons in Bicol.

As the wife of Dr. Theodore (Ted) Gancayco of Cavite who is concurrently the president of the Philippine Medical Association of Metro Washington, D.C. and chief of mission of the volunteer ophthalmologists for the Naga medical mission, Bettina has been tasked to head the logistics and social concerns of the mission.

She came earlier, last October 26, 2004, along with fellow Bicolana, Dr. Yen Dizon-Estrada (of San Jose and Caramoan), to meet for the initial groundworks with Mayor Jesse Robredo and Naga First Lady Leni (Bettina’s high school classmate at then CSI), Drs. Butch Borja and Ronnie Ursua, and other city hall officials.

With strains of the distinct Partido accent still evident when speaking in the local tongue, Bettina exuded the same unsophisticated charm and sweetness as it was when she made heads turn as a popular fast-talking colegiala years ago. She gulped halo-halo and devoured Bicol spiced foods like she has been away for decades although she confessed that she comes home once or twice a year to visit her parents and classmates — thanks to her paid annual vacation leave as an employee at the World Bank headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Bettina, friend to my wife’s younger brother and sisters, is the beautiful girl next door who can comfortably go along with all types of people.

Her mother is a Bonnevie that makes her a niece of the famous movie star. Her father Tom-Tom is a cousin of Milagros Obias-Drilon, wife of the Senate President.

Once a cover girl of Mr. & Ms. Magazine when she was romantically linked to San Beda College basketball star Joey Loyzaga in the mid 1980s, Bettina disclosed that it was after winning the Miss Bicolandia pageant that first brought her to the US. Actually, she said, the prize included a trip for two to Bangkok which she converted by adding a few dollars more into a trip to the land of milk and honey.

While there on temporary sojourn, she enrolled in a business college with the hope of coming back for a longer stay to finish other courses. As a senior student she earned a secretarial job at the Egyptian Embassy in Washington before hitting the World Bank. And irony of ironies she met her future husband Ted, an ophthalmologist, through a blind date. Betttina giggled when she told us that it took Ted 7 years before finally deciding to marry her! May diferencia siguro sa mata an ophthalmologist, we kidded her.

After a dinner over cocidong salmon and sautéed shrimps at Chili Peppers, Ronnie, Yen, Bettina and I all agreed to proceed to Bistro Roberto where Bettina’s high school classmates reserved a long table near the dance floor. Ronnie and I, with Carlos 1 infront of us, were soon crowded with giggling ladies but were happy at the thought that our Balikbayan guests truly enjoyed the evening.

As she planed back to the US last week, Bettina texted me this message: “Keep n touch! Text me via dis number. Piso lang. Missing u guys already! See u soon. Goodspeed. Aaaah – I love ‘Pinas!”


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