I once met a guy whose nickname is Dick. He insisted that his name is spelt “Dict” (with a “t” instead of a “k”), not that this made any difference in the way people hear him say his name. Most would still react in a funny way as they associate the name with something else. If you were the sort of person who judges another by his name though, then you would miss out on how wonderful a guy named Dick is.
Take Senator Richard “Dick” Gordon, for example. He is certainly not one of those who would insert a letter “H” in his name to change its spelling to “Dhick” just to make it sound softer. He is the sort of person who, after spotting you from across a crowded room, would enthusiastically meet you halfway and give you a real man-handshake. He’d say “Just call me Dick, Dick Gordon”. You might even mistake it for “Bond, James Bond”. One look at Dick Gordon and all the bad name association that evokes snickers will be gone in a second, for he is a jolly good man with a smile always pasted on his face.
Personally, I see Dick Gordon as the real life version of “The Cleaner”, the character played by Harvey Keitel in the film Pulp Fiction. If you’re not familiar with that excellent film, The Cleaner is the operative that people go to when they want a messy situation rectified. Like that character in the film, Dick Gordon routinely oversees thorough clean-ups with military precision of any disaster, whether it be natural (volcanic eruptions and mudslides) or man-made (such as the U.S. military withdrawal of 1992).
Dick Gordon started his political career at an early age. He was even a delegate to the drafting of the 1973 Constitution of the Philippines. You can tell that he applies his degree in both History and Law to how he does his job as a public official. His own father was a victim of political assassination in 1975 but unlike that other popular presidential candidate, Dick Gordon doesn’t use this piece of personal history to solicit the sympathy of voters. He simply does what he does to the best of his own abilities. He’s gone through a lot of upheavals with little resources to work with, a lot of detractors along the way, and just his enthusiasm and his fighting spirit to see him through them. Nowadays, as a Presidential contender, he is probably facing one of the toughest battles of his political career, one that pits him against the emotionally-appealing option and the moneyed option.
The Man and the City
Everybody loves going to Olongapo City. I don’t know anyone who has never been there. Even when I was still a kid, I already had fond memories of going there. Olongapo City has gone through a total transformation from being an R&R “sin city” during the period of the U.S. military presence there, into what is now hailed as a “model city”. Olongapo is a model city because it has a high rate of volunteerism among its residents, operates a proper waste, health and sanitation management regime, and was the pioneer for a colour-coded public transport system. There is a good community spirit in Olongapo City overall.
Next to Olongapo City is Subic Bay which once hosted the largest U.S. Naval Base in the Far East. The area is now called the Subic Bay Free Port Zone. Kids nowadays might not even know that it used to be a military base but when I was a kid, everyone I knew who had been there was always at awe of the wonders they saw within the U.S. Subic Naval Base. One of its notable features which I found funny was how every Filipino visitor was very aware of its very different set of traffic rules. Within the base, you really had to stop or give way when the sign indicated Stop or Give Way. Every Filipino driver who entered its gates became totally obedient of the road rules while inside. Most likely because the place was run by Americans, Filipinos found greater shame in getting caught not following the rules. Inside, the roads were well paved and the facilities were first class. It was also renowned for having one of the biggest un-touched forests that hosted protected wildlife. This is where the U.S. military did much of their training. We have to thank the Americans for what the Subic Bay Free Port is today, paving the way for how Filipinos use it now as an economic and tourist hub.
I still recall the aeroplane that stood as a monument near the entrance of the former U.S. Naval Bases. It had Dick Gordon’s name on it, a reminder that it was his unofficial playground, a playground that he loved, protected and kept well maintained for Olongapo residents and the entire Philippine population to enjoy. If there are two things that should be associated with the name Dick Gordon, it would be Olongapo City and the Subic Bay Freeport Zone. There is no way that the success of these two places could not be attributed to Dick Gordon. His name is synonymous with the acronym SBMA (Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority) for having been instrumental in its establishment and for administering it from 1992 until 1998.
After taking stock of all the stuff he’s gone through, you would say to yourself “man, Dick Gordon was right all along” on all the major issues that faced the Philippines back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. These issues are the same ones that are coming back to haunt him and the rest of the country today.
Dick Gordon campaigned for the “No” vote on the 1987 constitution which was framed by the late President Cory Aquino. It is the constitution that is now being criticised as currently imploding and vindictive. It is the constitution that is hampering the growth of the country because of its unfriendly foreign investment laws. It is the same constitution that prevents past presidents from running a second term, giving little opportunity for incumbents to finish what they started. Dick Gordon was right when he campaigned for the “No” vote on the 1987 constitution.
Dick Gordon led a nationwide rally in 1991 for the retention of the U.S. Bases in Subic Bay. He knew at that time that apart from being a major income generating client of Olongapo City, the Philippines was in no way ready to protect itself from militants and terrorists who were sleeping in its midst, not to mention threats to its security coming from outside. He was unsuccessful in his campaigned but has since been proven correct. Militants who were put off by the U.S. presence in the country, have since regrouped and are now free to wreak havoc and terrorise the rest of the population in the country and elsewhere. The Philippines is now the Number One choice training ground of Al-Quaeda operatives in the region. It was the late former President Cory Aquino who hammered the final nail into the coffin the U.S. military presence in the Philippines. It must not have been easy for Dick Gordon to be working against the tide back then (and even now). I can only begin to imagine working so hard for your beliefs only to get disapproval from a popular but incompetent president.
Dick Gordon is not the type of person who easily gives up. After facing one of the most destructive natural calamities in the region with the eruption of Mount Pinatubo 1991 and prevailing over the threat of looting of the abandoned U.S. naval base in 1992, he successfully lobbied for the conversion of the military infrastructure for civilian and commercial use and the establishment of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority. During these trying times Dick Gordon managed to rally and mobilize the citizens of Olongapo to help clean-up the ashes that engulfed the neighbouring towns and protect the massive infrastructure left by the Americans. There was a very high community civic spirit as a result of his campaign and a passionate demonstration of volunteerism coming from his constituents. These are achievements that very few politicians can boast. Dick Gordon made it look so easy but not everybody can be as enthusiastic and as fervent in his conviction as he.
The name Dick Gordon can also be associated with the words reliable and consistent. Consistent because once he puts his mind into something he really sticks to it. He has been reliable with his roles in the Philippine National Red Cross, in pushing his advocacies, and in helping in various natural disasters throughout the years. He was consistent in actively marketing the Philippines in several tourism expositions and has also been credited with putting the Philippines in the international tourism map. His singular focus on converting the former U.S. Naval Base into an investment hub, created jobs and convinced bluechip companies to come to the party in the Philippines. His most recent noteworthy achievement the passage of Republic Act No. 9369 or the Automated Elections System that he hopes will prevent cheating and post election controversies.
It would be a real crying shame if Dick Gordon does not get elected to the presidency this coming May elections. Dick Gordon can rally the whole country behind him just like he did the whole citizenry of Olongapo City when he was still Mayor and Chairman of SBMA consecutively. Dick Gordon can undertake an effective clean-up of the mess the country is in now.
On the 10th of May, do not forget that the name Dick stands for something more than whatever it is that makes people react to it in a funny way. Dick Gordon stands for someone who is fit to be the next president of the Republic of the Philippines.