A premonition? After last Tuesday night’s So Kim Cheng Sports Awards, I and three other councilors had a nightcap at the lobby bar of Grand Regal Hotel. Councilors Danilo Dayanghirang, Nilo Abellera, Leo Avila III and myself reminisced how we all started in politics.
We also recollected many other politicians in Davao and one prominently mentioned during our discussion was Dominador “Boy” Zuño, Jr. He served our city as City Councilor and Vice Mayor. Councilors Dayanghirang and Abellera both started their political careers under the tutelage of Boy.
We asked ourselves how he was doing. Councilor Avila volunteered that he saw Boy lately at SM Mall. So, we all thought that he was doing OK. We all know he was sick but it was a shocker to learn that he passed away just two days later.
Boy succumbed to illness Thursday morning and was interred yesterday. He was 62.
Boy (3rd right) circa 2001 with (from right) businessman Botoy de los Reyes, Councilor Avila, former City Mayor Ben de Guzman, myself, and Councilor Diosdado Mahipus.
We learned of his ailment about four years ago. Almost all councilors were flying to Manila for the Philippine Councilors League convention when Boy was with us on the same flight. He had an appointment with doctors in Manila to check on his stomach ailment. He has since stayed mostly in their house in Matina in the company of Nanay Tinay Zuño, one of the most influential women in Davao society and politics. She wrote her column These I Know for many decades at the Mindanao Times.
Boy followed the footsteps of his father, Dominador Sr., who was also a lawyer and a City Councilor during the 1950s.
Boy first ran and won a City Council seat in 1971, just after law school. He was one of the topnotchers in the Council race. Unlike today when we elect councilors by districts, during his time, campaigning for the city council meant going from one end to the other from Marilog to Lasang. He was aligned with the opposition during the martial law era and was the leader of UNIDO in Davao, which was headed by fellow Batangueno and former Vice President Salvador “Doy” Laurel.
He served as Vice Mayor from 1988-92 and lost in a congressional race pitting him with Jesus Dureza, now Press Secretary, and Prospero Nograles, now the Speaker of the House. Yes, Boy was in their league.
Boy was a close personal friend of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. They played golf several times and danced together in parties in Davao. Arroyo appointed Boy as one of her presidential consultants with a rank of undersecretary. Boy, for instance, was tasked by Arroyo to handle the Southern Philippines Development Authority for some time.
Many old people would remember Boy as a political neophyte before martial law who could orate, sing and cry on stage. Yup, Boy can dazzle the crowd at political rallies with sad tales, tall tales, and romantic tunes. His favorite were Cliff Richard songs.
Our families were very close. Nanay Tinay and my father both worked for the Mindanao Times. My eldest sister Lea worked as executive assistant of Nanay Tinay when she managed a courier firm in the city. And I was a fixture as a young journalist at numerous political meetings at the Zuño residence.
When I ran for City Councilor, I also visited Boy and Nanay Tinay for their help. I remember becoming one of the favorite candidates at Cristina Village in Matina Aplaya. This is one of the bailiwicks of the Zuños named after Nanay Tinay.
I and many Davaoenos owe many things to Boy. I can only repay him with the thought that I never betrayed his trust. I remember him saying suloguon lang kita sa katawhan “we are mere servants of the people.”
Indeed, he was, and so am I.