HE is holding up quite well, thank you very much, despite the 6.5 magnitude quake that struck Ormoc City and a few other towns of Leyte in the Eastern Visayas on July 6.
The next day, Richard Gomez, or “Goma” to his many fans, fielded questions from radio, television and print reporters with the aplomb of a seasoned actor-turned-politician that apparently had even his more severe critics then and now cheering him from the sidelines.
In his heyday as a box-office star of Philippine movies and television in the 1990s, Gomez, now mayor of Ormoc City, was not looked at kindly by the “intellectual” press and so-called high society.
One possible reason may be that the decade’s boy-next-door used to be on the crew of a popular fast-food chain, unlike today’s crop of show business wannabes that boast enviable pedigrees.
High on that totem pole are students of exclusive schools, English-speaking professionals and sons and daughters of the elite of Philippine society, among other factors that “qualify” an aspirant to be taken more seriously by film producers than he or she actually deserves.
Gomez on July 7 delivered, well, an award-winning performance that should be a lesson for all politicians who would rather play to the gallery of prospective voters reeling not only from earthquakes but also typhoons, floods and other natural calamities.
In a voice that would rival those of BBC anchormen, he gave the lowdown on, among other more significant matters, the extent of the damage and destruction, his response as the city’s leader to requests for relief goods and medical treatment and the restoration of power and water services.
In the aftermath of the havoc in 2013 that Typhoon Yolanda wreaked on the country, particularly on the capital city of Tacloban, local and national officials spoke from the Tower of Babel, resulting in the agonizingly chaotic rehabilitation of the city, as well as neighboring Samar provinces, that is still being carried out today despite hundreds of millions in local and international donations and other forms of assistance.
Some of these officials talked about their “personal” experiences from the onslaught of Yolanda, a super typhoon, instead of quickly and without fanfare attending to the urgent needs of their constituents.
Gomez was reported to have simply ducked under a table in his office as the earthquake last Thursday shook, rattled and rolled Ormoc City and the towns of Kananga, Jaro, Capoocan, Palo and Tacloban.
Not to take away any credit from the mayor but apparently he also got support in the form of unsolicited advice from his wife, Ormoc City Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez, who hails from the city.
Meanwhile, the mayors of the other affected towns and Tacloban City apparently have also passed the test on immediate and organized disaster response, however weaker the earthquake and its aftershocks were in their respective areas.
The government has since declared a state of calamity in Ormoc City and Kananga, a move that should lessen the problems of the other mayors, including Gomez.
Apparently, disasters bring out the best and the worst in people but it is up to politicians where they want to belong.
Evidently, Gomez as well as Kananga Mayor Rowena Codilla and their counterparts in the other three towns and Tacloban City had the safety and welfare of the Leyteños in mind, and hopefully not their votes in 2019, if these officials are thinking about them already.
For Goma, being the “face” of the latest natural disaster to strike the country, the earthquake may have just come as a “blessing” to whatever political or non-political plans he has right now but it would be a pity if he would give his detractors the same ammo that they used to fire at him when he was “nothing” but an actor.
He should not “unredeem” himself before them.