Manila Times, August 1, 2004

Rep. Sonny Angara: Not Exactly his Father's Shadow
By Terri B. Fucanan

MINUS the spectacles and graying hair, Rep. Juan Edgardo "Sonny" Angara bears a striking resemblance to his father, opposition Senator Edgardo Angara. But beyond physicality, more noticeable is the regal bearing of Aurora province's newly elected lone district representative: the stately gait, the neatly combed hair, the open smile and the charismatic flair that brought down his opponent in the last May election by almost 30,000 votes.

At 34, Sonny Angara is not the sole representative in the 13th Congress who was born into a political clan. He shares the House with a new roster of 30-something representatives who are mostly first-timers in government service, among them minority floor leader Francis "Cheese" Escudero, Teofisto "TG" Guingona, Robert Vincent "Dodot" Jaworski, Lorenzo "Erin" Taada and President's son-turned-Pampanga representative, Mikey Arroyo.

The young Angara admits he is a "newbie" in Congress "who still has a lot to learn about its systems." Nonetheless he hopes to make a mark during his term, which he intends not for the purposes of hollow political spectacle, but for the benefit of the still underdeveloped Aurora province.

"So much work needs to be done," sighs the young Angara in a recent interview with The Manila Times, referring to the backward economy in his province. He seeks to address it by legislating laws that could at least jumpstart livelihood opportunities for his people, though he admits most of the bills he is authoring would need big funding.

"It takes more than legislation to create jobs; you need businesses first," the young representative paused in thought. The wrinkled brows painted a serious expression on Angara's serene, youthful face. But it soon lit up upon the mention of his family, which comprises his charming wife Elvira Echauz and their 2-month-old baby boy.

Like father like son

Sons commonly emulate their fathers. Representative Angara admits that his senator father played a big role in his decision to take up law. "Sons grow up idolizing their fathers," he said.

Like any typical father-and-son relationship, Sonny used to tag along with his dad during the days the Senator would frequent the ACCRA Law Office (where the senator is a senior partner) and the University of the Philippines offices (where the senator once served as University president). He also inherited his father's gift of gab and proficiency in debating, which he further honed throughout his learning years in the London School of Economics and Political Science, University of the Philippines (while taking up Bachelor of Laws), and the Harvard Law School (where he took Master of Laws). Of all his subjects he excelled most in History, which he found highly useful in the study of law and politics.

But while taking up law was foreseen by family members early on, Sonny's move to go into politics at a very young age came as a surprise. The young Angara knew, however, that he was cut out for the job, having been fascinated with his readings on political theories and philosophies. "It's something I wanted to try," he said of politics. "Although I didn't plan to go into it this early."

His plans for running into public office was fast tracked when his aunt, Bellaflor Angara Castillo, finally ended her three terms as Aurora representative. She ran for a gubernatorial seat in the province (and won), but none of her children wanted to pick up from where she left off. Enter the young, optimistic Sonny Angara, who was willing to put in the effort and time needed for Aurora's development.

Though he is way younger than his colleagues in the House of Representatives, Sonny is confident that he could carry out his tasks as a legislator and public servant. Beyond personal credentials, he puts emphasis on work ethic and his great visions for his beloved province. "I don't want to promise too much," he was quick to point out. "Because although I'm a representative and people think I'm powerful, I still have to work within a system."

His visions for Aurora

Young people are naturally aggressive, especially when it comes to things they are passionate about. This was evident in the young politician, who shifts to a more serious tone whenever the conversation touched on his province's woes. It shows his commitment to uplift the lives of his constituents, though beneath the carefully chosen words lie an obvious frustration about the country's slow legislative process.

His stark, plain white and still unfurnished office at the Batasan Complex in Fairview, reflects the man's threshold for being stripped off the bare essentials. It is how things are in Aurora, he said, where livelihood lies much on conventional fishing and farming methods. The seven-hour drive to the province, in fact, mostly consists of rough, uncemented roads.

"Aurora is a province highly similar to most of our country's rural areas. It has similar problems too-basic services, health, education, nutrition of children and infrastructure," he said.

For his first term, Representative Angara is working on fulfilling his campaign promises to the people of Aurora, which he summed up in many Ks: Kalinangan (education), Kabuhayan (livelihood with emphasis on helping the farmers especially with their facilities), Kalusugan (health) and Kalikasan (preserving the environment). Since July 1, the first day of filing bills for the newly opened 13th Congress, Sonny Angara has already submitted 34 bills. He filed a House Bill creating the Aurora Special Economic Zone to bring in investments and create more jobs in the province.

He also sought to institutionalize the preschool system in the country, for he believes-and studies have shown-that "a big percentage of a person's intelligence develops in his younger years." There's also a bill that seeks to increase the salary of public schoolteachers all over the country, and another one that provides a better system for distributing internal revenue allotments to municipalities.

Representative Angara's immediate concern is to provide better infrastructure to his people. This translates to "good farm-to-market roads and post harvest facilities." He also wants to cut the middleman system of selling market goods. "This is to benefit the farmers who have worked hard to produce the crops."

He may be his father's younger image, but inside out Sonny Angara is a totally different person. On weekends he prefers to be with the comfort of his family, "just relaxing, playing basketball and laughing a lot." And though his political ordeals may be similar to what his father had trudged on in the past, Sonny is well on finding his own ways to overcome them.

Nevertheless, he remains a big fan of his father, and is always open to his advice. "I can never surpass what he has achieved, grabe ang taong yun eh, ibang klase," he said recently in a television interview. "But rest assured I'll do my best."

The young representative, it seems, is out to prove everyone he can also rise above his father's shadow. No matter how big it has gotten.

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