The Voice of a True Kagay-anon

I am a Kagay-anon. I dream of a Cagayan de Oro City that is peaceful, resilient, clean and environmentally conscious. I dream of a Cagayan that is economically developed and a Cagayan that is a City of Unity and Friendship.

I could have just done what I love to do most: practice law in the morning and the afternoon and teach in the evening. But I dabbled in politics because I wanted to serve my city and because I dream of a better Cagayan.

I was born on September 13, 1953 at 6:30 on a Sunday morning at Puericulture Center, now Maternity Hospital. My loud cries were drowned by the pealing of San Agustine Cathedral’s church bells.

My father, former Provincial Fiscal, Maximo Rodriguez and my mother, Kagay-anon Martha Bautista Rodriguez, of the Neri, Chavez, Velez, Roa and Bautista clans, named me after Rufus Choate and Clarence Darrow. They were two of the greatest criminal lawyers of the early 20th century in America.

Indeed their firstborn son, Rufus Clarence Bautista Rodriguez, would become a lawyer, just like the men he was named after. And like Rufus Choate, I would also become a Congressman, bringing the voices of my people to the halls of Congress.

But it was not an easy path. Like most boys, I was very active and was running around all the time. I was usually having fun with my cousins playing condesi em buko (shatong), bato lata, jolens (marbles), patintero, takyan, kote (toy top). I would spend hours playing with my tarak tarak and my pusil pusil. Together with my cousins Raymond and Jongjong Castaños, and neighbors, I would go swimming in Cagayan River, at the foot of the Carmen Bridge, now Ysalina Bridge.

Mama would take me marketing at Cogon Market. Those were happy adventures for me because I get to ride the tartanilla. We would buy meat at Baz’s stall and vegetables and panakot from Lola Amparo Bautista. I would also be treated to fresh goat’s milk and puto from Tita Connie Abellanosa’s stall right there at the market.

I remember the countless times I was sent to buy hot pan de sal from Ah Fat Bakery and groceries from Cagayan Grocery and Bina Tan.

When I was older, I would hang out with my friends in Double E, playing bowling. We would also play billiards, softball and basketball. We also went hunting with airguns at the hills of Nazareth, and sometimes we pick mangoes from Mr. Inovero’s trees without their knowledge and we had great fun.

We often went to the movies as an adolescent. My group of friends would usually enjoy classic films such as “Ben Hur” and “The Ten Commandments” at Fox Theater of the Tamparong family. We would eat pancit at Yee’s Restaurant after the movies. The other movie houses at the time were Lyric, Avenue and Gala Theatres and the State Theatre of the Malferraris. There was also the Vista Theatre, just really a bodega, located near Cogon Market that offered a triple program (3 movies) at only 25 centavos.

We had the Amphitheatre where I watched amateur singing contests like the Darigold Jamboree and the Uy Masuy – Fighter Wine Contest. I once gave moral support to my schoolmate, Edward Binanay, when he joined the Mindanao Finals for the Darigold Jamboree. I cheered him on as he sang, “I Who Have Nothing.”

I would also stand with fellow Kagay-anons when national and local candidates would have their rallies there. When I was in high school, I witnessed Ninoy Aquino deliver a stirring campaign speech at our Amphitheatre. He talked about the surrender of HUK Supremo Luis Taruc which he negotiated. We were all mesmerized when our own Maning Pelaez would speak before the crowd: “Bisag Unsaon, Maning Guihapon!”

When I was not watching amateur singers at Amphitheatre, I would be singing “Hey Jude” and “Yesterday” or listening to records of rock bands at the house of Totie and Rene Fuentes in Pabayo Street.

We did not have malls then. I remember going shopping with my parents at Ludena’s Store, Wadhu’s Store and Dadlanis Novelty Shop. We bought our books from Our Store which was owned by the Mosqueda’s. Our school supplies were from the P.F. Roa Store, Erlinda Store and MacMang Store. I had most of my pictures taken by the Tabor Studio and the Arce Studio. The biggest hardware at the time was Mindanao Lumber & Hardware owned by my classmate George Goking’s family and the Oriental Hardware owned by the Gordiels.

And of course, I spent a good amount of time courting the beautiful girls of Lourdes and Pilgrim.

Despite my shortcomings, my parents always believed that I could someday give back to my hometown. They spent a good amount of time molding me into a better person. As a boy, my father disciplined me while my mother religiously tutored me. Mama and I spent about four hours studying every day.

In grade school, Sister Aquilina in Lourdes College and Mrs. Bing Pimentel took on the role of guiding an active, playful child to graduate as a valedictorian of Xavier University Grade School.

As a young boy, I was a very active boy scout under my Scoutmaster, Sir Gabino Labial. We had camping every month at various elementary schools, Tibasak and Baloy. I attended the Regional Jamboree at Malaybalay, Bukidnon and have fond memories of our field trip in Camiguin. I became a Maginoo scout, one of highest positions in Boy Scout.

In high school, I was influenced by my favorite teachers: Ms. Pamaong, Mrs. Vega, Mr. Tagapulot, Mr. Yeban, Mr. Paglinawan, Fr. Nazareno, Fr. Belardo, Mr. Bagares, Mr. Zamayla, Mr. Mugot, Mr. Homonlay and Mr. Derequito who all contributed to my growth as a student. With their patience and guidance, I again graduated as a valedictorian of Xavier University High School.

I also gave honor to my parents, my teachers and Xavier University High School by being awarded as Most Outstanding High School Student of Cagayan de Oro City in 1971 by the Oro Jaycees and the No. 1 Most Outstanding High School Student of Northern Mindanao by the YMCA, Misamis Oriental Chapter.

But those awards almost meant nothing during my first few days in De La Salle University as a Del Monte-Philippine Packing Corporation Scholar. I initially felt inferior as an AB-Economics freshman because I was a typical promdi. I felt that my classmates looked down on me because I did not have that Manila look.

But I studied hard. And soon, my classmates began copying from me and began asking me to coach them on our lessons. From then on, I was no longer the bisdak from Cagayan de Oro, but the source of their correct answers.

Four years of studying hard in De La Salle University resulted in my graduating as a Summa Cum Laude in 1975. I proceeded to take my law at the University of the Philippines - Diliman, College of Law, as an entrance and college scholar.

It was at UP that I first took on a serious political position. During my sophomore year, I was elected as the first Filipino and Asian President of the World Association of Law Students. This was a political organization of students that has its headquarters in Washington, D.C., U.S.A.

At this point, I had gone past being the bisdak from Cagayan de Oro. I was representing the Philippines and presided over the organization’s assemblies in Khartoum, Sudan, Africa; Madrid, Spain and Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Despite attending to international concerns of the organization, I still managed to write my very first book. I started writing Law on Transportation during my sophomore year and it got published during my junior year. I did it to help the incoming sophomore students because our professors were unreasonable in assigning thirty cases a day. We would sometimes have to study up to ninety cases a week. The Law on Transportation was a casebook that would help my fellow law students handle the study load. Over the years I would write 47 books on law and government-related subjects.

In 1980, while still in my senior year in law school, I got elected to serve Cagayan de Oro and Misamis Oriental as the youngest senior board member of Misamis Oriental. It was a difficult time for me because I was juggling campaigning and studying law.

Looking back, I have sacrificed graduating on top of law school because of this. I only graduated 7th in class and I know I could have ranked higher than that. But I have no regrets because I had the privilege of serving the people of my beloved Cagayan de Oro and Misamis Oriental.

Fortunately, despite the very hectic schedule, I was still a consistent honor student at the U.P. College of Law and ranked 17th in the 1981 Bar Examinations.

I never stopped studying after law school. In 1984, I finished my M.A. in Economics with High Distinction at Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan. I also never stopped serving my people. That same year, I became the youngest Vice-Governor of Misamis Oriental. As a Vice-Governor, I concentrated on youth programs like education, labor, youth and sports.

In 1990, I was given the chance to do what I really love most. I was appointed as the youngest law dean of the San Sebastian College of Law in Manila. There, I was like a candle to the young law students, giving them light and guiding them in their quest to become arbitrators of justice. And like a candle, teaching consumed me and the fulfillment I got from it was incomparable to anything I have done before.

I continued studying even after getting my masteral degree. In 1993, I received a Certificate from the Academy on American Law, in Dallas, Texas, U.S.A.

In 1995, I earned my Master of Laws at Columbia School of Law in New York City with Harlan Fiske Stone Honors, which is the equivalent of Magna Cum Laude.

I was proud to be admitted to the Columbia Law School which is one of the most prestigious law schools in the Ivy League. I was already in my 40’s then but I beat the younger law students because they would have gimmicks after school. At this point in my life, I was more focused and studied harder. And all my efforts paid off because a Kagay-anon and a Pinoy got the highest distinction in one of the most prestigious law schools in the world.

In 1998, I was appointed the youngest commissioner of the Bureau of Immigration by then President Joseph Estrada. I initiated an efficiency and transparency program. The following year I was awarded as the Most Outstanding Public Official by the Consumers Union of the Philippines.

After this stint, I went back to Cagayan; this time, Kagay-anons elected me as their Representative of the Second District of Cagayan de Oro. And so in 2007, I began being the voice of the Kagay-anons in the Halls of Congress.

I seriously took the trust given to me and have been working hard for my fellow Kagay-anons since then. I attended every single Congressional session; I became known as the Perfect Attendance Congressman.

Someone once asked me my motivation for always being present in Congress from 2007 up to today. I told her that that attending every session is a sine qua non. You have to be present in order to push for your bills and to get more budget for your district. If you are absent, you lose many opportunities for the people that you serve. And so for 8 years, I spent my life being the voice of the Kagay-anons in every Congressional Session.

In my second term as a Congressman, I ranked No. 1 among the 285 Congressmen of the Philippines that filed the most number of bills and resolutions. Within that time, I authored and co-authored 1,090 house bills and resolutions of which, 31 had become Republic Acts making me the No. 1 Congressman with the most number of bills that have become law.

In my third term as a Congressman, I was again the No. 1 among the 291 Congressmen with the most number of bills filed and most number of bills that have become law.

Being a Congressman is a challenge everyday making myself heard amidst the babble of all the other distinguished representatives of the Philippines. It takes days, sometimes even months, researching and drafting House Bills. And often, it even takes years to get a bill to be passed into law.

And that is not all. I have also taken it upon myself to secure bigger budgets for the improvement of my beloved Cagayan de Oro City. I would plead our project proposals with the heads of government agencies. And when the funds I have secured are not enough, I would go to kind hearted individuals and organizations to underwrite projects for the city.

But again, as with everything I worked hard for, my efforts paid off. In my three terms as Cagayan De Oro’s District 2 Congressman, I was able to secure P 12 Billion infrastructure budget and from this, a total of 122 kilometers of roads were concreted.

With the help of DepEd, Public Private Partnership, Filipino-Chinese Federation of Commerce and Industry, Aboitiz Company, Smart Company and AMOSUP, a total of 1.2 Billion was raised to build and repair more than 900 classrooms. I was able to get P80 Million from Congressional Funds and CHED that provided 11,250 college scholarships and financial assistance.

Through the Dept. of Health, I secured a total of P 600 Million that was used to construct, renovate and improve 26 Barangay Health Centers, the J.R. Borja General Hospital and the Northern Mindanao Medical Center. 54,500 patients were extended financial assistance and medicines from my Congressional Funds and from the DSWD.

The Dept. of Labor and Employment gave me P 36.7 Million which was spent for Workers’ Income Augmentation Program, Special Program for the Employment of Students (SPES) and Tulong Pangkabuhayan sa Displaced Workers (TUPAD). 12,300 families were given livelihood projects.

The current reforestration of 3,000 hectares of denuded forests of Cagayan de Oro is made possible through the P 37 Million budget I secured from the DENR. Another P 80 Million was secured for tree planting programs in the upland, urban, mangrove and riverside areas of our city.

P300 Million was secured from the Department of Agriculture for the concreting of farm-to-market roads and for tractors, livestock and crop seeds that were distributed to farmers. Another P35 Million was given by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources for fish cages, fishing boats and fishing nets.

Despite devoting almost all of my time working hard, I am happy and grateful that my hard work is given recognition by my fellow Kagay-anons through their votes every election as well as the recognition given to me by other private institutions.

In 2012, I was honored by the Publishers Association of the Philippines, Inc. (PAPI) as one of the Ten Most Outstanding Congressmen of the Philippines for showing impressive legislative acumen in alleviating people’s social and economic conditions and spurring growth in the countryside.

That same year I was elected as the President of the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines (CDP), a new political party which has a core philosophy of human dignity for all Filipinos.

The following year, I was awarded as one of the Twenty Outstanding Congressmen for 2012 by Superbrand Marketing International, Inc. for my achievements  as a Congressman of the 15th Congress.

Through all my success and trials, I am blessed to have the love of my life, Fenina Tiukinhoy of Surigao City who retired as Chief Finance Officer/Vice President- Finance of the Energy Development Corporation and our daughter, Regine Beatrice, who graduated Cum Laude at the UP School of Economics and is now a freshman at the UP College of Law, both of whom have always stood beside me. Rufus Rodriguez, family man

Now that I am finishing my last term as the Congressman of Cagayan de Oro, I heed the clamor of the Centrist Democratic Party as well as my fellow Kagay-anons to continue to serve my beloved Cagayan de Oro as its mayor. If it comes to pass, it would be a full circle for me.

Sometimes when I happen to pass by Plaza Divisoria, I would remember my younger self playing with the Plazans, my group of friends who spent their childhood with me, climbing up and going down the monument of the “Heroes de los Pueblos” which commemorated the Battle of Agusan between Cagayan Revolutionaries against the Spaniards. The Plazans reigned at the Plaza Divisoria.

I remember the young Bisdak in De La Salle who felt baduy but who later earned everyone’s respect. I remember the young law student who travelled the world as the first Filipino and Asian President of the World Association of Law Students. I remember the graduating law student who was elected as the senior board member of Misamis Oriental. I remember all the sacrifices I made to achieve a perfect attendance in Congress, the hours spent researching and drafting bills, the effort I exerted to secure budget for our city’s projects.

The little Rufus is a grown man now and the little boy who used to play in Plaza Divisoria is now doing his best so that the next generation can safely do the same and have a Cagayan they would love and be proud of.

My love and commitment for Cagayan de Oro has remained strong over the years. I am Kagay-anon. Whatever I shall be, wherever I will go, I will always be one. And when I am called to serve my beloved city, I will. I shall continue to be the voice of the Kagay-anons.