Bohol’s Choice Cuts
By Loy M. Palapos
November 16, 2014
ADOLPH EDWARD GALIDO PLAZA
GOVERNING DIVERSE PEOPLE AND CULTURES
Boholanos have been everywhere in the world long before the advent of globalization – he has always been tagged and widely acknowledged as “El Viajidor.” They are all over the country, and in Mindanao there are provinces and cities boasting of at least 70% Boholano migrants, who have found home there. It is not surprising that word “paisano,” shortened to “sano,” which is how a Boholano calls a friend or relative, is prevalent, especially in the provinces and cities facing the Mindanao Sea from Surigao to Zamboanga del Norte.
That they have prospered there confirmed the “Land of Promise” that was Mindanao. In business and the professions, they are on top of the heap. In government service the Boholanos in Mindanao are at the peak of the totem pole of influence. Even in spreading the Word of God, the Boholanos have been there, with at least 10 Bishops and several Priests experiencing the evangelization of Mindanao.
There are countless Governors, Congressmen, Mayors, Punong Barangays, and officials in governance based in Mindanao, who can trace their ancestry from Bohol. In the corporate world of entrepreneurship, the Boholanos top the field.
Adolph Edward Galido Plaza is a son of the famous businessman-politician, Democrito Otasa Plaza, who can trace his ancestors to Baclayon, and a Boholano mother, Valentina Galido-Plaza, from Garcia-Hernandez. His father was the Governor of Agusan for more than 20 years, oftentimes uncontested. His mother was Governor from 1972 to 1986, and was again re-elected in 1998. Both built a business empire, the Plaza Group of Companies, involved in logging, real estate, big-scale farming, transportation, shipping and manufacturing. Their’s was a struggle fraught with nerves and determination in a strange land they now call their home.
Adolph Edward is the eighth in the family, born on August 21, 1962. Monikered “Eddie Boy” by his friends, he went to Cebu Institute of Technology and graduated with a degree in Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering, ready to conquer the highly competitive business world.
With his entire family involved in public service, occupying high elective positions in governance, his entry into politics was a natural outcome right after graduation, prodded by his father. He ran for a seat in the Sangguniang Panlalawigan and easily won on top of the slate. As a Provincial Board Member of Agusan del Sur, from 1995 to 2001, he sponsored resolutions and ordinances designed to hasten the development plans and programs of the province, all of them well-received by the populace.
His original plan was to devote his time to business and industry, as reflected by his college diploma. It was his father who first saw in him his potentials in politics. It was while knowing first-hand the problems of his constituents that he realized public service is a challenge worth confronting. So welcome was his immersion in governance, that in the 2001 election, he ran for Governor and won by a landslide.
Adolph Edward G. Plaza comes from a big family of 8 boys and 4 girls, all of them highly successful businessmen and professionals who graduated from some prominent universities here and abroad. Democrito II studied at Adamson University (Manila) for his Bachelor’s degree. He was elected Mayor of Butuan City for 4 terms. Lydia P. Millana went to Sofia University (Tokyo, Japan) for a degree in Management. She manages and owns a construction company and is the Congressman of the Second District of Agusan del Sur.
Virginia Evelyn followed her elder siblings by immersing herself into the family’s varied businesses right after graduation. Roselyn P. Carlos also finished her Management degree at Sofia University, and now helps manage the DO Plaza Group of Companies. Rolando Pet is an Engineer from CIT (Cebu Institute of Technology). He is into seaweeds farming and supply of mechanical equipment and parts. Maria Erlinda P. Libby graduated from Santa Escolastica College (Manila) and is also a formidable hand in the family’s business empire.
Democrito III finished Bachelor of Science in Commerce at the University of San Carlos (Cebu City). He is a hands-on real estate mogul. Victor is an Industrial Engineer from CIT, and he manages DO Plaza Holdings. Rodulfo Rodrigo went to the National Defense Academy and the University of Santo Tomas (Manila) for his Bachelor of Laws. He owns and operates a construction firm. He was elected Congressman for 3 terms and ran for Senator in 2010.
Victor Vicente became an Industrial Engineer, graduating from CIT. He joins a brother in the logging business and DO Plaza Holdings. Douglas Valentino studied in California and came back to the Philippines to manage Cebu Vespa Motor Sales, Inc., but passed away at age 30. Maria Valentina, the youngest of 12 siblings, opted to go to UP-Los Baños (Laguna) for a degree in Forestry. She ran for Governor and won handily. She is the incumbent Representative of the First District of Agusan.
Governing Agusan del Sur is never an easy job. A land-locked province of 896,550 hectares, mostly undeveloped when the Plazas became its elected officials 33 years ago, and with its approximately 700,000 population composed of 40 percent natives (mostly Manobo tribes) and migrants from the Visayas and Luzon. Each of the 13 municipalities and the City of Bayugan has a land area bigger than any of the towns of Bohol. Aside from the elected officials, each town has a Chieftain, and Sectoral Datus. With this diversity in customs, traditions, value system, and beliefs governance could be labyrinthian.
With most families of its 159 upland barangays earning less than P18,000, (as the country’s national poverty threshold), Agusan del Sur is one of the poorest in the country. Upgrading livelihood has been a big concern by the Plazas, which they try to eradicate through upland sustainable agriforest development. Governor Plaza is convinced that one step towards this goal is through education. With varied tribes, especially in the highlands not keen on the benefits of sending their children to school, and the dearth of teachers willing to face the risks in some barangays far away from urban living (and the absence of adequate infrastructure and facilities), educating a majority of his far-flung tribes was a tall order.
The natives wanted to give Governor Edward Plaza the title of Supreme Datu, which was given to his father, but he declined, telling them that he did not deserve the title. Thus, he was named Datu Lipos Makapandong, to give advice and mediate when conflicts arise between tribes. But as far as the Manobos and other tribes are concerned, Gov. Plaza is their Supreme Datu to rule all of them in the entire province.
The total development of Agusan del Sur is the main legacy Gov. Plaza has inherited from his parents. He has lobbied tooth-and-nail for national and foreign funds. Earlier, his father (acclaimed as the person originally responsible for the growth of Agusan) donated 84 hectares of his own in the town of Prosperidad for a Government Center, for easy access to all government agencies, the only Governor of the Philippines to do the generous act. His move was well-appreciated and with best results. Compared to other Provinces where local and national government agencies are scattered far apart from one another, many of them in isolated corners (and therefore not easily reachable), Agusan del Sur, with Prosperidad as the nerve-center, stands out in its speedy access to the government bureaucracy.
To his son now lies the burden to pursue what his parents had done, for which he has made some pronouncements: the provincial government will not implement programs and projects unless it would satisfy a standard rule of determining community need and undergoing participatory processes to reduce sustainability risk; he will fight for reduction of poverty particularly in remote and upland area. In 2012 he completed the Community-Based Monitoring System (CBMS), a prime guide to decision-making.
Governor Adolph Edward Galido Plaza has received various awards for his efforts, one of which is the 2014 National Awards for Seal of Good Housekeeping, an accolade to his administration’s plans and programs to uplift the economic condition of the Agusanons. During his SOPA (State of the Province Address) on June 17, 2014 he said that “it is not enough that the government will be giving the people what they think is good for them, but it must be what the people need most.” With this dictum, how can he fail in his mission?