In a celebrity-crazed country like the Philippines, show business is said to be the most convenient jump-off point to politics. You are given credence simply for being popular. While this is partly true for Herbert Constantine “Bistek” Maclang Bautista, better known as Bistek, being an artista also served as a challenge for him to prove that he’s more than the komikero and underdog roles he has portrayed on television and in movies.

Some of us probably remember him as Napoleon Guidote in the comedy show, “Kaluskos Musmos,” in the late ’70s; as Reneboy, brother to Janice’s character in “Flordeluna;” as Bistek in the BBC 2 TV series “2 + 2;” as one of the stars of the 1980s hit Bagets; as Teng-Teng, the junk collector who transforms into muscled superhero Captain Barbell; and as Jill, the gay sibling of Sharon Cuneta in the movie Jack and Jill. These roles and more, he has essayed during his career as an actor, spanning almost 40 years.

The transition from show business to politics almost comes naturally, says the Quezon City mayor, who is serving his final term. He says it’s probably because he was raised by his parents, Butch and Baby Bautista, in a very Pinoy culture—helping the disadvantaged. In his growing up years, he was also surrounded by people who are known for being charitable—Dolphy, Erap, and FPJ—among his dad’s barkada. “What I learned from them is that: your left hand doesn’t need to know what your right hand is doing,” he quips in the vernacular. In other words, you don’t need to broadcast the good things you are doing to others.

“Papa, Erap, and FPJ were together in Lo’ Waist Gang, when they were 19 years old. They were really friends. So when we were born—me, Gracia, Jinggoy, and JV—we would see each other at family gatherings. Then eventually, I co-starred with Sharon, who is the niece of (Senator) Tito Sotto and now the wife of (Senator) Kiko (Pangilinan). Sharon’s father, Pablo Cuneta, was Pasay City mayor,” Mayor Herbert ruminates on the showbiz-politics connection.

He admits to feeling offended when people say, “ahhh taga-showbiz lang `yan” (he’s just from showbiz). To people who look down on people from the entertainment industry, he says: “You don’t know the backbone of the entertainment industry!”

Mayor Herbert argues that show business has in more ways than one prepared and molded him to become a good public servant. One of the virtues he gleaned from show business is inclusivity—encouraging teamwork to achieve a common goal. “I was trained in an industry where everyone listens to the director, where there is a production manager who takes care of the location, an assistant director who takes care of the shot list, a scriptwriter who takes care of the script, and so on. I was trained to be inclusive,” he says.

He looks back to the time he first assumed mayorship of Quezon City in 2010. “First day of the executive committee meeting, I asked only two points: One is, if you were mayor, what do you want to do? Submit to me in the next two weeks the programs in the backburner that need to be implemented. Second is, crisis management. We don’t want an incident like Payatas or Ozone to happen. So having said that, my line was: Kung merong sasabog sa mukha natin in the next six months and one year, paano n’yo iso-solve `yan? Ano ang mga dapat nating gawin?” From Day 1, his leadership was big on teamwork.

Like his showbiz career, which took him four decades of hard work and perseverance to build and sustain, Mayor Herbert’s political dreams weren’t realized overnight. Like others, he worked his way up the political ladder—from being chairman of the Kabataang Barangay (1984 to 1992), to being councilor (1992 to 1995), and vice mayor (1995 to 1998, 2001 to 2010), before winning the mayorship for three consecutive terms (2010 to 2019).

During and in between these years in government service, Mayor Herbert also served in various capacities—as Commissioner-at-Large of the National Youth Commission, director and PRO of QC-YMCA, president of the Rotary Club of Kamuning, prime minister of the QC Jaycees Senate, Inc., member of the Board of Governors for Philippine National Red Cross, and Brigadier General of the AFP Reserve Force, a promotion confirmed by the Commission of Appointments two months before he celebrated his 50th birthday on May 12.

Mayor Herbert is not the type who would brag about his educational attainment, but he declares wanting to equip himself with the necessary tools for public service. Thus, after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in Philosophy and Letters from San Beda College in 1992, he took up his Master of Arts (MA) in Public Administration and Governance at the National College of Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG), University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman (1993), and Masters in National Security Administration (MNSA) at the National Defense College of the Philippines, Department of National Defense (1999-2000). Mayor Herbert furthered his formal education by taking up a Doctor in Philosophy degree (PhD) in Political Science (International Studies and Development) also in UP Diliman (2007).

Prior to assuming his post as city chief, Mayor Herbert studied the needed tools for urban governance. In Vietnam, he learned about Eco2Cities—stressing the importance of balancing economic progress and environmental concerns in nation-building. At that time, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo had just signed the Disaster Reduction and Management Act, so “I reviewed the law, made my research, and came up with the formula that would become the foundation of my administration: disaster reduction and management + environmental protection = urban development. The objective is to make Quezon City a resilient city,” he explains.

You can say he wanted to prove his detractors wrong—but more importantly, he wanted to change people’s perception of the entertainment industry. “I’d like to believe that what I did for myself is the other way of looking at the people from the entertainment industry,” he remarks. “Showbiz is not all glitz and glamour. Our investment here is blood, sweat, and tears.”

Showing versatility and empathy in fulfilling his duties is part and parcel of his job as city mayor, a work ethic he has imbibed in his colorful years as an actor. “When you’re a mayor, there are times when you have to play the role of an engineer, a doctor, an embalmer, a traffic enforcer, etc.” he says. While he had to learn many of these along the way, Mayor Herbert is proud of what has become of Quezon City since the time he took his oath as mayor.

Mayor Herbert smilingly points to us the cabinet in his office bedecked with plaques and trophies, when LEAGUE asked if he is happy already with what he has achieved so far for Quezon City.

Truth is, one needs to simply go around Quezon City to see the testaments of urban development: the rise of several commercial establishments (Araneta Commercial Center in Cubao, Eastwood City in Libis, UP-Ayala Land Technohub in Diliman, and the city’s very own Central Business District, which is currently in progress); the relocation of informal settlers to safer places (as of 2017, 22 Bistekvilles have already been built in various points in the city); the major infrastructure projects in transportation that are underway (MRT Line 7, an additional Segment 8.2 to NLEX-C5, and C6, which will run from Skyway/FTI, Taguig to Batasan Complex, QC.)

Mayor Herbert’s socialized housing project addresses the issue of informal settlers.

The city’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Management efforts have been recognized several times at the Gawad KALASAG (Kalamidad at Sariling Galing and Kaligtasan), awarded by the Office of Civil Defense, an agency of the Department of National Defense.

Since 2011, the city government has already implemented the Community Health Information Tracking System (CHITS), that allows QC health center facilities to access patient information online.

Through an innovation aptly called BOSS (Business One Stop Shop) launched in August 2010, business registration is faster and more convenient for entrepreneurs. In fact, in 2017, QC was the city with the most registered businesses in the country—72,538 in all.

And of course, one of the most prestigious affirmation is being deemed the Most Competitive City for three consecutive years (2016, 2017, and 2018) by the National Competitive Council, based on the Cities and Municipalities Competitive Index’s “three pillars of competitiveness:” infrastructure, government efficiency, and economic dynamism. (More about the developments in Quezon City in the next page.)

I am 50 years old. I have served the people of Quezon City for 33 years. The three years that I won’t be in public service may be a short time, but I believe that that would be the happiest period of my life, because I will be spending that time with my children.

After his term ends in 2019, Mayor Herbert confesses to LEAGUE that he doesn’t intend to run for any government post in the upcoming elections. He says he has served Quezon City for more than half his life; it’s about time that he devotes his time to being a father to his four children. He confesses to being an absentee father, and now that his older children are in need of some guidance in their careers, it’s about time that he pitches in for some much-needed advice and guidance.

He admits to having several options at present—run for Congress, for Senate, for vice-mayor, not run at all, or have himself appointed to a government position. We requested him to keep us posted for updates, in case he changes his mind, but he seems to be dead-set on his decision.

Then he told us, “I am 50 years old. I have served the people of Quezon City for 33 years. The three years that I won’t be in public service may be a short time, but I believe that that would be the happiest period of my life, because I will be spending that time with my children.”

To the people of Quezon City, he only has words of gratitude for their trust and support. “I’m really very thankful to the people of Quezon City because I would not have been able to accomplish these without their trust.” He ends by saying that he hopes his successor would be compassionate, circumspect, and true. — LAKAMBINI BAUTISTA


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