I POPPED over to the political battleground of Laoag City recently. Unpredictably, I didn’t get to the front line because the most reluctant of the combatants consumed much of my time and attention.
I am talking about Michael M. Keon, the former governor of Ilocos Norte—the rooftop of the Ilocano nation.
Keon, 58, was director of the fruitful Gintong Alay when the program churned out arguably, some of the country’s finest athletes.
He is one of three candidates for Laoag City mayor—along with two Fariñases—Chevyl, the wife of the termed-out mayor, and her uncle-in-law, Roger, a three-time city chief executive.
“I am running again to remain in shape for whatever comes my way,” proclaimed Keon before spearheading a 10K run around Marcos Memorial Stadium to drumbeat the Laoag Marathon on Feb. 23. He kept pace with his running friends that included two triathletes before cooling down at the 8K mark.
“Not bad, eh,” he boasted and credited his return as a long distance runner to a strict regimen that included a blood type O diet, organic vegetables, fasting, yoga and running.
Keon said he was “big and sluggish” before slimming down from 210 pounds to 165. He ran and ran wherever and whenever he could—around his hilly farm and retreat in Baguio City, at the old Gintong Alay now the Philippine Sports Commission training camp also in the Pines City, Manila’s Rizal Memorial oval and the Marcos Stadium when he’s home in Laoag.
The erstwhile president of the Philippine Olympic Committee also reported that a year ago he swore off alcohol and tobacco while shedding the extra heft he gained after his reelection campaign for the governorship. He lost to his first cousin Imee Marcos.
“After the election, I ran away from politics as far as I could, but I found myself running back to it recently,” Keon said. “As you know sports and politics have always been my two passions.”
He told me over dinner at a downtown Laoag restaurant that when he drove down from Baguio last October to renew his driver’s license and car registrations, people were ringing him up nonstop, stopping him on the streets and urging him to run.
“I filed my candidacy for city mayor because the clamor was hard to ignore,” said the former governor.” Whatever will be will be.”
“The lines are still not drawn in the battle for city mayor,” says Efren Ramos Jr., former publisher, now consulting editor of the capital’s influential weekly Ilocos Times.
Ramos notes that his town’s mayoral race remains puzzling to say the least before the official start of the campaign for local officials on March 21. “But the candidates are feeling each other out and are deep in strategy. They are not laying all their cards on the table.”
Ramos concedes that Michael was a “good governor” who listened to people and threw his office wide open to anyone who sought help. ”You did not need an audience with the Pope to see then Governor Keon.”
In the Marcoses’ fiefdom, alliances and political tea leaves are tough to read, although Imee, the present governor is a known supporter of Chevyl Fariñas.
“My life, my future, my destiny are in the hands of my relatives, the voters of Laoag and faith ,” Keon emphasized.