I first heard about Zards from Susan Princesa when I followed her up in UP Rep where they were also org-mates. Of course, I have known Susan from her high school days being a favorite stude of my mother and being the sister of Grace, a close friend. Talking about Zards, she was bubbly and it helped formed in me a favorable impression of Zards whom I haven’t met till that time.
I followed up Zards. I think we also hit off coz I warm up to persons who also warm up to me. But he had a problem then. Behn Cervantes was pressuring him too hard to wear an authentic bahag in a play where he would act as an Igorot, promising him a grade of “1.0” if he doesn’t use an underwear during the play and threatening him with fire and thunder if he does.
He asked for my advice. Told him, “Follow him”. He replied, “Paano kung tayuan ako sa stage?”. And I had my laugh for the day. That was the start of our friendship.
No, he wasn’t “Zards”. He told me he is known as “Ely” in Naga and in high school (which he finished in Torres High in Manila). But he told me “Ely”, as pronounced in Naga rhymes with “buli“. Susan thought “Ely” sounded too soft so he rechristened Felizardo “Zards” in UP Rep. To Ely’s consternation, it caught on and that became his calling card. Of course it will stick since the great Behn repeatedly called him “Zards”.
“Metro Aide lang an ina ko“. Kaya palan he was not too open in Ibalon on his origins.
Of course, early on, I caught that Zards have ambitions In Ibalon, during Boyo’s rise. No, I did not strike it down. I was not the type na nang-i-small kan dudumanan nin tawo. My best friend then paid dearly for that mistake and he later became a non-entity.
I was not present when Zards became the president of Ibalon. I was in forced hibernation then, with free board and lodging.
Learned about the “War of the Roses” later, Part I. But it was just the story about the final rise of a former dinner-mate who regretted not taking my advice to shift to IE, Albert Molina.
I thought Zards could have been a “Godfather”, like AM. But he miscalculated the endgame, and I told him about that later, sparking many midnight talks in his Makati office. However, he became University Councilor of the UP Student Council. After all, having Lean Alejandro as roommate does not hurt.
He founded the Bicol Students’ Congress (BSC) and the Bicol Youth Forum (BYF). So for the first time UP Ibalon had projection outside the campus. Later the BYF withered. Might have been too unwieldy, for it included out-of-school youths and unless you have real community organizing it could be difficult. And he did not have real backing “upstairs”. Hostile questions about his motives. Struck me that the one leading the hostile questions ay pareho lang nin ginikanan ki Zards. Later the BSC “disowned” him during the time of the Great Split.
He worked for Edgardo Angara when he became UP President. This elicited questions and jeers from some Ibalon quarters. From an activist to a functionary nga naman. He felt obliged to explain this to me. It didn’t bother me. People move on and people have dual lives. I saw this even while I was in college. Seemingly “normal” people have different “careers” after office hours.
He taught at AMA after college. Later he worked at the TESDA. When the dictatorship was overthrown he thought of running for a provincial board seat in Catanduanes (he hailed from Pandan, the town where the dialect of northern Catanduanes, Bicol Pandan, was named). “Nasa Manila ka na babalik ka pa sa Catanduanes”, his patron told him.
He was later active in the Sangguniang Kabataan movement where he met his Singaporean girl. They were able to have SK recognized in the new constitution. He was later rewarded for this with a youth-sector seat in Congress in the early ’90s. Some ribbed him about his age. Known for his self-deprecating humor, he said his height helped him qualify.
In company with some Ibalonians I went to see the first Ibalon congressman. Always upfront with me, he said he worked real hard in the SK but he admitted that knowing the Senate President helped. That was where I met Juliet, his Ibalon sister who is working as his chief of staff. After his Congress stint he went back to his old patron and worked as his chief of staff which again drew jeers from some quarters.
It was then that I invited him to become a board member in the revived UP Ibalon Alumni Association. “Tatanggapin ba ako diyan?” He was hesitant because of the jeers.
Visiting him once, he was distraught. “Marhay ta nahiling ako ni Penny“. Her mother who was Metro Aide was hit by a car while working at dawn and the driver didn’t stop. She was brought to the charity ward of the PGH.
Later he became president of the UP Ibalon Alumni Association early in this decade. He was then working as VP at the AMA Educational System and at times functioning as the chief of staff of the owner. But his health was already beginning to deteriorate and he is holding a high-pressure job.
As the pointman of his boss he is often abroad. To rescue some hapless Pinoy OFW who got entangled because this is the role of his boss in this administration. But he doesn’t want any credit, not even pictures.
Always a functionary. “Wala naman akong ibang paraan umasenso. Marami akong dapat tulungan“.
“How did the play go?” “Di ko kaya. Nagsulot ako nin supporter.”