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Keon on sports and politics

March 19, 2023 People's Tonight 190 views

Lito CincoIT was indeed a two-in-one trip I did with my wife and son to far away Laoag City upon the invitation of Mayor Mike Keon, more known in the local world of sports as the founder of the highly successful Gintong Alay program in the early 80’s.

During those five days we spent there, we were able to visit several places of interest in the province.

To cite a few, Paoay Church and the Malacanang of the North just across beautiful Paoay Lake, the almost seemingly deserted Fort Ilocandia, Pagudpud, the Bojeador Light House, the windmills in Burgos and Bangui, the sand dunes of La Paz where I covered the first-ever sand dunes 5K and 10K races,and in the city, the sinking belfry and the nearby City Hall and Kapitolyo, aside from food tripping.

But the best was the opportunity to sit down one on one with Mike, one of the most controversial, and once the most powerful sports figure in the country during the heydays of Gintong Alay.

We had several sessions, both in his house and in City Hall.

The only problem is that he shares a lot of things that I cannot write as I promised to him, still this guy can always come up with a lot of quotable quotes whether on sports or in politics where he is focused now.

The fact is, even as he will concentrate on the more basic things that his constituents need in his city, actually, he is on his second term already, while previously, he was a Board member and the provincial Governor, sports will always be part of his life.

Just to cite, after his Gintong Alay days and the Marcoses were back, Bongbong Marcos appointed him as sports coordinator where he proved again his expertise in sports development, giving Ilocos Norte 11 straight overall championships in the Ilocos Region Athletic Association (IRAA) meets.

This was in the late 90’s to 2010, then in 2005, Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) Chairman Butch Tuason appointed him as National Training Director for the Philippine team to the 2005 SEA Games we hosted, and which we won the overall title.

Talking of sports here, he believes politics has been its downfall saying there was too much envy and jealousy, and personal interests involved.

He knows what he talks about as he has been a victim in the past at the height of his issues with Lydia de Vega and Tatang de Vega, where even the First Lady was involved, as a result he was relieved of his position late 1984 but was reinstated by his uncle, then President Ferdinand Marcos but the latter was in his waning years already when the EDSA Revolution took place in 1986, Mike was a collateral damage.

The difference he says of politics in sports and real politics is that politics is only at the peripheral of sports and not there at all times while politics is politics through and through, I should have reminded him that sports in politics is a given, considering the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) presidency, same with the National Sports Associations; (NSAs), are elected positions, and when there is election, its partner is politics.

From our several one on ones, he invited me and my family to his house for lunch and dinner together with former Gintong Alay hurdler Renato Unso and wife April. It was obvious to me that he has mellowed though the short temper and impatience still emerge to the surface from time to time.

But when our paths crossed anew at the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) awards night at the Diamond Hotel last Monday night, he was all smiles, all charm and enjoying.

He was a special guest tasked to talk about Lydia who was elevated to the Hall of Fame with daughter Paneng representing her mother.

By the way, I approached Paneng and told her I interviewed her mom when she was a 6th grader, then I was able to interview Paneng while playing collegiate volleyball for De la Salle, bottom line, i am old already.

He reiterated what he has been saying, that Lydia could have been an Olympic medalist earlier had she focused on the 400m. event, even as she remains to be one of the greatest athletes ever of the country.

Anyway back to Mike and politics, he admits that as a real politician now, he has to be more aware of how he conducts himself as he is scrutinized at all times, his words, his actions, and his decisions.

The stress is everyday but he is used to it, “I am used to getting f…..d , in politics, no permanent friends and enemies, only permanent interests,” a sample of a quotable quote from the guy.

But do not make a mistake about it, he intends to run for a third and last term as city mayor, telling me he wants to leave a legacy of a new Laoag, not just as a gateway to the North but a bustling and progressive city.

Knowing his track record, yes, he is not only good in sports as an administrator but also in local governance, he will deliver .

Next week, a lot of tidbits and trivia with my encounter with old friends at the PSA awarding. By Lito Cinco

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