ZAMBOANGA CITY—You wouldn’t miss him in a rally of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA). In a crowd teeming with colored shirts and thundering with ear-splitting campaign jingles, Rodolfo “Rudy” Bayot stands out in his bare feet, looking like he needs alms.
A former school teacher, Bayot is actually running for reelection as a city councilor.
“It is not a political gimmick. He’s been like that since I’ve known him and he is still my candidate,” said tricycle driver Eugenio Antolin.
“After tending to his (vegetable and herb) garden, he would go to school barefoot, wearing tattered clothes and shorts. Until now, he remains the same and goes to the city council sessions hitch-riding on a motorbike. Most often, he rides a tricycle,” Antolin said.
He said the city council later issued Bayot a pickup vehicle but he preferred to sit at the back.
Six years ago, Bayot—now 73—married a woman in her late 30s.
At an UNA sortie, Bayot just waved and smiled at the crowd while his teammates tried to drown them with campaign promises.
Last week, the Inquirer chanced upon Bayot in an ukay-ukay (used clothing) stall looking for a belt.
“I need something presentable. My colleagues are complaining. And my work at the council is very stressful,” he said. “I am losing more weight and I need a new belt so I can still use my old pants.”
Asked why he did not simply buy a new belt in one of the malls here, Bayot said: “Because the quality is good here and very affordable. I cannot afford to buy a new one.”
Mistaken for beggar
Bayot roamed around the ukay-ukay stalls unmindful of the grime on his feet such that
Mohjeer Jalani, a vendor, mistook him for a beggar.
“He looked dirty and I thought he was begging,” Jalani said. “I didn’t know he was a councilor.”
Bayot became the chairman of Barangay (village) Tumaga from 1998 to 2007. In 2007, he tried his luck running for vice mayor but lost. The following year, he ran for barangay council member and captured the highest number of votes.
In 2010, he ran for city councilor and won. In the city council, he is known as the one who reports for work barefoot, but wearing short pants and a loose shirt.
‘Of the earth’
Some of his council colleagues see him as someone who needs attention. Bayot describes himself as a person who “belongs to the earth.”
“We were raised by our parents like this—to be with the people and make do with what we have for the sake of the most needy,” he said.
The villagers of Tumaga know what kind of a man he is.
“Rudy is from a prominent family here. His brothers and his family live simple lives. Some of his relatives are in the United States but he prefers to stay here with his people,” said Tumaga market vendor Selina Insong.
Insong, 53, said that Bayot has been in politics since the early 1990s.
“He is still poor,” Insong said in Filipino. “He goes to the barangay hall barefooted. If there’s a problem in the barangay, he stays and sleeps on top of a table, alone. He even cleans up the hall and plants whatever he can outside the hall.”
She recalled that during his term as village chairman, Bayot found a body in his barangay, loaded it in a multicab and dropped it in front of city hall. It was not the first cadaver he dropped at city hall and this earned him the monicker “The Undertaker,” said Jimmy Villaflores, a journalist.
At the city council, Villaflores said, Bayot’s attention was always called because he was “not following proper decorum.”
“Sometimes he wears shirts, pants but is barefoot,” Villaflores said. “Sometimes he is in barong Tagalog but in jeans with slippers.”
In his three years as councilor, Bayot has not authored any ordinance. “He is good in giving comments, but most of the time he is quiet,” said the journalist.
“He was an effective barangay official as an implementor, but when it comes to being a legislator, I think he has failed,” Villaflores said.