MANILA, Philippines—In his heart, he never left Manila, he insists. But now he’s back to his place of birth and childhood for his “last hurrah” before he fades away.
Former Tondo boy Joseph “Erap” Estrada has gone a long way from being a movie actor to San Juan mayor, senator, vice president and finally president of the country.
Like his colorful life, Erap hopes to go back to public service one last time as mayoral candidate of the City of Manila despite his age.
He believes his victory in the May elections would vindicate his name from the many controversies that have hounded him. He was convicted of plunder, jailed and then swiftly pardoned.
“I have never left Manila in my heart of hearts,” Erap told the Inquirer during his visit to Association de Damas de Filipinas, an orphanage that was cofounded by his late mother, Mary, in Paco, Manila.
“It will be my last hurrah; after my service to my country, I will render service to my city of birth and childhood,” Erap said.
As always, Erap brought food, gifts and cheers to the orphans by spending his 76th birthday there on Friday. He always visits the orphanage during his birthday and Christmas.
Asked if he would adopt a child from an orphanage, Erap roared into laughter, pointing to his many children and grandchildren.
“But I’ve never abandoned them,” Erap stressed, referring to the orphanage, and thanked the Department of Social Welfare and Development for also helping other orphanages.
In December 1998, when Estrada was still president, the orphanage was razed by fire, killing 28 children and seriously damaging the 72-year old building.
Through his assistance and friends from his Ateneo Class of 1955, the orphanage was rebuilt.
“I’m very proud of this orphanage that my mother helped build and I really care for the children,” Estrada said. “I have made it a lifelong commitment to support this orphanage.”
He promised to increase his support for the orphanage, and all other orphanages in the city if elected mayor.
“In this chapter of my life, I would like to fulfill what I had always envisioned for the Filipino people. I want to give back to the poor, especially to the Manileños, what they had given me overwhelmingly all my life: unconditional support, unconditional kindness, unconditional love,” Erap said.
Estrada was born at the Manuguit Maternity Clinic in Tondo on April 19, 1937.
Every April 19, he holds a gift giving celebration in Manila, usually with communities in Baseco and Quiapo before proceeding to the orphanage.
While in jail, he sent representatives from his family to celebrate his birthday with the orphans and treat the children to lunch.
It was not only Erap’s mother who left a legacy in Manila.
His father, Emilio Ejercito, was city engineer under four mayors: Valeriano Fugoso, Antonio Villegas, Manuel de la Fuente and Arsenio Lacson.
He said he believed his father would support his candidacy if the latter were still alive.
“I think he would be amused at first but he was the one who was very supportive of all my decisions, even against my mother’s wishes. So I believe he would also be supportive and would even tell me to work hard to bring back the glory days of Manila,” he said.