‘Mechanic’s son’ engineers return to public service

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MANILA, Philippines — If former President Ramon Magsaysay Sr. were alive today, he would have been proud of his son and namesake who, he once said, would never be a good mechanic.

For not only did Ramon Magsaysay Jr. graduate a mechanical engineer in La Salle, he would go on to become at 27 one of the youngest congressmen to be elected, a “young turk” from the Liberal Party, and eventually a senator and a successful businessman.

Ramon Magsaysay Jr.

In the fifth installment of INQUIRER.net’s INQuest: Vote 2013, Magsaysay, 74, recalls how his father and mother impressed on him and his two siblings a simple lifestyle.

He says his father wasn’t influenced by the trappings of someone who held positions in government, including the presidency, and chose to live in the same house with his family in Singalong in Manila until his death in a plane crash (not helicopter as posted earlier) before his term as president could finish.

Magsaysay says as a result of his father’s untimely death, he was given a scholarship by La Salle.

But Magsaysay says his life was actually shaped by a simple story in his childhood. His father, a known mechanic, had asked him to help in fixing their car.

Then the young Magsaysay (he was nine years old) says that when his father asked him to hand over a socket wrench, he gave an open wrench.

His father shook his head and said that he would never be a good mechanic, Magsaysay recalls.

Magsaysay says that that simple statement from his father stuck in his head and challenged him to take up mechanical engineering, one of two engineering courses offered in La Salle at that time. The other was chemical engineering.

And not only did Magsaysay surpass his father’s expectations, but exceeded his own as well.

Magsaysaysay was the original “cable guy”, having introduced cable television in the Philippines. He is a certified “techie” who downloads books from amazon.com and maintains Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Then presidential candidate Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s invitation to Magsaysay to be her runningmate in 1992 was first met with reluctance because he learned to value his privacy after his early stint in politics.

He says it was actually his wife who encouraged him to return to the political arena and although he would eventually lose in the vice presidential race, that experience made him reconsider going back to public service.

He says his father is his role model and that he would not have won as congressman and senator without his example and his name, which is now his to protect.

He says given a chance to return to the Senate, he would want to help “navigate the strategic. development of the country — where are we headed for, what are our strong points, weak points, what have we done wrong in the past. . .”

He clarifies, however, that he will no longer seek higher office and would rather do the “hat pass”.

He says the presidency is good for someone “up to 55″.

Politics, he says, isn’t for “personal interest” but rather for “public service”, “for the people”.

More of the interview with Magsaysay on INQUest: Vote 2013.

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