From Marikina model to ‘Metro Gwapo’: Bayani Fernando, 77
Former Marikina Mayor and Rep. Bayani Fernando, a mechanical engineer who entered politics and was credited with his city’s emergence as one of the most accomplished and widely praised local governments in the country, died on Friday at the age of 77.
Fernando succumbed to injuries he sustained after accidentally slipping and falling off the roof of his house as it was undergoing repairs, according to former Marikina City administrator Ryan Salvador. He was pronounced dead on arrival at Quirino Memorial Medical Center around noon.
He ‘got the job done’
“BF” is best remembered for Marikina’s transformation in the 1990s through sustained urban planning and other initiatives that emphasized order, cleanliness and discipline in public spaces, from its beautified riverbanks to the litter-free sidewalks. These highly visible accomplishments, quite rare in an increasingly congested Metro Manila, soon reaped awards and recognition for the city, raising its profile beyond being the country’s “shoe capital.”
The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), which Fernando chaired from 2002 to 2009, called him “a man of few words” but who “used scientific and practical approaches” in tackling the capital regions’ perennial problems.
“Fernando is known to be a workaholic and a disciplinarian among MMDA employees,” the MMDA said in its tribute on Friday. “He was the person behind rapid bus lanes and the ‘Metro Gwapo’ campaign transforming the region into a livable metropolis.”
“Thank you very much for your contributions. Rest now, sir, for you already got the job done,” the agency said. Born on July 25, 1946, in San Juan del Monte, then a part of Rizal province, Fernando served multiple terms as Marikina mayor from 1992 to 2001. Owing to his track record in local governance, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo tapped him to head the MMDA for him to replicate his accomplishments on a larger, Metro-wide scale.
Color it pink
Still, not everyone became a fan of his approach to addressing urban blight, like when the MMDA during his term painted the sidewalks, railings and other street features bright pink—the color of choice of his Metro Gwapo campaign. Pink, too, were the public urinals for men that the agency ostensibly installed on sidewalks.
Among his traffic management measures were the closure of many U-turn slots, the dismantling of sidewalk stalls (and confiscation and destruction of the merchandise in front of the vendors), and the strictly regulated, 30-second loading and unloading period for bus passengers on Edsa.
“We confiscate the items and destroy them right in front of the vendors so there will be no allegations that we benefit from them,” he once explained to the media. “All items, goods and structures found on, or along roads, streets, avenues, alleys, sidewalks and other public places shall be confiscated by the government without prior notice, and shall be treated as common garbage.” In 2003, still under the Arroyo presidency, Fernando served as secretary of the Department of Public Works and Highways.
Showing his lighter side, he once formed one-third of the singing Cabinet members who became fondly known in their performances as “The Three Terrors,” the other two being then Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes and Interior Secretary Joey Lina.
In 2010, he initially set his sights on the presidency but later settled to be the vice presidential running mate of Richard Gordon.
Fernando took a break from politics for six years before winning a House seat as Marikina representative in 2016. He ran again for city mayor in 2022 but lost to the incumbent, Marcelino Teodoro.
Also paying tribute, Speaker Martin Romualdez said Fernando “transformed the city into a model for others to follow, exemplifying his commitment to progress and development.”
“His legacy of visionary leadership and dedication to the betterment of our communities will forever be remembered,” Romualdez said.
Rep. Mark Enverga said his party, the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), lost a “sterling member and public service exemplar” with Fernando’s passing. “Bayani’s brand of public service is one of our benchmarks. He set high standards for all of us in NPC and in public service.”
‘Public service template’
“(His) tenacity at solving problems and witty sense of humor were his most potent weapons,” Enverga added, hence “no problem was unsolvable to Bayani.”
For House Deputy Majority Leader Rep. Alfred delos Santos, he grew up watching Fernando on TV, “he was a force of nature, armed with a sharp engineer’s mind, just-as-sharp sense of humor and similarly perceptive eye for details and foresight. Bayani’s public service template is what many of us in the provinces strive hard to emulate and adapt to our localities.
From former Senator Gordon: “(My wife) Kate and I are extremely saddened by the sudden passing of Bayani Fernando. BF lived up to his name Bayani (Filipino for ‘hero’). A worthy people’s leader, with ambition and vision for our country!’ We respected each other as transformers and not transactional leaders.’’
When they ran together for President and Vice President, Gordon said, ‘’we offered … a good track record of governance and not empty, meaningless popularity. He and I knew it was almost quixotic.’’
House Deputy Minority Leader Rep. Bernadette Herrera said Fernando was her batchmate and friend in the 17th and 18th Congress, a “workaholic and of boundless energy.”
“Bayani was allergic to and rejected nonsense, inefficiency and wasting time. He knew what worked and what did not work and kept doing what worked, especially what worked well. Bayani’s sense of humor and straightforward honesty endeared him to us in Congress, the general public, and the news media,” Herrera said.