“Please stop dying.”
This was the half-joking appeal of then Gov. Emilio Macias II to the remaining members of the Provincial Board of Negros Oriental, after three members of the provincial legislature died one after the other in the first quarter of 2010.
The first fatality in the Provincial Board was Apolinario Arnaiz, Sr., 84, who was chair of the Liga ng mga Barangay. He had cancer but he succumbed to cardiac arrest on February 17.
Five days later, during Arnaiz’ funeral, word came that Board Member Melimore Saycon died from massive internal organ bleeding. He was 69.
On March 26, the first day of the local campaign period, Board Member Rudolfo Martinez died in a motorcycle accident near his home in Tayasan town. he was 56.
It was in Martinez’ funeral that Macias made his appeal. “We don’t have too many Board Members to begin with,” he continued.
But the shadow of death continued to hound the Provincial leadership. Right after his successful reelection bid during the May 2010 elections, Macias, 76, had himself examined at the National Kidney Institute. His doctors put him on an aggressive regimen to combat liver cancer.
Macias expired on June 13–one month to the day he was admitted–and his remains were immediately cremated. Vice Governor Jose Baldado assumed as Governor for the last few days of Macias’ unexpired term and Board Member Mariant Escano-Villegas moved up to become Vice Governor.
On June 30, Vice-Governor-elect Agustin Perdices, 75, took his oath of office twice–first as Vice Governor and five minutes later as Governor of Negros Oriental through the principle of succession. Number one Board Member Roel Degamo likewise became Vice Governor.
From being Mayor of the 30 barangays that comprises Dumaguete City for 19 years, Perdices was suddenly faced with the overwhelming task of managing 557 barangays. On his first week in office as Governor, he once sneaked back to his former office at the City Hall to escape the pressure. “There are so many problems at the capitol!” he was heard as saying.
Gradually, however, Perdices felt the need to be somewhere else other than his office, saying he felt he was burned out. He was getting weaker, he noted.
Finally, he went for a consultation at the St. Luke’s Medical Center, where he was told that he had stage 3 cancer of the stomach. He broke the news to his constituents in early November, after he celebrated his 76th birthday.
In the days that followed, the reins of leadership at the Provincial Capitol would swing back and forth between Perdices and Degamo, as Perdices had to be in Manila often for a series of chemotherapy sessions.
Likewise, in the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, Board Member Apolinario Arnaiz Jr. would also be presiding officer whenever Degamo became acting Governor. Perdices celebrated Christmas in Dumaguete, taking a break halfway through his 12 chemo sessions. In his public appearances, Perdices reiterated his wish that since God allowed him to become Governor, he would be given time to finish his three-year term. But in the same vein, he also announced that he was ready to accept whatever God had planned for him.
By Wednesday morning, word got around through text messaging that Gov. Perdices’ health had worsened. Prayers were uttered in several public functions.
Finally, at 5:15, the inevitable news came. Perdices was gone.
“The Governor,” said his long-time lawyer Neil Ray Lagahit,”had served the city and the province well without any taint of corruption. He fought the good fight and that is enough consolation for all the people of Dumaguete and Negros Oriental.”