Upon hearing ‘Butuan City’, something instantly clicked in my mind. Immediately, I phoned Marina Esclamado my ‘wedding godchild’ and caregiver of my elder-sister Catchie in Bulacan who’s from Butuan City; inquired if she knows the name and the person “Charito Booc (Ching) Plaza”. Spontaneously, she responded without even cracking a word: “Ninang, kilala ko po. Siya yung dating congresswoman na tumulong kaagad na mapauwi ang bangkay ng asawa ko para mailibing sa Butuan. Napakabait at matulungin.” (She was the former congresswoman who helped bring the remains of my husband to Butuan City for burial. Obtrusively virtuous and kind.)
Out of sheer curiosity, I immediately did my research. Personally touched base with her, just to find out that like the heroic, fictional-character ‘Superman’, ‘true greatness’ runs in the blood of this Filipina ‘Superwoman’.
During the crepuscular day of 23rd November 1957, Charito Booc ‘Ching’ Plaza was born to a young couple Segundino Hermosa Booc, hailed from Cebu and the great-descendant of the Mactan Island hero ‘Lapu-lapu’ who migrated to Butuan City, Agusan del Norte where he met and married a native lass from the same province Gertrudes Moreno Mondoy.
By destiny, and like the fairy-tale-story of Cinderella, Charito met the most-sought eligible bachelor City Mayor of Butuan Figurado Plaza when he crowned her as Miss Pearl beauty queen of her high school alma mater. Right after her high school, true love blossomed between Ching and Mayor Figurado, and thereafter, they got married. Figurado, well-known as an honest politician and a man of integrity who transformed Butuan City into a ‘city of prosperity’, later on, served quite well to be the mentor of his wife Charito vis-à-vis the controversial and intriguing world of Philippine politics, true governance and yes, servant leadership and social volunteerism. While performing her duties as the ‘Mayor’s Wife’ and ‘First Lady of Butuan City’, and although being blessed with a happy-family, Charito returned back to school after giving birth to her 4th child to finish her undergraduate studies. Finally, in 1984, she earned her Bachelor of Science Degree in Commerce Major in Business Administration and awarded with an URIAN Award (an exemplary award for academic excellence and leadership named and in honor of Father Urios) for being the top of her class from Father Saturnino Urios University.
In 1986, and just right after the peaceful EDSA Revolution, Charito, full of ideas and dreams for good-governance contested the congressional seat of the newly created First District of Agusan Del Norte, and right after election, became a political lexicon in Mindanao for being the youngest and First Congresswoman at the age of 29. Thereafter, her life has never been the same again. Her burning passion, desire and aspirations to help and serve fellow-Filipinos led her to a new height of achieving the impossible. While serving as a Congresswoman for three-consecutive-term (during the 5-year transition period from 1987 to 1992 under the leadership of former President Corazon Aquino, and then, from 1993 to 1995, and finally, from 1996 to 1998), she continued to spearhead beautification projects and social services to the poor. Likewise, personally extended her assistance to drug addicts and mentally deranged via gathering all of them around Butuan City and took them all to Davao City for treatment and rehabilitation. And since she gives education such a great sense of value, Ching continued with her graduate courses in the morning and worked in Congress late afternoon till night sessions, even taking international courses through scholarship grants. One of such many courses is the Master in National Security Administration (NSA) at the National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP) where she graduated with a leadership award as ‘Class Mayor’. This was followed by her course in the AFP Command and General Staff Course where she graduated again as top of her Reservist/NRI quota. With her NSA Master, she was commissioned as the youngest Lt. Colonel, at 29 and the AFP Chief of Staff awarded her for academic excellence. At the National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP), she was awarded with “Outstanding Civilian Graduate” recognition, then after sometime, became the NDCP Alumni Association President, the longest in her term. At the age of 35, Charito got the full Colonel title, and in due time, became the first Woman General of the AFP Reserve —the first of the Philippine Airforce and the first ‘Lady General’ from Mindanao.
Earlier in 1992, Charito in her capacity as congresswoman and official reservist, successfully negotiated the surrender of 105 ragtag Army and CAFGU IPS of Esperanza, Agusan del Sur. She brought them to then Secretary Fidel V. Ramos of the Department of National Defense (DND). In Congress, she served as Assistant Majority Floor leader, Chairman of the Sub-committee on Internal Security, and Vice Chairman of the Committee on National Defense, Chairman of the Committee on Tourism, Public Information. Among the major legislations Charito authored and co-authored was the “AFP Modernization Law” — the increase of base pay of the AFP staff, the creation of the PNP Law and the creation of ‘Caraga Region’, a brilliant-well-appreciated move which gave her the name brand “Mother of the Caraga Region”, and the identification of Special Economic Zones Butuan City and Agusan del Norte.
Right after her almost 12 years of colorful and successful service as a Congresswoman, and after her failed previous attempt to join again the politics, Charito, out of dismay in the existing political trend and the increasing degree of corruption and amount of vote buying, thus, losing the dignity of public service, decided to concentrate obtaining higher education and training abroad and earned later for herself: Ph. D. in Peace & Security Administration, Doctorate in Humanities and Public Administration, Specialized Training on National and International Security Management at JFK School of Gov't at Harvard University, Anti-terrorism Training in the National Civil Military Institute Bureau of National Guards Bureau, Conflict Resolution and Management, Melbourne University, Australia, Advance Security Cooperation Course at the Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu, Hawaii while doing consultancy jobs at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Department of Interior & Local Government (DILG), Philippine National Police (PNP), NSA while teaching in various universities and national institutions like UST Graduate School (Public Administration), National Security at Public Safety College, Part time lecturer at the National Defense College, PNPA, Father Saturnino Urios University, St. Joseph Institute of Technology among others.
Having said that, why not let this “Superwoman” in the person of Charito Booc ‘Ching’ Plaza takes on one of the ‘cabinet secretary’ jobs? To head the DSWD, Or, to man the DND. Or, lead the DILG! Quite frankly, it’s best time to let this “Superwoman” gets in and allow her to help Duterte government “help our Mother Philippines” fly high… up… up in the skies! Why not, right? –
(J. Nava Cruz, an OFW, is a freelance writer/documentarist and a published book author in the Philippines. Very soon, he will be publishing and launching his very first suspense-thriller novel (See Me @ :06 AM) in Manila and Riyadh.
PARTNERS FOR CHANGE. Undersecretary Joel B.Maglunsod and OWWA Administrator Hans Cacdac, together International Labor Affairs Bureau OIC Director Mary Sol D. Dela Cruz, meet with the group of repatriated workers from Saudi Arabia who sought assistance in claiming their unpaid wages and benefits from their employers.
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