The Province of Benguet is in deep mourning as its “Action Man”, Congressman Nestor Bagtang Fongwan, Sr., passed away on December 18, 2019. Fongwan, Sr., who was born on Independence Day, was 68.
A large chuck of Fongwan, Sr.’s career was dedicated to public service via positions that are selected by the Benguet electorate.
He entered politics by winning as councilor of La Trinidad in 1988 and served until 1992. He then was elected as the town’s vice mayor from 1992-1995, where he also served as acting mayor towards the end of his term.
His rise to higher positions continued as he became mayor of La Trinidad from 1998-2007 where he made La Trinidad more popular around the world as the town entered the Guinness World Records for making the largest fruit shortcake in the world during his term of office. The cake, baked on March 20, 2004, weighed 9,622.24 kilograms and had strawberry as the main ingredient. The cake was served to more than 10,000 people.
It was also during his term that the La Trinidad municipal gymnasium, the three-storey public market, fire station and police station building were constructed.
He then became the governor of Benguet in 2007 where his leadership was displayed to the bigger group constituents of the province. He got their approval as he was re-elected two more times to reach the limit of allowed successive reelections.
It was under his watch that Benguet was awarded the Seal of Good Local Governance by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and topped the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) human development index report.
Further, the Province was also awarded with Cities and Municipalities Competitiveness Index award by the Department of Trade and Industry, Green Banner Award by the National Nutrition Council, Gawad Pamana ng Lahi and Seal of Good Housekeeping by the DILG, May Malaking Pag-angat sa Kaunlarang Pantao and May Mataas na Kaunlarang Pantao by the UNDP and the government of New Zealand, and a Philhealth award for having the most numbers of enrollees, exceeding the required universal coverage.
It was also during this term that he was elected president of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines – Benguet Chapter, from 2001-2007, and was given a Gawad Parangal National Award as Outstanding Governor by the Association of Local Social Welfare and Development Officers of the Philippines, Incorporated.
Among the notable accomplishments during his term as governor were the construction of the Capitol Building 2, Benguet Bahay Pag-asa, and Benguet Sports Center; establishment of a dialysis center and improvement of facilities at the Benguet General Hospital; establishment of the Benguet Agri-eco farm in Sablan and Benguet Animal Learning Site and Farm Tourism in Tuba; and the formulation of a 10-year Provincial Solid Waste Management Plan for Benguet.
His being loved by Benguet was demonstrated in the latest elections as he amassed a whooping 130,026 votes when he ran for the second time as representative of the lone district of Benguet . His rivals, former Mankayan Mayor Materno Luspian and Thorrson Keith were able to muster only 25,613 and 15,051 votes, respectively.
Fongwan, Sr., who was a graduate of accountancy at the University of Baguio, was a director of the Benguet Electric Cooperative from 1978 to 1983 and the La Trinidad Water District from 1981-1983. He also served the catholic congregation as a member of the Knights of Columbus of La Trinidad.
He is survived by wife Priscilla and children Marie Rose, Nestor “Bobot” Jr., Marilyn, Ma. Theresa, and Marson.
By: Armando M. Bolislis