Bontoc, Mountain Province – Local officials and bonafide residents of this landlocked province are now mourning the untimely demise of energetic and workaholic gov. Leonard G. Mayaen who reportedly succumbed to cardiac arrest Thursday morning, a day before the formal opening of the province’s prestigious Lang-ay Festival, one of the preferred festivals in the region.
Mayaen was pronounced dead by attending physicians at the Notre Dame Hospital in Baguio City where he was airlifted after receiving initial medical attention at the Bontoc General Hospital here.
Sketchy reports from the Provincial Security Office here revealed that the governor was found lying down on the floor inside his bedroom at the Mansion House at 11 am last Thursday by provincial security guard William Tagkitag who then alerted the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (PDRRMO). Responding rescuers rushed him Bontoc Hospital but was transferred to Baguio City three hours later when a chopper from the Philippine Air Force arrived.
Security guards assigned at the Mansion House, the official residence of the province’s chief executive, narrated that Tagkitag was to remind the governor that an official function at the PDRRMO was about to start when he discovered the misfortune.
Mayaen was born in Besao on March 14, 1953. His family however moved to Mount Data in Bauko where his parents worked at the vegetable farms. In 1967, Mayaen finished his elementary education as the class valedictorian at the Mount Data Elementary School. Four years later, he graduated at the University of Baguio High School with honors. He then moved to the Baguio Colleges Foundation, now the University of the Cordilleras (UC), and earned his diploma in Bachelor of Arts as a cum laude in 1975. On the same year, he enrolled at the UC College of Law and finished it in 1979. He took and passed the bar examinations on the same year. He likewise finished his Masters in Public Administration in 1998 at the University of Baguio as a Magna Cum Laude.
Coming from a considerably poor family, Mayaen has to earn his way to school. Dr. Allison Bellagan who once taught him at the Mount Data Elementary School remember him as a timid and soft spoken boy but could outdo his classmates academically. “He usually comes to class with his younger brother in tow but I really did not mind since he was doing good. He would cuddle his younger brother or carry him with a back strap when he sleeps,” Belagan said.
He would do odd jobs just to earn something during his high school and college days. It was only when he began teaching while enrolled at the law school that he tasted the simplest luxuries of life.
Mayaen resigned his teaching job at the Tublay School of Home Economics in 1980 to start his private law practice. Eight years later, he tried his luck in politics and ran for board member of this province. He won a seat. In 1992, he was elected vice governor and won a fresh mandate in 1995. He was voted governor in 1998 but lost his re-election bid in 2001. Nine years later, he came back with vengeance and reclaimed the governorship. His re-election attempt in 2013 recorded the most lopsided battle for the governorship in recent years. Being unopposed in the coming elections, he was to serve his third and last term as governor by July if not for his untimely death.
His six years as vice governor earned dividends for the province. It was under his leadership that many positions in the Sangguniang Panlalawigan were created and filled up. Together with now Bontoc Mayor Frank Odsey, he initiated the institutionalization of the Provincial Scholarship Program and caused the settlement of various inter-municipal boundary disputes.
As governor, he will always be remembered as the “pro-employee governor”. He did not only initiate the creation of hundreds of positions but, in coordination with the vice governor and members of the SP, was also primarily responsible in giving all benefits to employees.
He shall likewise be known for his peace advocacies in settling disputes between and among tribes in the province. Many are still not aware but he put an end to a long-drawn tribal conflict by spending his own money to pay a financial obligation demanded by the aggrieved tribe.
It was also during his term that the Provincial Peace and Order Council was awarded as the best PPOC in the whole country for three successive years.
He made access to the farthest barangays his priority when he regained the governorship in 2010. Presently, various provincial and farm to market roads were opened and/or improved.
In his talk during the opening of the Lang-ay Festival Agricultural and Trade fair last Friday, Provincial Administrator Johny Lausan referred to Mayaen as “the man with vision”. “He is has seen Mountain Province in the global map in terms of tourism, economic growth, peace and order, unity and excellence,” Lausan narrated.
Mayaen’s untimely death dampened the spirit of the coming Lang-ay Festival, Foundation Day and the Igorot International Convention.
The parade to mark the start of the agro-trade fair last Friday was done away with together with all other scheduled festive activities. In a last minute decision, the Lang-ay Organization decided to tentatively reschedule the Lang-ay Festival originally calendared on April 6,7, and 9 to April 14-16. It was likewise announced that the Igorot International Convention and the Foundation Day celebrations will push through less the merry makings.
In a meeting last Thursday, vice governor Bonifacio Lacwasan and Board Member Francias Tauli agreed to take their oath as governor and vice governor, respectively, on Tuesday, April 5.
No final decisions on the wake and burial of the late governor was available as of press time.
For his part, Sadanga Mayor Gabino Ganggangan said that he last met Mayaen in his office Wednesday morning to have his travel order to Manila be signed by the chief executive and during their conversation, the issue on Ganggangan’s recent heart bypass was discussed and they had a light discussion about it.
“When I asked permission from him to leave to attend the autonomy roundtable discussion in Manila, he reminded me to always take care during my trips outside the province and that was the last I heard from him,” Ganggangan stressed.
By Angel B. Baybay And Dexter A. See