Francis Zamora will officially be taking over the mayor’s seat in San Juan on June 30. With less than two weeks to go, he is deep in the transition process, but he tries to relax, look pensive for the camera, the day we met him at Cafe Ysabel for merienda. Zamora's resume lists a single term as councilor, two as vice-mayor, and a couple of years managing the congressional district office of his father, Ronaldo “Ronny” Zamora. Congressman Ronny was a member of the Interim Batasang Pambansa in 1978, was once the country’s executive secretary, and has been a member of the House of Representatives since 1987.
While the young Zamora has been immersed in his father’s work growing up, he had no plans of following his father’s footsteps. Mayor Francis played basketball in elementary and high school in La Salle Greenhills, the UAAP in De La Salle University (DLSU), and was team captain of the back-to-back championship teams of DLSU in 1998 and 1999. Then he moved up to the Philippine Basketball League and won championships as part of Welcoat Paintmasters. He also played for Blu Detergent, Montana, and ICTSI La Salle before his early retirement in 2002. In 2004, when he began campaigning again for his dad, he realized he wanted to give running for public office a go himself. "I spoke to my dad and told him I want to run in 2007 as councilor," he tells ANCX. And the rest is history.
In this interview, while fresh from a trip, the man who ended the Estrada family's five-decade rule in San Juan opens up about fatherhood, his father's influence on his chosen second career, and looking after 130,000 plus constituents.
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How has your dad influenced your choice of career?
As early as six years old, during the 1984 elections, I was already campaigning for my dad. At a very young age I was exposed to the world of politics and public service. I saw how he served the people. Every single day, people would come to the house, early in the morning, asking for assistance, wanting to talk to him. So araw-araw ‘yun hangga’t lumaki ako—but never kong pinangarap na ako din. My dream was to play for the Philippine Basketball Association so I took on the career path leading to that. But in 2004, when I started campaigning again, I wasn’t playing basketball anymore, I spoke to my dad and told him I want to run in 2007 as councilor.
What lesson has your dad imparted that you continue to apply to this day?
That you really have to work hard for everything. Mag-aral kang mabuti. In my political career, I started from the entry level which is councilor, then vice-mayor. Gusto ng father ko paghandaan ko, mag-aral in school at the same time yung on the ground, yung experience.
Name a reminder that you constantly hear from your dad.
Ever since I was young, yung dad ko talagang pinapaalala niya sa akin na ‘wag kang gagawa ng bagay na makakasira sa pangalan ng pamilya natin. He wanted to show that we will not abuse the trust that has been given to us. That stuck with me, I never got in trouble in school, I never failed, I excelled both in academics and in sports.
How do you spend time with your dad?
We’re very busy with work. Yung magkasama kami sa San Juan, masaya na kami. We have exactly the same constituents so yung dapat niyang puntahan, dapat ko ring puntahan. Tandem kami parati. And, of course, we have the same mission which is to be able to bring change to San Juan so I believe that this has brought us closer to each other. We are both working for the same goal, the same dream. Common talaga yung outlook namin, yung endgoal namin, which is for the betterment of San Juan.
How do you resolve disagreements with your dad?
He would listen, he’s open. But at the end of the day, we have to decide which path to take. Kasi ako, I’m more on the ground, so mas in touch ako sa tao, araw-araw nasa barangay ako eh. So yung problema nakikita ko, nararanasan ko, naaamoy ko, nahahawakan ko. Nandoon ako mismo eh. For him, because of his wisdom and experience, iba naman yung approach niya to certain things. I always submit to his wisdom and experience but at the end of the day I pitch what I think is right. Nagkakasundo naman kami.
Are you still able to make time for your children?
Yes, I’m a very hands-on father. Basically, my life revolves around San Juan. I live in San Juan, I work in San Juan, my responsibilities are in San Juan. So every free time I have, I go home whether for lunch, for dinner, merienda or just to say hi to the kids. If I have to do something at night, I go home first and stay with them and leave again. So either kasama ko yung constituents ko or kasama ko yung pamilya ko. I am proud to say that in all my children’s special moments, I’ve always been there. Mga school programs nila, nakaka-attend ako. I bring them to their school activities on weekends. Wala akong nami-miss sa ganun. Lahat ng panganganak ng asawa ko sa apat na anak namin, nandoon ako. I cut the umbilical cord of my four kids.
All opportunities that I can bring them out whether to the mall, out of town or out of the country, I do it. When it’s dad’s responsibility, they understand that I have to do it. But when there’s a break, I make our constituents understand naman na tatay din ako, asawa din ako, kailangan ko rin maglaan ng oras sa pamilya ko, and they’ve seen naman that I’ve been fair. Naintindihan naman ‘yun ng tao ‘cause they also see I post also, they see that I’m with my kids, my family. I also want to set a good example to my constituents na ako maayos akong ama, responsableng ama, responsableng asawa. I believe the foundation of a good city is yung basic unit which is the family. Kung hindi mo maayos ang sariling pamilya mo, paano mo aayusin yung city?
How do you discipline your children?
I really take time out to explain to them, for them to be able to determine what is right and wrong. As a father, proud akong sabihin na yung mga anak ko lumalaki nang maayos. Wala namang troublemaker sa kanila. I have been a dad to four children for almost 18 years. Now I’m the father of the city. You can also apply how you handle your family in how you handle San Juan. There are times when my children fight each other for petty things. I really take time out to talk to them and listen. Same thing with San Juan. Lalo na sa pulitika, andaming intriga, andaming sumbong, hindi ka pwedeng basta maniwala lang sa unang sumbong, you have to take time out to listen to both sides, there are always two sides to a story. In the end, you make a decision but you have to give time to listen to both sides.
You became a father at 23, how did that work out for you?
Being a young dad was an advantage for me, because our age gap is small. We share the same interests. Gets ko pa! We enjoy the same kind of music, going to the same places. Nanood kami ni Amanda ng Rihanna, Katy Perry, Ariana Grande. Nag-enjoy din naman ako kasi I listen to Ariana Grande. Yung son ko si Rocco, I play basketball with him. At a young age, instead of reading kiddie comics and magazines, car magazines na yung binabasa niya. Meron siyang natural inclination sa cars which I also like. Now he’s into basketball, I try my best to encourage him to keep on playing. The two younger ones, Nicolas and Noah are more into gadgets. They each have their own personality. I always take time out to be with them.
What did you realize when you became a dad?
You won’t understand it until you become a dad yourself, yung sinasabing cliché na mahal kita kaya kita pinapagalitan, kung hindi kita mahal papabayaan lang kitang gawin yung mali. You understand that the reason why your father was disciplining you was for you to learn, for you to understand, for you to differentiate right from wrong. Also, yung sacrifices mo as a parent, you’ll really work hard to provide your kids a good future, good education, and comfortable life. Nung wala pa akong family, siyempre iniisip ko yung sarili ko, career ko, ganun. Pag may pamilya ka na, iisipin mo yung anak mo, ano yung para sa anak mo, para sa pamilya mo, magshi-shift talaga yung outlook mo.
Photographs by Medal Elepaño. Special thanks to Cafe Ysabel.