Both were frugal with their words when they posted about the chance encounter. San Juan Mayor Francis Zamora just pointed out the basics: “Nagkita at nagka-kwentuhan kami ni Sen. JV Ejercito sa Greenhills ngayong umaga.” And then added, as if he needed to beat a word count: “Mahilig din siya mag-bike.”
Former Senator JV, posting the same photograph the following day, had a little more to say. “Though we are political adversaries, we had a good chat,” he wrote. “In an ideal world, there would be no conflict. This would have been nice. Sana mas maganda kung wala ang bangayan, magtulungan sana para sa kapakanan ng bayan.”
The photograph we’re talking about, the one in the banner, is the one of Zamora and Ejercito posing with their bikes and each other outside the Greenhills Mall in San Juan, the McDonalds Golden Arches behind them. As Ejercito’s post clearly reads, this is more than just a snapshot of two guys posing with their bikes. There’s history here.
The two men belong to the rival political clans of San Juan: the Zamoras and the Ejercito-Estradas. Francis, now 42, ended the 50-year rule of the Ejercito-Estradas in 2019 when he won against Janella Ejercito-Estrada, daughter of former Senator Jinggoy, in the San Juan mayoralty race. In 2016, it was Francis who lost the mayoralty seat, albeit by a narrow margin, to Guia Gomez, a previous partner of former President Joseph Estrada, and mother of JV Ejercito.
Which brings us back to the subject of the photo. We were intrigued as to how the encounter happened, and what the two men talked about. “Did they talk about Guia? Did they reminisce about Mister Donut?” went one Facebook comment. “I’m pretty sure they talked about the bikes, punyeta ang mamahal niyan,” chirped another. Correct us if we’re wrong but it looks like JV’s is a BMS Fourstroke FS 01, and Mayor Francis is holding a Specialized Epic Expert EVO. But despite the two being big cycling enthusiasts, surely with all that history, that whole chance meeting couldn’t have been just about what they were riding.
So we just went ahead and asked both men what really went down. We have yet to receive a reply from Mayor Francis but we got a few words from Ejercito who says that that area in Greenhills is part of his regular route. He was about to meet with his friends in Greenhills when he saw Mayor Francis. “I saw him taking his selfie, mahilig kasi siya mag post eh. Binati ko na rin siya. I had second thoughts kasi medyo di kami magkasundo sa politika. I greeted him ‘Good morning, Mayor.’ Tapos nag-ask siya na mag-selfie kami.”
They used to be allies in politics, Ejercito says. “But things became ugly when they ran against my mother. Since 2016 naging hostile na.” The Greenhills encounter wasn’t really the first time the two saw each other in a long time. “We had other chance meetings in the past. I’ve no choice but to approach him. Disente naman tayo. Mga few months ago [was our last chance meeting].”
So what did they talk about? “I told him sana matigil na itong siraan at bangayan tutal tapos na kami ng mommy ko. Nag-mayor na ako, nag mayor na mommy ko, tapos na ‘yun,” he tells ANCX. He says he’s thinking of going back to the Senate. “Sabi nga niya, ‘Oo nga Sen, nakita ko yung survey mo. Maganda yung latest sentorial survey—number 9.’ Sabi ko maganda naman yung chance ko so hopefully makabalik ako sa senado, so sana nga di na tayo mag-away.”
Unknown to many, Francis and JV used to be teammates at the De La Salle alumni basketball team. “Matagal din kami nagkakampi. Nag-champion pa kami dun. He knows how I play kahit maliit ako sa kanya. He knows how to play with my height. Who knows, in politics naman there’s nothing permanent,” he says, as if implying they might end up in the same team, or political party, in the future.
The two men could have had coffee and talked some more but the former Senator was just starting his ride for the day. It was not even 6:30 AM. “Nag-aaya nga siya kaya lang I had to meet friends. Baka next time,” says Ejercito. We will wait for the picture.
Interview by Dahl Bennett. Photo from the Facebook page of Mayor Francis Zamora.