Had former Senator JV Ejercito won in the May 2019 senatorial elections, he would have been the only Ejercito/Estrada in a public office post. At 13th place, he came so close to making it into the Magic 12, even beating his biggest rival then, his brother Jinggoy Estrada, in ranking. Fate, as it turns out, had other plans for JV, “The Good One.”
If his Facebook account were to be a measure of where he is nine months after the elections, Ejercito looks like he’s moved on well. Domesticity, biking, travel, and food—with a sprinkling of public engagements in between—seem to fill his time these days. All these he personally documents on his FB account, letting his 643K followers know where he might be or what he may be doing at the moment.
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One day he is bringing his son to school on a scooter, the next he’s riding his BMW GS somewhere in Eastern Europe—or discovering a hidden bulaluhan in Batangas. He may have built his social media base during his time as a senator but based on the number of likes he gets these days, his followers seem to be embracing citizen JV very well.
“Of course when I was still in the Senate, I would post on social media also but mostly about my job. Marami naman nag a-appreciate pero what I noticed is that people are more interested in lighter issues like family, travel, and food,” the former senator tells ANCX.
More recently, his food posts have expanded to the FB foodie community called Let’s Eat Pare (LEP). It’s founder, Mark Tanseco Del Rosario, is the same man behind the viral “Titos and Titas of Manila Facebook group.” Ejercito’s recommendations from adobo flakes to burgers and the best eats in places like Ilocandia attract engagements and likes by the thousands.
“Super good quality Norwegian salmon airflown from Norwegia (joke) este Norway pala,” goes one Facebook post, done like a responsible, sensitive influencer: complete with phone number and IG account.
“Masarap mga pare!” another post says, containing his “mini-review” of the Chinese New Year treats he had from Lim’s Bakery in Little Baguio, San Juan. “Dami sahog ng misua, meaty ang kikiam, at chunky ang chai-pao!” It’s sincere, it’s honest, and unlike some bloggers out there, he paid for his meal. What else could a hungry netizen looking for believable recommendation ask for?
“His posts get high traction because of his reputation as a public servant. Members get to have an informal chat with him in the thread,” says Del Rosario who first met Ejercito through the leadership organization Junior Chamber International and, later on, through LEP.
Mention any province or region and Ejercito can go on enumerating most of the dishes he’s tasted along the way during his motorbike rides, from the different papaitan versions of Luzon to the grilled seafood in roadside eateries in Mindanao. “Mula Appari hanggang Jolo narating ko na po,” he tells his followers in one of his FB posts accompanied by a photo of him and his bike by the ‘Welcome to Appari’ arc.
“My passion is riding so when I travel, I discover a lot of good food, hidden good eats, and mga restaurants so I share these discoveries [on social media],” says Ejercito whose rides are a Ducati Multistrada and a BMW GS.
The former senator obviously loves manly meat-heavy eats. His photo uploads would feature bowls of lomi bursting with chicharon from Batangas, the greenest innard-filled papaitan dishes up north, and lobsters as big as his arm in Appari.
He loves innards and the many versions of papaitan, and whenever he drives north of Luzon, he will stop for Serkele in Isabella and Sinanglaw in La Union. He also recommends the Pancit Cabagan and Batil Patong of Cagayan Valley and the different longganisa versions one can find in the loop covering Nueva Ecija, Cagayan, and Ilocos.
In the south, he has done the Mindanao Freedom Ride where he traveled with his bike buddies to Davao, Misamis, Cagayan de Oro, Butuan, Davao Oriental, and Surigao. He gushes about the seafood and chicken dishes in the area and recommends stopping by Wild Berry Garden Diner in Bukidnon which serves deer meat and a variety of wild berry-based juices and shakes that he describes as “magugulat ka sa sarap.”
“Pag nasa probinsya ako for work or whatever, sinasabi ko sa organizers sana huwag hotel food ang i-prepare. I don’t really like it. I like to discover yung specialty nung iba’t ibang provinces kasi mas totoo,” he says.
In the past seven months, Ejercito has traveled not only locally but to countries in Eastern and Central Europe, passing by Croatia, Slovenia, Vienna, Budapest, Hungary, and Prague. “Ang maganda sa Europe, one country per day. Maliliit lang sila so every time we ride, bago matapos ang gabi, nasa ibang country na kami,” he says. Ejercito often rides with bike buddies belonging to Club 200 Philippines which include Erickson Farillas of Plains and Prints, Rep. Bong Suntay, and Architect Nikki Romero.
This February, he is off to New Zealand, but when he comes back, he hopes to do the Visayas circuit and rediscover Bicol through its laing, sinantolan and Bicol Express. He says he is not closing his doors to politics and might consider running again in 2022, but in the meantime, he is basking in his newfound role as an influencer and a reliable source for the best eats in Metro Manila and beyond.
“I think it is because I travel on a bike that I’ve been getting attention,” he says. “Siguro [the followers can tell] I am passionate about riding and food, and they know whatever I recommend will be masarap. Kita naman sa katawan,” he jokes.