DAGUPAN CITY – The city of Dagupan paid its last respects to the late Mayor Alipio “Al” Fernandez, Jr. during the final viewing of his remains at the City Museum on August 17, following an honor march where his remains were transferred from Ciudad Elmina to the city plaza.

Fernandez Jr., who passed away on August 9 at the age of 75, was honored by close friends and former colleagues during the necrological rites held during the viewing.

Among those who shared their eulogies include Engr. Mac Arthur Samson, former City Administrators Rafael Baraan and Judge Joven Maramba, Former City Councilor Edna Gonzales, City Administrator Atty. Farah Marie Decano, City Councilor Luis “Chito” M. Samson and Mayor Belen T. Fernandez.

Messages from former president Fidel V. Ramos and Vice Mayor Brian Lim were also read during the ceremony.

Mayor Belen T. Fernandez, a close ally and former running mate of the late Fernandez Jr., extolled the late mayor’s character as she dwelt on their memories.

“Mayor Al was a beacon of insight, integrity and selflessness – a guiding force that helped make Dagupan City what it is today. His confidence was driven by a profound optimism about the spirit and capabilities of the Dagupenos. Dagupan will never see the familiar smile as he mingles with local communities once more, never hear him rally us in the face of uncertainty again, never serve side-by-side with him to stand for what is good and what is right. Yet in reality, we will see him, hear him, experience him in the faces of his family and friends, and in our hearts and minds forever,” said Fernandez.

In response to the eulogies, Mayor Al’s son and former Councilor Alipio Serafin Fernandez thanked those who came to honor the memory of the late mayor.

“The best way to honor my dad, to honor Al Fernandez, is to imitate him. To continue what he loves to do best – that is loving Dagupan City. Let us continue serving our people to whatever capacity we can. Do our ordinary duties extraordinarily well. In our own simple way, that is serving our city – we are honoring Al Fernandez,” added Fernandez.

During the ceremony, the city awarded the late Mayor Fernandez Jr. his lifetime achievement award and the title conferred upon him as “Pinablin Ama na Dagupan”, with his family receiving the award and a copy of a resolution attesting to this on his behalf.

The title was given in recognition of Fernandez’s accomplishments and contributions to the city during his stint as a public servant.

Before he served as Undersecretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) from 2002 to 2004 and Commissioner of the Bureau of Immigration from 2004 to 2007, Mayor Al dedicated many years in service to the city.

Fernandez Jr. served as number one Councilor from 1972 to 1977; Vice Mayor from 1977 to 1986, 1987, 1988 to 1992; and as Mayor from 1992 to 2001 and 2007 to 2010.

It was under the auspices of the late Mayor Fernandez that Dagupan received numerous awards and recognitions, including Special Citation for Most Business-Friendly LGU award from the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry in partnership with German Technical Cooperation in 2009, Best Component City Disaster Coordinating Council in 2009, UNICEF’s Child-Friendly City Leadership Award in 1991 among many others.

He also received numerous awards on behalf of the city including being the Most Supportive City Mayor in Sports Development (1988), Most Supportive City Mayor to Non-Formal Education (1997), Most Supportive City Mayor in the Implementation of Nutrition Programs (1996-1997), Progressive Alliance of Citizens for Democracy’s Most Outstanding City Mayor – Urban Category (1995) and the Department of Interior and Local Government’s Outstanding City Mayor – Urban Category (1994).

Fernandez was also responsible for numerous infrastructure projects such as the City Museum,the City Library, the People’s Astrodome, Senior Citizen Building, City Health Office, PNP Building, the Market Building at Herrero-Perez and even the Welcome Arches found in all entry and exit points in the city.

Some of the many projects launched by Fernandez included the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in 2008, Pawil Dagupan Program in 1999, Philhealth Insurance coverage for qualified indigents, the sidewalk recovery and the accreditation of the city’s One Stop Business Center (OSBC) as ISO 9001:200 in 2009.

On August 18, Saturday, a memorial mass, presided by Archbishop Socrates Villegas, was held at St. John Cathedral.

Hundreds of Dagupeños joined the processional march that followed when his remains were transferred to Eternal Gardens, his final resting place, for his interment. (Verdelle De Vera/CIO)