Jesus V. Ayala passes away at 82

LABAN. At the main entrance of the JVAMC office in Juna Subdivision, Davao City, then Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino poses with supporters, including his "Tito Chito," Jesus V. Ayala (to his left) and Ayala's wife Mafe (to his right) and son Miguel (standing behind him) on September 3, 2009, when Noynoy was en route to Zamboanga City for a retreat at the Carmelite nuns' convent to decide whether or not he would run for President. MindaNews photo by Keith BacongcoDAVAO CITY (MindaNews/20 April) — Industrialist Jesus V. Ayala, credited for having pioneered the export of bananas to Japan in the early 1970s and whose counsel on Mindanao affairs, particularly Southeastern Mindanao’s was sought by Philippine presidents since Corazon Aquino, passed away at around 6:45 p.m. Tuesday at the intensive care unit of the Davao Doctors’ Hospital.

His remains were cremated Wednesday morning at the Davao Memorial Park, after a concelebrated mass at the chapel at 8 a.m. attended by family and friends, Mayor Sara Duterte and her father, Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

Ayala’s son, Mike, brought the urn containing his father’s ashes from the crematorium into the chapel at 11:47 a.m. after which everyone proceeded to the Bulwagan, the social hall of the Ayala compound in Juna subdivision, where Philippine Presidents from Corazon Aquino to her son Benigno Aquino III, and ambassadors from various countries, were feted.

Better known as Chito to President Cory Aquino and “Tito Chito” to the incumbent President, Ayala established in the early 1970s the banana trade with Sumito Fruits and Fuji Fruits with Hijo Plantation, Inc., as the pioneering exporter of bananas primarily for the Japan market.

Although not in the limelight in the Yellow Friday movement after the 1983 assassination of then former Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, husband of the then future president, Cory, and father of the incumbent President, Ayala helped steer the anti-dictatorship movement, lending both his moral and financial support.

RDC chair

In 1986, Ayala was named chair of the Regional Development Task Force which in 1988 was renamed into Regional Development Council (RDC), a  post he would hold until 2004 or 2005, said Assistant Local Governments Secretary Wendel Avisado, who served as regional director of the Department of Interior and Local Governments (DILG) in the Arroyo administration and who also served as Ayala’s co-chair in the RDC.

Avisado told MindaNews Ayala was “everything. He was more than a father to me, a mentor, a teacher, adviser, coach, and most of all, a very close friend.”

Avisado’s colleagues, lawyer Antonio Llamas, a former City Administrator, and Engr. Louie Jacinto, former Environment regional director and City Planning chief, consider Ayala their “second father.”

Avisado, a lawyer like Ayala, said that while serving as RDC chair, Ayala also served under the first Aquino administration as a member of the Monetary Board and as Presidential Legislative Liaison Officer.

Avisado joined Ayala’s company after he resigned as regional director in 1993. But Ayala continued to serve as RDC chair into the Ramos, Estrada and the first part of the Arroyo administrations.

From Cory to Noynoy

When former President Cory Aquino died in August 2009, the Ayala compound was bedecked in yellow. When her only son, Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino came to visit on September 3, 2009, as a potential candidate for President, the compound was also bedecked in yellow.

Before proceeding to Zamboanga City that day for a spiritual retreat at the Carmelite nuns’ convent to decide whether or not he would run for President, Noynoy spent six hours in Davao City to meet with allies, but spent the greater part of his time in the residence of his Tito Chito, where his mother — as presidential candidate, President and former President — always spent the night while in this city.

Ayala, his wife Mafe, son Miguel and employees wore yellow, to welcome the senator.

“Only one letter,” Ayala steered his wheelchair towards Aquino as he replied to a question on what he pledged the senator during their hour-long closed-door meeting before the noontime press conference at the Bulwagan then. Ayala smiled as he flashed the “L” sign for “Laban” (fight), the symbol and battlecry of Aquino’s mother, Corazon. In his senatorial bid in 2007, Noynoy said the Ayalas here were his “primary supporter, the initial, the persons who were there constantly.”

Aquino landed second in Davao City, even as campaigned only “once or twice.” He returned to Davao to meet with supporters, along with running mate Senator Mar Roxas on September 24 and 25, 2009, again passing by the Ayala compound for lunch en route to Bukidnon and Cagayan de Oro.

In President Aquino’s last visit to the city on March 16, he failed to visit his Tito Chito but phoned to express his apologies. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)