Alipio “Al” Fernandez Jr., the former mayor of Dagupan City who also served as Immigration commissioner and Local Governments undersecretary, passed away on Thursday morning in Manila after a battle with cancer. He was 75.
Fernandez was elected mayor in 1992 and served three consecutive terms, following in the footsteps of his father Alipio Sr., who was Dagupan’s first mayor when it became a chartered city in 1947.
He attempted to regain the mayoral seat in the 2010 elections but was beaten by former congressman Benjamin Lim, who stepped down himself after suffering a stroke.
Fernandez’s running mate, Belen Fernandez (no relation), succeeded Lim as mayor and still holds the post.
“Today, Dagupan lost a true visionary leader, pioneer, and dedicated public servant,” Mayor Belen Fernandez said on her Facebook page. “Personally, I mourn the passing of a wise mentor, dependable counsel, and dear friend.”
Fernandez Jr. began his political career as a city councilor in 1971, then laid low during the Martial Law years before winning the vice mayoralty after the Edsa Revolution in 1986.
Known as Dagupan’s “grand old man,” Fernandez was a chain smoker who friends said was in his element “governing on the streets,” meeting with fish vendors at Dagupan’s famed seafood market or discussing poetry with writers at the Dagupeña Restaurant.
“I grieve deeply for the passing of a friend, a most charming, engaging, witty man whose presence lightens any burden, his jokes dancing with the rings of smoke, as he fiddles with his cigarette, and recites lines from his favorite poets, over a bottle of beer,” Virginia Jasmin Pasalo, a commissioner of the Pangasinan Historical and Cultural Commission, told the news website Rappler.