RETIREMENT is not among the immediate plans of Representative Carmelo “Tarzan” Lazatin.

“You’re 75?” I asked him.

“76 naku,” he corrected me.

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He knows me by name, proof that he is not suffering from memory lapses as rumored about.

“Kasipag mo Cong, enaka kailangan magkampanya pa. Invincible ka,” I told him when we met last week at the Pampanga district office of the INC. He was in an all black outfit like he just came from a Mafia funeral.

“Bah, makualta ya ing kalaban,” he said half in jest, “kailangan lumakad ku.”

“Lupa kapang masikan, Cong,” I said. “Mag boxing exercise ka mo?”

“Emu boksing, mag weight lifting ku pa,” he answered. He took my hand and asked me to feel his muscle (deltoid).

I said I believe him, having felt hard and solid muscles on his shoulder. “Maka adua ku pa,” he said. I did not take that seriously knowing he was pulling me on the leg. Knowing I often teased him about his age or physical condition, Tarzan had disabused me of any thought he was not physically fit to wage a sustained campaign in the May elections. He has a young opponent who makes up for his fund shortage with his exceptional industry.

Actually Tarzan has two “rivals” – one is an underdog, the other an attack dog.

For a sitting champion to prepare well for his reelection bid against a “nobody” like City Councilor Ares Yabut, the congressman is not putting anything to chance. The gambler he is, he is a “segurista.”

Intelligence reports had reached Lazatin that Yabut is fast gaining popularity in many barangays in the first district. But the lawmaker, confident of his strength and drawing power, scotched fears of being overtaken by fluke “tsamba” victory.

Yabut started his ambitious crusade to contest the undefeated former mayor, and now congressman for many terms, like a house on fire. Huge tarpaulin posters have attracted residents not only in Angeles, but in Magalang and Mabalacat towns as well. He did not spare his own house either in posting bills.

The challenger is projecting himself as alternative to the aging warrior by emphasizing his youthfulness and actual age (37). His killer slogan, clearly directed at his foe is “Ding sinawa na, ding ena bisa, keni tana!”

It appeared that his campaign line is getting serious attention even as Lazatin was seldom seen doing barangay visits in the district as his usual wont. Most people thought he was sick or just plain tired to campaign. No, sir, Cong has solid and rock hard deltoid muscles.

Age versus youth is inarguably drawing curiosity from voters and Yabut has been making appearances among rural folks with the regularity of a Bombay money-lender on a motorbike. He sports a spike hairdo to dramatize a “bagets effect.”

The councilor found the strategy working as feedback reports indicated he is gaining ground in the Herculean task of beating the Cong among the young and new voters. Lazatin would not and cannot duplicate the tiring street fighting tactics of his younger opponent either by choice or by inclination for hard work.

People are not surprised, therefore, to find billboards of a known nuisance candidate, one called Sibac (Sitong Bacani) asking voters not to support “Bata pa, corrupt na.” The boards and streamers were placed alongside billboards of Yabut, attempting to neutralize the Ares propaganda line against Lazatin.

That’s how the genius of a grizzled campaigner like Tarzan can get. He can enlist his opponent to fight his own battles.

When I mentioned Sibac to the Cong, he smiled in half-closed slit-eyed mock disbelief. “Atin kang birador kang Ares,” I added.

“Hehehe..” he laughed “Magaling ka talaga Cong. Atin kang paglalam” I added “Ika, Mister…” he replied to belie my suspicion.

Yabut supporters have felt fresh confidence and some certainly that their candidate has been causing quite a toll on Tarzan’s popularity with his Indian 5-6 giver routine in remote villages.

The Lazatin camp, in dousing cold water on the chances of his energetic rival with giant tarpaulin banners, splashed the Cong’s accomplishments in local newspapers. Ares had no response to the intimidating record.

Since then, Yabut had seemed to cool off with his excessive drive, apparently shocked by Lazatin’s achievements, a city hall source told me.

What seemed to have frightened Ares is the fact that while the 14th Congress (2007-2009) had approved only 1,079 bills with 370 enacted into law, Tarzan claims filling 187 House Bills or over 10 percent of the House output! That, by any standard was a prodigious output for someone who is said to be a Dean’s Lister among Region 3 absentees in Congress.

Not only that, a Congress publication chose Tarzan as an Outstanding Congressman for his achievements which, include, among others, “crusade for positive governance through (Susmariosep!) earth-shaking privilege speeches and resolutions.”

Gustong sabihin nito, pag nag-discursu si Cong, talagang nayayanig ang mundo! All shook up, including Yabut who has doubled his campaign efforts and energy that he shakes everyone’s hands including the non voters, according to his friend Lener Biag, who, he claims, is already No. 7 in the list of probable winners for city councilor.