Thousands of miles away on the other side of the planet, one Santa Clarita resident has been looking to make global change. Attorney Ramoncito, or Monching, Ocampo is a senatorial candidate in the Philippines and he is my uncle. After having lived in the valley for almost two decades and owning several businesses such as a law office, a restaurant and a nursing review course in the LA area, he has chosen to serve abroad.
My uncle states on his official website how he came to his decision:
“When Bro. Eddie Villanueva [presidential candidate] invited me to be one of his senatorial bets and join him in the fight against graft and corruption, against poverty/injustice and bring about the abundant and prosperous life that our country sorely needs and rightfully deserves, I came to the conclusion that it is indeed, in the arena of public/government service or being a senator with its inherent authority, resources and influence that one can realistically…’DO THE MOST AMOUNT OF GOOD TO THE MOST NUMBER OF PEOPLE AT THE LEAST POSSIBLE TIME.’”
The upcoming May 10 national election is a highly anticipated one and Ocampo is battling for one of 24 seats up for grabs. But rather than delve deeply into his campaign and try to understand the politics of a foreign country, I was more interested to find out what the process has been like for my uncle and his family to venture beyond the hills and valleys of Santa Clarita and take on such a huge challenge.
“Living in Santa Clarita has helped the strength of our family because it’s…a tight-knit community here. We can stick together as a family because growing up that was the atmosphere we were surrounded with,” said his only daughter. “I’ve met so many people here who have that family mentality so it’s easy to not feel alone. I have friends who are very supportive.”
Ocampo and wife, Estrella, have three children – Michael, 25, who graduated from University of California Riverside four years ago; Michele, 24, a former COC student who is now a senior at California State University Northridge; and Edward John (EJ), 21, who is finishing up at San Diego State University.
“My dad raised his family in Valencia and had a comfortable life after living out the American dream. But despite his success and being content and happy, he has that unselfish calling to help people who aren’t as privileged. His intentions are very noble,” said Michael.
This is not their dad’s first time campaigning for election – several years ago he ran for a seat in Congress and was not successful. The road since then has been rough, but has led him to try again.
Michele added, “Back then he was a nobody and we were all still in school so we needed him around a lot more for support.”
In 2007, my uncle suffered a major heart attack while vacationing with his family in the Philippines. He underwent a quadruple bypass surgery to save his life. While his wife and kids were extremely concerned about his health, they say his second chance at life awakened his yearning to do more.
“The doctors even told him, ‘we don’t know how you’re alive right now.’ All his arteries were clogged and he was barely getting any blood flow to his heart. After that, he felt an unrest where he needed to do more,” Michele said.
“I was also concerned for his health that he won’t eat right over there, he won’t get rest because he’ll be traveling to all the different provinces campaigning from the early morning until midnight or 1 AM,” Michael said. “But I know all along it’s been his dream to be of public service and help the people of the Philippines.”
Being that my cousins are older this time around, they have been entrusted with the responsibilities of their parents’ businesses while they are gone.
“I think the most difficult part is that there’s not enough time in the day. I’m trying to establish my career while also trying to maintain the law office and nursing class. We’re spread thin,” Ocampo’s son described.
His daughter echoed similar thoughts.
“The restaurant is still a new business and I have to take care of it all the time. Sometimes I have to walk out of class to take phone calls. It’s hard – here I am 24 years old and I’m trying to graduate. It’s my senior year and I’ve spent most of my time making sure the business doesn’t go bankrupt,” she said.
“I was someone who could go out with friends and not worry about anything now I’m the one taking care of the checking accounts and paying bills.”
When asked how people react to a U.S. resident running for office in the Philippines, Michele shared these sentiments:
“Imagine living in the Philippines where you’re lucky to make $10 dollars a day. That’s the gap my dad is trying to fix because they need help from the outside. And when people there tell him he doesn’t understand how tough it is there, he says ‘That’s what I’m trying to change.’”
Entering politics can be taxing on families, but his children hold no resentment.
“We obviously want him to win but win or lose this shows us as a family that we can stick through,” Michele graciously recognized. “We have to think bigger than ourselves and we’re destined for greatness regardless.”
Should Ocampo win, the family plans to carry on as they have been for the last several months. Michael and Michele would continue maintaining the businesses. The Ocampos would still keep their home in Santa Clarita but have a home in the Philippines during the six-year term. They would visit their children during the holidays and vacation opportunities.