The life of Dominador M. Camerino, the first governor of Cavite during the Third Republic, was story of success through persistence. His meager formal education notwithstanding (he didn’t go beyond fourth grade), he climbed up the political ladder steadily, starting from barrio lieutenant to provincial governor.
Camerino was born on November 1, 1899, in barrio Kaytobong, then a part of Imus but now of Dasmariñas, to a poor couple, Ciriaco Camerino and Agripina Monzon. He studied in the Medicion Elementary School in 1907 but dropped out four years later. He was barely 16 when he was married to a barrio lass, Tomasa Cuello, by whom he begot three children; namely, Leonida, Lourdes, who died in infancy, and Rosa. Supporting his family by farming and gathering zacate, Camerino got so embroiled in local politics that he was away from home most of the time. His wife, a woman of faith and patience, tried to make do with the little they had, acting as mother and father to their brood. The task was so taxing and debilitating that Tomasa died in 1965, 14 years ahead of Camerino’s demise in 1979.
He went through the whole gamut of Cavite politics: barrio lieutenant of Medicion, Imus, starting in 1928;municipal president of Imus for three terms, 1932 to 1940; member of the provincial board from 1940 until the outbreak of the Pacific War in December 1941. During the early part of the Japanese occupation Camerino was arrested by the Kempeitai (Japanese secret police), and for three months he languished in prison. Then came his break in the form of an appointment as governor of Cavite by President Laurel of the Second Republic. When Manuel A. Roxas became president of the Commonwealth in May 1946, Camerino was extended an ad interim appointment as governor until 1947. By that time Camerino had learned the ropes of provincial politics, and in the gubernatorial election of that year he ran for the same position and won handily over his rivals. He was reelected governor in 1951.
But politics is like a fickle maiden. In the presidential election of 1949 Camerino supported Elpidio Quirino against his former idol, Jose P. Laurel, who was defeated in what is believed to be the “Dirtiest election in the Philippine history.” Two years later Laurel ran for senator and came out topnotcher, thus marking a turning point in Philippine politics. Although Camerino was reelected governor in 1951, he already saw the handwriting on the resoundingly defeated by Ramon Magsaysay of the Nacionalista Party in the Presidential election of 1953.
Camerino’s political enemies then went after him hammer and tongs. They raked up a case of arbitrary detention against him, andpresto he was convicted and sent to the national penitentiary at Muntinglupa for a term of five years. But luck intervened, because after Magsaysay died in a plane crash on March 17, 1957, his successor, Carlos P. Garcia, more compassionates and understanding, pardoned Camerino, and for the next six years the Imus idol was to spend his life in political limbo.
Staging a political comeback, Camerino ran for mayor of Imus in 1963 and won. Fortune smiled again on him. In the election of 1971 he teamed up with Lino D. Bocalan, and both of them won, Bocalan as governor and Camerino as vice-governor. That proved to be the second turning point in his life. Bocalan, after a few months in office, was arrested and detained at Camp Crame shortly after the proclamation of martial law on September 21, 1972. Camerino was appointed acting governor of Cavite, a position which he held continuously until his death on July 25, 1979.
The seven years that Camerino served as acting governor proved to be the most productive years in his public career. The tax collection of the province rose steadily from P3, 000,000 to P7, 000,000 – an increase of more than 130 per cent. Camerino provided electric power to upland towns through the CEDA (Cavite Electric Development Authority); encouraged animal, crop and fish production; prepared the Cavite Integrated Area Development Plan; pushed through the construction of the municipal buildings of Tanza, General Aguinaldo, Mendez, Alfonso, and Amadeo;and supported and promoted the Barangay Development Program.
[Sources: (1) Biodata furnished by Governor Remulla’s office; and (2) Eufronio M. Alip, Political and Cultural History of the Philippines . 2 vols. Manila, Alip & Sons, Inc., 1964.]