Iloilo’s Niccolo

ABOVE THE BELT | ALEX P. VIDAL“Playing the game, and unfortunately, playing the gangster game is very profitable.” — QUINCY JONES

A gambler and womanizer, Niccolo is one of the most brilliant Ilonggo orators who never won a formal award.

Senate President Frank Drilon admires his brains but not his temper.

After an ugly incident in the lobby of a hotel in Iloilo City where Niccolo called the politician “gago” or dumb (I was present when the incident happened) many years back, Drilon would never give attention to Niccolo anymore.

Loquacious and arrogant, Niccolo could shrink an adversary with a mean and tiger look even without saying a word.

The nephew of a former city hall department chief vowed to castrate Niccolo if he has a chance.

The young man was brandishing a 12-inch bolo when he aired the threat.

He was present when Niccolo mercilessly annihilated his basketball buddies in a bloody showdown of characters with hot temper.

“He was the one who really did it,” swore the young man amid tears. “I can never forget his face.”


Niccolo doesn’t trust characters who ride in motorcycle in tandem.

“I’m always two steps ahead. I don’t want my friends to miss me permanently,” he chortled seriously. “(my) mission is not yet accomplished.” He did not elaborate.

Niccolo wanted to organize a group that will preserve Filipino dialects other than Tagalog.

“We should be proud to use and speak our own dialect. If we are Cebuanos, we must speak in Cebuano. If we are Ilonggos, we must be proud to speak in Hiligaynon. No Filipino outside the Imperial Manila should have inferiority complex only because his tongue can’t pronounce a Tagalog word,” Niccolo insisted.

His advocacy gained popularity when he went to Guam in the mid-90’s, but abandoned the crusade when his best friend, now semi-blind and living like a pauper, bungled a court battle and lost a real estate fortune.


Niccolo’s life-long ambition is to make it to the constitutional assembly “so I can help repair the defects in our constitution.” Niccolo said he is saddened that mediocre characters are now the dominant characters in the Senate and House of Representatives “only because of the defects in our electoral system.”

He said, “There is really an urgent need to amend the constitution so that public office will be protected from incompetent characters.”

In a chance meeting at the grocery section of SM City years back, Niccolo placed his right arm around me and silently appealed, “Stop carrying the issue about ‘Bogart’. Just tackle other issues.”

Back in February 1992, when our house was razed by fire, he arrived in a dilapidated car and gave us rice.

I haven’t asked him about his livelihood, but he always carried bundles in his pocket.

He is no Robin Hood though, but his benevolence is not a secret to the objects of his carnal desires in the metropolis’ honky tonks.

One time, he removed one of the four gold rings in his fingers and gave it to a courteous saleslady in a downtown shopping center when the saleslady greeted him “good morning, sir” with a smile. They became “friends”.

He is Niccolo, a mysterious Lothario who loves Elvis Presley songs.