Vincent Atienza Cifra grew up in Pasay City, Philippines under the tutelage of his paternal grandfather Virgilio “Ver” Cifra who affectionately referred to him as “Enteng.”
Cifra’s parents separated in 1995, when he was just five years old, due to his father’s problems with illegal drugs. He practically lived a life without feeling the warmth and care of his parents. His mother was busy working as a solo parent to financially provide for his schooling while his father had very little time for him. This was the reason why Virgilio Cifra, his grandfather took it upon himself to ensure that Cifra grew up with solid convictions despite his unlucky childhood.
Cifra was often teased by friends and family members alike as an “NPA” or a person that had “No Permanent Address” because he had to constantly transfer to and fro between the Atienza side of his mother and the Cifra side of his father. His clothes were literally placed in travel bags most of the time so that when it was time to move, he was always ready. Despite the struggle, he thanked both the Atienzas and the Cifras for being parts of his life.
In spite of not having parental guidance during his formative years, Cifra was imbued by his grandfather with the courage to transcend his experience with drugs. His grandfather often told him, “Your past was tough. But you are tougher. We all are tougher than our experiences. We simply have to choose to be tough.”
Constant provision of wisdom by his grandfather urged Cifra to persevere. He studied hard as an elementary student and was given several awards for his extra-curricular activities and artistic skills. He in fact started learning to play the piano on his own while in 6th grade. He later had help from Pastor Larry, the head of the music ministry of the Protestant Church he was baptized into, the Christ Jesus Our Life Church (CJOL). He later joined the music ministry of CJOL as a pianist while he was in high school. He became really active in the youth activities of CJOL to the point of being awarded as “Best Youth Camper” in one youth camp sponsored by the Church.
In 2005, while in third year high school, Cifra joined the “Dulaang Bangkal,” the theater group of Bangkal High School (BHS), which was a public school in Makati City, under the direction of a school teacher by the name of Aristotle Garcia. He was awarded for his performance of the role of “Tata Andoy,” the old fisherman in the play entitled “Rehas sa Tubig.” He eventually became a stage director. It was during his high school days in the theater group when he met his soon-to-be wife, Ralph-Anne De Guzman, who played the role of an “Ada” (a supernatural being comparable to fairies) in the same play.
Soon after, Cifra decided to participate in the student politics of BHS. He ran for presidency of the student government with the platform of instilling discipline in the students. The school during those times was pretty chaotic being a newly founded public school which accommodated not so disciplined students and those who were considered “problem students” from other public schools that were already overcrowded. He won by a landslide and became the first elected-at-large student government president. He immediately created school student marshals who helped the school administration in disciplining and organizing students. This student marshal system is still present today in BHS.
In 2006, under the guidance of Ulysses Vasquez, the adviser of the Supreme Student Government (SSG) of BHS, Cifra ran for the position of Vice-President of the Federation of Student Governments of Makati (FESGOM) and won. His platforms included maintaining peace and order in public schools in Makati City.
In 2007, Cifra entered the University of Santo Tomas (UST). He took up AB Philosophy, the same course that Dr. Jose Rizal, the National Hero of the Philippines, took at the same university. He eventually got himself caught-up in the college debate about the university’s “haircut policy.” He disagreed with the policy of not allowing students to sport long hair as he believed that having long or short hair was not a basis for academic excellence. He himself decided to let his hair grow longer and sport the same to show solidarity with those who disagreed with the haircut policy.
In 2009, he soon ran for the position of Vice-President for Internal Affairs of the UST Faculty of Arts and Letters Student Council and won. During his term, he played a crucial role in convincing the administration to allow the students to sport long hair provided that the students were to make sure that their hair were properly pony tailed and presentable.
In 2010, Cifra ran for the Presidency of the UST Faculty of Arts and Letters Student Council under the political party DEKADA and won. He was dubbed as “Action Man” during the campaign period for his known action-oriented leadership style. He played an important role in having professors who abused their students removed from UST, delaying the tuition fee increase, and drafting of the students’ Magna Carta, among others.
In 2011, Cifra became a full-time teacher handling grade 4 to high school students at Victory Christian International School (VCIS) to finance his studies. Immediately after being accepted as a teacher, he entered the Graduate School of UST and took up the program Master of Arts (MA) Degree Major in Philosophy.
After a year, Cifra started his career as a college professor, teaching in several schools like Our Lady of Fatima University (OLFU) in Antipolo City, ABE College of Business and Accountancy in Las Pinas, and the Universal Colleges of Paranaque (UCP).
In 2013, Cifra’s grandfather to whom he owed much of who he was, died. This was to him his “first major sorrow as Concha’s death was the first sorrow of Dr. Rizal.” His pain arising from his grandfather’s death combined with financial difficulties caused delays in his postgraduate studies.
Cifra likewise took up a diploma course in Spanish at the Instituto Cervantes while he was taking up his MA Degree. He was eventually awarded his Spanish Diploma in 2014 and thereafter passed the Civil Service Eligibility Professional Exam.
In 2015, Cifra participated in the national call to convince then Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte to run for presidency. Coming from a family torn by illegal drugs, he considered campaigning for the Davao City Mayor as a personal responsibility as the latter was the only candidate who talked about the proliferation of illegal drugs as a serious national issue. Cifra said, “It was unbelievable that no presidential candidate talked about illegal drugs as part of his or her major concerns until Mayor Duterte.”
During the 2016 Presidential Elections, Cifra organized the United Gems of Metro Manila All with Duterte (UGMAD) to campaign for Mayor Duterte in the National Capital Region (NCR). He eventually volunteered as the Deputy Campaign Manager for the Youth Sector of President Duterte under the volunteer group Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte – National Executive Coordinating Committee (MRRD-NECC). His appointment paper was signed by then Gov. Sueno, USec. Mamondiong, and Mayor Duterte. He too became the Secretary General of the Save the Entire Philippines Organization (SEPO) which also campaigned for Mayor Duterte. It was in SEPO where Cifra met his soon-to-be boss at the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), ASec. Epimaco Densing III.
Together with his co-faculty Prof. Nick Asuncion, students and other volunteers, Cifra campaigned for Mayor Duterte using his personal resources as campaign funds. They designed and produced stickers and campaign tarpaulins. He even turned his personal vehicle into a campaign vehicle which he drove to work and around NCR. He likewise delivered spontaneous speeches in dormitories and public places atop plastic chairs or simply in the middle of a crowd to campaign for his presidential candidate.
On May 9, 2016, which was also Cifra’s birthday, election day occurred. The Filipinos voted for Mayor Duterte, turning him into the 16th President of the Republic of the Philippines. This to Cifra was “the greatest gift” he received so far for his birthday.
After winning the elections, Cifra joined the government by entering the DILG upon the invitation of ASec. Densing. He became the Chief-of-Staff of Densing and eventually assigned as the Head Coordinator and Project Manager of the Drug Abuse Treatment and Rehabilitation Center Inter-Agency Task Force Project Management Office, which was created by virtue of Executive Order No. 4, Series 2016.
Cifra soon founded the Youth For Federalism, a youth organization supportive to the thrusts of the Duterte Administration mainly the move to shift to a federal form of government and of course the war on drugs which he considered inevitable and necessary.
In 2017, Cifra finished his MA Degree after successfully writing and defending his thesis on the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche entitled, “Understanding Creativity in Nietzsche’s Philosophy.”
Immediately after finishing his MA Degree, Cifra took up the government’s law education eligibility test and passed. He then entered the Philippine Law School.
Cifra continues to work as a young part-time professor at 27 years old and is continuously involved in youth organizations and mobilizations for the purpose of augmenting the efforts of the Duterte Administration. He advocates for helping the youth “overcome drugs” by means of aiding them to resist and fight the destructive influence of illegal drugs which he witnessed first-hand through his father.
Cifra however has no resentment against his father. He expressed once in class that he loved both his parents as he discussed some of Nietzsche’s teachings on the “active mode of living.” He argued, “Resentment is forever. Forgiveness is once.” He said, “I am proud of my father because he managed to rehabilitate and change himself. While it is already too late for our family, I am happy that at least my father can make it up with his second family.”
Cifra’s life is proof that no matter how unfortunate one’s early life experiences are, at the end of the day, the past has no power over us. One gets to decide with finality how to determine his future.