Carren's Pitch

Life by Design

7/16/2009

Catalyst for Change

Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |

This article was first for me. I had never gone down to Marikina to appreciate their political system, and how far they have come as a city. I was amazed at the air of excitement and efficiency that permeated the Mayor's Office. Though I'm sure it's not a perfect system, it is still one step ahead of many.
~*C

Text by: Carren Jao
Published: MEGA June 2009
Believing in their transformative role in society, Mayor Marides shines the light on the fairer sex

SEATED behind a long working table, Mayor Maria Lourdes Carlos Fernando could hardly be seen behind the mountain of paperwork, a literal representation of the many demands of her current position as Marikina Mayor. While many would falter at the stress and pressure that come with the position, Mayor Marides, as she is simply called, responds with equanimity and utmost grace.

As a daughter of industrialist Meneleo Carlos, Mayor Marides candidly admits never even dreaming of public office as a young woman. She even recalls reacting negatively to her husband, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Bayani Fernando’s initial decision to run for government office.

“When he got married to me, it wasn’t like he was a politician at the time—he was not. He was the son of the former mayor, but di naman siya in politics (but he he wasn’t in politics)… It was only about 3 years after we were married that people were approaching him to run for mayor,” Marides recalls. “At first, I really found it very difficult to accept, but then eventually I relented [and] allowed him to get into office, but parang for me we were just starting a life at the time, together and so [running for office means] you lose all your privacy, you have different lifestyle, and so I wasn’t really welcoming that change—that intrusion di ba, into your private life?”

Growing up in a family of private citizens, contributing to national growth through corporate projects, politics seemed the messy arena even for Marides’ family. “I grew up in an industrial family and business was more the norm rather than politics… And my parents would say, ‘Don’t touch politics with a ten-foot pole.’” Yet, it seemed that marriage to then private citizen Bayani Fernando would change her life in more ways than one.

When asked, Marides unabashedly calls her management style “corporate,” a term connoting efficiency and progress, rather than government bureaucracy’s implied penchant for procrastination. Sure enough, as she took over the reins of the Marikina city mayor from her husband in July 2001, she set about proving that it wasn’t only her husband reputation that got her there. Under her watch, Marikina has been recognized as: Most Competitive Cities for Doing Business by the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) Policy Center in 2008, Most Business-Friendly City in the NCR by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 2007, and the Top Five Most Competitive Metro Cities in the Philippines by again by the AIM Policy Center.

Over the years, Marides has garnered numerous accolades for her public service. The most recent of which are: Outstanding Professional Award in Public Administration given by the Board of Directors of the University of the Philippines Alumni Association and Outstanding Woman in Government given by the Filipino-Chinese Federation of Business & Professional Women of the Philippines in 2007. In an independent 2008 survey of the world’s top mayors, Marides placed 7th out of 820 candidates. Commentaries on votes for Marides clearly show that not only has she gotten the work of City Mayor done, she has also garnered the respect and fierce loyalty of her people.

Marides is a firm believer in the role of women in society and embodies the very thing she tries to cultivate among women—a strong, passionate woman, ready to take on the challenges of day. She says, “We’re always building on the women’s programs not because I’m a woman mayor… But it’s really rather the notion that women build character in their homes. It’s the mother who largely takes care of children and raises the children, and she has a great influence in how her family’s attitudes are molded.”

As mayor, she has organized the City Women’s Council (CWC), an organization composed of over 50 associations and around 15,000 members. The CWC partners with local government units, non-government organizations, and the private sector to help answer the needs of women in Marikina. Their livelihood centers in Marikina trains women on different means of livelihood, as well as conducts seminars on family planning, personal growth, and social skills. In addition, Marides actively supports the program of women’s organizations like Soroptomist International of Marikina, Zonta Club International, and Marikit Jaycees.

Pragmatically, Marides states, “I’d rather give money for their projects because they’re already working for the community and we can just support their programs so there will be a multiplier effect, diba? And, using women NGOs in that manner will also allow you to mold women to become leaders, so they can transform communities.”

Despite Marides making it look effortless, being a mother of Marikina and a mother in her own home can take its toll. She reveals, “[I] don’t have even have time to watch TV and watch the news because I get home so late.” She also adds that she has made a conscious effort to simplify her life, saying with slight smile, “I managed to have one husband and one daughter.”

This nuclear family, while being smaller than most, grounds her and continues to give her inspiration for her work. She cites none other than Bayani as being an inspiration. “I’ve never really seen the same passion of a public servant that I see in him.” Marides even slyly admits to having similar management styles, with one exception. “I think the only difference is that I smile better, di ba? I’m more charming,” Marides says with a naughty twinkle in her eye.

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