February 12, 2021 – Alike Editorial Team
In 2019, the people of San Manuel, Tarlac elected Donya Tesoro as their highest local chief executive. Alike’s first ever digital cover features the millennial Mayor as she naturally is - a confident embodiment of youth, a believer in optimistic futures, and a reminder that love (like voting) is a choice.
Love is Growth
There is a war adage that leaders are the first to step foot in battlefields, and the last to step off. In a way, Mayor Donya’s stature reflects this. She starts her day before most, and ends it later than most. “Many days, I can’t anymore spend time with the family,” says the 29-year-old mayor of San Manuel, Tarlac, “I try to make up for it on weekends.” Far from complaint, though, she views the sacrifice necessary for the greater good. And Mayor Donya believes that public service requires 100% focus.
She immerses herself in duties like clockwork. There is a daily flag-raising ceremony, followed by meetings with barangay captains, department heads, and law enforcement agencies. Her councilors from the Sangguniang Bayan report on weekly news, followed by paperwork. Lots of paperwork. “I tend to bring home files with me (I have piles of documents I need to read and sign),” she says, smiling. Mayor Donya then attends meetings and consultations with both the private and public sector, before facing constituents. “Even the ones who need personal assistance be it medical, scholarship, even family issues,” she recalls, “any personal problem you could think of, name it!” Oftentimes, she finds herself heading out of town to promote San Manuel for investments and projects— all in the name of service.
“I believe love for country begins with how we think, revealed in our speech and manifested in our deeds/actions,” she shares solemnly, “consequently enabling our nation to stand on its feet, to proceed on the right path and prosper.” Love is growth, and Mayor Donya’s ardent belief in advancing her fourth-class municipality’s status is something any partner would swoon over. In this sense, she is partnered with her people. “I would like to instill in our constituents the values of obedience, patriotism and respecting others.” She shares that if these basic tenets are exhibited wholeheartedly, everyone can accomplish their duties as citizens, and fulfill their love for country.
Love is Inspiring
Mayor Donya looks to her father, former Mayor Benjamin “Bening” Tesoro as an inspiration. He shares he did not expect his daughter to take up politics. But Donya says his work inspired her to enter the political realm. “I saw his love for the people and that really inspired me,” she shares in a previous interview. Across the sea, she admires Nelson Mandela for his ability to unite a nation. “He campaigned for justice and freedom in his native South Africa…he sought to heal the rifts of the past. Despite being mistreated, he was magnanimous in his response with his oppressors.” Mayor Donya’s version of love encompasses a caring nature, reflecting an attitude of forgiveness, tolerance, and second chances.
As well as sacrifice. “I think the day the Philippines gained independence is the pinnacle of patriotism,” Donya Tesoro declares, holding that June 12 acts as a symbol of a truly independent nation. “It is a reminder for every Filipino of our duty as citizens to defend the nation even at the expense of our lives. It is always sweet to die for our country.”
Being a millennial mayor, Donya embraces new technological advancements at a rapid pace. “As long as it is beneficial to the Local Government Unit (LGU), and it makes the delivery of services to the people more efficient and effective,” it is worthwhile, adds the communications major from Miriam College. But even as the wonders of technology have made communicating and disseminating information faster and easier, Donya recalls what she learned from her predecessors. “No matter how good you are in managing LGU operations, you must always be physically present on the ground.” Thus, she always makes sure that her presence is felt by the people. “For more efficient governance, our projects and programs are based on consultations to match the needs of the community, that is why I require the presence of the agency heads too,” she quips, “by letting the people participate in crafting our policies and programs, we are able to empower the powerless.”
Beyond technology, Donya also believes that millennial leaders have changed the face of politics with strong political will and resistance to traditional politics. “To us, we owe the people, not just a few people." Donya’s style of leadership values credibility instead of corruption. “I’ve hired people who are competent and qualified,” she says in an attempt to eliminate nepotism, “this has increased the competitiveness level of the LGU which is key in managing their success.”
In perhaps an act of love to one of the unsung (and most selfless) heroes of the nation, Donya has also pondered on a day of celebration for farmers. “This sector is very close to my heart and I want the people to give more recognition to them, as they are the real backbone of our economy.” One can’t spell “heart” without “ear,” and Donya’s ability to empower, and give minorities the voice they need to fight for their rights, and be given more privileges than what little they have now, speaks of her intentions for the people.
Love is Kind...of Awesome
The things that excite us are amongst the things we love. For Donya, these are projects for her LGUs. “We’ve been very aggressive with our infrastructure projects to attract more investors. We are aiming to industrialize for more employment opportunities and stimulate an active local economy. We are also in the process of establishing industrial zones.” She refers to the continuous support she gives to local small businesses to help sustain families and create more jobs. Microfinance, provisional “negosyo” starter packages, trainings and trade exhibits are all available to San Manuel’s citizens, as well as new livelihood centers.
These are aside from macroeconomic-scale moves that involve clean water, secondary, high school, and daycare centers, as well as public wifi connections as support to online education. “We are also currently constructing a new Community Health Center for better-added health services,” says the diligent mayor, “this is a response to the pandemic and to prevent future healthcare shortcomings.” And while the establishment of a new sports complex with commercial units and government offices, NFA warehouses for palay farmers, and more bypass roads and completion of more farm-to-market roads— may seem like a chore to many people, it’s the love language the people of San Manuel responds to, and one Donya is only too happy to provide.
“San Manuel is a third class agricultural town and is still developing, but the potential is there,” she shares, “in the coming years, I hope to see our master-plan unfold. I’d like to keep our agricultural lands but at the same time industrialize to create more opportunities for the people.” Donya believes that the right infrastructure projects will attract more investors— enabling San Manuel to become the logistics hub of the north. “San Manuel is very much strategically located. If you look at it on the map it’s in the middle of Central Luzon. It’s the real gateway to the north.” She and her team strive for infrastructure improvement to provide locals who dream of going to Manila, a reason to stay. “My constituents won't leave because all the opportunities to live a good quality life are already in San Manuel.”
With sustainability, health, and employment amongst her chief concerns, it isn’t hard to see why the people fell for Donya. But as with the truest love— it all begins with oneself.
Twice a week, after office hours, Donya gets a chance to workout. “I usually play badminton. When I get an opportunity to rest, I prioritize sleep. I catch up on my reading too.” Whereas pre-pandemic she used to travel every two months, now, she drives to the nearby beaches to relax on free weekends. It paints a picture of someone as far away from glamour as true love is from infatuation. True love values the simplest things. “Ever since I was little my family has maintained a farm and my dad certainly loves to take care of a lot of animals. To reduce stress I often visit and help take care of them, especially the horses,” she remembers, “sometimes I paint to destress."
True love lets go, and for Donya, whose heart is in public service, she admits to acceding to vox populi. “Over the next few years or so, I would still want to be in public service, whether as an elected government official or not, because that still depends on the people.” Given the opportunity, she would accept a role in an NGO or an institution that shares the same advocacies as her, as long as “I am able to contribute to the society."
For now, what Donya wants is to impart a good foundation for future leaders. “I want to leave a progressive locality where people can find opportunities to succeed. Also, whenever I speak in front of people, I always reiterate the importance of being kind to one another, especially the needy. I want people to always remember that.” And despite all that 2020 has brought and the complications that arise in 2021, Donya Tesoro is a firm believer that love conquers all.
Specifically, the Filipino’s tireless compassion in the wake of tragedy and crisis. “Filipinos continue to rise and possess positive spirits. And no matter how hard life is for some they remain compassionate and always willing to care and help their loved ones and neighbors.” Herself included, sometimes love comes from oneself. If we’re lucky, they come from someone special. To the people of San Manuel Tarlac, they’re fortunate to have it from their mayor.
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