FIRST day in office, she climbed the Capitol building to check its leaking roof, leaving a circle of photojournalists and TV crew scrambling after her. She climbed the ladder, paused on the ledge while photographers scuttled for the best angle.
Right that moment, you knew the papers’ banner photo was made.
All she needed then was to drop a few sound bites. She told a group of reporters huddled around her that she wanted to “hit the ground running.” She knew exactly what to do on Day One.
Right then, the next day’s news was already written. Second day in office, she was headline in all newspapers in the city.
It could have been a case of mutual feeding—the source feeds what media want, and media oftentimes coax the source to do or say what they want. With the governor, however, media doesn’t need to give the cue. She herself understands how it works and knows exactly what to do at the right moment.
In less than a hundred days in her office, I found myself working for the governor and made an AVP of her first one hundred days, which we made as an introduction to her speech at the Provincial Board. The whole time, from video to speech, I remember the PB’s session hall falling into a kind of awe.
It must’ve been the first time the crowd felt like they were at the Oscar awards.
The point is, the governor is one person who understands how things work in the public sphere. In 2004, I made the photograph of her first-day sojourn on the Capitol’s roof the symbol of the new leadership, and used the tag-line “bag-ong panlantaw” or new vision. The image shows her on top of the building looking down, and quite eloquently, it says that up there, it was altogether a different view of Cebu.
You go to the towns with the governor and you will see how the people respond to her presence. Here is a common scenario: women would huddle around her and give her a hug, and say “Ka-gwapa man diay nimo, Maam, uy!” The governor knows exactly how to respond, “Ay, sus, maayo ra gyud nga nianhi ko kay wala ko kadungog ana didto sa siyudad!”
You will see everyone around in a jovial mood. You will see how amused the people are in the towns. Sometimes, kids would run up to her and she’d get her purse, take out a few coins and send them to a candy store. When she chances upon a carenderia, she’d take the ladle and get a taste of her favorite dinuguan or paklay, much to the surprise of everyone surrounding her.
These are little details that escape the rather formal demands of news. But apart from the deliberately new brand of governance the Province has taken all these years, those small bits are what matters most to the people in the towns.
Here is one governor who doesn’t look and act like a governor, in the traditional sense. In the middle of a conversation, she’d hop into an outrigger and paddle all the way underneath a decaying bridge to inspect it from below—much to the horror of her close-in security.
She’s a relentless mover, and she knows when to pick the right moments. One official commented about how the governor looked “so un-gubernatorial” for frequently wearing denims while at work. Well, the next few days, the governor would be wearing jeans the whole time in office and in the field. She’d wink an eye and smile at her staff upon seeing another official whose pants climbed way over his navel.
The contrast becomes too stark when you hold her personality against her detractors. I do not quite understand where the confidence of Vice Gov. Greg Sanchez comes from. He’s a good man, don’t get me wrong, but when he delivers a speech, he’d put half the town hall to sleep. On that front, you simply can’t beat the governor.