THERE'S just no other way to say it. This public servant puts a whole new meaning to the line, “service with a smile.”

For Shalani Soledad, though, service comes first. Then sleep follows as a close second. At the bottom of the list is “playing badminton.”

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This is not the latest poll survey on the question, “What do you do in your free time?” But rather, it is a quick and general description of how her life looks right now during the busy campaign period.

Shalani is running for her third term as councilor in Valenzuela City this May. She dropped by Sun.Star Cebu last week for the “Tell it to Sun.Star Forum.” She is the girlfriend of presidential candidate Sen. Noynoy Aquino.

“On my first term, we were able to pass ‘early care childhood ordinance’,” the official from the second district in Valenzuela said. Being a member of the council committee on women and family affairs in her city, she also clarifies that although she is a woman, she is not biased to only serving the concerns of her fellow women.

“I’m passionate about my work in general. It’s not like I’m only passionate about things concerning only the women because our nation is not only made up of women,” the councilor shared partly in Tagalog.

Speaking of passion, there’s another thing she loves to do after achieving every item in her busy itinerary these days.

“When I have free time, then sleeping is my passion,” she laughs and explains on that sleep is becoming a rare luxury these days. “But besides that, I get to play badminton sometimes.

“Also, I’m learning how to cook.” Is this a preparation for marriage perhaps?

“No! It’s just something that I really like to learn for myself.” For Shalani and her boyfriend, one of the things that they love in common is good food.

“He loves to eat—we both do.” Both a couple since 2008, she goes on saying about some of the admirable qualities she’s seen in her boyfriend.

“He has a very good sense of humor and he’s a real guy who puts up no fronts.”

She may all be councilor and politician and all, but she also has the tendency to be a “normal girlfriend” when it comes to jealousy issues.

“Sometimes, yes. But I try not to make a big deal out of it. Of course, it’s not easy to see him there and other women also tagging along with him,” she says.

Then Shalani was quick to throw a joke in the middle of the conversation. “And no, there’s no one in particular right now that would make me feel jealous,” She said, shifting a short while from public service issues to showbiz.

But back to the serious side, she’s just one of numerous women politicians in the country today. Does gender really play a factor when it comes to leadership? The pretty politician shares a few of her thoughts.

“When I first started running, people were saying, ‘you’re still very young’ or ‘and you’re even a girl.’ But I believe that it’s been proven over time—in fact in Cebu you have a good number of women leaders—that anyone can make a difference.

“In our everyday lives, we are given a chance to make life better. It’s up to us how to use that chance—especially if we choose to make other people’s life better—because it’s just not really about us.”