ONE of the testimonials that gave a cheery note to the State of the Nation Address (SONA) was Representative Mercedes Alvarez’s picture sprawled over the finished road to Candoni.
That photo is now trending in social media. It is a departure from the common lackluster presentation of accomplished projects (formal, serious, smile less and no-nonsense delivery) because of her free expression of spontaneous delight.
Congresswoman Chedz or Chedeng, as she is fondly called, adds a vibrant effervescence to the Halls of Congress. She may be young and lovely, fashionable and funny, but never compromising when it comes to her commitments and responsibilities.
A representative of the 6th District of Negros Occidental, she is one of the youngest members of the House of Representatives.
Elected in 2010, she saw a second term in 2013. A lawyer by profession with a Bachelor of Laws from the University of St. La Salle and graduating with distinction from the Assumption College in San Lorenzo, Makati with a degree in Arts majoring in Holistic Human Development and Management, it’s no wonder she can hold her own in discussions and in acquiring legal and legislative support among fellow congressmen and the many various committees she belongs.
Proud of her family’s legacy in public service, Chedeng is not content with mere heritage. Even before her stint as representative, she was into community service. She practiced pro bono in Kabankalan City and is a staunch advocate for women and children’s rights. She has conducted over a hundred seminars on the subject and initiated the STOP VAW (Violence against Women) Campaign.
I had a candid conversation with Congresswoman Chedz after the announced abolishment of the PDAF funds and I asked how she feels about it. Her reply was quick: “I really worry about the many scholars that might be displaced and not avail of education.”
Education and health has been top of her priorities and is reflected in the number of beneficiaries in her educational and health assistance programs. The Negros State College of Agriculture, now known as the Central Philippines State University, has been converted as a state university through her legislative efforts. Creating a social services caravan, government services such as medical, dental, civil registration, legal assistance and education seminars are now availed in the far-flung areas of her district.
Authoring and co-authoring major legislations, Congresswoman Chedz did not spend her early days in Congress just learning the ropes but went right on to it. She pushed for more funds for the construction of farm-to-market roads (lying on one is evidence), bridges, school buildings, countryside electrification and various infrastructures.
In October 2014, she was elected as the first female member of the board of the Forum of Young Parliamentarians representing the Asia Pacific Region in Geneva, Switzerland during the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Conference. Her participation as an IPU youth officer to the forum, the newest permanent body of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), which is dedicated to enhance the quantitative and qualitative participation of the youth in parliaments, enabled her to further partake in the 2015 Global Youth Forum of the United Nations Economic and Social Council in New York.
In addition, in May this year, along with the National Diet of Japan, Rep. Chedz and other fellow IPU Youth Officers succeeded in organizing the 2015 IPU Global Conference of Young Parliamentarians in the Japanese Parliament.
It is good to see a new generation of leaders, fresh and vibrant, who have a passion for serving the people. Wisdom comes with age but in the two terms of Cong Chedz, we have witnessed that the youth are not just the “Hope of the Fatherland” but are actual participants in nation-building.
She once said, “Young or old, rich or poor, we have all been given the responsibility to lighten the burden of our fellowmen. Why wait when we are old to help when we can make a difference now, even in our little way.”
Committed and passionate to the core, there is the lighter side of Cong Chedz, which makes her her own honest, joyful self. Once during the Halloween season, she entered a supermarket as Morticia Adams but with a twist. She sported a long, curly red wig and curious whether she would be recognized. Definitely, she was. Some shoppers greeted her “Hi Cong”! She thought that was hilarious!
For country fairs, she discards her power suits and Filipiniana outfits and instead comes in shorts. In her time away from studying bills and governmental discussions, she bonds with her BFFs (best friends forever) since grade school and together, they giggle to death.
Indeed she is a breath of fresh air!
It is good to see a dynamic leader who has not forgotten her own identity and her humor! Cong Chedz, keep up the good work!