GROWING up in a poor province and as the daughter of an OFW mother who worked abroad as a nurse to support the family, I promised myself to work hard and never stop believing that dreams for myself, family and community were meant to be achieved. I dreamt then to go to the best school for college, become a lawyer and inspire others to also pursue their goals.
I have always believed that with God’s grace, I was going to make a difference. I didn’t know then when exactly all those dreams would happen. What I did know was that if I kept doing my best every single day, I would be a step closer, treading the pathway to its achievement. Truth is, people dream big deep within. But most of us would be scared to verbalize it or let others know of those desires we have, for fear that they may be too hard to achieve and we might end up becoming a laughingstock if we fail. There are those of us, however, that whenever we want something, we declare the vision so that we can push ourselves to work toward achieving it.
Finishing as a scholar at the University of the Philippines and being a new lawyer from the Ateneo de Manila University, I knew I had already achieved what I dreamt for myself. So, I decided to go back to my province and start my working life as a public servant of Masbate, which has always lagged behind as among the poorest in the country. In the 2014 survey of the National Economic Development Authority and the National Statistics Authority, we ranked 14th from the bottom 81. We made ourselves fully aware of this and our weaknesses, but we did not accept that this would be our permanent standing. So, we created a vision that in five years’ time, we would get Masbate out of the group of 20 poorest provinces of the Philippines. We capitalized not only on our having beautiful spots and natural resources, but most importantly on our human resource. We pushed for capacity development and awareness campaigns that our people take ownership as well of the vision. We worked hand in hand with the different national agencies, local government units and collaborated with the various stakeholders in our community—organizations, private sector and businesses. We targeted the poverty indicators and embarked on growing our economy through tourism industry development. We made each one understand that it would take all our efforts joined together to be successful in our mission.
Lo and behold, when the 2016 survey came out, we found our province not only out of the 20 poorest provinces; we were even at rank 51. From our previous rank 14th from the bottom, we jumped 16 notches up the list. Yes, we recognize all those who helped made this possible and we all continue to work together. Recently, the provincial legislature passed the Tourism Code of the Province, a 2ndTourism Summit was held and tourism offices were set up by the different LGUs. As we continue with our plans and promotions, the executive branch is also undertaking infrastructure initiatives.
With all these actions put together, improvements and development are unfolding before us. Two months ago, Cebu Pacific opened a route to our province, making travel costs and pricing competitive; 200,000 new visitors were recorded for the past year, 17 new establishments opened, and new investors are in the process of setting up businesses. A week ago, the Rodeo Festival 2017 ended and we can honestly claim it to have been a success. Schools held reunions and alumni from all across the globe eagerly returned to join the celebrations, and beloved Masbatenyos, proud of what we’ve got in our province invited guests to join us as we believe that all these will redound to the benefit of our people.
Oh, the world is starting to look at us now with different eyes. Come visit and see for yourself a province with full potential to be among the top destinations for adventure and tourism.
Many times, the fears we have that hinder us from achieving our goals aren’t all external, but are creations of our own mindset and limitations to ourselves that if we allow them to rule our thoughts and feelings, we can end up not acting on the vision we have and get the results we are actually capable of accomplishing for ourselves and others. Back then, we dreamt, envisioned and acted together to get out of being among the poorest provinces and we achieved it. So now, we started a new dream—to be among the richest in this country and we shall continue to work together to achieve it.
The author, the Vice Governor of Masbate province, finished BS Tourism at the University of the Philippines. She obtained her Juris Doctor degree from the Ateneo de Manila University and was admitted to the bar in 2011. She took the Senior Executives in State & Local Government Executive Education Program at the Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.