DBM Secretary Amenah F. Pangandaman: Don’t scrimp on hard work, spend on kindness

WORDSWORTH - Mons Romulo - The Philippine Star
DBM Secretary Amenah F. Pangandaman: Don�t scrimp on hard work, spend on kindness
DBM Secretary Amenah F. Pangandaman.

It was a pleasant surprise for all when then newly elected President Bongbong Marcos announced that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) would be headed by a 46-year-old female economist by the name of Amenah “Mina” Pangandaman, a Maranao. The first Muslim budget secretary and the only Muslim in the Marcos Cabinet, she is the only child of Almen and Nancy Pangandaman, both government employees. Coming from Mindanao, she always aims to give Mindanao a voice.

“Sec Mina,” as she is fondly called, earned her bachelor’s degree in economics from Far Eastern University and took further studies at the University of the Philippines, where she earned her master’s degree and diploma in Development Economics. She was pursuing her executive master’s in public administration at the London School of Economics when she was offered the Cabinet position. She thus went on leave to serve at the DBM. As part of the President’s economic team, she brings with her a fresh viewpoint in a male-dominated team of economic technocrats.

Sec Mina started her career in government as researcher at the Senate, and then became chief of staff of then Sen. Edgardo Angara and later on, Sen. Loren Legarda.

With over two decades of experience in public service, Sec Mina has thus served in two branches of government — the legislative and executive, as well as in the Central Bank.

In her personal time, she likes to read, travel, and take care of her dog, Bimby. Here are Sec Mina’s top 10 pieces of advice for those who want to follow in her footsteps.

With pet dog Bimby.

1. There’s no substitute for hard work. From being a legislative staff member to chief of staff of some of the country’s best political and economic minds, to being a Cabinet secretary myself, I climbed through the ranks to be where I am now. And I’ve had my share of mess-ups and mistakes, but I’ve always risen from them and learned every step of the way. There are no shortcuts to success. It’s always through hard work.

2. Always show kindness. In the kind of work that I do, it’s easy to get lost in the demands of the job. But I believe that it’s in stressful environments that we should be at our kindest. It may be the simplest of acts, but it can ripple and have considerable effects on your life and the lives of others.

3. Be grateful. As a Muslim, I was taught to say “Alhamdulillah” to express gratitude, but it was not until later that I truly understood what this meant. Especially when we’re young, we tend to take things for granted, but it’s important to remember that what we have in our lives is because of Allah’s grace, and keeping this in mind can also keep us strong amid life’s challenges.

4. Find your passion and advocacy. Having worked for Senate President Edgardo J. Angara, I discovered early on that I have a passion for public service. And his passion for reforms was something I imbibed from my late mentor. And to this day, I make sure that every policy or program I’ll do is always for the benefit of the Filipino people.

5. Be agile and adapt. The world is rapidly changing — not just in terms of technology but also in politics. The ability to adapt to these changes is crucial, and to do this, you must keep on learning and improving yourself to keep up with the changing landscape. The old adage, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” has become obsolete. We must always be trainable and teachable to adapt.

6. Build real relationships. While I am a strong advocate for digitalization, there is value in face-to-face communication and genuine conversations and relationships with people. If there’s one thing that should not get overtaken by digitalization, it’s making authentic connections with people.

With parents Almen and Nancy Pangandaman.

7. Foster critical thinking. While today’s world has given us access to a wealth of information, we also struggle with disinformation. So it’s crucial to discern reliable sources from “fake news” and develop critical thinking skills. Especially in the work I navigate in, it’s important to take things with a grain of salt and verify information before forming opinions.

8. You can’t please everyone. No matter how diplomatic you are — especially in this line of work — there will always be “haters” and “bashers,” and that’s okay. What’s important is you keep doing good work and living authentically. Like how Taylor Swift sings, “Haters gonna hate, but I’m just gonna shake it off.”

9. Be proud of your heritage. As a Muslim, I’m a minority. But in my position, I recognize my platform, and I always make it a point to showcase my Mindanao roots and Filipino heritage. I love the Philippines. I love Mindanao, and I am proud of it.

10. Take care of the environment. We only have one planet, and it’s deteriorating because of climate change. On the budget end, we monitor climate change expenditure through climate change expenditure tagging or CCET. Personally, I make it a point to adopt sustainable habits and make eco-friendly choices.



We welcome your suggestions and comments. Please e-mail me at [email protected]. Follow me on Instagram @monsromulo.

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