Wonderful moments with Governor Gwen

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty Josephus Jimenez - The Freeman

Governor Gwen is one rare public official who is more akin to a corporate executive rather than a traditional politician. She talks straight and never beats around the bush. She calls a spade a spade and tells you the facts even if these can make people uncomfortable. To me, her style is much better than the traditional politicians who make you feel happy only to be surprised with unpleasant consequences. She is frank, even at times brutally frank.

Last October 23, our delegation of HR managers, directors and vice presidents from People Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP), paid a courtesy call on Governor Gwen Garcia, the dragon lady in the Capitol. On October 25, I introduced her to the convention with 1,500 delegates. And she regaled us with her extemporaneous speech about Cebu. As the only Cebuano among the past presidents PMAP, I was given the task of arranging the courtesy call and introducing the governor to the delegates. The last time I visited the Capitol was in 2014, when I visited then Governor Junjun Davide as that year's national PMAP president.

Very much unlike now Vice Governor Davide who is soft-spoken, diplomatic, and careful with words, Governor Gwen is audacious, spontaneous, and candid. She told us about typhoon Odette, how Cebu, especially the southern part where she and vice governor Davide both came from, was devastated. She had to ride on a habal-habal motorcycle, traversing the mountains of the 7th and 2nd districts just to survey the extent of the damage and to determine what was needed urgently. She was a leader on top of the situation. She made people appeased and reassured that they weren’t abandoned during their most difficult and trying times. It turned out that under her leadership, Cebu's disaster response became the model for the whole country to emulate.

Governor Gwen also shared her experiences about the COVID-19 pandemic and Cebu's struggle to come up with its own brand of responses. She stood her ground against the importunings and impositions of imperial Manila whose ivory tower Cabinet members and heads of agencies wanted to dictate Cebu on lockdowns, compulsory vaccinations, and wearing of face masks. She was even threatened with charges of insubordination. But she was never subdued, like Datu Lapulapu she stood firmly on what she deemed proper and right. And events proved her decisions were correct. Even on the animal diseases that afflict the country's poultry and hog industries, Governor Gwen's mastery of the facts on the ground vindicated her against all her detractors.

The people therefore rewarded her with a thunderous mandate in 2022 of more than 1.4 million votes, a number never before garnered by any political leader in Cebu. When I introduced her last October 25 in the PMAP convention, she welcomed the HR community of the whole country from Ilocos to Tawi-Tawi. She reminded the visitors that the Cebuanos killed the first tourist from Europe, Magellan. But today, the Cebuanos are welcoming tourists warmly and joyfully. She was supposed to go to Badian Falls that day to reopen the Kawasan Falls but she had to postpone it to the next day, just to give way to welcoming the delegates to the 187 islands, 44 towns, and nine cities of Cebu. She was much applauded and admired by the HR delegates.

Governor Gwen is a joy to be with if and when she likes you. But if she hates your guts, you better stay away from her path. She is not your usual prototype of a traditional politician who makes you feel good by their "bolada". To her, white is white and black is black. And she is very keen and observant. If you are not sincere, she sees it through, and you will get a piece of her mind. And what a mind.

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