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JCI Las Piñas & JCI Las Piñas Water Lily 2nd Induction and Turnover Ceremonies

University of Perpetual Help Las Piñas

Good evening everyone. Foremost, I would like to thank JCI Las Pinas and JCI Las Pinas Water Lily for inviting me to grace this very important occasion. It is my honor to speak before you today, young leaders in your respective professions and in our communities.


Your theme, “One Las Pinas - Making Possibilities & Empowering to Impact All Women,” reminds me of a question that is often asked of me—if there are any challenges I encounter being young and a woman in government, especially when I was part of the Build Build Build that was dominated by male cabinet secretaries. 


To be honest, when you are young, it is intimidating to be around accomplished leaders. Yet, I used that as a motivation to continuously improve on myself. But I never thought of age or gender as a deterrent. 


Youth and women participation is critical and necessary if our goal is to achieve genuine reform. Moreover, when we talk about empowering women, we also have to open the dialogue about how men can play a role in the fight for gender equality. Our mindset should be focused on how we can leverage on our respective strengths so we can work together towards building better communities that would contribute to a greater nation. 


Frankly, there’s a lot that needs to be done for our nation. I realized this when I was working with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on their Typhoon Haiyan Response. The first time I saw Tacloban after Yolanda’s onslaught, I couldn’t hold back my tears. It was heartbreaking to see communities devastated, cadavers in black plastic bags lining up the streets, people trying to make sense of what happened.


I’ve listened to a lot of stories. One of them was that of a young man who was a few months away from high school graduation. Before the typhoon, he was studying with his girlfriend for their exams. They had hoped to pursue their dreams together. But even before they could choose the kind of life they wanted to live, he already had to choose between saving her and his one-year-old niece. I hoped I could do something, but all I could offer was the relief from UN. Even that proved to be challenging. 


The terrain was difficult in areas battered by the storm. At that time, I really wished the Philippines had better roads so that it would be easier for anyone who wanted to send help, to reach areas that needed medicines, food, and water. In several towns, it took weeks before help came. During those times, I hoped I could do more. I did not expect that years later, I would become part of Build Build Build, which built the much needed roads, bridges, classrooms, evacuation centers, airports and seaports in many areas of the country, and other infrastructure projects, such as the Leyte Tide Embankment, a storm surge protection structure that would serve as the first line of defense for residents of Tacloban, Palo, and Tanauan in Leyte should another typhoon hit the region.


This massive infrastructure program helped a lot of lives and communities, and I am so grateful I was given a chance to be part of it. If you believe in destiny, that might be the story of how it happened. 


I was with the UN when I decided to pursue law. I was enrolled in UP Law School which was in Quezon City, and the UN office was in Makati, plus, we usually had out-of-town missions. I was then struggling to balance a very fulfilling job and studying. I can still remember the times when I had to sleep at airport terminals to catch a flight to Cebu or Tacloban after my 9:00 pm class. Or I would read my cases in moving cars and at airport terminals hoping to finish the coverage for my 6:00 pm class.


Admittedly, there were many days I fell short. Many times, I wanted to quit. But I couldn’t give up my job without putting up a fight. Then a window of opportunity opened—it was a chance to work in Congress, which is just a few minutes away from UP. I seized that opportunity to work for then Las Pinas Representative Mark Villar. I joined his team as well when he was appointed Secretary of the Department of Public Works and Highways, one of the lead agencies for the Build Build Build. What started as a decision primarily based on instinct, turned out to be one of the most fulfilling jobs I ever had. It paved the way for my journey to public service.


Now, as an Undersecretary of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), my hope is to contribute to bridging the digital divide, to open up more opportunities, especially for those in the countryside, through access to the internet and other digital technologies. Is it challenging? Yes, definitely. We still lack digital infrastructure needed to provide access to affordable, safe and reliable internet connectivity. We need to improve our citizens’ digital literacy skills not only to protect them from cyber threats but also to create more opportunities.


The world is fast-changing, technologies upgrade rapidly. The world is already talking about artificial intelligence, 5G, cloud computing, and blockchain; yet 65% of Filipino communities still lack access to the internet. 


Moreover, 90% of the jobs worldwide have a digital component. This means that digital literacy is no longer an option. It is an essential skill we must equip our citizens, especially the marginalized sector.


Digitalization is now a vital aspect of development. We have to keep up; otherwise, we will be left behind. 


As an organization that supports government initiatives, I invite the JCI Las Pinas, and the JCI community as a whole, to look into how it can support digital-related programs, among other programs of the administration. Your experience in various fields of profession and business, many of which I am certain are already treading the path of digitalization, will be valuable contributions to the government’s efforts.


The JCI’s longstanding commitment as a partner of government in nation building is exemplary. And I am glad that my home city of Las Pinas now has its own chapter. 


The 6th President of the United States, John Quincy Adams, said: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” 


Imagine what this roomful of leaders can do. We can ignite a whole city to become more.


To the new members of JCI, congratulations on being part of this leadership organization that endeavors to create positive change in people’s lives, in our communities, and for our country.


To the new officers, carry the torch of leadership with passion and unwavering commitment to nation building and to developing more leaders that will have a positive impact in our communities.


Congratulations to JCI Las Pinas and JCI Las Pinas Water Lily! Mabuhay!





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