STRENGTH IN CARING
Fulfillment in public service comes from genuine compassion. Since she was elected, Mayor Gwen Palafox-
Yamamoto became the mother of Bani, Pangasinan.
BY HELEN HERNANE
PHOTOGRAPHY BY DANIEL SORIANO
There is this one event,” Mayor Gwen Palafox Yamamoto shares when asked about what got her into public service. “My father ran for mayor around 2007 and I was his spokesperson then. We went to this one sitio and may nilapit sa ’kin na bata. Marami siyang butlig sa katawan. Humihingi sila ng panggamot. Nagkataon na merong medical mission three days later kasi my father’s side ay puro doctors. Turns out, kulang sa Vitamin A ‘yung bata. ‘Di ko makakalimutan ‘yun (some people sought my attention for this child. He had many bumps all over his body and needed medicine. Fortunately, there was a scheduled
medical mission three days later because my father’s side of the family is full of doctors. Turns out, the child had Vitamin A deficiency. I never forgot him).”
Yamamoto’s father, Facundo Palafox, lost that election, but she never forgot the child. “Simpleng vitamins, hindi nila kayang makuha. What more pa kaya ‘yung ibang mas matindi ang pangangailangan (It was just vitamins and they had no help. [I can only imagine] how much more difficult it is for others who have more pressing needs)?” That pushed her to run for councilor in the next election. Now, Yamamoto reveals, the child is already a teenager and is doing well.
A Mother’s Instinct
The young mayor always remembers the children’s stories. She recalls a malnourished child who walked to school for 12 kilometers each day. Yamamoto made it a point to track his health until he eventually reached a normal, healthy weight. Another teenager had a hole in his heart and needed to be operated on. Fortunately, the mayor quips, she has friends in the Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PCMC) in Quezon City.
“This was five or six years ago. Now he’s studying in college and has a girlfriend. Every year, he thanks me and I always tell him that I didn’t do this to get people’s gratitude,” Yamamoto stresses. “But if you can, pay it forward. Kung may taong nangangailangan, dalhin natin sa ospital. ‘Yung tatay niya, tuwing may kailangan dalhin sa PCMC, siya ang tagadala namin. Nakakatuwa kasi marami na rin siyang natulungan (If someone needs help, let’s bring them to the hospital. His father always volunteers to drive if we need to bring someone to PCMC. It’s heartwarming because he’s helped so many people).”
It’s no wonder that the mayor gravitates towards helping young children because as a mother herself, Yamamoto feels their parents’ ...