THE PEOPLE’S MAYOR
The Mother of Laoag City, Chevylle Fariñas, believes that the key to good governance is people empowerment and staying relevant to the times.
BY LAKAMBINI BAUTISTA
PHOTOGRAPHY BY RICKY LADIA
As the first woman mayor of Laoag City, Chevylle Fariñas has broken stereotypes that the highest government position in this part of Ilocos belongs only to a man. She had been a known figure in the city’s political scene as the public servant’s wife—to late husband Michael Fariñas, who served three terms as barangay chairman of Brgy. San Jacinto and mayor of Laoag City, before his untimely demise on June 6, 2018; he died in a car crash.
The lady mayor fondly refers to herself as her husband’s “reliable spare tire” when he was still in position. Performing the role of a dutiful wife and the mother of the city, she was there to support her husband in all his programs, especially those related to women.
She was his executive secretary, public relations officer, and cheerleader rolled into one. “My husband was the quiet, serious type, so I used to be the person who would go to the people and talk to them. Perhaps it helped that I was an advertising graduate, I knew quite well how to advertise him,” she says.
When her husband became mayor and would get swamped with obligations and commitments, Fariñas would gladly pitch in for him. “There are 80 barangays in Laoag City, so you can just imagine during Christmas season when all of them are having their programs, the mayor cannot attend to all of them. I had to be there for him. And that was how I got into the consciousness of Laoageños. That’s how they realized that the mayor’s wife can do so much more,” she says.
TAKING THE HELM
Fariñas knew for a fact that staying in the sidelines won’t get her anywhere if she wants to do more for the people of Laoag City. “Kahit magaling ka, kung walang opportunity na maibibigay sa’yo, wala rin. (Even if you are brilliant, if you are denied opportunities, your brilliance will be useless.) You have to create the opportunity yourself. Seize the moment. And when there’s an opportunity, never let it pass because the same opportunity will not come twice,” she quips.
Driven to continue what her husband has started, she ran as barangay chairperson of San Jacinto in 2004 and served for three consecutive terms. She was “Apo Kapitana” to many, like a mother you’d call in times of need and distress. “You know, one of my frustrations in government is that there are so many tedious processes that people have to follow in order to avail of services,” she admits. So when a constituent needs help, many times, she would just extend personal help. “I cannot always rely on government because baka mamatay na `yung humihingi ng tulong sa akin bago ko siya matulungan
[an ill person could die before government aid reaches him].”
During her stint as barangay chairperson, she was also elected as president of the Association of Barangay Councils (ABC) in 2006. “My fellow barangay officials told Michael that they wanted me to continue what he had done in order to sustain it. Because it was during his stint when all 80 barangays
had become united; before, there would be factions. So after Michael, I took on the challenge and served as ABC president. I told myself, I can’t let my husband’s efforts be put to waste. I have to find a way to strengthen the organization and make it better,” she says.
When her husband finished his third term as mayor, Fariñas stepped up to the plate and ran for the mayoralty post. It was a tough call, so to speak, because she had to run against Michael’s uncle, former mayor Roger Fariñas, and another former mayor, Cesar Ventura. She prevailed in the said election. Michael went up against Atty. Kris Ablan for vice-mayor, and won as well.
BREAKING THE MOLD
Mayor Chevylle Fariñas is not your typical mayor. For one, you’d most likely find her in ripped jeans, rubber shoes, and shirt almost on a daily basis. “I go to the barangays more often. I hate being alone in this office. I love being with people,” she tells us.
On her first year as mayor, one of the foundations she set was strengthening the relationship of the government with the grassroots. “I wanted the people to have confidence in their government. Here is an
administration wherein the people can readily talk to the mayor for any concerns, meet her......