THE TONDO IDOL
Throughout his academic and athletic career, Manila City 2nd District Councilor Lim has shaped his brand of leadership and his work ethic as a public servant.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY IVAN LLANETA
PHOTOGRAPHY BY IVAN LLANETA
Number one, first place, top spot. These are positions that we always aim for in school, at work, during competitions, and other events in our lives. For Manila City 2nd District Councilor Numero “Uno” Lim, it was an entirely different case growing up, as his very name is a reminder for him to always do his best.
THE ELDEST OF THE BROOD
Lim is the eldest son of Alberto, a Bicolano, and Rosario Lim, a Waray. He is also a brother to four siblings: Algebra, Mathematica, Arithmetico, and Scientifica. Growing up in a traditional Chinese-Filipino family with strict parents, Lim was always expected to excel in different areas—sports, academics, and even music. And he rose to the challenge, being a consistent honor student in his younger years. “As a student, I was always consistent with my name Numero Uno,” he says. Lim did not only do good in sports; he excelled in it. In fact, he was once a member of the country’s national tennis team. He was even the number one player in Asia at one point in his athletic career.
Music-wise, Lim was trained in singing—being asked to perform during family gatherings—which proved to be helpful when he eventually ran for public office. This earned him the nickname “Tondo Idol,” perhaps a reference to the popular United States singing competition American Idol. The values and experiences he gained through his academic and athletic career have actually shaped his brand of leadership and his work ethics now that he is a public servant in the City of Manila.
YOUNGEST COUNCILOR ELECTED
Despite having the qualities and discipline of a natural leader, it was not Lim’s dream to become a public servant. It was actually his father Alberto’s dream to become one. “[My father] ran and lost four times. On his planned fifth attempt in 2007, everyone, especially our family, dissuaded him,” the councilor shares. The elder Lim agreed to no longer run for a fifth time on one condition: Uno will run in his place. And so he did.
Lo and behold, Uno won and became the youngestcouncilor in the City of Manila at just 26 years old. Lim served a three full terms until 2016, or a total of nine years, as a councilor to Manileños. After his third term in office, Uno went back to being a private citizen—a husband to his wife Kartini Bianca, and a father to their two children, Una and Dua. But after three years away from public office, Uno was called back to public service. “I knew that it would be difficult to get elected once more, having to compete with incumbents,” he says. “It was a difficult election having to run with an independent group. But with hard work and perseverance, I was elected number one.” One primary reason for this is that the Tondo Idol’s previous contributions to his district were not entirely lost on his constituents.
SERVING DURING THE PANDEMIC
Serving his fourth term starting 2019, Uno had to face the challenge of serving his constituents during the COVID-19 pandemic. The call to serve, according to him, was 24/7. The entire city council had to craft legislation to address the issues brought about by the health crisis such as hunger, poverty, and issues in healthcare.
But not only did he help his fellow Manileños as a councilor. Being a chemical engineer, and his family owning a chemical business, Lim also provided aid to medical frontliners and hospitals around their city by providing medical supplies and equipment needed to combat the coronavirus.
However, the councilor and his family were not spared from the pandemic. He, members of his family, and even members of his staff were hit by COVID-19 all at the same time. “It was a very difficult and uncertain time. Members from both sides of my family had to be put in intensive care, having reached critical status,” Lim shares. “Thankfully, we all pulled through and it was a [big] learning experience for me.”
Despite being in the hospital, Lim continued to work—providing ayuda to those who have experienced and are experiencing the same situation as him. “Upon discharge, I focused on educating people on what to do during home quarantine, provided COVID-19 care kits, and launched a massive face mask drive in [Manila’s] 2nd District,” Lim says. He adds that he started these initiatives as he knew from personal experience how difficult it is to contract and overcome COVID-19. Lim’s staff also volunteered to help in vaccination centers when mass vaccination in the city began. “It was not just public service but a deep personal commitment to help people, especially my constituents, to get through COVID-19, to get through this pandemic,” he adds, pertaining to his pandemic efforts. Because of the pandemic, Lim also developed a deeper understanding of public service and what it means to be a public servant. “We [public officials] are elected and called not just to provide public service, but [specifically] meaningful and timely service to those in need,” Lim explains.
“I am particularly proud and have been most fulfilled in my previous term, after having opportunity after opportunity to serve [in] this pandemic, and have the honor to serve under the exemplary leadership of Mayor Francisco 'Isko Moreno' Domagoso, first female mayor of Manila, Mayor Honey Lacuna-Pangan, and our very hardworking and present congressman, Cong. Rolan 'CRV' Valeriano,” he adds.
A READY SUPPORT SYSTEM The demands of public service are no joke. This is why Lim is grateful that his family understands the responsibilities that his work entails. “I am very lucky to have an amazing and supportive wife who understands the demands of public service. She, together with my two little girls, pushes me to become better and constantly reminds me of how blessed we are,” he says. The councilor adds that his family, loyal staff, and constituents who come from all walks of life motivate and inspire him to work harder and serve their district even better. His constituents’ stories inspire him to “dream bigger always, to be able to help them more.”
CLOSEST TO HIS HEART
Of all his advocacies, Lim says the ones closest to his heart are those centered on senior citizens and the youth. For the youth, they have the Tondo Idol program which cultivates the talents of young Manileños in singing, dancing, and acting. “As a former athlete and Philippine Team tennis player, I also conduct various free sports clinics and programs such as tennis, badminton, volleyball, and basketball to promote athleticism, healthy physique, proper discipline, and camaraderie,” Lim reveals.
As for senior citizens, Lim has a program which provides the elderly with wheelchairs, nebulizers, blood pressure monitors, glucometers, hearing aids, and other medical devices and supplies. Lim was also the principal author of the ordinance banning the use of plastic bags in the city, which was enacted in 2012. The ordinance has since been adapted by other cities as well. The newly-reelected councilor has also authored other ordinances that can be adapted or replicated in other local government units (LGUs) in the country. These include banning the use of paint with lead in playgrounds, banning the sale of soft drinks in elementary schools, and the mandatory use of closed circuit television cameras (CCTVs) in all government offices and business establishments.
A FULFILLING JOB
While being a public servant can be demanding, Lim says that he loves being one. When asked what his favorite aspect of being a public servant is, he answers: “Being able to serve, help, and change the lives of not all, but some people.” And when asked what the most difficult part of it is, he says, “The downside is so many people need help, and with limited time and resources, you always need to prioritize.” Lim adds that they have plans in store for Manileños in the coming months and years. And as chairman of the Committee on International and Local Relations, the councilor says they have just established Manila Korea Town, and have definite plans to develop it. With the new mandate Lim has received, he is bent not only on living up to his name, but also on keeping his constituents in Tondo his priority numero uno.