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Serving Against All Odds

Hands-on Pasay City Councilor Grace Santos is eager to leave a lasting legacy.



Call her Ms. Everywhere. There is probably no other public servant as ubiquitous as Pasay City 1st District Councilor Grace Santos. From fiestas to birthdays, to wakes, to relief operations, you can count on her to be there, especially when her constituents need her the most.

“It is very hands-on, very personalized. I also go to my constituents personally. I really let them know that I am here, that I care,” says Grace on her brand of leadership.

She adds, “I also ask them what they want in the community, what their problems are, what they want to achieve because that way I can also draft and make ordinances that will be beneficial to my constituents.”

Grace is obviously not your cookie-cutter politician. Her actions show she is someone who truly has the people’s best interests at heart. As a councilor, she has spearheaded projects to raise awareness on mental health and put up livelihood programs on computer literacy, English proficiency, massage therapy, and the likes in partnership with Congresswoman Bernadette Herrera-Dy.

Her dedication to public service though, was best shown when the COVID-19 virus first ravaged the country in early 2020.

When the pandemic disrupted life as we knew it and restrictions were set in place, she made it a point to make her presence felt. Grace partnered with some friends and provided necessities for her constituents like thermal scanners, noodles, juice, rice, and essential medicines to name a few. All sectors were not forgotten from the frontliners, senior citizen, children, and COVID-19 patients.

“Although the situation during the pandemic was hard, I can say that I took part in helping my constituents,” shares Grace, who also had to shell out some from her personal funds in this effort. Her eldest daughter, Nina, took part as well by donating and connecting with companies to donate to the city.

“I even went to the extent of contacting Baguio farmers para sila naman matulungan ko. Inangkat ko mga gulay [from Baguio], pinabigay ko sa bawat barangay (so that I could also help them. I brought the vegetables from Baguio and gave these away to each barangay). [‘Yung tulong,] hindi naman sa laki o sa liit iyon ([Help] isn’t about how much or how little you provide). It’s your will to help other people and commitment to serve other people,” she adds.


Her habit of showing up was built on a solid foundation. Growing up, running for office never really crossed her mind. But way before her foray into politics, Grace had been involved in various community services ever since she was young. Even in school, she loved involving herself in immersion projects.

“I’ve never envisioned myself to be in public service. Because when I got married at 23, I remembered during that time we were always having our birthday parties—of me and of my children—in selected foundations like Hospicio de San Jose and Kanlungan sa Er- Ma in Manila,” reveals the St. Paul College alumna.

Grace started working right after college. Her love for service and being a hotelier for 12 years and a banker prepared her for the job. And 15 years later, she renewed her term on her second cycle as a councilor on the crest of an additional 14,000 votes last May—a testament that the people of Pasay recognize the effort she puts in day in and day out for the betterment of the city.

“When I was asked to join politics, I was in shock. I did not expect it because I was already happy with the kind of life that we had. We have children. I was working well. During that time, I was worried, I was half-hearted, but I said yes. I promised myself I was only going to do it once then if I win then it is my calling. By God’s grace, the first try I won. The rest is history.”

The first time she dipped her toes into politics, she struggled mightily. She would clock in at the hotel at 6 a.m. then leave at 2 p.m. and proceed to wakes, birthdays, or wherever she needed to go. “There was no weekend because that is when politicians become really busy,” she adds.

On top of that, she had to deal with the fact that “loyalty expires in politics.”

“Minsan kapag hindi mo napagbigyan, minsan hindi mo nabigay gusto nila or minsan dahil sa sulsol ng iba, dahil sa paninira (Sometimes when you don’t please people, give them what they need, because of the urging of others and their mudslinging), they will leave you and worse they will say bad things about you, fabricate stories,” says Grace. “That’s the saddest part of politics. They judge you, and it’s sometimes super below the belt even when they really don’t know the full story.”

That seemed like nothing, though, compared to the predicament she had heading into the recent polls.

Without going into specifics, Grace shared the family was going through personal problems. Even though odds were stacked against her, she soldiered on thinking there are things that still need to be done as far as public service is concerned. Seeing people approach her with warm smiles and appreciate her deeds easily washes away the wear and tear that comes with the job.

“[My proudest moment was] when I won this time. It was the most challenging yet sweetest victory I ever had. I felt that some people took the time to destroy my name and my dignity. But the Lord really gave me this victory. The Lord gave me this blessing of serving again,” she says. “So ito ‘yung pinakamasaya kong (this is my proudest) victory despite the personal problems. Despite the challenges that I had, thinking of the machinery that I lost. Iba ‘pag may tumutulong sa’yo. But now ako lang (It’s different when you have someone to help you. But now it’s just me). This time, in everything that I did it was me, my children, the Lord, and the people that trusted me.”


Grace’s mojo rubbed off on Nina, who is already showing immense potential to take the reins from her mother one day. After all, the 25-year-old has been exposed to the councilor’s work for so long.

“Actually my daughter is very passionate [about public service],” reveals the seasoned politician. “She is so used to being my proxy. She can speak before a large crowd. She can go to wakes; birthdays if I am not available. She can represent me in everything.”

In a recent appearance in Eat Bulaga’s “Bawal Judgmental” segment last May 12, 2022, Nina made known her desire to follow in her mom’s footsteps.

“I think it is a personal decision po. Parang naging calling ko na rin (It’s been like a calling for me as well),” she said when hosts Allan K. and Maine Mendoza asked her if her mother encouraged her to be involved in politics. “Kinalakihan ko na ito. Lumaki ako sa mundong ito kaya doon na rin siguro ako papunta (I grew up surrounded by politics so I guess that’s where I’m also headed).”

Fortunately for Nina, it seems that her mother doesn’t mind. In fact, the latter said people even want her to do so.

“Actually alam na ng tao. Gusto na rin syang tumakbo after ng term ko (People are already aware. They also want her to run after my term). But she’s very much involved. Tsaka gusto niya. Passion niya rin. Gusto niya rin maging public servant (Also because she wants to. It’s her passion as well. She also wants to be a public servant),” she says of Nina, adding that she admires the young girl’s


When asked if she has any advice for her daughter if and when the latter decides to run for office, Grace simply wants her daughter “to be true to herself.”

“People will really discover who you are. Even if you try to put up a front, lalabas at lalabas ‘yung tunay [na anyo] mo. Hindi mo pwede dayain ang politika, lalo ‘yung pakikipagkapwa tao mo. Kasi makikita ng mga tao ‘yung sincerity mo, ‘yung kabutihan ng puso mo (Your true colors will eventually be revealed. You can’t cheat politics, especially when you deal with the people. The people will judge your sincerity and the kindness of your heart). You cannot fake it,” she stresses.

“Some public servants, eventually, do not succeed because [it’s like] they are putting up a front. They do not measure up or maybe they are not equipped for this job, and it’s not their calling. But then our job is tough, that’s why I salute every public servant. Sometimes you are prone to scrutiny or judgment, because you cannot please everybody. Sometimes you can’t make people happy even though you have deep connections. They will do things to destroy your name, and sometimes when they focus on personal things and not

your performance in your job. It’s saddening, but after a while some people realize who you really are,” says Grace.

“I realized too that in politics, people don’t mind your issues especially if it is about your personal matters. What’s important is how you helped them and how well you perform your duties,” she adds.

How and when she is going to enter politics, she is leaving it to God. “Tignan po natin kung ano yung plan ni God (Let’s just see what’s God’s plans),” says Nina, who has a degree in Consular and Diplomatic Affairs from De La Salle-College of St. Benilde.


While her unica hija’s stint in politics is imminent, Grace would rather focus now on sustaining her projects including the Mental Health Awareness program that was halted no thanks to the pandemic.

Grace, along with Mayor Emi Calixto-Rubiano and her friend, mental health advocate Shiela Suntay, headed the awareness campaign which aimed to break the stigma by facilitating an event where specialists and others can freely discuss how to mitigate the effects of mental illnesses.

“Actually ‘yan pinaguusapan namin ng team, na itutuloy naming ‘yung project na ‘yun. Kasi marami pala talagang nangangailangan, especially mga naapektuhan nung pandemic. ‘Yung mga bata (this is what the team is discussing right now, to continue that project. Because plenty of people need it, especially those who were deeply affected by the pandemic. Even the kids),” says Grace.

Grace shares that at one point the program even saved a life. A constituent was on the brink of committing suicide but the Lord allowed her to attend a seminar and she was able to talk to a psychiatrist. That’s why the councilor is determined to re-launch the program she started during her first term.

“Nag-start ‘to during my first term. I invited friends who are involved in mental health activities and doctors that specialize in that. Natigil lang siya nung pandemic. It was even attended by iba’t ibang officials, students, leaders, at mga kagawad. Maganda siyang project pala (It stopped because of the pandemic. It was attended by different officials, students, leaders, and barangay council members. It was actually a good project),” says Grace, who looks up to Senator Loren Legarda who she describes as “intelligent and diligent in her work” and “did a lot to protect the environment and women.”

There are more projects currently in the works for Grace. One of these is setting up livelihood programs for single mothers in her district.

“I would also want to help single parents in my own little way. Maybe provide livelihood programs. Help them in their emotional state,” she says.

Now that she is given another term to serve, she is hell-bent on working day in and day out in order to leave a legacy that she could also pass on to her daughter.

“My biggest concern is to still be part of their lives that when I leave politics I would create a good name and pass it on to my daughter. I am taking care of my work because this is what I really love. It is a gift from the Lord, a great blessing from Him,” she says when asked why she ran for another term.

“A lot of people want to serve but few are given the chance to be elected. So you really have to take care of the blessing the Lord has given you. When I leave politics, after that if there’s no opportunity for me to run for higher office, it’s okay. I would give it to my daughter Nina.”

She adds: “Basta gusto ko maalala ng mga tao na kapag Grace Santos maisip nilang, ‘Ah, tumutulong talaga ‘yan. Talagang hindi kami magsisisi. (I just want people to think when they hear Grace Santos, ‘She really helped the people. We never regretted [voting for her]).’ I just want people to remember that I am a good public servant.”

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