top of page

Rising to the CHALLENGE

Pressure is high for La Union Governor Raphaelle “Rafy” Ortega-David, but she is confidently stepping up to the plate and is ready to serve the Elyu-canos.



Before the closure of Boracay in 2018, the famous island would receive millions of tourists. But when former President Rodrigo Roa Duterte ordered the island-res ort’s closure and rehabilitation, beach lovers ventured to other popular islands and beaches in the countr y—El Nido, Coron, Si argao, and La Union.

La Union was somewhat of a hidden gem, albeit popular to surfing enthusiasts. In early 2018, however, the province decided to ramp up its promotional efforts to attract more tourists. Coincidentally, Duterte’s announcement of B oracay’s closure around April along with the dynamic advertising of the provincial tourism office led to an increase of 54.25 percent in tourist arrivals in the first semester of 2018.

Now, e ven with the reviva l of Boracay, La Union is still the go-to place for young professionals, barkadas, couples, and of course, surfers. Because of its proximity to Metro Manila and the op ening of the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX) Pozorrubio to Rosario s egment in 2020, hundreds of tourists flo ck to t he province daily, even more during weekends. It is common to hear people say, “Tara, Elyu tayo (Let’s go to L.U.)”

Newly-elected Gover nor Raphaelle Veronica “Rafy” Ortega-David shares that the provincial government is thinking of coining a term to call the citizens of La Union and one of the top choices is ‘LU-canos,’ pronounced ‘Elyu-canos.’ The term aims to recognize the province’s Ilocano origins while at the same time, signify the province’s modern and youthful governance by using t he colloquial term ‘Elyu’ (after L.U., the initials of La Union). It also encourages patriotism for the province and unity among the people.


La Union, it seems, is at t he forefront of many trends. Tourism-wise, going to the province for the weekend for surfing and drinks is considered hip. When it comes to governance, the province coincidentally rides another trend—electing a young leader. At 25 years old, Ortega-David admits that her age prompted many to question if she has what it takes to run the province of over 820,000 people. But she is undeterred.

“I have the next three years to prove that I was voted in because they know I can [run the province well]. I believe that the people of La Union spoke loud and clear that they want new and fresh ideas along with good governance, one that a young, female leader can bring to the table,” she says.

Seeing or hearing her age is a double-take moment, often followed by a confirmatory question. But the initial shock wears off quick as young leaders are now emerging left and right all over the Philippines, Ortega-David among them. In terms of governors alone—Camarines Sur Governor Vincenzo Luigi Villafuerte is also 25 years old, Ilocos Norte Governor Matthew Marcos Manotoc is 33, and Sultan Kudarat Governor Datu Ali Pax Mangudadatu is 24.

“You know what they say, that the youth are the leaders of tomorrow. But I believe that they really are the leaders of today. There is a rise in youth leaders now because it is time for us to get on with the everchanging times and the youth is very fit for that [role] because we are a very dynamic group of people and can easily adapt to changes,” Ortega-David muses, further saying that the likes of Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto have assured many people that the youth are more than ready to take the helm, especially with their good performance.

“By electing young and new leaders, coupled with our fresh and innovative ideas, true change will be brought about and be realized. Our youth also brings with us that sense of idealism and forward-thinking—major factors that will transform the way we look at and do governance,” she adds.

Youth, nowadays, is linked with technology and it is something that Ortega-David is looking to harness further to improve governance in the province. She shares that they are devising a Provincial Wireless Mesh Backbone, which aims to connect the 20 component LGUs in real time to make communication seamless among local governments. This, she says, would strengthen the peace and order system in the province and help during natural disasters and calamities.

She further adds that they are starting to change some internal systems through digitization, especially social services such as financial assistance and processing of documents. With document tracking systems, the work in departments that would often need plenty of papers such as Human Resources will ease up, making services more efficient for their citizens. In addition, it also helps preserve the environment and makes the provincial government more sustainable. Ultimately, Ortega-David stresses, the goal is making it so that the longest someone will wait for financial assistance or a document will only be one week.

Social media, also, is another digital tool that the governor aims to utilize to improve government services. Recently, the province was the subject of a few controversies as some tourists posted online that they were scammed by vendors in La Union.

“First and foremost, I am grateful for the people who have spoken through social media. One of the things that I am empowering now in our provincial government is our information office because I believe social media has a great role in terms of governance. Since we were alerted to these scams online, I immediately alerted our tourism office as well as our LEEIPU (Local Economic Enterprise and Investment Promotion Unit) and they conducted onsite inspections to validate and if proven guilty, apprehend the violators,” the Enderun Colleges alumna reveals.

She further adds that their long-term goal is to conduct information and education campaigns on consumer rights and welfare, as well as develop hotlines for tourists which would help secure them during their trip if ever such a case happens again.

Focusing on these concerns would directly affect their government’s overarching goal which is to be the “Heart of Agritourism in North Luzon by 2025,” something that was started during the term of her father, former Governor Francisco Emmanuel Ortega III.


Aside from her youth, Ortega-David is very much aware that her family name is among the many things that brought her to victory. Her father is the immediate past governor of La Union, serving from 2016 to 2022. Before him, the governor was Manuel Ortega (2007- 2016) who took over after Victor Ortega (2001-2007). Indeed, it has been a long line of Ortegas watching over La Union.

In fact, the very first Filipino governor of the province was also their ancestor—Don Joaquin Ortega (1901-1904). But Ortega-David stresses that the people of La Union look beyond their family name when electing their next leader, “Naniniwala po ako (I believe) that we were put in the position because the people believe in our capability as leaders of the province.”

“And besides, hindi na po ako (I’m no longer an) Ortega. I’m already a David,” she jokes briefly before further saying that there is a benefit to their continued leadership as projects started by their family will surely be continued and improved.

Yet with the legacy also comes pressure, Ortega-David reveals, saying that she has very big shoes to fill. On the flip side, having family who have been in the same position offers the unique benefit of additional guidance that is founded on experience.

Ortega-David shares her father’s advice to her, “He always says that governance is always dynamic, always changing and relentless. We should always learn to adapt. He also always says, ‘What gets measured, gets managed. What gets managed, gets done.’”

With that in mind, Ortega-David inherited a system that is data-driven, action-based, and results-oriented. Moreover, seeing her grandfather and father in public service and how much of themselves they have given to the province has always inspired her growing up and continues to shape how she is as a leader.

“My grandfather’s slogan was ‘Agay-ayat kadakayo amin’ which means, ‘Mahal ko kayong lahat (I love you all).’ Ever since, our way of governance, of the Ortegas, has been through love. Hence our current tagline here, ‘I love La Union,’” she says, pointing to the quote which hangs behind the governor’s desk.

Her family’s legacy and influence has pushed her toward public service, but her motivation lies not just in safeguarding their family’s reputation, but also securing a better future for her son and the generations to come.

“Being a new mom has sparked my passion for public service because what we do now dictates [what will happen to] the future generations, which includes my child. I want my son to be able to grow up in an environment where he is safe, like the way I grew up [here in La Union]. I want him to know La Union the way I knew it growing up—peaceful, maganda (beautiful), clean,” she shares.

Her love for the province stems deep. She reveals that when she got married to her husband who hails from Pampanga, she asked if they could stay in La Union, adding that she knew even from a young age that this is where she wants to spend the rest of her life. With her role now as governor, Ortega-David shares that she is in a better position to show her love for her province by serving and helping her fellow Elyu-canos.


Philanthropy and helping others were always a part of Ortega- David’s life. Prior to entering politics, she was a volunteer lifeguard and volunteer emergency technician at the La Union Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (PDRRMO). The young governor is also a former president of the La Union Vibrant Women Inc. (LUVWI) San Fernando City Chapter. Being in government, she admits, was something she avoided for the longest time.

“I’m a licensed commercial pilot and that was the direction I was going prior to entering [public service]. But the aviation industry was brought down by the pandemic and all my roads still led me here,” she says, gesturing to her office in the provincial capitol. “It took a pandemic for me to realize that my destiny really is in public service, to serve the people of La Union in an official capacity.”

Her father originally filed his certificate of candidacy (COC) to run for a third gubernatorial term before shifting to run for mayor of the City of San Fernando instead. Ortega-David reveals that the city holds a special place in her father’s heart as it was where he started his political career. With the gubernatorial race missing a candidate, her father then urged her to run in his place.

“First time he approached me to run as governor, honestly, I declined. Eventually, confidence set in, knowing that my heart is for La Union and that I could do well. My father also has complete faith in me and knows that I’ll continue the programs that he’s started. So I stepped up and took the challenge presented to me,” the neophyte politician says.


Securing nearly 90% of the votes in the province, Ortega-David clinched the gubernatorial position through a landslide victory. Now that she’s won, the province’s youngest and first female governor plans to continue the transformative governance in the province. She says that La Union is one of the few provinces in the country that practices the “Performance Governance System (PGS)” which is a performance management and measurement tool developed at the Harvard Business School.

By continuing to use this system, Ortega-David is confident that they’re on track to achieving their goal by 2025. As a woman, she also stresses her focus on women empowerment. Starting with the provincial government, Ortega-David is set to provide menstrual leaves for their women employees which she eventually hopes will be implemented throughout the entire province.

She also plans to launch job fairs for the benefit of women and has ordered their peace and order units to strengthen their Anti-Violence Against Women and Children (Anti- VAWC) units, noting that it is vital in preventing the rise of crimes. The governor is also planning to set up women’s facilities in the districts of the province which would be a safe space for women to heal physically, mentally, psychologically, and more.

Ortega-David is also focused on youth development and would love to encourage the youth to go into sports. One area in the province that she’s looking to develop is the freeport zone in the Poro Point area. However, it is under the control of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA).

“We can’t just intervene since it is under the control of the BCDA. So I’m looking to tap the BCDA and other private corporations to see if we could partner with them for my planned sports complex which I hope would rise in that area. It would encourage the youth to go into sports and it could also be used as a multi-purpose center for farmers for agri-tourism summits, fairs, etc. Many are looking forward to this as it would also provide jobs and boost the economy,” the governor reveals.

Additionally, Ortega-David plans to finish paving the remaining eight percent of provincial roads, get the provincial government ISO re-certified, and also develop the province’s eco-tourism sector. “La Union has so much to offer than just our surfing town,” she adds.

With all of these in mind, she asks her fellow Elyu-canos for support to ensure their province’s continued success.

“Awatenyo iti panagyaman ken nabara a kablaawko kadakayo amin, ing-ingungutek a kaprobinsyaan (My dear provincemates, I would like to express my thanks and send my heartfelt greetings to all of you),” Ortega-David says.

“Ang inyong pagmamahal at suporta sa akin ang nagbibigay lakas sa akin upang magampanan ko ang aking trabaho bilang inyong gobernadora. Sana po ay patuloy tayong magtulungtulungan upang makamit po natin ang (Your love and support gives me strength in performing well as your governor. I hope that we continue to work together for us to achieve a) stronger La Union through ‘La Union PROBINSYAnihan.”’

bottom of page