BOTOLAN, ZAMBALES MAYOR JUN OMAR EBDANE
For Mayor Jun Omar Ebdane of Botolan, a first-class municipality in Zambales, being competitive is in his nature,
Ebdane is a certified Global Underwater Explorer (GUE) Tech 1, with a record dive of 75 meters and at least 100 experienced dives. He is also a reservist chief petty officer in the Philippine Navy (PN).
Aside from scuba diving, Ebdane also plays basketball, participates in triathlons, and joins Spartan Race, the most popular obstacle course race in the world.
Being physically fit for the job, literally, fuels Ebdane to serve his constituents better and give Botolan the quality government services it deserves. They are his priority, especially as a first-time mayor.
However, Botolan is not Ebdane’s first rodeo.
Ebdane entered public service in 2010 as provincial administrator under his father, Zambales Governor Hermogenes Edejer Ebdane, Jr., whom he considers as his greatest inspiration for entering public service.
“Hangga’t nakaupo ka o hangga’t may pwesto ka, may panahon ka para makatulong. Mas maganda ‘yung tumulong ka sa maraming tao hangga’t kayang-kaya mo (As long as you still occupy an elective position, you still have time to help. It’s better to help a lot of people whenever you can),” Ebdane shares his father’s advice.
But it was never Ebdane’s goal to become a politician. He was supposed to enroll in the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) in 1991, but he had to pull out his papers due to a series of coups. After graduating from Mapua, he was supposed to enroll in medicine but lack of funds prevented him from continuing. So he established a computer shop and a networking business instead.
“That was the time I was trying to find myself. I joined athletic clubs, glee clubs, art clubs, just to find out what was for me,” Ebdane says. These setbacks did not stop Ebdane from fulfilling his ultimate goal through the tagline, “Serbisyo at Kalinga Para sa Pamilyang Botoleño (Service and Care for Botoleño Families).”
“Actually, it’s like a rehash of the ‘Hatid Serbisyo’ (Deliver Service) program of Gov. Ebdane, Jr. The reason why we chose that tagline is that we liked Botolan, together with the club I’m part of. We really want to uplift Botolan as well as its people,” Ebdane says.
Such mindset runs in the family. Governor Ebdane, Jr. was the Philippine National Police (PNP) chief and the national security adviser of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. He then became secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of National Defense (DND), and Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
“Except for the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources)—he didn’t think about joining that department,” Ebdane jokingly shares with LEAGUE. Jun Rundstedt Ebdane, Ebdane’s brother, is one of two provincial board members of the Second District of Zambales. Prior to being elected to this position, he was the 23rd mayor of Iba, another first-class municipality in Zambales, and was a provincial administrator as well.
Even though people criticize their family for being a non-political bloodline, Ebdane saw that his father only cared about one thing: public service. “Nakita ko na kahit anuman mangyari (I saw that no matter what happens), even when they throw negative stones at him, deretso pa rin ‘yung tulong. Talagang hindi tumitigil (he continues to serve. Service never ends), it’s being relentless in public service,” he says.
When LEAGUE asked Ebdane about his first challenge in their local government unit (LGU)—infrastructure—he called it his favorite.
Botolan has allocated Php55.36 million for the implementation of its infrastructure projects. Ebdane highlights a farm-to-market road for the organic produce of Botolan’s indigenous peoples. This is under the 20 percent development fund under the annual Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) and the Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund (LDRRMF).
“I told [the municipal council] that we will be making a farm-to-market road from the highway all the way up to the last eastern barangay. The products of the indigenous peoples, their bananas, large root crops, they’re all organic,” Ebdane reveals.
Aside from preventing food poisoning caused by insecticides and artificial fertilizers, the road also ensures Mt. Pinatubo will be safer to climb. Locals manage the road up the dormant volcano, which Ebdane is familiar with, having climbed yearly since 2009.
“Malomboy River, the first river you need to cross, all the cars there will be washed away by its current exacerbated by heavy rain,” Ebdane says. Having experienced Pinatubo for so long is also one of the reasons why he fell in love with Botolan, doing anything he can to preserve its natural beauty. The LGU is already planning on giving alternative livelihoods to charcoal makers in the hopes of restoring the mountain. So that we can remove charcoal-making and burning [activities], at the same time our forests and mountains will become thick again,” he says. This includes slash-and-burn agriculture used to catch baboy damo (wild boar) and deer.
While Botolan is not financially ready to modernize its public transportation, it remains focused on improving the quality of life of its indigenous peoples. By providing new designs for spears and bows and arrows and encouraging them to go to college, they get to preserve and improve their culture.
“We’re trying to teach them management so that they could manage their area because of the ancestral domain law,” Ebdane says. He agrees that the indigenous peoples have the right under the ancestral domain as declared by DILG. Ebdane is happy to report that cellular reception in Botolan is fluid, with multiple telecommunications companies offering their services. Just like in his administration, where he implemented a major change in their workflow.
“I gave them the authority to decide for their departments, which was actually lacking for the past 18 years. Since they started making their decisions for their departments and they only answer to me, so now, we’re able to accomplish a lot.”
Even with the shift in leadership, Ebdane did not hesitate to admit the greatest challenge to his position. “How to convince most of the people to just stop with the negativities and just roll with us. We know what we’re doing, so they might as well roll with us.”
As a Marian devotee, Ebdane is hoping his constituents will become better, not just for themselves but also for the people around them. He shares his prayer for Botolan: “Everyone should grow up and make their generation evolve. The next generation should always be better than the previous one.”
To help realize this, the Botolan LGU, with input from Ebdane, shares motivational posts on Facebook. The mayor believes that they go a long way for Botoleños, helping them get through the day.
“Hopefully it helps. Hindi mo naman malalaman kung hindi mo susubukan (You will never know unless you try.) Those motivational posts we post are for them to read. If something happens to them along the way, a thought will pop into their head. If this is what happened, this is what you should do. It’s like you are studying.”
Some examples include “Staying positive doesn’t mean you have to be happy all the time. It means that even on hard days you know that there are better ones coming;” “You don’t always have to tell your side of the story. Time will;” “Always remember that your present situation is not your final destination. The best is yet to come.”
Although Ebdane has yet to hear anyone approach them for their posts, it’s still their projects that get the most appreciation and attention. Whether it’s a hospital or social services, Botoleños are thankful.
Using their “Ground Zero” approach in Zambales, they slowly build structures (e.g. schools), one story at a time. Once they have the budget for the second story, they will proceed. But there is no rush. “It’s like the same thing when I was in Congress and I said that if we will create schools, it should be ready for three stories. Even if they are not yet needed, build the first story, with the second and third stories already on standby,” Ebdane says.
SLOW BUT STEADY
Ebdane attended the League of Municipalities (LMP) General Assembly 2023 and learned that leaders should maximize all available resources and opportunities. “No matter how low your tax allocation or funding may be, make do with what you have,” he says. While Ebdane
was not able to convince the PN to establish its Naval Education, Training, and Doctrine Command in Botolan—his dream project—he is still excited about what’s to come to their municipality. But, being a first-time mayor, he tells LEAGUE to stay tuned, as most of his projects are still for implementation in the fourth quarter of 2023. Majority of these include building various public facilities; repairing and constructing roads; procuring emergency equipment, supplies, and vehicles; and installing flood-control and slope-protection structures. Asked what motivates him to serve further, Ebdane simply replies, “It’s the competitive drive.”