PANGASINAN VICE GOVERNOR MARK RONALD LAMBINO
ALTHOUGH A LATE BLOOMER, PANGASINAN VICE GOVERNOR MARK RONALD LAMBINO HAS PROVEN EQUAL TO HIS VISION OF A BETTER-SERVED AND MORE PROGRESSIVE PANGASINAN.
Vice Governor Mark Ronald Lambino is a true-blue, full-blooded Pangasinense. Born in Dagupan City and raised in Barangay Buenlag, Mangaldan by his parents, Raul and Marilyn, 41-year-old Lambino comes from a family that is simple but has deep and numerous political ties.
His father, Sec. Raul Lambino, has a long, prolific career as a lawyer and statesman, having served as a consultant and coordinator for the House of Representatives in the 1990s and chief of staff of Senator Loren Legarda (from 1998-2000) and Speaker Jose de Venecia (from 1995-1998), among many other notable roles. Sec. Lambino is also a former administrator and chief executive officer of the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority. His mother, Marilyn, on the other hand, formerly served Mangaldan as municipal mayor.
AN ACADEMIC PRIVILEGE With both parents working in public service, the oldest in a brood of three understands that not everyone may have the same privileged opportunities as he does. But he makes sure to honor every opportunity given to him by ensuring that he fully uses his potential, extracts knowledge and wisdom from the experience, and finds ways to help others by bridging the gap.
Recalling his childhood, Lambino shares, “I was exposed to a lot of politicians growing up; some of my relatives, at that time, were also in public service. But I was never ‘groomed’ to become a politician. I was groomed, so to speak, to choose my own path.”
While there was no pressure on him to commit to the “family calling,” his parents did, however, have high expectations from their children to excel—especially for Mark Ronald who showed great promise, intelligence, and potential.
After finishing his primary studies in Dagupan City, Lambino was encouraged by his parents to study at the Philippine Science High School in Diliman, Quezon City, a highly competitive institution and considered the top science high school in the Philippines. It was an important opportunity for the teen. But it would also require Lambino uprooting and moving to Manila, far removed from his family. It was a sacrifice he was willing to make as the advantages outweighed his fears. He had dreams of becoming a doctor in the future.
Later, Lambino pursued his Bachelor’s Degree in Geography at the University of the Philippines Diliman and rounded out his education at Ateneo de Manila University for his Master’ Degree in Public Management and the Asian Institute of Management for his post-graduate studies. The latter two he completed while working in government as a regular employee. He was formerly the technical assistant for the Office of the Speaker of the House of Representative from 2003 to 2006 and the Senate Committee on Public Services from 2011 to 2013. During his first term as vice governor, he finished his Management program from the Columbia Business School at Columbia University in New York.
“Both my mom and dad (who are proud teachers themselves at the University of Pangasinan) ingrained in us the importance of education, which is why they encouraged me to leave home and pursue my studies in Manila where the best academic institutions were. They taught me that education is the best foundation that you can have and with it, you can pursue anything that you want in life.”
As vice governor of Pangasinan, Lambino wants to assure his constituents the same opportunities for quality education that he received, which is why he is elated to share the news that the provincial government will soon open its own Pangasinan Polytechnic College (PPC) in Lingayen. Here, students can avail of college education for free and enroll in numerous vocational courses.
“This is the first college fully owned and run by a provincial government in the Ilocos Region,” Lambino shares proudly. “And it is the brainchild of Governor Ramon Guico and myself, being the chairman of the Committee on Education, Culture and the Arts of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.” Immediately expanding on this initiative, the local government is aiming to establish two to three campuses in central Pangasinan, San Carlos City, and the eastern part of the province. Also, the local leader is taking the lead in talks with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) to help bridge the gap between education and employment, with efforts to support students in their professional pursuits.
It is an incredible feat and honor to be contributing in such a meaningful way, he nods, and Lambino is humbled that the people of Pangasinan are placing more trust and faith in his vision and abilities. “I have always believed that you should present yourself as you are. Show the people who you are and what you can do. Never over-commit. And, at the same time, if you give your word, make sure that you follow through.”
As a public servant, Lambino considers himself as a “late bloomer,” having only entered the political arena at 37 years old. But he admits that the wait was necessary because those years of working in government and taking further studies were critical for his growth and development as a servant leader.
It was in 2018 when he was approached by then incumbent mayor of Alaminos City, Arthur Celeste, to join his slate. Celeste was running for governor and was set to have retired Colonel Paterno Orduna as his running mate. However, the colonel unexpectedly withdrew his candidacy due to health concerns and Celeste sought Lambino’s support as a substitute candidate. Despite not having any plans or desire to run for public office, Lambino knew it was a role he could not refuse.
At first, Lambino was hesitant and had even thought that Celeste had made a mistake in inviting him. “My uncle was the former vice governor; my dad was in government. So, one of the first questions I asked him was, ‘Tama ba yung Lambino na tinatanong niyo? (Are you asking the right Lambino?)’,” he chuckles remembering their first conversations. But once his heart was decided—with the assurance and support from his wife Atty. Melanie —”I accepted the challenge whole-heartedly.”
Lambino won in his first vice gubernatorial race, garnering over 710,000 votes.
READY TO COLLABORATE
Under former Governor Amado Espino III, Lambino was confident in his abilities to find common ground and push for collaboration to deliver results. Despite being a member of the minority party, Lambino knew how to work with those with differing points of view, a skill learned from his years working in government and the bureaucracy. “I’d say that even though politically we were outnumbered, I was able to maneuver the sangguniang panlalawigan to be very professional. As much as possible, we aimed to be very nonpartisan when it comes to the performance of our functions. I made sure that, while I was the presiding officer, I would never let politics be the deciding factor in any actions or decisions we made. We set aside politics in favor of public service.”
And testament to his fair leadership, Lambino was reelected for a second term in 2022 by an overwhelming margin of 320,000 votes.
“In a nutshell, my brand of leadership and service is about making lives easier,” he nods. Beyond education, Lambino is driving the provincial board to improve social services and launch public programs that are streamlined, effective, and consistent. He has a particular focus on elevating medical services across the province as well as expediting infrastructure projects and the improvement of roads.
Today, working in tandem with Governor Ramon Guico, Lambino is continuing the projects from his previous term and building momentum. “What we both want is to grow businesses and expand industries, fix the bureaucracy, and address the persistent problems of Pangasinan particularly in health care and employment,” he stresses. “We asked the people for a year to plan everything. And that year will be finished in a few weeks. The plans are in place and actions are ready to be executed, so you can expect that in the next two years, ratsada na ang mga pangako na matutupad dito sa probinsya (more and more promises will be fulfilled),” he smiles. This includes the groundbreaking of a major expressway and the Pangasinan Polytechnic College, township programs, and renovation of the capitol complex. “You can quote me on this: 2023 will be the start of the global age of infrastructure here in the province,” Lambino shares with conviction.
THE SALT SHORTAGE
One of the resolutions that Lambino and the provincial board are currently working on is how to address the looming salt shortage in the province. Pangasinan is the country’s second largest producer of salt. However, it only produces seven percent of what the province consumes, with the rest being imported from nearby provinces.
Lambino explains that the shortage is due to several factors but primarily the outdated method of saltmaking. For the past 50 years, saltmakers have relied on the simple yet laborious process of bringing in saltwater from the sea and drying it on the salt beds, which takes weeks from start to finish. Currently, the province operates around 470 hectares of salt beds, but this is not enough. “In addition, there needs to be consistency in our production process. Our salt technology is outdated and dependent on the sun. During the rainy season, not a lot of evaporation will occur, so salt production is at the minimum. In other countries like Indonesia, they can produce salt better. Whether it’s the rainy season or summertime, they are able to continue production,” he laments.
As part of its plans to rehabilitate the salt industry, the provincial board is developing the Pangasinan Salt Center, which will be attached to the Pangasinan Polytechnic College. The aim of this initiative is to boost research and development in salt production, acquire better methods and equipment, make salt products more competitive, and also boost the province’s stock as a tourist attraction.
Today, Lambino is focused on supporting Guico’s vision and ensuring that he fulfills his duty as vice governor to the best of his ability. “Everything we (Governor Guico and I) do may not be as flashy as what the others are doing. Some may say that how we work is too slow. But we are strong advocates of proper planning, proper organization, and proper utilization. This is to ensure that no resources go to waste.”
Lambino believes that many initiatives fail due to poor execution, and so they’re taking the necessary steps and precautions to build strong foundations. In addition, they hold themselves to a high level of accountability and transparency.
“I have always been conscientious and mindful of the promises I give to my constituents. I say ‘Huwag kang mangangako ng di mo kayang tuparin. (Don’t promise what you can’t deliver).”
Expectedly, local leaders from barangays and municipalities request assistance and support from higher levels of government. “Many in my position tend to make promises and commitments to ensure votes.”
“In fact, I was criticized a lot in the beginning, with others saying that I wasn’t moving fast enough or seemed hesitant to help. But I believed in honesty and transparency. I won’t promise what I can’t commit, but rest assured that if I do commit, consider it done,” he underscores. Lambino is very intentional and careful with his agreements since he wants to break the misconception that “hanggang pangako lang ang mga politiko (politicians are nothing but empty promises).”
“I don’t want to be part of that demographic of public servants or politicians who say one thing, but, at the end of the day, don’t deliver. I am committed to serve to the best of my abilities nang maayos, malinis, at matapat (in a manner that is systematic, clean, and proper).”
LOOKING FORWARD TO A BETTER FUTURE
Apart from his responsibilities at the capitol, Lambino offers his time and services as an instructor at the Pangasinan State University, teaching Public Administration and Parliamentary Procedure, Leadership, and Principles, while also taking his Doctorate in Developmental Studies at the same state university. These do admittedly take hours of his time, but they do not distract the vice governor from his greater goal and duty to the province. In fact, they complement all his efforts as a leader. “As mentioned, I believe strongly in education because, at its core, it’s about selfimprovement. Through more education and training, you become a better leader and a better person.” Midway through his second term, Lambino looks forward to continuing to serve Pangasinenses for a third and final term: “If given the opportunity, I would humbly accept it.” “I want to turn Pangasinan into one of the premier provinces in the country—and I truly believe that we are ready. We may not be able to finish everything during my short term, but we have taken the important steps to start it. Let’s continue to build momentum and turn our dream and vision to reality,” he ends.