Serving His Best for Calasiao
BY CAMILLE CABAL
CALASIAO, PANGASINAN MAYOR KEVIN ROY MACANLALAY EQUATES PUBLIC SERVICE TO HIS PASSION, COOKING— A BALANCE BETWEEN INGREDIENTS, WORKING WITH OTHERS, AND ENSURING PEOPLE ARE FULL AND SATISFIED.
MOTHERS ARE STRICT. BUT EVEN THOUGH THEY SCOLD YOU, THEY STILL LOVE YOU, RIGHT? THAT’S WHAT I SAW [IN MAYOR CARAMAT], SHE CORRECTS MISTAKES BUT SHE ALSO PRAISES ACCOMPLISHMENTS.
Cooking is one of Calasiao, Pangasinan Mayor Kevin Roy Macanlalay’s ways to serve others or show his appreciation to his family, friends, and even strangers. Whether a hobby or a profession, cooking requires expertise and patience to serve people a heartful meal or to be accomplished. For the 35-year-old town leader, cooking is one way to relax after a long day of fulfilling his duties. Like cooking, public service has its intricacies—not using too much of one ingredient, handling everything intelligently to not get burnt, or maximizing whatever resources you have on hand.
ADDING HIS TWIST
In an unfortunate turn of events, Calasiao Mayor Mamilyn “Maya” Caramat passed away six months into her first term.
Chefs can look at one set of ingredients and see different recipes. But taking over a dish when it’s halfway cooked is another scenario altogether. Macanlalay admits that filling the mayor’s position after Caramat’s untimely demise was challenging and he is “filling a big shoe.” Although Caramat’s term was brief, Macanlalay reveals that she had accomplished incomparable milestones— infrastructure and her efforts to unite the town’s political parties.
Although a lot has happened since Macanlalay took over as mayor, he shares that they still make sure the town’s progress and goals are according to what Caramat started and what they mutually agreed to accomplish for Calasiao. It’s been six months since Macanlalay was unexpectedly thrust into the mayoral position and he admits it still feels surreal.
“For me, Mayor Maya [Caramat] is still the mayor of our town. I’m just doing the job of the mayor but until now, I still can’t believe that I’m now the mayor,” Macanlalay shares, adding that he just recently transferred to the mayor’s office. When he took over, he chose to work in the conference room and until now, he doesn’t have a calling card that bears his position.
Macanlalay further says that he learned a lot from Caramat, noting her maternal way of leading—strict but loving. “Ang isang ina, strikto ‘yan. Pero kahit na pinagalitan ka niyan, mahal ka niya, di ba? Ganun ‘yung nakita ko [kay Mayor Caramat], kino-correct ‘yung mali pero ‘yung tama, i-praise mo (Mothers are strict. But even though they scold you, they still love you, right? That’s what I saw [in Mayor Caramat], she corrects mistakes but she also praises accomplishments.”
Goes without saying, Macanlalay looks up to Caramat and he promises to continue the plans they made together for the improvement of Calasiao.
ADAPTING A RECIPE OF GOOD GOVERNANCE
Some of the best recipes are heirloom—tried and tested, and passed down from generation to generation. Macanlalay’s father, Roy T. Macanlalay, served as the mayor from 2001 to 2010 then his brother, Mark Roy Macanlalay, succeeded him, serving for two terms. After getting his diploma, however, the nursing graduate went straight to managing a poultry business instead of entering politics.
Then the May 2019 elections came and Mark Roy decided to run for a third term. Their political party needed one more councilor to complete their slate. Instead of searching far and wide, his brother decided to sway him into running, to finally be involved in politics. Reluctant to join the fray, Macanlalay was only convinced by Dagupan’s late and former mayor Alipio “Al” Fernandez Jr. through a phone call. He recalls Fernandez telling him that if he liked what his father and brother had accomplished for their town, then someone else had to take over and oversee the projects. And who better to do that than Macanlalay? Those words were enough to push him out of the supporting role he resigned himself to and to run as councilor instead.
While many may think that Macanlalay had an easy way to the top given his last name, he knew that he had to put in a ton of effort—introduce himself and his intentions as a “newbie.” And when the 2019 elections concluded, he was the only candidate from his slate who won a seat. Why? Macanlalay couldn’t say for certain, but quips that it could be his genuine personality that warmed people’s hearts. He shares that during the campaign, he made sure to visit every corner of the municipality to mingle with the people. Perhaps, Macanlalay muses, they appreciated his approachable and humorous attitude, adding that a lot of the people in their town saw his father in him as he exhibited the same work ethic, attitude, and way of thinking.
Macanlalay looks up to his father, whom he calls his idol in public service, crediting the former mayor as the one who established the Puto Festival in their town. The puto (rice cake) Calasiao has become a famous pasalubong (gift item) for tourists because of its unique taste and quality. Over time, it became the identity of the Municipality of Calasiao. Although this dessert placed their town on the map, for Macanlalay, that was just the beginning.
ADDING FLAVORS TO THE TOWN
Calasiao got its fame from the puto Calasiao. It reeled in tourists and opened many opportunities for investors. And while the delicious delicacy has done much for their town, Macanlalay has more ideas that would bring their municipality to new heights.
The mayor’s passion for cooking comes in handy as he brainstormed ideas for other possible livelihood projects for Calasiaoeños. Since they are known for their puto which is best paired with dinuguan (pork blood stew), Macanlalay thought of creating their local version of a longganisa (sausage) using kaleskes, a Pangasinan dish featuring a cow’s internal organs, meat, and blood (much like dinuguan). Currently, he is in talks with a chef who will create the recipe and Macanlalay is hopeful that this would be appreciated like its counterparts (Vigan, Binalonan, Lucban, Cebu, etc.)
Aside from their culinary plans, Macanlalay stresses that Calasiao has a lot more to offer. There was an attempt to begin a Blacksmithing Festival because, in one barangay called pandayan, there were numerous blacksmiths who were outsourced by international films (“Braveheart” and “300”) to create numerous swords. The mayor shares that these could be another identity for their municipality.
SERVING A BALANCED AND HEALTHY LEADERSHIP
If you care enough for the people, you will be mindful of the things that you are serving on the table. For Macanlalay, weighing the people’s needs is one of the most crucial parts of public service, requiring the right amount of listening and empathy.
A recent case he mentions was with the town’s tricycle drivers. The lack of a common terminal in the municipality caused a dispute between groups of tricycle drivers who were waiting for passengers from opposite roads. The queue on the crossroad is preferred by the public since they no longer need to cross the street only to hail a tricycle. However, other tricycle drivers were complaining that they could no longer get any passengers since the crossroad was “claimed” as the territory of certain drivers.
Changes have to be made and it is inevitable for some people involved to be compromised or affected. Situations like this, Macanlalay says, are among the many challenges he faces daily as a mayor. The convenience of the majority has to be considered and sometimes the best solution happens when all parties decide to talk. When he spoke with them, they decided on a solution that benefitted the tricycle drivers and the public. It’s a win-win situation, the best possible outcome.
Still, the mayor is grappling with other problems such as traffic. And with the establishment of a new mall and grocery store, the main roads are more congested than ever. Macanlalay, however, looks at situations with a “glass half full” mindset.
“They say that if your town is experiencing traffic, it means that there is progress because more people are coming to visit,” he says. “But I’ve spoken with my public transport officials and we are studying the traffic situation and looking at different ways to decongest the roads.
Agriculture, Macanlalay confesses, is closest to his heart. As the main economic driver in their town, the mayor worries that the youth are not interested in pursuing agriculture as a career which could lead to the collapse of the industry. To turn the situation around, the Province of Pangasinan is offering full scholarships to students taking any agricultural course. He reveals that he also personally talks to the parents and youth, promising a full-time position in the municipality’s agricultural office once they graduate.
DONNING MULTIPLE HATS
Aside from occasionally wearing the chef’s hat, Macanlalay also boasts a wide array of interests. He was a big bike rider and a practical shooter, adding that he used to be the president of a gun club and participated in local and international competitions. Before entering politics, he was set to compete in Thailand but the COVID-19 pandemic broke out.
All of these, Macanlalay shares, he had to leave behind as he dove into public service. Now he has a different hobby—bonsai cultivation and pruning. To bring out the beauty of the branches, the mayor shares that it may take months and up to eight years to fully prepare a bonsai plant for a competition. For Macanlalay, the hobby is not just a stress reliever but also a test of patience. This same patience he applies as he carefully nurtures Calasiao, tending to its branches as they grow in the best direction.
The multi-hyphenate Macanlalay may be in public service but he leads the people the same way the head chef runs a kitchen—with calmness, resourcefulness, and focus. At the end of the day, it’s how the chef combines the flavors together that sets him apart from the others and it is this creativity and passion that will also elevate the Municipality of Calasiao.