MAYOR DAHLIA LOYOLA
Carmona’s Mayor Dahlia Loyola on leading by example and listening to the people
BY HELEN HERNANE
PHOTOGRAPHY BY PAUL DEL ROSARIO
Did you forget about the books? There is an urban legend about a library that sinks a few inches every year because the architect forgot to account for the weight of the books. One small detail was forgotten and eventually, the entire building was condemned. In her own way, Mayor Dahlia Loyola knows just how important it is to take everything into consideration. “Your constituents are members of the society. When you lead, it should be inclusive growth where nobody is left behind,” Mayor Dahlia said.
LISTEN TO THE PEOPLE
Even before the interview officially started, Mayor Dahlia wasted no time in telling us about Carmona and how happy their citizens are. According to the mayor, the key is in their leadership style—participative and inclusive. “Our leadership style is participative. We encourage the people to be a part of the decision-making because we believe that if they are a part of your program drafting and services, they will be more than willing to participate in all of your activities,” Mayor Dahlia said. Mayor Dahlia’s prime example is their community’s HIV testing; the local government managed to get Carmona’s entire LGBTQ community tested.
Considering the stigma against the LGBTQ community and HIV, the simple accomplishment is nothing less than an astounding feat. “We empower our people from all the sectors, including the LGBTQ community. We try to gather them, form organizations, and give them a chance to participate in our special bodies,” Mayor Dahlia said, enumerating the organizations in Carmona— department heads, NGOs, tricycle drivers, women’s group, PWDs, LGBTQ, senior citizens, etc.
“A good leader is a good listener and follower,” Mayor Dahlia added. “So in policy-making, especially the ones with regard to a particular group, we consult with them. It can’t just be a oneman or one-woman rule here.” On the day of our visit, the people of Carmona themselves showed the team how much they appreciate the mayor.
In the guise of a photo shoot, the mayor and our team went to the basketball court across the municipal hall. Inside, the tricycle drivers had organized a birthday surprise for the mayor. Confetti rained down on everyone as they held a giant tarpaulin with a birthday greeting, a life-sized standee of the mayor, and a cake. And very much the mother-figure that she is, Mayor Dahlia only had one thing to say for the smiling tricycle drivers. “Iwasan niyo na ang bisyo, (You should avoid your vices from now on,)” she said, earning a laugh from the crowd. But what exemplifies Mayor Dahlia’s influence more was what happened afterwards.
While the mayor was going around, talking to the drivers, some of them began sweeping up the confetti from the floor. And before we had even left the court, the place was spotless. Prior to the impromptu celebration, Mayor Loyola confessed that she is very hands-on when it comes to her leadership.
With her, no leaf is left unturned. Sometimes, this means literally. Her employees even share how the mayor is occasionally seen sweeping and taking care of the for plants around the municipality. But more importantly, Mayor Dahlia prides in shifting their mindset when it comes to the local government. “I consider it my greatest fulfilment that we changed their attitude, from ‘We don’t want to go to the government, they can’t help with anything’ to ‘Let us go to the municipal hall to seek for help because we’re sure that they can help us’,” Mayor Dahlia said, emphasizing that people are easier to manage when they truly feel that their government cares for them.
And caring for her people is the very essence of everything that Mayor Dahlia does. Beaming with pride, she tells us about their award-winning comprehensive program for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs). From detection and diagnosis to intervention, SPED tutorials, skills programs, and entrepreneurial opportunities, their program covers everything. The program, “Your Embrace, My Hope” Comprehensive Framework on Education and Rehabilitation illustrates that Mayor Dahlia’s values inclusivity.
“These children are angels,” Mayor Dahlia said. “If we don’t help them what will happen to their future?” The 1992 Magna Carta for Disabled Persons states that every PWD should be aided in their integration into mainstream society and provided with equal opportunities for employment. But Mayor Dahlia lamented that even though it is mandated, not everyone in the country is following it, let alone going above and beyond their call of duty for their special citizens. “Not every local government has the passion to do it. They are appropriating funds, but the funds are not given to these children for them to receive a comprehensive program,” Mayor Dahlia added. “But here in our community, I am proud to say that each and every PWD in our town is happy because they are expecting a good life.” Even after many years and awards, Mayor Dahlia admitted that she is often discouraged to talk about their program because of the lack of enthusiasm from fellow leaders. “My only wish is for people to follow our program. I’ve declined invitations to talk because I get disappointed that my audience are often parents of PWDs and organizations when I’d like my audience to be local chief executives who are willing to allocate and disburse funds for these children,” she said.
After more than a decade of service, not counting the years she served behind the scenes alongside her husband, being the chief executive of Carmona looks like second nature to Mayor Dahlia. But a life in politics wasn’t a part of her plan.