ACTS OF JOY
Ibaan, Batangas’ first lady
chief hustles to fulfill her and
her people’s dreams for their
BY MARIEL ABANES
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JAR CONCENGCO
I started to fall in love with Ibaan even before I became a politician,” Ibaan, Batangas Mayor Edralyn Joy A. Salvame fondly says.
Everyone in the town knows her story. Mayor Joy isn’t a native, but she spent a good amount of time as chief operating officer (COO) of their family-run business, Ibaan Electric Corporation. Despite holding a top position in their company, it didn’t occur to her back then that one day, she would step up to become Ibaan’s local chief executive.
“We did not plan for it, nor did we have plans to enter politics. Kasi, sino ba naman kami? (Who are we, anyway?) We’re not even from here,” she recalls. It’s destiny, she believes, that paved the way for the mayoral seat. Regardless of where she originally hailed from, her gut told her that she’s fated to serve the town of Ibaan.
DIVING INTO POLITICS
“It was a little bit crazy on my end,” the 37-yearold public servant answers when asked about her experience in running for the municipality’s top position. Mayor Joy’s first foray into politics started more than three years ago, when she was tapped to join the vice mayoral race. Their business encountered problems because of bureaucracy, and the then-COO thought, “Kung kami ngang may kapabilidad, inaapi, iniipit, at ginigipit, paano pa kaya ‘yung mahihirap at walang kakayahan? (If they can oppress us who
have the means, what more with the poor and powerless?)”
Eventually, she was convinced to take part in the elections—and won in 2016. Her stint as vice mayor opened her eyes to what the public really needs. Known for her surprise visits downtown, she mingled
with her constituents to look for possible solutions to problems. As vice mayor, Joy became aware that
she can only do so much. “That’s the time that I realized, either I stop or I run for an executive seat. I cannot help them the way I wanted to—I wanted to touch their lives. Kailangan mas may puso (We needed to show more compassion),” she remarks.
In the recently-held elections, she battled face to face with the biggest names in Ibaan’s political
circle for the mayoral position. Never mind her opponents calling her dayo (outsider)—Mayor Joy
knows where her heart is, and it’s in serving the people. Her sincerity shone through. “Naging totoo lang ako. (I stayed true to myself.) I don’t have to make promises; I have to act. Sabi ko sa kanila, aaksyon lang ako (I told them I will just walk the talk),” the mayor recalls. Come the canvassing of votes, throngs of her
supporters voluntarily gathered in the precincts to watch over the votecounting a first in the town.
That’s also the moment Ibaan made history—Mayor Joy won the elections, thus becoming the town’s
first lady chief. More than a personal victory for her, however, it’s a sign that better days are coming for Ibaan.
THE IBAAN PROGRESSION
Millennials would refer to Mayor Joy’s style of leadership as “No chill.” As part of that generation herself, she understands the meaning of “hustle.” Add her work background in a corporate setting into the mix,
and you have a public servant who thrives in a demanding and fastpaced culture. “I felt like I’ve been
serving for a year!”she admits. “If nobody told me to slow down, I really wouldn’t. There’s one time, I was
seated in my office. May nagsabi sa’kin, ‘Ma’am, magdadalawang buwan ka pa lang, relax lang! (Somebody told me, ‘Ma’am, you’ve been here for just about two months. Relax!)”
Mayor Joy’s enthusiasm comes from the challenge presented before her—to give the town of Ibaan a
much-needed boost. As a young mayor, she incessantly puts her best foot forward and delivers what needs to be done, without delay. In other words, she’s a certified workaholic.
And it’s fine, because she loves her job. After all, Mayor Joy didn’t take this seat to dilly-dally. She’s here
to take action.
Proof of her being a woman of action? She had a steady roll fulfilling her targets for her first 100 days. “As mayor, you have to look for sources [of funds],” she relates. There’s the ongoing construction of the
Pasalubong Center in People’s Park, which will offer Ibaan’s habi (woven) products and other local delicacies such as tamales, sinaing na tulingan, and liempo. The van terminal will also be rehabilitated, focusing on the improvement of sanitation, construction of a food hub, and installation of charging stations with free WiFi access. The chief executive also aims to put closedcircuit television (CCTV) cameras on all entry and exit points around Ibaan for improved public safety.
Scholarships are also given out, with some grantees to be sent to Taiwan to study robotics. Technical
Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) trainings are ongoing. For job seekers, the mayor
created a continuous “job dropbox,” where people can drop off their resumes in the municipal hall and
the local government unit (LGU) will send their applications to companies looking for the perfect
new hires. Interviews will be done locally, too.
Of course, agriculture is also a priority especially with regard to cacao and coffee production,
as well as livestock, particularly piggery. She’s also planning to put up a trade post and fix the waterworks in the market. Environmental issues are also being addressed. But it doesn’t end here.
Mayor Joy sees Ibaan as a future “smart city,” and kicks off this journey by advancing services of the municipality through technology. Soon to be launched is an app which offers information about everything Ibaan has to offer. The LGU’s social media accounts, including the mayor’s
personal account, are very active in
informing citizens about the affairs
of the town. Transparency is king,
Mayor Joy believes.
Apart from all of the abovementioned, there will also be programs for senior citizens, persons with disability, the LGBTQA+ community, single parents, and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). They will be given livelihood programs and other social services that could help improve their lot.
It’s a lot to fulfill, but Mayor Joy dreams of bigger things for her beloved town. “Everything starts
with a dream. But for now, I’ll make it a goal. Doon muna tayo (We focus on that),” she proudly says.
LEAVING A LEGACY
On pressing matters, the mayor stresses what she truly wants to champion. “Basically, the advocacy is to give them a better life,” she says.
Being just at the beginning of her three-year term, and without plans of immediately seeking a higher post, Mayor Joy is biding her time while sincerely serving the people of Ibaan.
She remembers what her parents instilled in her since she was a child, which is to work from the bottom all the way up. She sticks to her truths yet treats everyone with respect. You can say she’s a woman of steel. Mayor Joy stresses “Dapat may ngipin. (You have to be strict.) You have to have discipline, you have to know where the line is. You have to know kung kailan ka matapang at kailan ka hindi. You have to know when to use your heart at kung kailan ka gagamit ng utak. It’s a difficult thing, pero ang importante, ‘yung walang naaagrabyado. (You have to know when to be strict and when not to be. You have to know when to use your heart and when to use your mind. It’s a difficult thing, but what’s important is that no one gets a raw deal.) This is politics, but serving doesn’t need politics at all.” The townspeople admire her for
this. It’s validated by the simplest of ways—she is loved. The lady town chief brings up memories of citizens dropping by her office just to say hi, give her a hug, and say their thank yous.
The love is well-appreciated, it encourages the mayor to carry out her duties to the best of her ability.
From inviting investors to the town to assisting the youth for their betterment, the passionate public
servant dedicatedly answers the call of those in need.
By the end of her term, the mayor just wants people to remember her as Joy Salvame, no longer a stranger to the town of Ibaan. She is just a normal person who fell in love with this quiet town, saw its potential, and served its people wholeheartedly. “Ang pamilya namin ay walang hinangad kundi ang makatulong sa kapwa (Our family wanted nothing else but to help others),” she ends. With a few more
years to extend dedicated service, we’ll see Mayor Joy flashing her confident smile as she works hand-inhand with Ibaan’s locals whom she’s treated as her own.