Rapid Action With A Tomasino Smile
BY RAGIE MAE TAÑO-ARELLANO
Mayor Arth Jhun Marasigan has no close friends in Sto. Tomas because he has spent most of his adult life in Laguna. But he is a true-blooded Tomasino, having been born and raised in Sto. Tomas. He was from an average family. His father, the late Arthur Sr., was in the military, and his mother, Aniceta, who was always by his side as he grew up, was a simple housewife.
Marasigan says that never in his wildest imagination did he dream of becoming the mayor of Sto. Tomas. He dreamt of becoming a pilot because he was inspired by his uncle, Albert Marasigan, who became vice mayor of Sto. Tomas when he retired from the Air Force. Aside from his uncle, the mayor’s father also served in the military before retiring at age 41. His four other uncles served in the military as well. Since no other member of the family was a lawyer, his father encouraged him to pursue the profession. His father
and five uncles joined the military because it was the most secure method for them to obtain employment. “Life during the martial law years was tough. So they opted to join the military to get employed,” he reveals.
FROM PAO TO CITY ADMINISTRATOR TO MAYOR
Marasigan began his legal career in the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), where he could obtain experience more quickly and develop his trial handling skills. He wanted to become an expert trial lawyer. He says that in PAO, you will handle everything—technically and practically—from criminal law to civil, labor, and taxation. After about five years as a PAO lawyer, he entered private practice by joining the Batangas branch of the Punzalan Faustino Punzalan Marasigan & Associates Law Offices. He was hired as corporate attorney for the businesses run by then-Batangas Governor Armando Sanchez. In 2013, the governor’s wife, Sto. Tomas City Mayor Edna Sanchez, appointed him as city administrator. His direct exposure to the concerns of Tomasinos sparked Marasigan’s interest in politics and public service. His father, who was then the chairman of Barangay Santiago, encouraged him to run. “For the longest time, I was not able to serve or stay here in Sto. Tomas, so [I thought] it was about time that I gave back to my hometown,” he recalls.
Marasigan’s first foray into electoral politics in 2019 ended in defeat against Mayor Sanchez, who went on to complete her final term. Mayor AJAM, as he is called, claims that his perseverance and passion for public service made him win against five other contenders, including the then-vice mayor, in last year’s polls. He says that his sincerity shone as he served Tomasinos during the Taal Volcano eruption in 2020 and well into the COVID-19 pandemic. With the aid of his sister, who is now in charge of his health programs, Marasigan continued to assist the people after the lockdown was lifted by providing free legal and medical services.
Health, according to Marasigan, is his priority concern, and is thus part of his 12-point agenda. He presently serves as president of AnaKalusugan Party-list, a health advisory group that represents the health sector in Congress. It was he who introduced AnaKalusugan in Sto. Tomas and other parts of Batangas, and the group has been helping him serve his constituents. He reveals that it was during the pandemic and his mayoral campaign in 2019 that he saw the need for the government to focus on health,
not only in Sto. Tomas but the whole country as well.
Health is really wealth. That is where it all begins. Your constituents will be healthy if your town is healthy, and then it follows that you will have a strong, healthy economy.
COMMITMENT TO BUILDING A HEALTHY FUTURE
“Health is really wealth. Diyan magsisimula lahat eh. Kung malusog ang bayan mo, malusog ang mga constituent mo (That is where it all begins. Your constituents will be healthy if your town is healthy), and then it follows that you will have a strong, healthy economy.”
Marasigan personally puts a premium on his health, and he frequently exercises, jogs, plays basketball, and works out in the gym. His healthy lifestyle helped him survive COVID-19, something that made him better understand how crucial a healthy lifestyle and reliable health services are to his constituents. He is
deeply concerned for underprivileged Tomasinos who do not have access to medical facilities and services. “So, [providing reliable and accessible health services continues to be] my advocacy until now. This is my foremost priority in serving my constituents here in Sto. Tomas.”
Today, the young mayor is concentrating his efforts on his biggest ongoing project, which is the construction of the first city public hospital, named Ospital ng Lungsod ng Sto. Tomas. “It is part of my health advocacy and priority program; this was my primary rallying cry throughout my campaign,”
Marasigan says. The former municipal hall was once converted into a public hospital, but somewhere between 2010 and 2013, it lost its status and is now a rural health center. In response to this, Marasigan
asked his friends from the national government, particularly Senator Loren Legarda and AnaKalusugan Party-list Representative Ray Florence Reyes, for funds to construct a new public hospital. The hospital is being constructed in Barangay San Miguel, close to the rural health center. They expect the building
to be completed by the end of 2023 or early 2024. It is a primary hospital with 30 beds, an outpatient department, a ward, and rooms. The mayor hopes that having a new hospital will encourage his constituents to avail of health and medical services. At present, many Tomasinos avoid seeking medical
treatment when they are ill because of the high cost of medicines and professional medical services.
As part of the mayor’s health program, her sister, Dra. Arnielyn Marasigan-Aguirre leads the AJAM
Mobile Clinic, which continues to operate on Tuesdays and Thursdays. With the support of Sierra Health
Diagnostic Center and Multi-Specialty Clinic, the mobile clinic goes to barangays and subdivisions around Sto. Tomas to provide vital healthcare services, such as electrocardiogram (ECG) tests, blood chemistry tests, chest X-ray, complete blood count (CBC), dental services, eye examination, and ultrasound services.
All services, as well as medications, are provided for free. They additionally give away five kilograms of rice to residents who receive COVID-19 vaccinations or booster injections in an effort to encourage them to combat the virus.
THE INFRASTRUCTURE VISION
The construction of a new city hall is Marasigan’s biggest dream project, as he believes that the current local government office is insufficient to address the needs of their constituents and even their employees. 20 years have passed since the current city hall began servicing Tomasinos. “The growth of Sto. Tomas is so rapid that our city hall could no longer meet the needs.” He states that through his friends, he has already secured 80 percent of the funds needed to construct a new city hall from the national government. Additionally, he is in discussion with two private partners who may donate or sell a portion of their property on which the new city hall will be constructed. “This dream project will not only benefit the present generation but maybe the next generation as well,” he says.
The swift expansion of Sto. Tomas may be observed in the city’s congested traffic flow. The city is home to three Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) zones. Big malls and a large supermarket are scheduled to open this year. It was also this year that a major sardine company was launched in the city. Marasigan considers traffic congestion to be a significant issue, particularly in the city’s industrial zones. He plans to construct a flyover to link the national highway that runs through the industrial zones to the
South Luzon Expressway (SLEX). “So those going to the north, to Manila, will no longer have to pass through the national highway, which has the biggest volume of traffic,” explains Marasigan. He adds that he has already coordinated with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for a feasibility study regarding the project. He is optimistic that this project will begin before 2025, even though it might not be finished within his first term.
Mayor Marasigan wants city hall employees and his constituents to remember not only Aksyon Bilis (Rapid Action) service, but also Aksyon Bilis na May Ngiting Tomasino (Rapid Action with a Tomasino Smile)
CHAMPIONING THE YOUTH THROUGH SPORTS AND EDUCATION
His infrastructure projects include not only health and the economy but also education, as he believes that a strong foundation is necessary for the development of a strong city. He led the groundbreaking ceremony for San Isidro Norte Elementary School’s twostorey, six-classroom, climate-resilient
elementary school facility. Prior to this, Sto. Tomas had 30 barangays but only 29 elementary schools. Now, each barangay will have an elementary school. He, along with Vice Mayor Catherine Jaurigue-
Perez and members of the Sangguniang Panlungsod, celebrated Valentine’s Day by distributing uniforms and electric fans to students of all 30 elementary schools in Sto. Tomas. With the assistance of the City Youth Development and Sports Division, the city government awarded 68 distinguished students from Sto. Tomas during Gawad Tomasinos 2022. Marasigan has a strong belief that youth is the future of the nation. They were students with high honors, cum laude, and magna cum laude from senior high and college. More than 2,000 senior high school and college students also received educational assistance. He launched the first Aksyon Bilis Inter-Barangay Basketball Volleyball League because he values sports. Even his warm reception of Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) player Justin Brownlee during his visit to Sto. Tomas served as evidence of his passion for sports.
A SMILE THAT SPARKS RAPID ACTION
Marasigan’s leadership style is founded on “Aksyon Bilis (Rapid Action),” so he is confident that his initiatives will be completed during his term. He wants his constituents to be able to access services without having to go to city hall; instead, he wants employees to go to the grassroots level and deliver services. He has executive assistants who concentrate on knowing and delivering the Tomasinos’ needs to ensure that these are met as quickly as possible. “Ayaw ko ng naghihintay. Kung pwedeng gawin ngayon,
bakit kailangan pang patagalin? Bakit kailangan pang hintayin ang tag-ulan bago linisin ‘yung mga kanal o ipagawa ang mga kalsada? (I would rather not wait. Why wait when it can be done immediately? Why wait until the rainy season to clean the waterways or fix the roads?)” He wants city hall employees and his constituents to remember not only “Aksyon Bilis” service, but also “Aksyon Bilis na May Ngiting Tomasino (Rapid Action with a Tomasino Smile).” Marasigan reminds city hall employees that smiling or being happy while performing their duties is effortless if they learn to enjoy what they do. He encourages them to do the correct thing from the depths of their hearts. “As the services are free, and those who deliver these are happy; we will satisfy every constituent in Sto. Tomas,” he asserts, adding that he has received positive feedback regarding the speed at which services have been delivered during his first 10 months in office.
To demonstrate Marasigan’s commitment to providing sincere service, he encouraged about 150 companies to support a dinner-for-acause for 80 persons with disability (PWDs), particularly those with
Cerebral Palsy (CP). During this event, he led the distribution of milk, vitamins, rice, fruits, diapers, hygiene
kits, soaps, cookies, and canned goods.
WHAT IT TAKES TO BE A MAYOR
According to Marasigan, the hardest part of being a local chief executive is making decisions and putting
programs into action. He acknowledges that some of his choices may have been wrong, yet he can still accept his shortcomings and limitations. He is very open to dialogue not only with his department managers, vice mayor, and councilors but even with ordinary employees as well. “They can go to my office and suggest and give their comments or suggestions to me. I am open to that because being the mayor does not give me a monopoly of knowledge. I am open to suggestions,” Marasigan continues.
While taking his duties as mayor seriously, Marasigan emphasizes that he does not wish to take on all of the issues at once. He is still of the opinion that leading a balanced life is necessary for him to perform his job well. He does not want the difficulties he faces as the mayor of Sto. Tomas to affect him and his
family negatively. He says, “I don’t want these to affect my well-being because it will ultimately affect my decision-making, which for me is the most vital and difficult part of becoming the mayor: deciding for
Marasigan always looks forward to Mondays because he has grown to appreciate what he has as local chief executive. Consistently driven to carry out his duties, he thinks that there is always a solution to every concern. The mayor holds that the Almighty would never present a challenge that could not be overcome because He is the one who inspires and motivates everyone to engage in public service.
Aside from the needs of Tomasinos, Marasigan is inspired to continue doing his work by his late father, Arthur Sr., and his sacrifices for their family. His late father was the chairman of Barangay Santiago and, afterward, the president of the Association of Barangay Captains (ABC) until he was gunned down in 2016. Marasigan wishes to carry on his father’s legacy of public service. The mayor feels that putting your life in
danger for the sake of public service is part of the job. president of the Association of Barangay
Captains (ABC) until he was gunned down in 2016. Marasigan wishes to carry on his father’s legacy of public service. The mayor feels that putting your life in danger for the sake of public service is part of the job.
The mayor is upfront in stating that he will not close the door on a bid for a higher elective office because he has always desired to become the president of the Philippines. He is aware that holding a higher government position requires extensive preparation and lengthy hours of prayer. Currently, however, he enjoys his position as mayor of Sto. Tomas, and he does not wish to be overburdened or distracted by aspirations unrelated to his present role. “I believe that fate will bring me to where I need to be in the future if I do what I need to do in the present,” Marasigan ends.