top of page

Leading with Meaning and Purpose

BY MARIANNE JANE S. ZARA


CANTIMBUHAN, HAVING SERVED CAVITE FOR THIRTY YEARS, ADVISES NEOPHYTE POLITICIANS THAT THEIR HEARTS MUST BE IN PUBLIC SERVICE, SAYING THAT IT TAKES DEDICATION TO ATTEND TO THE NEEDS OF THE PUBLIC AS IT IS A 24/7 JOB.

For Cavite 3rd District Provincial Board Member Arnel “Ony” Cantimbuhan, it is paramount to be focused on responding to the needs of his constituents and ensuring that help is provided to them, no matter what time of day. Toward this, ON sa Serbisyo (ON for Service) remains as his guiding principle in serving not only those from his district but from all over Cavite.


ON sa serbisyo, para kasing ‘on’, lagi kang nandiyan. Anytime na kailangan ka nila, nandyan ka (ON for service, it’s like youare always ‘on’ or ready to serve. Anytime that your help is needed, you are there),” Cantimbunan elaborates on his tagline. If someone comes to you, you need to extend help, no matter how little you can give–that person must come out of your office smiling and happy.


Committed to helping his people, it has been part of Cantimbuhan’s routine to listen and attend to the different needs of his constituents anywhere and at any time of the day. His house has even become an extension of his office as he gladly welcomes people who are in need of help. Part of his routine for 30 years, he says that it reflects his having started his career in public service at the grassroots level. “I’m used to being around people. Because people are close to me, they are not ashamed to come see me. They know that I understand their needs,” he shares.


Having worked his way up in public service, Cantimbuhan knows how to stay grounded and remain in touch with his constituents. During his time as vice mayor, he made it a point to keep his home’s doors open to the public, and dedicated Mondays to listening to the needs of the people and trying

to help them immediately, if possible. “Every Monday was People’s Day. My office was packed,” he says. He also recalls pre-pandemic times where “Every Wednesday, a joggers’ group I belong to, composed of Imuseño leaders including barangay chairpersons, would gather at my house. We would tell stories and discuss plans for the city.”


A SEASONED MENTOR

Cantimbuhan started serving the public as a barangay kagawad (councilman) in 1994 and climbed up the political ladder. He then became Cavite's youngest barangay chairperson in 1997. After this, he had the opportunity to serve the City of Imus as a three-term city councilor and then two-term vice mayor, and is now a provincial board member for the 3rd District of Cavite. His career in public service may not have taken the usual route, but his journey from being barangay leader to senior provincial official has given him the proper perspective with regard to governance. With 30 years of service, he is one to mentor newcomers to politics and those who aspire to be in public service.


When asked about his advice to new politicians, he says: “Palagi kong sinasabi sa mga gustong pumasok sa politika na talagang kailangan nasa puso nila ang pagseserbisyo. (I always tell those who want to enter politics that public service must be in their heart.) You need to have the passion in your heart. Just like business, you cannot put up a business that is not your passion.”


Drawing from his vast experience, Cantimbuhan stresses the importance of dedication in public service as he mentors neophyte politicians. “In public service, you are not bound by time. You are open 24/7. You need to dedicate yourself to serving,” he says.


Cantimbuhan also tells the newcomers and aspiring politicians not to expect anything in return for the service they extend to the people. However, he underscores that once they have attended to the needs of the public, the appreciation and gratitude of the people will make their hearts full. Truly driven by his passion for public service, he also advises neophytes that they cannot please everyone and they may hear negative things said about them. “Just focus on giving the service that the people deserve. Continue doing what’s right and for the good of the people,” he stresses.


CANTIMBUHAN, HAVING BEEN A PUBLIC SERVANT FOR 30 YEARS, ADVISES NEOPHYTE POLITICIANS THAT THEIR HEARTS MUST BE IN PUBLIC SERVICE. IT TAKES DEDICATION TO ATTEND TO THE NEEDS OF THE PUBLIC AS IT IS A 24/7 JOB.


LEADERSHIP AMIDST THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

To lead during times of crisis tests the brand of leadership of every leader. As for Cantimbuhan, the COVID-19 pandemic did not impede sustaining his constituents’ needs in times of uncertainty. He led with meaning and purpose and continued to serve as if it were business as usual.


“During the pandemic, most politicians got scared to go out of their homes or offices. That wasn’t the case with me.I persisted and went out everyday to know the needs of the people,” Cantimbuhan recalls. To facilitate travel from one part of the city to another as well as maintain social distancing, the board member and his team went from one community to another aboard motorcycles.



“I saw that children were in need of milk. I also received messages asking for milk so I ordered a whole truckload of milk from Alaska and distributed such to those in need,” Cantimbuhan shares.


With little to no time for preparation, his adaptive responses to the direct consequences of the pandemic built and sustained the trust of the general public. His management of the situation and quick adaptive response to the needs of the children showed his ability to take decisive action.


The milk distribution project did not come as smooth sailing. When confronted with the challenge of a temporary stoppage by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) because of the ban on infant formula milk donations, Cantimbuhan got ahold of the situation and explained to the city’s local health center and DILG the immediate need for milk of the children in his district. His initiative was eventually given the go signal.


To quicken up the pace of distribution, Cantimbuhan called on the Sangguniang Kabataan officials of different barangays to distribute relief goods. Not only did they distribute milk to the children, but a complete set of ayuda (relief goods) for every household. “Syempre kompleto naman kami sa ayuda. Talagang noon hindi kami nagpabaya. (Of course, we gave complete aid. We really did not neglect [the city] during those times.) We gave away 150,000 relief packs to 150 households every week. Sometimes, every household was given chicken. The next day, everyone was given hotdogs. As for me, I concentrated on giving away powdered milk for the children,” he reveals.


FOCUS ON ALLEVIATING TRAFFIC CONGESTION

As chairperson of the provincial board’s Public Works Committee, Cantimbuhan prioritizes road building and road repair projects in the 3rd District of Cavite. As they battle traffic decongestion in the district, he highlights that at the moment there are numerous roads being built in the whole of Cavite, and road widening is being done in his district. He points to the soon-to-be-completed Cavite-Laguna Expressway (CALAX) and the Cavite-Batangas Expressway (CBEx), which is currently under construction, as major projects that will result in the interconnectedness of roads in the province and nearby provinces. At the rate the projects are going, he envisions a much better traffic condition in three to five years.


The provincial board member also highlights the high traffic of bicycle riders, especially on Sundays, in the district. In order to avoid further traffic congestion and to ensure the safety of these Sunday bikers, Cantimbuhan is set to file an ordinance designating bicycle lanes in the district.


Elaborating on the importance of the proposed measure, he says, “I will file an ordinance designating bike lanes becauseI see a lot of bikers here on Sundays. It seems that all Manila- based bikers want to come here to Cavite. Therefore, there’s a need to protect them.” ONY’S LEGACY

After years of continued quality public service, Cantimbuhan proudly presents part of his legacy, which are the new city hall and the Ospital ng Imus (Imus Hospital).


He recalls the significance and the momentousness ofthe timing of the opening of the new hospital. “Binuksanyun, magpapandemic. Ang laking tulong pala na mayroon kang public hospital. Noong panahong iyon, Level 1 hospital sya,pero pinayagan kami ng Department of Health na magpasok ng COVID-19 positive. Talagang mabilis naming inayos at talagang ang dami naming natulungan dyan dahil alam nyo naman po nawala nang madalhan na ospital noon, punuan na (The hospital opened shortly before the pandemic. We realized how beneficial it is to have a public hospital. At that time, it was a Level 1 hospital, but the DOH allowed us to admit COVID-19 positive patients. We worked on this really fast and we really helped a lot. As you know, most hospitals then were on full capacity),” he reveals.


The Ospital ng Imus was also the first in the province, and the second nationwide, to open a molecular laboratory during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearby provinces, even in the National Capital Region, sent their samples to the hospital to have these tested for COVID-19. Cantimbuhan mentions that the hospital’s laboratory did not disappoint, as the testing and release of results were done fast.

Another legacy of the board member is the state-of-the- art City of Imus city hall complex, which includes modern infrastructure with spacious facilities giving constituents ease and comfort in doing business with the local government. Moreover, natural spaces were preserved, reflecting the city’s efforts toward environmental protection. “Our city hall complex is one of the most beautiful here in the region. It’s green, modern, and spacious at almost 5 hectares,” Cantimbuhan shares.


DURING THE PANDEMIC, MOST POLITICIANS GOT SCARED TO GO OUT OF THEIR HOMES OR OFFICES. THAT WASN’T THE CASE WITH ME. I PERSISTED AND WENT OUT EVERYDAY TO KNOW THE NEEDS OF THE PEOPLE.


Cantimbuhan stresses that his family has always played a big role in his rendering service. For one, their interaction with Imuseños has been a way for the board member to serve his constituents better, as his siblings, wife, and children also share with him their insights on how to address the province’s needs and have been active throughout his political career by helping him reach different groups such as the youth, women, and senior citizens, to name a few. They have been very visible and active even during campaign periods and during his incumbency in different positions.


A few have encouraged other members of his family to enter public service as well. He does not see this as an immediate need as of now, but shares that his family members have imbibed his principles as a public servant and are open to continue his legacy to serve the Imuseños and Caviteños.


VISIONS OF TOMORROW

With his long experience in governance, Cantimbuhan has at times been asked about the possibility of seeking a higher position in the 2025 elections. However, the provincial legislator says that he has decided to run for reelection. He also recalls the reason he ran for provincial board member from City of Imus vice mayor, saying that the party talked it over and found it best for the whole of Cavite that he serve as board member, as this will enable him to use his strength in public service to serve the whole province. His transition from VM (vice mayor) to BM (board member) has proven beneficial to Caviteños in general.


As he remains steadfast in his commitment to helping make Cavite a first-class province, Cantimbuhan highlights the foreseen interconnectedness of roads through CALAX, CBEx, and the Naic Bridge connecting Cavite to Bataan and CALAX. “The development of a province depends on the connectivity of cities in municipalities within it, and its interconnectedness with neighboring provinces,” he says. “Because first of all,you can easily transport goods in and out of the province, transactions are fast, and money will flow within the regional economy.”

With present efforts to strengthen the industrial sector in Cavite, Cantibuhan also envisions that the people of Imuswill no longer need to leave the city to work because there are opportunities in Imus. As he highlights their industrial and Philippine Economic Zone Authority areas, he also visualizes that the people of Manila, Alabang, and Laguna will go to Imus for work.


Cantimbuhan also mentions that he dreams for Imus to be a home for erstwhile Manileños. “Isa sa tinitingala ang buong Cavite. Saka ang daming nagma-migrate dito. Ang gusto ko dito, maging retirement home ng mga taga-Manila. Dito nila gustong manirahan dahil tahimik, maganda, at walang problema sa basura, tubig at traffic, (People look up to Cavite. The number of migrants continues to increase. I want Cavite to be a retirement home for Manileños; for them to choose to live here because it is peaceful, beautiful, and there are no problems with regard to waste management, water supply, and traffic,) he states.”


A PROMISE TO ALL IMUSEÑOS

Cantimubuham promises his constituents a continued focus on solving the district’s problems and commitment to being accessible to everyone. He, together with the other city and provincial officials, remains committed and dedicated to continue providing excellent public service.


“My prayer is for Imus to be a quiet place, that Imuseños will always be happy under the leadership of our group. As for us, we will provide all the services we can do. We have been tested by the pandemic, and they saw that we did not abandon them. I can say that no matter what happens, we will not abandon them. We continue to take note of all problems, we talk about how to solve these, and that’s where we focus,” he stresses.


The board member also expresses his deep gratitude and appreciation for the support of his constituents and promises that he would remain grounded despite the title to his name. “To every Imuseño, all I can say is thank you for trusting

me, thank you for 30 years of trusting me. This trust, I have reciprocated with honest service and ON sa Serbisyo service. And don’t worry. I did say VM to BM, vice mayor to board member, but for me, no matter what the title is, I will not change. Only the title will change but my personality and dedication will not change,” he ends.


bottom of page