Governor Corazon N. Malanyaon delivers her State of the Province Address during the 48th Founding Anniversary of the Province of Davao Oriental on July 1, 2015.

Governor Corazon N. Malanyaon delivers her State of the Province Address during the 48th Founding Anniversary of the Province of Davao Oriental on July 1, 2015.

Story by Ferdinand Zuasola
Photos by Eden Jhan Licayan

The woman who rules and dominates the imagination of the people of Davao Oriental with the greatest respect and a deep affection, says she is truly satisfied that she is leaving office with towering legacies that has already made a difference in the lives and fortunes of her people.

“I have fulfilled my commitments to the people of this province and have transformed Davao Oriental from what used to be an ailing and laid-back province to a level of dynamism  and robustness where we can proudly boast of significant development milestones,” says Davao Oriental Governor Corazon Malanyaon during the 48th founding anniversary celebration of the province on July 1.

Gov. Malanyaon, chief executive of Davao Oriental together with provincial officials.

Gov. Malanyaon, chief executive of Davao Oriental together with provincial officials.

“As I am now approaching the last leg of my term as governor of this province, I am filled with mixed feelings. I am saddened by the thought that by middle of next year, I will no longer be with you as your leader and mother. To some, nine years may seem to be a long time to serve, but for me, time flew so fast, that nine years seemed too short,” says the award-winning governor who is a prime mover of government programs deemed worthy of emulation and recognition.

“I would like to believe that somehow, my development journey with you as leader of this province, has made a significant difference for all of us. At the start of my service as your governor in 2007, I have clearly conveyed to you my vision and goals for Davao Oriental. And I am humbled and grateful that you have overwhelmingly embraced and shared this vision with me. Together, we were focused and relentless in our pursuit of attaining our goals,” says Gov. Malanyaon who made history for running unopposed in the succeeding two elections after overwhelmingly won the gubernatorial race in 2007, making her the most awe-inspiring political figure in Davao Oriental.

Crowds flock the Provincial Capitol Covered Court during the celebration of the 48th Araw ng Davao Oriental Anniversary Program

Crowds flock the Provincial Capitol Covered Court during the celebration of the 48th Araw ng Davao Oriental Anniversary Program

Determined to change and redefine the face of local governance and development, the visionary Governor Malanyaon led the crafting of the province’s vision, mission and goals as well as the province’s strategy roadmap, painting a clear picture of the quality of life that all her people aim to achieve. The wide-ranging development agenda for the province depended heavily on constituents’ insights and sentiments. And because the vision was very clear and the people are involved in the drafting of the agenda, the programs continue to run smoothly and change for the better is already taking place in the province. The governor says she has always strived to lead by example, knowing that this will win over the participation of her constituents and the support of the private sector, national government agencies and non-government organizations that can multiply the benefits of sound projects.

By setting the right examples for the ultimate objective of effecting a better provincial government– a more professionalized, energized, empowered and humanized bureaucracy, a positive working attitude was inculcated especially among employees of the provincial government. Change in culture is seen on the part of the Capitol employees from a culture of well-entrenched political patronage into a service-oriented bureaucracy. The governor emphasized that if the provincial government could provide fast and honest service to the residents, tourists and investors, the local economy would improve and it would translate to improved living standards for the people.

“As a leader, I have provided the foundations for growth and development standards. I have influenced the change of values and mindsets of my team in government as evidenced by the performance of my various departments. These foundations shall serve as anchor as we continue with our development journey. Our development and destiny as a province will not end when my term ends. There is still so much to do, more challenges ahead to conquer, more opportunities and laurels to seize, more mountains to climb,” says the governor who put a stop to the traditional practice of putting a politician’s name and pictures on government-funded projects, as she believes that a public office is a public trust and not a vehicle for personal aggrandizement. Shunning self-promotion, the governor thinks a praise is always more believable coming from others.

Quietly and mostly away from the public eye, the pragmatic go-getter governor has demonstrated that despite the challenges of local resource limitations and long-entrenched political realities, ethical and effective governance can flourish given the right ingredients and a large measure of selfless leadership. With her shining examples of excellence in local governance, the governor have shown that change for the better and genuine development are possible, saying that the only hindrance is the inability to think beyond one’s self. She strongly believes that the government should operate with only the people’s interests in mind because the people are the greatest wealth. The government, she says, should always pay closer attention to the sentiments of the public. Only then can there be a genuine public service that is truly responsive to the needs of the people.

One of Gov. Malanyaon’s biggest signature achievements is the new, modern and bigger Davao Oriental Provincial Medical Center, a 200-bed capacity hospital with state-of-the-art medical equipment. The governor has also provided basic health insurance to poor families in the province by enrolling them in PhilHealth. She is also taking pride of the fact that her health program have dramatically reduced malnutrition rate in the province. Before she assumed her post, Davao Oriental had the highest malnutrition rate in the Davao Region. Now, the Department of Health has awarded the province for its outstanding public health programs that have almost wiped out malnutrition.

Also, under her watch, the people of Davao Oriental witness the rapid transformation of their primary resource, which is the land, from idle to productive and sustainable farms. The P289 million irrigation project in the municipality of Cateel is one of the towering legacies of Governor Malanyaon that will help solve chronic hunger in the province.

The Internal Peace and Security Plan or Bayanihan program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines was piloted in Davao Oriental to great success, with government and the military cooperating in bringing development projects to far-flung conflict areas that are far from vital government and private resources. The Armed Forces of the Philippines have just declared Davao Oriental as “insurgency-free”, the only province in Mindanao to have earned such unique distinction. With food and income security and the requisite social services, Governor Malanyaon hopes to sustain the “insurgency-free” status of the province.

The recent inscription of the province’s crown jewel, the Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary, to the highly prestigious World Heritage List, is the fruit of Gov. Malanyaon’s love for nature. It is an excellent opportunity to draw the attention of visitors to, and remind local residents of, the outstanding universal value of the mountain range. Davao Oriental is now a new beehive of tourism activities. Tourists come in droves to see its most impressive coastal scenery, particularly its awesome and serene beaches and lovely islands. Banking on its magnificent eco-tourism destinations, the provincial government vows to give its visitors the transformative magic of travel.

The province has just been declared a tourism development area by President Benigno Aquino. The local government funded the development of the province’s top tourism sites. Among them is the Aliwagwag Falls Eco Park, Cateel River Park and Memorial Shrine, Baganga Sunrise Boulivard, Pintatagan Welcome Park, Cape San Agustin Eco Park, Pusan Point (site of the new millennium sunrise watch), Subangan Museum, Pujada Bay Park and the Dahican Beach. As the tourism business in the province is now flourishing, construction of new hotels and resorts is sprouting. Among the new promising tourism landmarks being constructed by the provincial government is the sprawling and unique Subangan Museum which features, among others, the largest skeletal remains of a Sperm Whale. Tourist arrivals in Davao Oriental have skyrocketed from 17,000 in 2011 to 277,542 in 2014.

For his part, Davao Oriental First District Rep. Nelson Dayanghirang, who is a strong ally of Gov. Malanyaon and is widely perceived to succeed the governor, says he is “ready when opportunity comes” to continue the development agenda of Governor Malanyaon. “We are all very fortunate and thankful to this administration for having laid the best foundation to propel the province forward despite so many challenges it has faced. This is a product of the hard work and a clear vision of the leadership of the governor,” Rep. Dayanghirang said.

In conferring the Gawad Pamana ng Lahi award to her, The Department of Interior and Local Government says: “Her (Governor Malanyaon) leadership is the kind best described by the late DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo as ‘mahusay at matino.’ Hindi lahat ng mahusay  ay matino at hindi lahat ng matino ay mahusay. Ang kailangan po natin ay yong mahusay at matino.”

However, the governor ended her speech by singing an emotional song titled “At The End of the Rainbow” after recollecting a transformative experience in December 2012 when a super typhoon cut a wide swathe of destruction in the province that driven her people from their homes and livelihoods, and thrown them on the kindness and on the solicitude of the state. “I was brought to the devastated towns through a military chopper… and I saw the heart-breaking devastation. We were circling the area when my attention was caught by a big rainbow on the sky… The rainbow was so huge and resplendent in all its colors that everybody aboard the chopper noticed it. But I did not feel much appreciation for such a beauty. I was so overcome by grief and was even asking God ‘Why my people? And why my province? In retrospect, though, I have come to ponder on the symbolism of that rainbow. In the Old Testament, the rainbow is a reminder of God’s covenant to
 Noah that the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.”

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