Blessing from 30 Years in Government Service

        There’s no place like home? Was it worth coming back home in the Philippines in 1977 after 2 ½ years stay in Canada, with an immigrant status and earning dollars? Did God give me the same favor the Bible speaks of a ‘wisdom’ which King Solomon asked from God? Although there were some trade-offs, counting my blessings after 30 years prove that it was the best decision, and let me prove to unbelieving ‘Thomas’s’.

            It was thirty years ago on September 16, 1977, when I found myself joining the public sector once again, but this time, for good (prior to moving to Canada, I worked at the National Media Production Center). I just arrived from Canada, and wanting of a job, I was blessed with employment at the then Department of Public Information, Region 1, located at Marcos Building, San Fernando, La Union. My office work was a few minutes walk from our home.

            During the May Santacruzan 1978, probably because I was “balikbayan” and/or coming from the Ortega clan, I was privileged to be one of the muses coming from the different sectoral groups. My twin sister, Luz, employed at National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), represented the different Constitutional/Commissions/Policy Offices while I represented the Communications/Transportation sector. A selection of Reina Elena and her Court was conducted at the Central Bank of the Philippines and on May 24, at the town plaza, I was crowned Reina de los Flores by PROD G. A. de la Cruz while Luz was hailed as Reina de los Estrellas, by Santacruzan chairman Pete Hernando. The crowned Reina Elena was Andrea Sanches by Sec. and Mrs. Jose D. Aspiras.

            On that same year, the top priority project of our agency was MOCES, the acronym of Movement for Cultural, Economic and Social Development, which brings ‘the living past of Ilocano Culture’ to different places during fiestas. The initial presentation was held on February 1978 at San Fernando, La Union. Being the assistant project coordinator of MOCES, naturally I had to deliver a speech. The presentation, however, could not proceed because the electricity went out, and it was already evening. With much anxiety, I approached my cousin, then an official of the municipal government to tell him there was no rostrum for me to speak, and he dismissed it saying, ‘the problem is there is no electricity!’ Of all things, it was the rostrum that concernment me! And so when my time to talk came, most of the audience has left with only a few present to listen to my closing remarks. That first experience challenged me for a passion on public speaking.

            On April 26, 1980, I walked down the aisle as bride of Pacifico Argel, a resident of Vigan, Ilocos Sur. Our meeting was providential. He was working in Manila but volunteered to be transferred to San Fernando at the same time I just came from abroad and hired at the same office building where he was assigned. God, or Love, indeed works in mysterious ways.

            We then moved to Vigan, Ilocos Sur. As Chicoy and I were planning to have a family, we decided to build our own home. Thanks to the Home Development Mutual Fund, popularly known as the PAG-IBIG Fund which helps provide shelter, we were among those early members who were able to avail of its services to build a dream house.

            From being a casual employee earning a meager P12 a day in 1977, I finally got a permanent position upon the recommendation letter of Actg. Regional Director Oscar G. Alvarado to Minister Francisco S. Tatad on December 4, 1978. I still keep a photocopy of that letter which partly reads "is Ms. Ma. Nila Ortega, our acting Chief of Special Projects". She has been with the office since September 1977 as a casual employee but due to lack of any vacancy in our plantilla for technical positions, she has remained as such to the present. A Media Researcher position would be right enough for her.

            I would like to believe that, more than my being “such an achiever,” it was actually out of pity on me that the good regional director recommended me. I have not forgotten that incident such that, modesty aside, I believed I have imbibed a similar attitude which I show towards my staff. I tend to be more sympathetic, patient and understanding with them, letting them grow in their respective careers as well as reminding them to seek God in their work. In fact a PIA anchored program at DZNS brings Government programs through PIA Dispatch and Values formation through the lives of saints as part of the governments Recovery Program.

            In 1985, when I had my first son and the years that followed, I balanced my life between God, wife and mother to three handsome boys, career and friends. I always make it a point to attend Christmas Programs for I  belong to the PIA family and maintain my social ties in the community.

            When the Department of Public Information was abolished following the EDSA People Power Revolution of 1986, and replaced by the Philippine Information Agency, I was designated as Information Center Manager, a position I hold up to the present.

            As infocen manager, naturally, I had to lead my staff towards the fulfillment of our mandate of bringing the government closer to the people and vice-versa via information and support of government programs and projects.

            A Communication Arts graduate from the University of Santo Tomas, I conducted journalism training course in campuses and municipalities that created or improved School and Community Papers.

            Good families make a good nation, so I do advocacy on various causes which are detrimental on family life such as Dangerous Drugs, Child Abuse and DIVORCE. Another advocacy is the Generics Act of 1988 that was signed by President Corazon Aquino to provide safe and effective drugs that are available and affordable to the poor segment of society. This program extended in the present administration is a topic during Kapihan programs, convocations and essay contest conducted by our provincial office in our efforts of providing information and draw public support.

            Because our province of Ilocos Sur is often “hot”, we experience the problem of El Niño; and sometimes, the La Niña. Both are detrimental to local agriculture and livelihood that is why our local information center has joined hands with the Department of Agriculture in conducting annually information campaigns to help farmers and farm hands as well as household combat the effects of these climatic phenomena. We also did advocacy on Bird Flu.

            To same our mother earth, I became an active member of the Provincial Monitoring Committee in Clean and Green Program going even to the farthest municipalities of the province. During the Gawad Pangulo sa Kapaligiran Awarding Ceremonies on October 29, 2003 at the Provincial Capito, I led in the invocation, with this prayer _ We thank you Lord for people who plant trees that give shade in the parts and beautiful flowers; for people who keep marketplaces sanitary that make those making a living in these places and those who buy bearable; and for people who respect our beaches that soothes and relaxes our minds and bodies.

            As I have already mentioned God Almighty, I am very glad to add that I have indeed renewed a deeper relationship with Him. Or rather, God has “called” me for a more meaningful relationship with Him PIA Director-General Joel C. Paredes, was supportive to the whole day celebration held on December 9, 1999. The Ilocos Sur Consecration to God the Father was held at the Vigan Heritage Village wherein the 12-foot statue of God the Father was blessed by His Excellency Most Rev. Edmundo M. Abaya, D.D. and consecration prayers were led by Jeremias Singson, provincial board member. In the afternoon a puppet show entitled “Tatlong Biik” performed by the Special Media Division under Mr. Daniel Santos, Staff Director, was shown at the University of Northern Philippines. Finally in the evening a second presentation of the puppet show and a tape presentation entitled: ‘Sa Ilocos Sur, Mamamayan Ayaw sa Droga’ was held at the Vigan Burgos town plaza.

            My twin sister and I have helped immensely in the propagation of the devotion to God Our Father, not just in the province but in the entire country. We have even gone to Europe for that, which by the way, is where (Rome, in particular) the devotion began.

            Being an information center manager is not without its perks. In 1993 I joined the Junior Executive Training-Supervisory Training for Effective Administration Management (JET-STREAM) Class XV11 held at Lingayen, Pangasinan by the Civil Service Commission. I was thrilled when I topped the pre-test. Along with other managers and officials, I had the privileged to step in Malacañang and attended seminars and conferences conducted by top echelon of the Presidential Management Staff and PIA. After the briefings, I re-echoed what the administration is doing to the Ilocos Sur Public Information Officers at the Provincial Capitol and solicited their support to the attainment of the President’s vision.

            Our present PIA Director-General Conrado A. Limcauco, Jr. acted favorably on the request of Regional Director, Abraham Libadia for a regional staff development aimed at improving the rank and file’s knowledge and maintaining camaraderie. This led us on June 15, 2007, for a short visit to Malacañang which is located in front of PIA Baguio office.

            Aside from imparting information regarding government programs to the public, I also got to impart knowledge inside the classroom. This time, among students at the University of Northern Philippines in Ilocos Sur when I became a part-time instructor, being a Masters in Management Graduate at UP-Baguio, at the Graduate School for more than 3 years. 

            The whole bureaucracy celebrates this September the 107th year of the Philippine Civil Service this September with the theme: “Itaguyod and Kasarinlan ng Career Service” which highlights the significance of the career service as a distinct institution and one that is a partner in governance. It gives impetus to the recognition of the distinct identity of the career service and to appreciate the critical role it plays in the fulfillment of the government’s duty to the public. Holding a degree in Doctor of Philosophy from Don Mariano Marcos State University, La Union had made me more resolved in continuing to doing my share in the attainment of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s Vision of a Strong Republic. Our work is meant to be co-creative. We have to live con brio, which means full of life and enthusiasm.
Hedy Jose B. Lardizabal, Director of the Civil Service Commission of the province of Ilocos Sur on September 7 at 7 a.m. led the Provincial employees in a physical fitness program or “HATAW NA” as an avenue of promoting a sound mind and a sound body at Plaza Burgos. I join the yearly “HATAW NA” and daily schedule at the Vigan Culture Trade Center to sustain the benefits, a laudable program under the administration of Vigan City Mayor Eva Marie Singson-Medina.
The PIA Central Office through Fortunata C. Viloria, Chief of the Personnel Section and noted by Cristina V. Castillo, staff director of Human Resource Management Division informed my officemate, Ben Pacris and I for a loyalty pay, a fringe benefits for 30 years in government service. With the physical fitness program, it makes me fit for work until I retire from government service a few years from now.

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