CONG. NANCY CATAMCO: GOD’S INSTRUMENT IN GOVERNMENT SERVICE
Her life … her journey … her vocation.
There could be nothing happier when a mother saw and heard her new-born baby cry on the evening of June 19, 1969 that Luzviminda and Proceso Catamco named her NANCY.
Living in Kidapawan, now a city, in the province of North Cotabato, Nancy grew up rather pretty quickly, having to face poverty and disappointment, a reality which she compensated with the braveness of a dream.
Realizing her family cannot just live on hardship, she took stride on her education “so I can get a job and support my family.” And the help of good-hearted individuals and close family friends attended Nancy’s school needs, her hopes edging high to support her family and land a decent job of her dream. But a mere dream is not an escape from the bitterness of poverty – the trauma of hard life and low self-esteem. Finishing high school and landing a job will not suffice … Nancy wants to be a promising lawyer. If you spend five minutes with her, you will know that.
Sponsorship and scholarship for her elementary and high school years and into college learned for her the value of caring about people. But for the millions of children without a caring sponsor, they may never believe that they are capable of anything, that they are uniquely created by God and precious in His eyes. For her, she wants her future warm and certain.
Nancy’s educational hurdle brought her to the limelight of success, graduating with academic honors, including awards in the extra-curriculars, both in the elementary and secondary levels. She obtained her baccalaureate in Bachelor of Arts, major in Philosophy and English, from the Ateneo de Davao University in Davao City and earned some units in the College of Law.
Following formal education, Nancy had to strive further, battling the tougher stream – facing the realities of life. She started her post-education journey towards the fulfillment of her destiny, remaining vibrant and strong as she ventured another phase of life – being an employee.
With guts to rid off the bondage of poverty with a vision to alleviate her family’s economic condition, Nancy struggled as a government employee then moved to a private company. She wasted no time, plunging into small business after office hours to augment her daily needs and her siblings … never stopping on her dreams for more and she continued for something more.
Through the years, she has lived life consciously, looking on what the world can offer, always open to possibilities, until the moment came to go beyond the four walls of the office and cruise the path for something more – the challenge in Manila.
Hard work, determination, fervent hope, and prayers indeed earned for Nancy the peak of success. She has overcomed the many encumbrances and challenges, problems and discouragements. She never gives up or turns her back, but facing the odds with faith, courage, and strong will to survive.
But Nancy never forgets to look back from where she came. She is a humanitarian, doing charitable works through the foundation she has built. She gently touches lives through her exemplary and considerate moods. She portrays the aura of love, sharing the blessings bestowed on her by the Almighty.
Wanting to the least of her brethren, she helped the less fortunate but deserving children go to school, that the Indigenous People’s Council of Elders baptized and renowned her as “BAE,” bestowing the name “BAEROWON MANGODSA,” which means “compassionate provider.”
Truly, such is evident in Nancy’s personality --- being compassionate to people and being a reasonable provider that gained for her the confidence of the people and friends, may it be in business or otherwise.
Journey toward change
Rudy Estrella, a columnist in one of the national dailies in the country, once wrote: “Nancy represents an Obama-like platform of change; a need for a change that we should believe in and a change that is everybody’s fight.” The same was echoed in North Cotabato when the populace has craved change, one that is of genuine development.
Nancy’s journey towards her campaign for change came not as easy. She was unfamiliar, her name not known to everyone, especially in the far flung areas of her district in the province. Some politician’s stook to comment she is nothing in politics and was never marked as a threat. Her capacity to lead was questioned and even her personhood was mistreated through black propaganda stacked against her.
Nancy faced the loud lips a challenge, untainted by apprehensions of being a possible political foe, daring the summons to fight for good. This was then the beginning of another uphill, another chapter in her life -- becoming a public servant.
From entrepreneurship to public service
What is less traveled by many successful businessmen has been traversed by Nancy, gathering individuals in the know-how of politics. She discerned, prayed a lot, and asked guidance from God. She always shared her prayers with: “Lord, if this is a personal ambition … don’t let me.”
Her prayers gained support from the people she met and talked with. It was as if the people felt the magic, many perceiving to be God’s intervention on their behalf that she leads in the campaign for change.
Convinced of the calling, Nancy formed her own political machinery and community organizers throughout the district to help her spread the noble intent of serving the voiceless constituents and those hungry for genuine reform and development, retorting the notion of being the unknown.
Making her known to the people was a matter of time, her name spreading fast and gaining positive reactions from the many respondents who accepted her by heart. A lot of people somehow saw light in the person of Nancy in their quest for a politics of change.
Long before the national and local elections, Nancy took the trips for barangay consultations and sectoral/organizational meetings. If not feasible, her pool of speakers did it for her as her able representatives introduced her name and development agenda, the framework carved from the “voices” and “pleadings” of the masses. The realities from the ground pounded even more her will to represent the masses’ pleas, to lead them with pride and dignity.
She then framed the acronym NANCY, deriving from it the five-point program of development:
“N” for nutrition and health, which she felt the previous representation failed to look into given the backdrop of undernourishment among many children and the elderly who have been denied access to health care despite claims of economic gains in recent years.
“A” stands for agriculture and infrastructure as wanting for human and food security among the thousands of folks.
The second letter “N” represents her program in nurturing education as a value which she and the many deprived value so much. It is her vision that every child shall be sent to school, that every child shall have equal access to good and quality education.
“C” is for community and environment, anchored on the preposition that an empowered citizen or a community at large can achieve the needed growth and development in order for a country to compete in a globalized world. Her advocacy to care for the environment has become strong as it is confronted today to abate global warming and tame climate change.
“Y” represents youth empowerment … that the “youth is the hope of our fatherland,” asserting: “We have to start with the young, to inculcate in them the `culture of peace,’” a way by which juvenile delinquency can be maimed.
N.A.N.C.Y, as a development agenda and an arm for reform, has its corresponding programs and a project that hopes to shape a better future for the constituents and that will guide the government in its capacity to steer growth and development of communities.
Fulfilling a promise?
But then she left a promise to a friend to forego the plan for a seat in Congress.
Early that morning, she knelt and asked the Lord: “Is this a personal ambition, Lord? Why you did not allow me?” Nancy sensed that God, maybe, will not give her the answer right and then, but she knew He will, always believing that whatever is God’s will, it has to be done.
Her movers, however, never gave up hope, looking on God’s way of touching Nancy’s heart to look over the people’s desire for genuine peace, reconciliation, and honest and good governance.
Nancy’s decision to fulfill her promise not to run in Congress sowed praise and appreciation. It portrayed the image of commitment and straightforwardness from a friend to a friend.
Things change, however. Her leaders continued to organize people, convincing friends and members of any organization that someday Nancy will accept the challenge and somehow realize the “sacredness” of the calling to stand for the people. The efforts, time, and resources of her movers and supporters were not in vain when, surprisingly, thousands of people from all walks of life showed an overwhelming support to the movement and battlecry: “Kausa sa Katawhan alang sa Pagbag-o ug Kalambuan.”
On September 19, 2009, eight months before the conduct of the national and local elections, the people have spoken. The crowd of more than 25,000 coming from the eight municipalities and one city of the 2nd district of North Cotabato gathered at the Kidapawan City plaza for just one purpose -- to convince Nancy to continue her plan to run for Congress.
The crowd brought with them streamers and placards with only one message: “PADAYON, NANCY” with the expectation of response from the people’s challenge: “KUYOG TA!”
Amidst the enthusiastic and shouting crowd, Nancy appeared and with unexplained feelings started to taunt everyone’s heart as she was accompanied by the people to the center stage.
The event was the first to happen in North Cotabato, first in the history of the people’s lives who were there present. It was noted as “historical” not only in Kidapawan, where the event was held, but also in the history of politics in the province.
In her message to the roaring crowd, Nancy pronounced her line with pride and sincerity. “Yes, today, you can count me in the race for the congressional seat in the 2nd district of North Cotabato!” Again, the crowd yelled, clapping their hands in jubilation.
Nancy told them her decision to run did not mean that she turned her back from a friend and a brother, but rather a response to the appeal of the masses. By then, she realized the power of the people … on how overwhelming it is when people support an endeavor.
The series of events that drove Nancy’s journey in public service is always premised on the proverb “Vox Populi, Vox Dei” (The Voice of the People is the Voice of God). This is the outcome of her discernment and the answer to her fervent prayers.
Nancy’s campaign for change has been reborn. Another chapter of her life, another page of her existence unfolded when she started her campaign trail all day and night. Her nomination as the official candidate for Congress in the 2nd district in North Cotabato ended speculations and uncertainties in the once muddled congressional race.
In an occasion at their residence where her supporters and friends had gathered, Nancy made everyone to understand that her candidacy incurs great responsibility, tailed by much sacrifices, saying: “Our campaign must not be, and should not be, more than another tired debate of false promises, drumbeat empty sound bites or useless arguments which address not a single Cotabateño concerned for their family’s security.” Nancy then vowed by expressing: “I won’t let you down!”
In every sortie, Nancy got an awe-inspiring crowd that made her strong no matter how tired she was. Her energy was always refreshed every time she met and mingled with people in the barrio. That’s why it was unbelievable for the people behind her, given the hustle and bustle of the campaign period, that she can push and make it through towards the end.
Nancy ably overcomes the dirty tricks and black propaganda employed against her. Not privy to the system of maneuvering politics, she took it as a challenge, a new milestone to crush. With a positive stance on the matter, she gained the assurance, trust, and confidence of the people.
Nancy’s “talagsa-ong hiyas” and her charm continued to overwhelm the people as she drew crowd easily. Her simplicity, sincerity, self-confidence, integrity, and determination worked well as her assets that brought her to the limelight of public service.
In giving people a renewed faith and hope in government service, Nancy ended up victorious against an incumbent and seasoned politician.
Building a better province
In the oath taking ceremony of the winning candidates in the whole province of North Cotabato, Nancy conveyed her way of governance, to quote:
“I am humbled and honored with this opportunity entrusted to me by the people of the 2nd district of North Cotabato. It is my prayer that as your representative, I may be able to deliver the services that people deserve in this province and demonstrate good governance in the face of challenges. I assure you of my unwavering commitment to serve, as well as, institute substantial change and transformation in governance processes and approaches. The direction of this representation will draw surely a different roadmap of public service, one that will ensure sustainability of community development initiatives, and not based on whimsical decisions and palliative programs to perpetuate political patronage. My office will always be in close coordination and partnership with the barangay, municipal, and provincial government to provide an enabling environment to our people that will empower them and encourage self-sufficiency. I am also encouraging all local officials and employees, as well as, national government agencies operating in the district, to work with utmost sincerity and teamwork in formulating and implementing government programs and projects. We must start to do away with unhealthy and divisive politics that we experienced in the recent years. As political leaders mandated by the majority of our people, we should start to look beyond our own interest and pay attention to what we can do for the welfare of our people. My representation will surely adhere to the governance principle of transparency, participation and accountability. Today, I am reiterating my pledge to the district during my campaign: my commitment to serve the district is like my commitment to my sons.”
Nancy challenged all the winning candidates that in the advent and throughout their administration they will all be one in helping build a better province.
After the occasion, Nancy has never failed to remember as she was joined by her two sons -- Than-than and Bunsoy -- in thanking God and accepting her new mission, her calling, her vocation – to be God’s instrument in government service.