The CALL: From Luxury to Public Service

Pangasinan 5th District Representative Kimi S. Cojuangco is a servant to the district and she prefers it that way. Congresswoman Cojuangco is no stranger to politics having experienced extensive exposure to it through her family connections. However, she prefers to be called a public servant rather than a politician. The world of politics, especially in the Philippines, has earned an ignominious reputation that she would rather disassociate from; for her purpose in entering this arena is purely to serve the people.

The lady solon may have been raised with the proverbial ‘silver spoon’ in her mouth but she had developed a taste not for the luxurious trappings of the elite but rather an unconfined yearning to help those who have been less fortunate than she. Born to a wealthy German father and the granddaughter of the Pantranco Bus Lines tycoon afforded her a privileged upbringing and her eventual marriage into the Cojuangco clan only served to ensure a path to an indulgent lifestyle in her future, one would assume.

Then Sison Mayor, Kimi S. Cojuangco, with husband, Congressman Mark O. Cojuangco proudly shows her COC copy to the media that swarmed the COMELEC office in Dagupan City

The lady solon is far from being the pampered socialite, however. She is a woman with a mission who is not afraid to work hard to achieve it. She was not one to be satisfied being a congressional wife in the city, she found herself more at home working alongside her husband in Pangasinan, finding great satisfaction in the constant contact with the people who come daily for her husband’s assistance. Her astute husband, the former 5th District Representative in Pangasinan, seeing her pleasure and composure in dealing with the public encouraged her to venture into public service. Fortunately, she too, saw the prudence in that decision and she enthusiastically made her entrance into the world of politics.

That initial foray into public office landed her as Mayor of the Municipality of Sison and immediately set to work to rouse Sison and its constituents from decades of long deep slumber.

Motorcade on the streets of Urdaneta City at the start of the campaign for the 2010 national and local elections. (L-R) Amb. Amadeo Perez, Jr., Congw. Kimi S. Cojuangco, and Mayor Amadeo “Bobom” Perez III.

2nd daughter Paola with Congresswoman Mom

She immediately initiated numerous projects despite the near empty coffers of the town. Skeptics labeled most of her projects as being overly ambitious, farfetched and unattainable. For a town nearly destitute, it was hard to conceptualize simultaneous projects that cost in the millions of pesos to turn out well. Low expectations, forged from past projects that turned out to be mere patches and were rife with shoddy workmanship, was to be expected from the citizenry.

Mayor Kimi, as she was affectionately called, continued her dogged determination to complete these projects and procure the necessary funding to do so. She delighted in the daily interactions she had with the people who taught her to appreciate the beauty of co-existence and to savor the delight of sharing. They in turn, learned that she was a mayor who is approachable, is fair but also firm, and is a woman who does what she says. They have since marveled as one improvement project after another sprouted over Sison despite numerous obstacles and calamities. Through it all, the lady mayor maintained composure and charm.

Congw. Kimi S. Cojuangco (in pink gown) with husband, Cong. Mark O. Cojuangco (3rd from left), and two kids, Danielle and Eduardo III before the oath taking ceremony in Urdaneta City. Second child, Paola, was absent during the occasion.

One of the brilliant acts she made as mayor was to open the town’s portals to Sisonians all over the globe and enticed them to also take a role in the reforms that she contrived for Sison. Inclusion of the overseas citizens of Sison resulted not only in more support for Sison through their involvement; it also served to bring back the children of Sison home.

“Insiguida! Apuraem!” is an Ilocano phrase which means, “At once! Do it fast!” It became her dictum all throughout her incumbency as mayor. With this simple phrase and attitude, she broke the quiescent cadence of the past. Her staff and the people who dealt with her grew to appreciate her laconic speech and anticipate her tendency to take care of issues immediately. They too were changed by her work ethic as they were witness to the fruition of seemingly impossible projects, termed as castles in the air, in the mere two and a half years that Mayor Kimi led Sison.

The call

For three years, she led her constituents in utmost competence and pride and would have been happy to continue the many projects she started and initiate new ones for the betterment of Sison. However, with the conclusion of her husband, Congressman Mark O. Cojuangco’s term in office, an opportunity for a broader role opened up that she eventually recognized as being more advantageous not only for the people of Sison but for the larger area of the 5th District.

The then Mayor Kimi was initially reticent to take on the position being vacated by her husband but after a lengthy deliberation and at the urging of her husband and colleagues, she decided to run as Representative of the 5th District of Pangasinan. She was elected to the office by a landslide victory in the 2010 national elections, besting two contenders.

The 5th District’s Representative

As Representative of the 5th District of Pangasinan, the former mayor of Sison found herself overseeing a much larger region, juggling multiple projects in multiple towns and the population of her constituency grew more than ten-fold. Congresswoman Kimi S. Cojuangco hurled into her new position with as much optimism and enthusiasm, if not even more so, as when she first endeavored as mayor.

As congresswoman, she has an even greater arena to practice and hone the sagacity, toughness and tenacity that made her such a great mayor. In the few months since she’s been in office, the congresswoman has worked tirelessly to introduce new initiatives and to continue, in some respect, projects from the previous term. The congresswoman is a strong advocate of issues concerning women and children and finds her in the midst of these issues as a junior congresswoman. For instance, the solon has taken a stance in support of the “Reproductive Health and Population Development Act of 2010” despite the strong opposition from church leaders; and even the seemingly minor act of including milk in government subsidized feeding programs is a priority because she realizes how important it is to a child’s nutrition.

On more global issues, the congresswoman picks up where former Congressman Mark O. Cojuangco left off in advocating for the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. Congresswoman Kimi recently filed a bill for the re-validation of the BNPP.

The energetic congresswoman, while contending with broader issues on the congressional floor, is not one to be remiss of her other duties in her district. She is a fixture in many municipal events and is often seen on ocular inspections of the various ongoing district projects. Through all the issues, projects and activities, Congresswoman Kimi S. Cojuangco remains self-possessed, maintaining a balance and a focus on her original purpose which is to serve the people.

//loejan