Man of the Hour: Governor Emmanuel “Pacoy” Ortega III

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“Everything I do is for the love of La Union” – Governor Pacoy

A province full of potential, La Union’s prowess is yet to be untapped. It has so much promise that it’s not impossible to achieve its remarkable vision of being “The Heart of Agri-Tourism in Northern Luzon by 2025.”

Blending leadership with heart and soul, Governor Francisco Emmanuel Ortega III, fondly known to many as Governor Pacoy, is our man of the hour as he shares the story of his commitment to the province, his passion towards the fulfilment of a transformed La Union and more.

01 What motivated and inspired you to dive into politics?

Since childhood, I have been introduced to public service. I have witnessed my father, former Governor Manuel Ortega, did what he does best. People love him and respect him. At a young age, my eyes were opened to the significance of what was the impact of his role as a Governor and that’s when the value of giving back to our people has been first instilled in my mind.

My political career started during 1992 when I ran as a last minute candidate for provincial board member and won. Back then, I was only 25 but I was determined. As they say, the rest is history and here I am now still on my mission to serve and uplift La Union as the governor.

02 How was your first 100 days?

I took my oath two days after I won the election and the first question I was asked was: “What will you do as a governor?” Ironically, I have to ask myself two questions in order to come up with an answer. First, “What is my role as a governor?” As a governor, I’m here to initiate true change in government. I am here to inspire and lead by example.

In the provincial government, our motto is “I love La Union.” It goes without saying that everything I do for the people and for the province is for the love of La Union. I aim to involve everyone hence the development of the grassroots immersion program: “I love La Union, I love My Barangay”. This will ensure that no one is left behind and every single individual is on board in this journey towards the realization of our 2025 vision.

Secondly, “What is the role of the province and local government units?” That is to provide services to the people based on the available resources that we have. As a unit, we have leveraged on promoting two major industries: tourism and agriculture. Since a majority of the areas in the province are agriculture based, we want to maximize the full potential of our agrarian industries. Apart from surfing, we also want to showcase La Union’s abundant rural resources and its natural beauty. With this, we hope to drive local economic growth and progress that can give our citizens better quality of life.

So far, so good. I’m happy with the rate we are going and I appreciate the commitment and effort shown by my constituents as well.

03 What have been your biggest challenges so far?

When my father was still the governor, I’ve already been actively participating in his projects. I’m not new to the job. But it’s different kapag ikaw na mismo. Iba yung behind the scenes ka, iba din yung ikaw na mismo ang nagpapatakbo.

In any change, there will always be resistance. In the early days, I nudged my cabinet members to be open-minded and to come along for a ride with me! I tell them that we can’t afford to remain the status quo. If we do, we will be left behind. I have to keep pushing because we have to be at par with the fast-paced technology and developments around us.

04 How did you overcome these challenges?

I keep calm. My attitude is to remain cool. I think it helps to set your expectation. Expect that there will be resistance to change and being prepared to manage it is a proactive step. As a leader, I have to understand the reasons why people object to the change and that gives me the opportunity to plan my management strategy.

I have to assure them that our effort and programs toward transformative governance are for the good of all. At the end of the day, when we go home to our families, we are but the constituents of the province. Therefore, we are doing this for everyone including ourselves. We have to have that mindset that this is for the welfare of all.

Leadership by example.  I come to the office early. I make sure that I’m able to accomplish everything before the end of a day. I’m serious about governance – in doing things the right way.

05 Let’s talk about the “I Love La Union” logo.

Our vision is for La Union to become the Heart of Agri-Tourism in Northern Luzon. When we launched “I Love La Union, I Love My Barangay” which was part of our initiative towards that vision, I told the people that our growth and development as a province must start and end with them especially those in our countryside communities. Again, we are doing this for them – for La Union. We want them to be the first to benefit from the realization of this dream.

The heart logo symbolizes the different towns uniting to bring their different agri-tourism products and destinations together. The blue and red colors of the heart symbolize responsible and reliable governance and the love and passion for serving. Guided by one vision, each symbol is connected to form the whole heart which signifies the important role of everyone in this journey towards true change and transformative governance.

06 A person you admire the most.

My father had set the bar so high. His political record was truly impeccable.  He had successfully implemented and executed government projects through the years which left a mark on the people.

Every day he would visit me in the office. His presence continues to give us inspiration. As a matter of fact, he is my most trusted senior consultant right now. I’m here to continue or even surpass the legacy my father had started.  I get my strength from him as much as he gets his strength from me and the rest of the family.

07 What is the best advice you have ever received?

We were in his office which is my office now and I will not forget the day my father told me that in order to become a good leader, you must first become a good follower. Also, as a leader, you must understand that you can’t please everybody. My father showed me that a good leader has to have a clear vision and solid strategy to achieve it. He needs to understand what purposes and objectives are to be attained and needs to hold tight to those purposes without compromising the truth. If you think that what you’re doing is in the best interests of the majority, then stand for it. And stand firmly.


Photographed by Godwin Gasacao

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