In this time of crisis caused by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, we have seen how the government, private entities, and the rest of Filipino people are working together to sustain the needs of communities. This global health crisis has taught everyone to be more compassionate and empathetic — more than anything else, what the world needs right now is selfless acts of kindness, big or small.
As leaders of communities, politicians have been put in a critical spotlight in this time of need. People, especially their critics, are keeping their eye out to every decision and action they will be making. Some politicians are proposing innovative ways in dealing this kind of crisis, catering to every sector in their communities. For example, Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto has implemented the ‘Mobile Palengke’ which aims to reduce the flock of people in public markets who are buying food supplies.
Every leader has their own way of showing leadership in action. But the bottomline is: in this time of need, people need a leader not just a politician in position. People need empathy, and luckily some of the new breed leaders are exerting efforts more than what they are expected.
VM LA Ruanto, a promising politician of Infanta, Quezon
For those who do not know, there is a local politician in Infanta, Quezon who willingly pledged his (almost) two-year worth of salary just to buy sacks of rice for his residents. Vice Mayor LA Ruanto loaned 22-months of his salary as a public official to provide food to his people in this time of need.
In a Facebook live video, VM Ruanto has shared the details on how he came up to his decision of applying for a salary loan.
“Kagagaling po natin sa Landbank at nag-check po tayo ‘nung ini-apply na loan. ‘Yun sana yung pambili natin ng ilang sako ng bigas,” he started his video.
“Ito po ay 22-month salary loan, babayaran ko po ng 22 months. Kino-compute ko po kung magkano ang aabutin ng aking kakayahan, more likely tatlung-daang sako,” he added.
VM Ruanto also shared that he wants to extend personal help to all the frontliners in his town. “Balak din po namin magbigay nang kaunti at personal na tulong para sa ating mga frontliners at lalo na sa mga di naisali sa social amelioration program,” he continued.
“Ang social amelioration ay programa po ng ating government. Marami pong mga katanungan at mga reklamo mula sa mga ‘di nakasama at na-qualify. Parang bigyan na din po ng linaw, tanungin po nating mabuti ang ating mga barangay official kung ano po ‘yung naging pamantayan,” he further explained.
On the other hand, Francis Leo Marcos, a YouTuber who initiated the Mayaman Challenge during this COVID-19 pandemic, has accepted the challenge of VM Ruanto to help his community through donation and/or pledges.
FLM donated 100 sacks of rice to Sangguniang Bayan ng Infanta Quezon as support to VP Ruanto’s selfless actions.
FYI, Mayaman Challenge is a challenge started in his Facebook video post, challenging wealthy people to contribute something to their community in these struggling times.
An empathetic leader in this time of pandemic
Empathy is an essential leadership skill — without it, a leader will never understand the voice of its people. The core of every leadership is ultimately about others, the constituents for this matter. Unlike any other leadership skill, empathy can make a big difference. This will give you the wisdom to understand the struggles and needs of your people. However, it doesn’t mean a leader has to agree with people’s point of view. It is a showcase of efforts in appreciating and understanding the existence of social differences — and finding ways to bridge the gap.
As a young, progressive leader, we asked VM Ruanto on the importance of empathy in his leadership.
“I believe empathy is one of the fundamental factors of leadership and probably the most important skill of being a leader. Because empathy makes me understand other people’s thoughts, feelings, and condition from their point of view, rather than from my own. It helps me anchor my decisions and actions on a more people-centered manner, create solutions based on collective inputs, and provide positive results from a shared goal and efforts. Empathy is the listening ear of my heart that makes me grounded and compassionate,” he explained.
“I remember back in college, with just 500 pesos allowance every week for my transportation fare, food, and other school and personal needs, I still managed to give something to those who have lesser in life than me. I experienced having nothing at all, that is why I know the feeling. Since then, I committed myself to have an open hand in helping,” he shared.
People who witnessed his leadership
Passion in leadership
People who are close to MV Ruanto really know how passionate a leader he really is. We had a quick interview with people who had witnessed his growth as a person and a leader.
His best friend, Alexis Forcadilla, described VM Ruanto as a passionate servant leader. He has always been in awe of how Infanta’s VM prioritizes the welfare of his people.
“I met L.A back in 2005, we became close friends when we served as student leaders. Passionate is an understatement to describe him as a servant leader. He always goes out of his way to help, at times he would even get money from his allowance for us to be able to launch activities for the students. When we graduated in 2009, I thought that he would go the normal route of applying for a corporate job, but I was amazed when he ran as a councilor — winning on his first try,” he shared.
“Now after his three terms as a councilor and now being Infanta’s Vice Mayor, I can say that the passion I saw in him never changed — it even grew more. At times when we hang out, he never fails to talk about his people, his plans and visions for them,” he added.
“Now that we are in this extraordinary situation, we need extraordinary people like him. Leaders like L.A with compassion who know and feel what people need during these trying times. I saw him always go an extra mile for the people of Infanta — donating his salary for their needs, reaching out to all possible help he can get, going to each and every barangay and assessing what needs to be done.
“Infanta is very lucky to have him. We are all lucky to have such a kind of youth leader in the country,” he ended.
On the other hand, his other friend, Floyd Camposano, shared how VM Ruanto influenced him to be the person he is today.
Ever since they met, leadership has always been close to VM Ruanto’s heart. Floyd has witnessed how selfless acts of his ‘Kuya LA’ changed the lives of the people around him.
“Vice Mayor L. A or we used to call “Kuya L. A” has been a big part of who I am today. When I became part of his team back in college, I started to look up on his leadership style. One thing that I love most about his leadership is him being selfless and his ability to connect to others,” he shared.
“He wants to help other people even if he has only limited resources. In fact, he knows how to manage his emotions. He can keep up even if we have different perspectives as a team. He is a true leader in nature and doesn’t have to imitate others to become relevant,” he continued.
Leaders like VM Ruanto is what the world needs right now.
To all the leaders out there, this crisis will bring out both the best and worst in you — brace yourself. Act with urgency. Communicate with transparency. Respond productively to failures and mistakes. Stay rational and socially-attached.