Lady Board Member in Bohol Philippines

By Manuel Ferdinand Ramirez de Erio

According to fitness expert Chad Tackett, "If you have a willingness to work through the initial emotional discomfort as you move step-by-step into (this) new lifestyle, you'll find the confidence, commitment, determination, and belief in your own self-worth that will ease the way." True enough for Maria Fe "Mafe" Camacho-Lejos, the lady whom once upon a time enjoyed her life in privacy within the walls of love of her family and the shelter of her earned comfort in life. 

Few people know and even remember, that this tall and graceful lady Board Member of the third district of this province, at age of 10 years was already in grade six. And, was even the first to be crowned as Bohol Girl Scout Dream Girl in 1967. Mafe finished pre-med in Velez College , Cebu City . She then enrolled in the University of Bohol , Tagbilaran City where she became the class president and graduated with Bachelor Science in Nursing. She tied knots with Christopher Lejos and was blessed with two sons Kevin and Kerson. 

After she worked in then Quezon Institute (now TB Pavilion) for four years were she was also elected and served as president of the Quezon Institute Nurses Association during the last three years and also elected as the National Secretary General of the Alliance of Health Workers for two years (1984-1986), Mafe decided to work abroad as nurse in a hospital in saudi Arabia. For sixteen years of work, she learned to be patient in dealing with people from different walks of life. Although she was working abroad during the childhood years of her two sons, Mafe maintained her intimacy with her family, especially Kevin and Kerson. "Mama is like a barkada to us," Kerson quipped. "No son could ask for a better mom," added the eldest of the two, Kevin. 

The threshold to change 

When Dr. Estanislao Camacho withdrew his candidacy due to his terminal ailment, the family decided for Mafe to take Dr. Camacho's slot in the political party. "Politics is not my cup of tea. It couldn't say no to the offer, it's not easy to yes either," Mafe stressed. "I love my private life. I do whatever I wish to do without having to think of other people," she added. Since Mafe spent most of her years in Manila and abroad, most of the people only knew her by name. It was a real culture shock when she had fully realized what she was into. "It's an ultimately new thing for me. I used to be always behind the scene," Mafe recalled. For Mafe's eldest son, Kevin who grew in Manila where he never heard of a Board Member, the position did not really concern him. It was the possible consequences that disturbed Kevin, "We were just like any other families. I didn't want the thought that anybody could just simple evade our private life." 

Public service, here she comes! 

When Mafe filed her candidacy she felt right there and then that the position was God-given. "I felt and somehow believe that the position is really for me…that the time has come," she recalled. Mafe was offered to run for mayor of Getafe a couple of times in the past with the pledges of her family for the moral and logistic support, but not even once she considered the offer. 

When she took her oath and begun her pubic service, she experienced realities that are hard to accept. "There are people in politics who are not actually public servants. I then realized that one can be a politician but not necessarily a public servant," she quipped. Probably the most wonderful insight that Mafe gained is to see and understand the plight of those who are least fortunate in life and being able to do something for them. "It's really gratifying to help people who are really in dire need for help. This is the most compensating part in public service." She emphasized. As for Kevin who run and won Governor of the College of Liberal Arts in UB after the year his mother won and as a board member, "We were happy before and we're still happy now." Kevin said, referring to their family life. 

When ask if Kevin's interest in youth and student service and leadership should lead him to follow his mother's footsteps, and even continue the political legacy of the Camacho clan, "I can never tell, the chances are really unpredictable. As of the moment I am not sure how long my passion for service will last." Kevin bared. "From the very beginning of my mama's term, I expected humps along the road. Now, I see my mom encounter humps. It's either fear it or learn from it." Kevin added. Just like his mother, Kevin's leadership style is inspired by the real intention for service, something that he and his mama shared, "We tend to serve more than the services that we offer." After the first term, what's next?

Mafe has long accepted the reality that nothing is perfect. However, she wishes for a more mature electing population. "I have learned to love public service. I'd like to be remembered by my initiative for sustainable livelihood and concern for public health especially for the children. I also understand that I can still be of public service even after my term as board member," Mafe shared. Knowing that politics is a milestone of the Camacho clan, people are wondering if she'll take another round in politics after her first term. Mafe has only this to share, "I'll cross the bridge when I get there!" For Kevin, "Whatever is her decision either to run for reelection, retire or find and settle for a new job, I just want to see her happy with us, her family." Though the course of Mafe's journey in public service is uncertain at present, one thing is for certain. Mafe has learned to love and has enjoyed her life in public service. Politics made her see a greater reality in the plight of the Filipino masses and public service definitely changed her heart.