A beautiful chieftess for a beautiful Ilocos Norte

Maria Imelda Josefa Romualdez Marcos, better known as Imee, handily won the gubernatorial race against outgoing Ilocos Norte Governor Michael Marcos Keon, her cousin, in the first ever fully-automated elections in Philippine history. She is the second lady governor next to former governor Elizabeth Marcos Keon, Michael Keon’s mother.

For the first time, I came face to face with Imelda’s daughter at a consultation meeting with the tourism stakeholders in the province. The meeting, held at the Northview Hotel, was  hosted by the Provincial Tourism Office, headed by the Provincial Tourism Officer, Joegie Jimenez.

Knowing that Imee was raised in the upper echelons of society, and has superlative leadership credentials to boot, one wouldn’t expect her to be chummy, funny, and gay, as in vaklang-vakla. As soon as she held the microphone and smiled with her eyes, everyone forgot that it was quite hot inside the function hall and she was late. “I’m going to be the governator,” she  said in jest. While laying  out her proposals for tourism in the province, she peppered her sentences with gay colloquialisms, like churva and eklat, making the atmosphere light and easy. It was so nice of her to have asked each and everyone in the room to introduce himself, or herself. “I’m learning about Laoag, so I’m not stunningly ignorant,” the anac ti Batac said.

Maintaining her campaign slogan, “One Ilocos Norte”, she wanted all the stakeholders to group together and form a well-represented body that would help as a technical working group for a Tourism Code aimed at self-regulation, awards, tax rebates/incentives, accreditation, and sustainability. To jump-start things, she asked Mr. Jimenez to come up with a complete tourism directory.

About her Tourism Master Plan, she said, “No fancy plans that are not implemented. They should be based on the needs of the stakeholders.” “Tourism is an industry. It’s time to veer away from enterprises that don’t make money,” she added.

I am impressed that she left her cellphone number on the whiteboard for everyone to keep. Not a bit a doña, she wrote down the order of the day on the whiteboard, instead of her secretary doing the thing.

Back to her banters, when she was asked a question (in regard to her mother asking for fare discounts) by a bus transportation company owner, she answered, “My mom is seriously fabulous. She’s not Imeldific for nothing. She doesn’t ask for discounts; she returns change, too.” Imee is absolutely her mother’s daughter — witty, interesting, and beautiful.

Photographed by Alain Barroga
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