Mayor Democrito “Aljun” Diamante refers to himself as a politician driven by circumstances. He didn’t come from a political family, nor did it cross his mind that he would become a public servant someday. Like the 10 million Filipinos today, Mayor Aljun’s family was also challenged by poverty.
He was the eldest in a brood of eight, so he took it upon himself to help his father provide for their family’s needs. “Noon, ang ambisyon ko lang ay magkaroon ng hanapbuhay, makatulong sa magulang at mga kapatid ko. Kung magkaroon man ako ng pamilya, ang pangarap ko lang ay mapakain, mapaaral, mapabahay, mapadamit sila, ganun lang. Hindi ako nangangarap ng masyadong malaki (Back then, my ambition in life was to have a job, help my parents and siblings. If I ever get to have my own family, I’d like to be able to provide them with food, education, shelter, clothing—that’s it),” he says.
After finishing high school, the native Tuburanon went to the city to work. He took a variety of odd jobs, before landing a position in a logistics company. He worked his way up the career ladder—from being a driver, clerk, and processor, to becoming a supervisor, manager for sales, and manager for operations. After 10 years of working for that company, he decided to resign and build his own company. “Nakatulong ako sa kompanyang pinagtrabahuhan ko, napalaki ko…sabi ko sa sarili ko, kung magtatayo siguro ako ng sarili kong kompanya, baka sakaling lumaki din (I was able to help the company I worked for, I helped it grow, so I told myself, if I build my own company, I could probably grow it as well),” he remembers. True enough, his diligence and hard work paid off. The logistics company he built flourished.
These life experiences—the ups and downs—ignited his desire to help better the lives of others. “Galing kasi ako sa wala. Kaya noong nabigyan ako ng pagkakataon at ng grasya, binigyan ako ng pagkakataong makapagserbisyo sa mga mahihirap, bumalik ako sa amin at tumakbong mayor (I came from zero. That is why when I was given the opportunity and grace to serve the poor, I went back to our town and ran for mayor),” he declares.
CALL TO SERVE
Mayor Aljun tells LEAGUE that he used to walk six kilometers during his elementary days and 14 kilometers during his high school days to get to school. So when he won the mayoralty race in 2011, his main priority was education. “Noong maging mayor ako, nagtayo agad ako ng tatlong high schools sa bundok (When I became mayor, I immediately built three high schools in the mountains),” he quips. One is 15 kilometers from the town proper and located at the boundary of Catmon and Tuburan; one in Kabangkalan, which is at the center of Tuburan; and one in Kansi, which is at the boundary of Asturias. For the first two schools, it was Mayor Aljun who bought the lot (one-hectare for each) with his own money. He and DepEd agreed that he will build the high schools and shoulder the salary of the teachers during the first year. Then on the following year, DepEd will allot budget for it.
Through the help of his fellow public servants, these projects were completed. By 2012, they we were able to provide 82 teachers to the three high schools they built. “I always say, providing education is the first step to overcoming poverty,” he stresses.
Mayor Aljun also prioritized building roads in all the barangays, so the power distributor can bring their equipment to these areas. He happily reports that all barangays in Tuburan now have electricity.
In 2011, he started an outreach program that would become his administration’s battle cry—that is, bringing services closer to the people. “We brought government services to the barangays once a week,” he says. For the past seven years, and until now, they have sustained the services which include free dental care, medical checkup, payment of taxes, etc. Vice Mayor Danny Tuburan, on the other hand, provided free snacks.
His term ends next year, but he hopes to continue serving—perhaps as a congressman—so he can push for the continuous development of the towns and barangays in his district. He firmly believes that through federalism, more projects can reach far-flung areas like Tuburan.
“Ang iniisip ko, kung itong 237 barangays ng third district, mabigyan ko lang ng semento na worth P500,000, malaking bagay na `yun. Pwedeng sa kanila ang labor, sa akin ang semento. Kung mabigyan mo ang bawat barangay every year, siguro in the next three to five years, lahat ng sitio ng mga barangay sementado na ang kalsada (I’m thinking if I can provide cement worth P500,000 to all 237 barangays in the third district, that would already be a great help. I can provide the cement, they can take care of the labor. If we do that every year, in the next three to five years, all sitios in the barangays would be cemented,” he says.
“I always say, providing education is the first step to overcoming poverty.”
He has big dreams for his district, which includes building an international port, for businesses to come in. Also, by having bigger roads, he hopes to encourage investors to establish businesses in the countryside; this will, in turn, help decongest the city and ease traffic.
“I organized a summit among mayors of the province of Cebu last June 21, and we discussed their vision for their respective municipalities. We will have to create a workshop for those priority projects, so these can be included in the plans of the province. Hopefully, these projects can be proposed to the development council, so the national government can fund these,” shares Mayor Aljun, who also happens to be the president of the League of Mayors in Cebu, and the vice president of the League of Mayors in Visayas.
To boost tourism in Tuburan, Mayor Aljun plans to build a high-end resort in Molobolo Springs through public-private partnership (PPP), and develop the 2.8-km Adela River into Cebu’s version of Loboc River, to provide recreation such as speedboat and Jet Ski rides.
To provide livelihood for his people, Mayor Aljun plans to build zip-lines, cable cars, a mountain resort, a hotel, and pension houses. This way, they can accommodate local and foreign tourists.
“Our municipality is 29,360 hectares, our coastline is 20 kilometers. Kung ma-develop natin ito, lahat aangat. Y’un ang tinatawag nating inclusive growth. Walang maiiwan (If we develop this, everyone’s life will improve. That’s what we call inclusive growth. No one will be left behind),” he asserts.
Mayor Aljun only has words of gratitude for the people of Tuburan, who have given him their trust and support for the past nine years. “Nagpapasalamat ako sa pagkakataong ibinigay nila sa akin upang makapagserbisyo sa aking bayan at maging bahagi ng kasaysayan (I would like to thank the people of Tuburan for allowing me to serve my town and for allowing me to be part of history),” he concludes. — LAKAMBINI BAUTISTA
The name of the town comes from the Cebuano word “tubod,” which means spring. The place was named Tuburan since it has numerous springs spread in and around the boundary of the town.