Coming from a humble family and bestowed with the opportunity of a proper education by the government, Congressman Greg Gasataya is out on a mission to pay it forward and envisions that every Filipino family should have a college graduate in their midst. He represents the lone district of Bacolod City, which garnered the top spot in Visayas with the highest competitive index among highly urbanized cities, and placed 8th overall in the country, besting even many other cities from the National Capital Region (NCR). Let’s get to know the honorable congressman up-close in this Q&A:

1 How did you get into politics?
I am a very simple and ordinary person. I came from a very small family in Bacolod. My father was a driver and my mother was a teacher, but she resigned from teaching and worked fulltime at the church. We grew up on a hand-to-mouth way of life. I used to sell bottles, goodies, just to have additional income. We were renting a small place. Basically, galing sa mahirap na pamumuhay. Probably because of the opportunity given to me to study and get a degree, a lot of things happened to my life. Before politics, I worked as a broadcast journalist for eight years at a radio station in Bacolod. I used to handle the primetime programs.

Come to think of it, we are not a family of politicians. It never entered even my wildest dreams that I would join politics.

In 2001, I was given the opportunity to run as councilor. Out of 69, I landed number 10. I handled the committee on transportation as a tribute to the profession of my dad. In 2004 and 2007, I was already the number one councilor and I handled the committee on education.

I took a break from politics in 2010, but I worked as director of Bacolod City Water District. In 2013, the Party asked me to run for Vice Mayor. I was very hesitant because I was away from politics for a couple of years, but by God’s grace, I was given another opportunity to serve. In 2015, the mayor was suspended, so I was the acting mayor for three months. And in the last elections, I ran and got elected as the congressman in the lone district of Bacolod.

2 What is your leadership style? Why do you think you are effective as a leader?
Nakikinig ako (I listen). Every person that we meet has a story to tell, has opinions, and has inputs, so I like to listen and know what they have to say. I don’t like it to be too formal. You can just approach me anytime and anywhere. That is my style of leadership, probably because of my experiences from the grassroots; I prefer that people can easily talk to me. My advocacies and my policies come from these conversations.

3 What advocacies are dear to you and how are these reflected in your programs/policies?
My main advocacy is education. Because of the privilege given to me by the government, I was able to finish high school and college as a scholar. I’d like to replicate it and give others the same opportunity that was given to me. I focus on education, scholarship programs, and TESDA trainings. I have had this vision since 2004, that every family in Bacolod should have a college graduate. It is not easy, but with the approval of the law, which requires all the SUC’s tuition and miscellaneous fees shouldered by the government (of which is I am one of the co-authors, as I was the Vice Chairperson of the Committee on Higher and Technical Education), that vision is now achievable.

Education is the greatest equalizer. When I am old and gray already, I want to look back and know that I was instrumental in changing the lives of families because I helped them get a diploma.

Another advocacy of mine is health. I remember when my mother got sick, she was constantly in and out of the hospital for more than two years. I had no choice but seek financial aid from people I knew. So when I was given the opportunity to be representative of Bacolod, I focused on this advocacy—prioritize funds in government hospitals which can be utilized by those who are in need.

4 As congressman, what are some of the projects and/or bills that you’ve authored/supported that you are very proud of and why?
It definitely is the universal access to free tertiary education. I believe this is a landmark law that will be able to help a lot of Filipinos achieve their dreams in life.

For Bacolod City, I am now pushing for one college to become a state university, and also for the expansion of the capacity of the regional hospital. We are also working on the establishment of various government offices such as the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC), and many more.”

On the national scale, I also authored a lot of bills but education and health are the ones closest to my heart.

5 What are some of the challenges that Bacolod is facing? How do you aim to address them as congressman?
As with any other highly urbanized city undergoing continued progress, Bacolod is also experiencing what the others are experiencing—the increase in vehicle volume which results in traffic congestion, the concreting of the bigger percentage of the land area, which basically affects the drainage of a highly urbanized city, and the opening of new growth areas.

We are now implementing the construction of the Bacolod-Negros Highway, which will serve as a new growth area, because the city center is already congested. We have to expand and provide new highways for new growth areas.

Bacolod is now the 8th most competitive highly urbanized city in the country and that includes the big cities in NCR; we are number one in the entire Visayas. Bacolod has a lot of potential—from infrastructure developments, to investments coming in, and side-by-side with that are the social services we provide the people.

6 Are there any key programs/projects/bills that you are pushing for this year?
It is the continuation of the budget and appropriation of the Bacolod-Negros Highway and its supporting programs of development. And then the improvement of the drainage system of Bacolod City.

7 What can other LGUs emulate from Bacolod?
Maybe it’s the way of life in Bacolod. We are a highly urbanized city, yet we still are able to maintain the provincial feel. If you want to go fast, you can go fast. If you want to just lay back, you can also do so. That’s why it is very pleasant to live in Bacolod. There are lots of families coming from different parts of Visayas who transfer and stay in Bacolod.

I think it would be great if people could still maintain their way of life and still relax, while cultivating progress and economic development. In Bacolod, we do not have beaches, but our food is delicious, and our way of life is really good. We are trying to preserve that because that is the reason why people come here. Another thing about our city is, we are friendly to investors.

8 How has social media become a tool for advancing your services and communication with your constituents as congressman?
Communication is definitely much faster now. I personally handle all my social media accounts, and if I have time, I read all the messages and comments. It allows me to communicate with the people of Bacolod. That is also their channel for informing me about their feelings, experiences, what they need, and what would be beneficial to them. I must admit that there are some drawbacks, but I focus on the positive things—like how social media makes it easier for me to communicate and interact with our constituents.

9 If you were not into politics, what would you be doing now?
If I were not into politics, I’d most likely still be in public service. I am now on my 25th year as a public servant, I have served in different capacities. This is my way of thanking the people for the opportunity that was given to me. So what I have right now, especially the position given to me, I want to use it so that many will be helped, many will experience the quality of improvement in their lives, and achieve their dreams for their families.

10 What is your vision for your career and for Bacolod?
To help as many as I can to graduate from college. I want that to be my legacy because I believe that once a family has a college graduate, it will definitely improve their lives and it will be paid forward. Education is the greatest equalizer. When I am old and gray already, I want to look back and know that I was instrumental in changing the lives of families because I helped them get a diploma. — MARCO NICANOR

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