April 2, 2023

Brutally frank but humble leaders could still inspire subordinates to work better.

This is what educators in Benguet learned from the late representative Nestor B. Fongwan, whose leadership style and caring attitude towards school children motivated them to do better in their job.

Personnel of the Department of Education-Benguet, who were among those who paid tribute to the late Benguet leader, recounted how his straightforward but humble attitude inspired them to perform their works better.

Among other things, the educators recalled that they were not spared from Fongwan’s keenness to details when at one time, a lapse in their spelling went unnoticed.

“There was a time when (a colleague) misspelled the game, lawn tennis, and instead wrote “loan” tennis. He corrected us but did it in a good way. He was a leader who corrects errors in a manner that is appreciated by those whom he is correcting, rather than being humiliated,” said Lucio Alawas, chief education supervisor of DepEd-Benguet.

Alawas was one of the many individuals and groups that delivered their respective tributes to the late Benguet representative.

He said Fongwan’s genuine concern for the welfare of the school children motivated the educators to also perform their work better.

“He was very much concerned about the students. One of his priority programs is for the learners, which inspired us, teachers, to do better,” Alawas said.

“He taught us a lot about management and leadership. He lectured us, even if we were on the ground (working) and we appreciate that. This is why we feel we lost someone who really cares for us.”

DepEd Curriculum Implementation Division Chief Rizalyn Guznian shared Alawas’ recollections of Fongwan.

She said the late Benguet leader’s being learner-focused was seen not only in his presence in every DepEd activity, but also on how he invested in school building construction, which started when he was still the mayor of Benguet’s capital town, La Trinidad.

“(He) has always been an advocate of youth formation, understanding and supportive of our learners’ situation. When sent to competitions, he comes to personally see if the vehicle for our athletes is ok,” Guznian said. 

She also recalled Fongwan’s concern for the health of the learners.

“We remember (him) telling the kids not to take carbonated drinks or junk food because these are not good.”

In 2015, when he was the governor, Fongwan ordered DepEd-Benguet to ban the sale of junk foods and carbonated and energy drinks in school canteens to arrest the increasing cases of illnesses among children that are traced to their consumption of junk foods and carbonated drinks.

“(He was) DepEd’s friend and family member. (He has) touched the lives of many at DepEd. (His) being straightforward made us realize that he was a father, a leader, and our guide. From his words of wisdom, we learned a lot. We learned to always be ready with our reports. He really has shown great servant-leadership,” said Guznian.

DepEd-Benguet Schools Division Superintendent Benilda Daytaca said while she did not have the opportunity to work closely with Fongwan, she was able to see and understand why the late leader earned the moniker “Action Man.”

“I have heard positive things about how he works. I have learned how our students benefitted from his programs and felt his mantra of ‘bringing the government closer to the people’,” she said. – Jane B. Cadalig