SAN FERNANDO CITY, La Union – Former City Mayor Mary Jane C. Ortega bagged the 1st Sonia R. Lorenzo Award, a recognition for outstanding women in leadership and good governance, sponsored by the University of Sto. Tomas (UST) and Kaya Natin, a non-government organization advocate for good governance and ethical leadership.

Ortega was chosen by a panel of judges from among five outstanding women finalists– four from Luzon and one in Mindanao– for her successful Barangay Development Strategy, a program she designed for this city, that aligned all the goals of the barangays.

“I was overwhelmed when the judges picked me as the winner,” Ortega said.

Ortega was described by the judges as ‘a strong epitome of women empowerment, which is evident on her active participation in various organizations that promote the women’s rights in the society.’

She received a plaque and a cash award of P50,000.

The four other finalists were Baguio City councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda, councilor Arlene Jane Alvarez-Reyes of Santiago City, Mayor Janet de Leon-Mercado of Taytay, Rizal; and Mayor Evelyn Tang-Uy of Dipolog City.

Tabanda was recognized for creating the People’s Congress, an advocacy for transformative leadership, while Reyes was cited for upholding the importance of civil society by treating them as partners in governance.

Mercado was the first-ever female mayor who initiated the ‘I Love Taytay’ which generated an estimated 36, 301 jobs, while Tang-Uy was commended for her servant leadership.

Those who served as judges and were present during the awarding rites at the UST on Dec. 7 were former Pampanga Governor Among Ed Panlilio, Interior and Local Government Secretary Josefina Castilla-Go, Dr. Dennis Coronacion, chair of the UST’s Department of Political Science, and Jess Lorenzo, son of the late Sonia Lorenzo.

Sonia Lorenzo who served for 12 years as mayor of San Isidro, Nueva Ecija, became known for her exemplary leadership which transformed the town from 5th class to a 2nd class municipality. She has been likened to the late DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo.

In his short speech during the awarding ceremony, the younger Lorenzo said, “The five women leaders may have different personalities, leadership style and advocacy initiatives, but one thing is common among them: the heart and capacity to serve.” JUN ELIAS/VA/NortboundPH