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Anna Mae Yu Lamentillo

Sep 3, 2021

Who is Cynthia Villar?

Senator Cynthia A. Villar won her first term in the Senate in 2013. She ran for a second term in 2019 and garnered 25 million votes, making her number one in that election. She says these are among her most unforgettable experiences in public service. But as a child born to a political family, she did not see herself becoming a politician.

Senator Cynthia was 13-years-old when her father, Dr. Filemon Aguilar, became Mayor of Las Piñas City. Prior to that, Dr. Aguilar was a local health officer and a barrio doctor, always working along the line of public service.

For Senator Cynthia, her focus was to get educated and become a businesswoman, taking notes from her mother who taught her the value of education and to be hardworking and thrifty. She earned her degree in Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of the Philippines and completed her Master’s in Business Administration at the New York University. She became a financial analyst, college professor, managed a private development bank, and, together with her husband, former Senate President Manny Villar, ventured into entrepreneurship.

But public service was calling her, and so she heeded. In 2001, she ran and won as Representative of Las Piñas. She completed three terms before running for the Senate in 2013. As Congresswoman and Senator, she has authored and sponsored numerous laws on varied issues.

Apart from legislation, she serves the people through the Villar Foundation (now Villar Social Institute for Poverty Alleviation and Governance or Villar SIPAG). A non-stock, non-profit organization which she founded in 1995. Its programs include the poor and the underprivileged, OFW and their families, entrepreneurship and livelihood, health and social services, culture and arts, women and youth; education and urban greening. It has also established livelihood projects in over 3,000 locations nationwide, and spearheaded various programs for the environment. She donated a drug rehabilitation center in Las Pinas.

Cynthia Villar launched the Sagip Ilog project on Dec. 13, 2002, to bring life back into the rivers of Las Piñas. These started the adoption of a city-wide solid waste management practice and the creation of green social enterprises that gave jobs to families in the community.She has institutionalized composting or production of organic fertilizer from kitchen and garden wastes. She promoted the planting of bamboo along the riverbanks and open spaces to assure a steady supply of raw materials to the three generation parol makers of the city. She also built an engineered bamboo factory in Las Piñas. With the use of a decorticating machine the foundation now produces coco nets and coco peatfrom coconut husks for slopeprotection and for pottingmedium to enrich soil. The program won for the foundation the "Water for Life" UN-Water Best Practices Award in 2011.

She legislated the Las Pinas Paranaque Wetland Park as a protected area and donated a wetland center  and a visitors center in the said wetland.

Villar Sipag has expanded and diversified its programs and advocacies in order to reach more people and sectors of the society. It has a plastic recycling facility in three locations nationwide, in Las Pinas, in San Miguel, Iloilo and in Cagayan de Oro City, in Misamis Oriental that produces school chairs given for free to public schools and farm schools nationwide.  It also contributes to the cleaning and protecting of environment by recycling and give jobs to the workers in the factory.

Yearly, Villar SIPAG awards 20 outstanding community enterprises that have contributed to the growth and prosperity of their communities through the Villar Sipag Awards on Poverty Reduction. This is a nationwide search where winners are given cash awards and a trophies in recognition of their work of helping others. For young people, the foundation has the Villar SIPAG - Youth Poverty Reduction Challenge Award, which is a friendly competition young people engaged in social enterprises that help alleviate poverty in their respective communities. Ten winners are selected yearly and each awarded with cash and trophy.

Villar Sipag and Sen. Cynthia has been advocating urban farming or vegetable gardening since 2015, but due to the pandemic where people are on a stay at home mode, she initiated the distribution of vegetable seeds and organic fertilizers all over the country which can provide a solution to hunger, for families to have easy access to nutritious food, provide livelihood, solve poverty-linked hunger and malnutrition and ensure food security.

In crafting laws and in pursuing the mission of Villar SIPAG, Senator Cynthia’s goal is to improve the quality of life of the people and elevate the poor and low income Filipino to middle class status.

The foundation has provided agricultural trainings in its four farm schools located in Las Piñas/Bacoor; San Jose del Monte, Bulacan; San Miguel, Iloilo and in Buhangin, Davao City. Partnering with government agencies and a private foundation, the farm schools teach for free, to make farmers and fisherfolk competitive and profitable with the help of modern technology. She has promoted the establishment of farm schools nationwide which has grown to 2,800 that serve as learning sites for farmers and enthusiasts who are given the opportunity to train on the ways of modern farming with the support of the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

Senator Cynthia has always been a hard worker. She says she is not happy when she’s not working because it is a habit she has developed since childhood, and she was able to pass it on to her children, who are all well-educated and successful in their respective fields: Paolo is the chief executive officer of Vista Land; Secretary Mark heads the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH); and Congresswoman Camille is currently the Representative of the Lone District of Las Piñas.

Amidst all her achievements and awards, Senator Cynthia feels that she has already achieved her dreams and inspiration. But she desires one more thing: To finish her tourist farm and farm school in Las Piñas where she will spend her retirement. Of course, that would include spending time with her family — her husband, children and grandchildren.

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