MANILA, Philippines – It was more than 3 years in the making for Jessa Marie Mendoza, but the patience was all worth it.

“I really believe—I firmly believe that this is all about right timing, and this is our time,” the topnotcher said during the graduation ceremony for the 50th batch of local government operations officer (LGOO) trainees. (READ: ‘Golden Batch’ produces 169 new DILG officers)

Timing is a recurring theme in her story. Twists and turns delayed the moment she had been waiting for, but an almost laser-like focus on the goal kept her from getting derailed. If anything, they made the endgame much sweeter.

Remembering the moment she learned she had bested 168 other graduates in her batch, she said, “It was really unexpected because out of 169 trainees, because we were all equally deserving.” She added that everyone had waited as long as her, or even longer.

Now that Mendoza is a full-fledged LGOO, she can finally live out her dream of entering the DILG. But while she is now part of the elite circle of the training program’s best products—and as a member of the so-called “Golden Batch” at that—her road to this point took several turns.

Waiting in the wings

After graduating in 2013 from the University of the Philippines Diliman, she had hoped to use her Political Science degree in the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG). Instead, she found herself interning and, later, working at the Department of Labor and Employment’s Batangas office.

When she did join the DILG’s CALABARZON office, she learned she could not join the 49th batch because prospective trainees could not join the program until they had at least 6 months of experience as an LGOO.

Her break came in 2015, when the training for the 50th batch officially kicked off. She was one of 179 others with high hopes of finishing the program and becoming an LGOO.

Long hours meant Mendoza—who says she’s at her best when she’s rested—had to find ways to adjust. She and her groupmates worked around this issue by “meeting during breaks to avoid staying up too late,” she explained.

Later, when she underwent the Supervised Field Practice—a 3-month immersion in a city or municipality—she experienced the rigors of being a field officer.

Describing the experience, she said, “The distance and being away from family were difficult.” In the end, however, she believed it was a good experience for her. “We were not limited to the outputs expected of us,” she said, adding that her supervisor, Municipal LGOO Rodalyn Macarandang, encouraged them to join the community’s activities.

“Being assigned to a municipality was refreshing,” Mendoza said of the experience, “You will see the policies you craft at the regional level being implemented.

‘An honor to serve’

Public service has always been in the cards for Mendoza, who saw her entry into the DILG as a better way of using her studies.

“I believed I would be able to give back,” she said, “Being an Iskolar ng Bayan, it was an honor to serve or enter in public service.”

Today Mendoza is doing just that.

Currently assigned to the Batangas Provincial Office, Mendoza was recently appointed LGOO V, making her the chief of the Local Government Monitoring and Evaluation Section.

With the long wait turning into a meteoric rise, Mendoza is going back to basics, saying she plans to “enhance my knowledge and skillset” and attend more training activities.

Given the opportunity, though, she would want to work in the capacity development side. Reflecting on how the Local Government Academy affected her career, she said, “I can really see the fulfillment of [the] trainees,” adding, “you can see the change.”

For those outside the department who want to serve, Mendoza suggested a career as an LGOO. “I believe that we all have a stake in public service and local governance,” she said, “We can make a change by building that foundation, and working at the grassroots level.”

She added, “Believe that you, as an individual can create change.”

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