MAYOR Krisel Lagman-Luistro is the female leader of the City of Tabaco in the province of Albay in the Philippines. The city is surrounded by volcanoes and waterfalls – home to the Mayon Volcano, the most active volcano in the Philippines and, thus, it is used to experiencing natural disasters, such as typhoons, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions. Mayor Luistro has learned from the experience and put her background and perspective in place to lead and manage the pandemic challenge with minimum casualties.

Based on experience with natural disasters, Mayor Luistro knew that the unprecedented health crisis would have a large impact on her community. Although similar in terms of the sudden and massive impact, the pandemic was an unprecedented crisis.

“We are used to emergency response. However, the coronavirus is not about environment. It’s a health calamity. It helped that I’m a nurse. With my public health background, I am exposed to various health issues and concerns,” Mayor Luistro shared with Rappler, a Filipino news source.

Mayor Luistro took action fast, starting with distributing cash aid to members of the community in need identified through a community-based data monitoring system that was maintained since 2008. In addition, Mayor Luistro also collaborated with other local government units to organise a comprehensive response plan.

As a female city leader, Mayor Luistro looked at the challenge through a gender-sensitive lens. A key example that highlighted this was how the City of Tabaco was able to provide for the women who lost their livelihood during the lockdown. Seamstresses who lost their earnings were tapped to produce face masks and personal protective equipment for front liners for the local government to purchase and distribute.

The City of Tabaco had a record of minimum cases. The command centre shared that, as of 15 December 2020, the city had a total confirmed cases of 75 (6 deaths, 69 recovered). This highlights another situation where women leaders have shone through proven contribution.