LEYTE, Leyte—While others hide in the closet, the mayor of Leyte, a sleepy town in Leyte province, is proud to be gay.
Mayor Arnold James Ysidoro says his sexuality doesn’t affect how he leads his 37,000 constituents.
“I never hide my being gay. The people of my town know my personality and I have nothing to be ashamed of. They have accepted me for what I am,” said Ysidoro, 53, who sports a shoulder-length hair.
Ysidoro was elected mayor in 1998 and won two more terms in 2001 and 2004. Due to the constitutional term limit, he stepped down in 2007. His older brother, Armando, took over as mayor for one term.
In 2010, Ysidoro ran again and won. A United Nationalist Alliance candidate, he is now seeking reelection against the Liberal Party’s Ma. Victoria David, daughter of Rep. Andres Salvacion of Leyte’s third district.
Though he is “happy and gay,” Ysidoro said that when he was first asked to run for mayor to replace his father, Romeo, whose term was ending in 1998, he was apprehensive, fearing that his opponents might use his sexuality against him.
“In politics, anything goes,” he said.
Indeed, his rivals pounced on his sexual preference and called him unfit to serve. “I was hurt. But I learned to ignore them even if they were relentless in calling me names relative to my sexuality,” he said.
The black propaganda didn’t work. Ysidoro went to win, and, more than that, he had earned the respect of his people.
PO2 Manuel Carel, municipal police finance officer, said the policemen didn’t mind that their mayor was gay, stressing that it did not affect his governance.
In fact, he said, the mayor was very strict, especially when it came to peace and order. Ysidoro does not hesitate to put troublemakers behind bars, he said.
“He is professional when he deals with us, coupled with the fact that he gives us his total support by providing us necessary equipment like vehicles,” Carel said.
Rosalyn Delima, 40, of Barangay Poblacion, described Ysidoro as a “good mayor.”
“He attends to the needs of his people. He always visits the barangays and asks residents what their problems are,” she said.
The mayor wants every work done on time, said Cristina Poliño, a youth development officer of the municipality’s social welfare and development office.
“He hates it when he learns that our clients have been waiting for hours before they are attended to. He berates us when he sees that what we are doing is not correct. Of course, he does it at his office and not in public,” Poliño said.
Ysidoro described himself as a “hands-on” mayor who would often visit Leyte’s 30 barangays to know the people’s concerns, such as health, peace and order and even personal family matters. He deals with the problems personally and finds satisfaction in being able to address these.
Before, he said, he was a “bitch” and did not like to mingle with strangers. But that changed when he became a mayor.
“I have learned to [accept] how they actually live. I have to deal with the common people, which I truly enjoy,” he said.
After serving 12 years as mayor, Ysidoro still has plans for the fourth-class municipality (annual income: P75 million), located more than 90 kilometers from the capital of Tacloban City.
If given a fresh mandate, he wants to give priority to the construction of farm-to-market roads and day-care centers, and the beautification of the town.
Asked about his love life, Ysidoro admitted that he ended a four-year romance with a man from Davao two years ago. “We remain friends,” he said. So far, he had at least four serious relationships which lasted two to five years.
The mayor swore that he never had a relationship with someone from Leyte. “While there were some who openly flirted with me, I never gave in. I have to respect my position,” he said.
Although he is gay, Ysidoro said he was not subscribing to same-sex marriage. “That kind of relationship does not last anyway.”