Born in Campo Uno, Lamitan, Basilan Province to a pure Chinese father and an Ilongo mother, Rosita Sirilan Sumergido Uy led a normal childhood with her very hardworking parents and eight siblings in Barangay Campo Uno, a small barrio seven kilometers off Lamitan Poblacion in the then Island City of Basilan. She was especially close to her brothers, often climbing trees and playing in the streets like one of the boys. The siblings took after their entrepreneur parents, learning the value of hard work, prudence and patience, eventually becoming businessmen themselves in their adult lives.
Life became hard in the 1970s as Martial Law set in. Days before the Battle of Campo Uno where the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) launched an attack on December 31, 1972, the family, along with hundreds of other families from their own and other neighboring barrios, had to evacuate to Lamitan Poblacion to get out of harm’s way.
The family of Roderick “Oric” Furigay who would later become her husband also moved to the poblacion from Barangay Tumahubong, Sumisip. It was in Lamitan where the young Oric first caught a glimpse of the beauteous young Rose who was perched on top of a wooden sink washing the dishes. The bond of the young boy who would later on become Mayor of Lamitan and the rather reticent and shy girl was so strong it went beyond marriage into a powerful and now unopposed political tandem in Basilan.
Life seemed to run roughshod over the young and gentle Rose with the deaths of her father at the young age of 52, of a brother with a small buy and sell business who was held up and shot to death by lawless elements while driving his motorcycle in 1987, and of another entrepreneur brother who was killed in the same manner by another group of lawless elements in 2006. In fighting and overcoming life’s trials, she took inspiration from her strong-willed mother who remained unperturbed by life’s blows and who, although merely a high school graduate but armed with business acumen skills acquired from her husband, managed to raise her brood, making tough decisions to ensure that her children get the best education that the family could afford.
Rose stayed with her eldest sister in Cebu City for college, finished her B. S. Pharmacy degree from the University of San Carlos cum laude, and passed the licensure examinations in the same year. She eventually became a successful businesswoman, having established 17 branches of pawnshops in Cebu, Zamboanga and Basilan. When her husband-mayor and 15 other municipal mayors were battling for their case for cityhood at the Supreme Court, Rose extended moral and financial support, with Lamitan, in fact, having contributed the biggest share in the pool of money that the municipalities had to raise for their defense before the High Court.
When the three terms of her husband-mayor was about to end in 2013, just a few months short of the Supreme Court decision upholding the cityhood of Lamitan and of 15 other municipalities, Basilan Congressman Jim Hataman Salliman and ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) Regional Governor Mujiv Hataman took pains to convince Rose to temporarily succeed her husband for three years after which the latter would take the reins again. The Hataman brothers considered it crucial to have somebody continue the efforts of the mayor who had fought long and hard for Lamitan’s cityhood. Although a reluctant candidate, Rose Furigay eventually became a household name in 2013 after winning by almost 3,000 votes against her husband’s nephew.
More than her good looks, wit and charm, she is a transformational leader who has garnered the trust, respect, and admiration of her followers because of her strength of vision and personality, and her ability to motivate and inspire people, especially the LGU staff to maintain efficient public offices and to treat each constituent with utmost individual consideration, the local government council to conscientiously exercise and perform their functions as conferred by law, the 45 barangay chairpersons to efficiently work and deliver services to the communities that they represent and serve, and her LGU contemporaries in Basilan and nationwide to work toward common goals.
Despite her gracious and congenial persona, she is one who exacts efficiency from LGU officials and her staff, prodding them to work beyond expectations, and creating an office culture where employees work with passion and cooperation. She speaks her mind out to correct errors, but is quick in rebuilding morale and in encouraging a positive outlook on work. In only three years and her first ever term of office, the first ever lady mayor of Lamitan, who is also the only Christian mayor among 11 municipalities and Lamitan City under the ARMM, and the first unopposed mayor in Lamitan in an election, has, among various awards and recognitions, already been recognized as the Civil Service Commission-ARMM’s 2014 Regional Outstanding Lady Executive (ROLE) particularly for her dedication to the learning and development of the local officials and employees and last 2016 she was the only elected official to be awarded the HAP PAG-ASA.
During her term, the Lamitan LGU has garnered the following awards and distinctions: Seal of Good Housekeeping for CY 2012; Most Supportive LGU under the ARMM Social Fund Project; Gawad Kalasag Award for Best Prepared City for Local Disaster Coordinating Team and DRRM Measures; Civil Service Commission PRIME-HR Level II Accreditation; Finalist/Runner up for ARMM’s One LGU One Good Governance Award for its entry, “Road to an Abante Lamitan Kong Mahal: The Public Market Project;” Top 10 Remitting Agencies for PhilHealth LHIO Basilan; has passed 4 of 6 assessment areas for the DILG’s Seal of Good Local Governance. And in 2016, finally, Lamitan City is one of the LGUs who was awarded the SEAL OF GOOD LOCAL GOVERNANCE.
Her administration has also successfully implemented the following programs and campaigns: infrastructure projects amounting to over P2 billion thus making a significant impact in economy, tourism, disaster risk management and social development; fully implemented the Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan of Lamitan City; institutionalized the Reaching Out Serving Everyone (ROSE) Caravan; conducted year-round environmental activities such as tree planting and mangrove planting activities; mobilized CDRRM Council; intensified the CDRRM Plan of Lamitan City; and prioritized marginalized groups such as senior citizens’, women’s, PWDs’, and Barangay Health Workers’ groups.
The lady mayor and her husband have also established and developed strong ties with the military and police who harmoniously work together in helping maintain law and order in the city. Highly intelligent as she is, the studious lady executive has also empowered herself by attending all possible seminars and workshops to improve and hone her skills in local governance, including “Prepare U: Training in Local Governance” at the University of the Philippines, and “Health Leadership for the Poor” training under the Zuellig Family Foundations and USAID.
Despite her achievements, Mayor Rose has maintained her simplicity, refusing ostentatious display of wealth and power. She even actively engages in social media to keep in touch with her constituents. For her warmth and for her humility in engaging with people from all walks of life, she has gained fame nationwide and around the globe. The “Rose of Lamitan” has become an exemplar of good personality stemming from a natural concern for others, of good leadership and governance and, above all, of good motherhood to her twins Kelsey Rose Marian and Hannah Rose Marian who are themselves exemplars of youth in bearing and achievements in all their personal endeavors. Last May 9, 2016, Mayor Rose Furigay, along with her vice-mayor husband Roderick Furigay, ran unopposed, proof of her constituents’ and supporters’ trust and confidence in her and her husband’s transformational leadership.