Leading the Rotary


Media practitioner Matè Espina, never thought that getting chosen to be the District Governor for 2023-2024 of Rotary International District 3850 which covers Negros Occidental, Panay and Western Mindanao would stir some excitement, but it did.

“I guess it has something to do with being a woman and coming at the heels of Rotary International getting its first female President after over a century of existence,” Matè said, referring to Rotary President Elect, Jennifer Jones, who made history after getting elected to lead over a million Rotarians worldwide come 2022.

Matè Espina, second from left, was presented as Rotary District Governor Nominee Designate for the first time to the assembly. With her are (l-r) Past District Governor Jundad Legislador, District Governor Louie Gonzaga, District Governor Nominee for 2022, John Michael Ng, and Past District Governor Phil Abello.

Matè is a member of the Rotary Club of Bacolod Central since 2003 and proudly claims that the first lady governor of District 3850 is also from her club – Nanette Garcia – who served during Rotary’s Centennial Year in 2004.

“It is a feat for our club because I am going to be the second district governor to represent Bacolod Central and will be the third lady governor in our district, 15 years later since Past District Governor Emma Nava of RC Iloilo City served in 2008,” she added.

Matè flanked by her sons, Julio (left) and Giancarlo (right)

Matè admitted she is quite overwhelmed with the reactions and expectations and has hit the ground running, preparing for her stint two years from now.

“My life under this pandemic has revolved around Zoom meetings and in fact in the coming weeks, I will be attending a virtual Rotary Leadership Institute training program that will hopefully equip me with tools on how to better lead the district during my term,” she said.

She added that although it was never part of her dream to be a district governor, “I am up to the challenge, and with more time on my hands, I believe I can deliver.”

The Espina siblings, the last time they were complete, (seated left to right) Jay, Grace, and May; (standing l-r) Toto, Mary Anne, Junjun, Inday, Matè, Malou, Nonoy and Nenen. Grace and Toto passed away in recent years.

Matè explained that the timing is quite right as well as she has more free time on her hands, now that her two sons, Julio and Giancarlo, are both working and leading their own lives. Julio works in the corporate world in Manila while Giancarlo is a chef in Singapore.

It would have been unimaginable years ago as she was a single mother raising two kids and depending on meager income from being a journalist, she said, adding “I owe my strength to family and friends.”

Matè comes from a big family of 11 children sired by the late journalist, Rolly Espina and former CLMMRH hospital chief, Dr. Lourdes Espina.

“Growing up in a big family was quite challenging as we each have to look for our own niche and we were all competitive,” she said. We either chose arts or medicine, greatly influenced by our parents, she added.

RC Bacolod Central contingent to the Rotary International Convention in Toronto, Canada. (l-r) Arch. Rolem Basiya, Toks Lopez, Matè and Arch. Robert Aguillon

Thus, early on in her life, Matè became a member of the Philippine Bayanihan Dance Company and later on, joined her sisters, Mary Anne and Nenen, a pianist and soprano respectively, in musical theater under Tanghalang Pilipino at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Theater opened opportunities for me and my first travels outside of the country was because of performing arts, she said, which is also why it remains her first love as she continues to dabble in performing and directing to date.

Rotary also opened the opportunities for her, she said. “I have seen the world in different lenses because of Rotary. I’ve built friendship in my Rotary travels and after 18 years as a Rotarian, I think I have been, what they call, Rotarized,” Matè added. – NWI