PROFILE OF REGIONAL EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
DATU TUNGKO M. SAIKOL
Manuela A. Calungsod-Locsin*
Datu Tungko M. Saikol saw the first light of day on the 20th of November of 1968 in Barangay Tumaguinting, Northern Kabuntalan (Population: 2,180 as of May 1, 2010) in Maguindanao Province. He was born to spouses Datu Mohammad Saikol M. Dika, Al-Haj, former Municipal Mayor of the town, and Bai Saadah K. Mulod, a housewife.
The young Tungko already showed brilliance while studying in his local elementary school in Kabuntalan where he graduated second honors. Eager to spread his wings, he moved to Cotabato City for his high school studies where he emerged among the Top 15 of the graduating class of 1985 in the main campus of the Cotabato City National High School, the biggest public school in that city in terms of population.
In his desire to widen his horizon, this Muslim Maguindanaoan set out to study in a leading Catholic School in Davao City. Life in this highly urbanized city was far from rosy because this tenth child in a brood of 12 had to augment his meager allowance, hence he took a job while studying. He stood his ground to remain in that big city against the wishes of some of his relatives. Like the protagonist of a story who emerges victorious in the end, “Tong”, as he is fondly called by family and friends, persevered and succeeded. He graduated with a degree in A.B. Communication Arts from the Ateneo de Davao University in 1990.
After graduation, he taught in a private college in Cotabato City where he served for one year. His quest for knowledge led him to the metropolis where he took and finished his Master of Arts degree from the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City. While taking his first year in graduate studies, he also worked as a Graduate Assistant in UP.
He was initiated into local politics when he was elected as Kabataang Barangay Federation President and as such, an ex-officio member of the Sangguniang Bayan. In 1993, he was hired as a contractual media staff of the Office of then Senator Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and was extended a co-terminus appointment as Legislative Staff Officer II from 1994 to 1997 with designation as Regional Political Officer for Region XII and ARMM.
His personality was shaped not only in the home and in school but by the different situations and people he was exposed to. While an activist who espoused human, religious and student rights, Datu Tungko got the chance to meet top political and religious leaders in the Philippines and abroad. In fact, he had that rare chance of meeting the highest official of the Catholic Church at that time, Pope John Paul II, while attending the International Religious Dialogue in Italy in 1994.
His longing to be near his young family in General Santos City led him to work with the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD) in Cotabato City from 1997 to 2001 as the Chief Secretariat of the 81-member Consultative Assembly with the rank of a Division Chief, after which as Acting Director for Special Concerns from.
He was given a break in the executive service of the national government when he was appointed in 2001 as Regional Director of the newly relocated Environmental Management Bureau in Koronadal City, a position he held for 11 long years. In October 15, 2012, he was designated by DENR Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje as OIC-Regional Executive Director of DENR Region XII.
As part of his work as a government executive, RED Saikol had attended local and foreign trainings, conferences, and study tours on environment and cultural exchange which brought him to countries in Asia like Thailand, Cambodia, Singapore,Malaysia, Japan, China, and South Korea; Italy and the United Kingdom in Europe; and the United States. Some of the trips were in connection with his membership with the Rotary Club of Marbel where he was the President from 2006-2007.
RED Saikol holds the title of a Sultan as a descendant of a Maguindanaoan Royalty. He is married to the beautiful and talented Chinese-Maguindanaon mestiza, Czarina Siao Saikol, a professor at Mindanao State University - General Santos City, with whom he has four teen- aged girls.
Indeed, life has been good to this 13th Regional Executive Director in the 25- year history of DENR XII. More or less a month before his 44th birthday in 2012, he has taken the reins of this 800-strong national government agency. Borrowing from former U.S. President Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), his guiding principle in life is “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.” Certainly, this versatile, soft-spoken and down-to-earth government executive is standing on solid ground.
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*Chief, Regional Public Affairs Office, DENR, Region XII, City of Koronadal.