Matino, Mahusay, Tsinelas Leadership

By Jess Lorenzo

Posted at Dec 01 2012 10:53 AM | Updated as of Dec 01 2012 06:56 PM

It has been over 100 days since the parting of Sec. Jesse Robredo.  We continue to recollect the life he has lived.  Many have stopped looking for answers to understand why Sec. Jesse was a Good Governance icon.  While others, like us, move on to establish handles to create a generative understanding of what he signified.

As Sec. Jesse’s image gradually fades into a memory, we continue to work to glean the lessons of good governance and servant leadership that Sec. Jesse became.  For the past day or so, I have been thinking about words that would remind me of who Sec. Jesse was.

Matino, Mahusay, Tsinelas Leadership.  These are the words that remain in the memory of most that know him.  It became the epitaph of his leadership style that was highlighted in the state funeral granted in his wake.


In means what it connotes; sensible.  It is the kind of leadership based on responsible judgment and practical thinking.  By responsible, this means Sec. Jesse’s kind of leadership looks at the need and the greater good of the community.  By responsible, it also means being a good steward, which equates to being accountable to the resources put under his charge.  It also means practical; that is implementing realistic solutions that work on the ground.

The word also captures sobriety as a leader.  It means being clearheaded and calm in times of crisis.  It also means abstinence or someone with self-discipline.

This simplifies the definition of integrity and it cuts across our culture.  It does away with the burden of defining integrity and the different connotations and perspectives that encumber it.  It can also be a verb that is a call to action: Magpakatino ka. Which also means, ‘Be responsible.’


Mahusay is defined as efficient and effective.  An efficient leader means that resources are maximized and translated to benefit.  Effective, on the other hand, denote results that are consistent to the intended goals.

Mahusay also connotes excellence and skill.  To me, this word brings to mind the image of an athlete who is used to rigorous training that results to sharpened skills.  He or she is a person used to practice and systematic improvement, conscious of indicators such as time, resources and capacity. It connotes result-oriented leaders who base their goals on figures while being keenly aware of their capacity to perform.


The word brings more connotation than its literal meaning.  This brings an image of simplicity and sincerity.  It brings to mind a leader who is grounded to the needs of the people much like Mohandas Gandhi or Jesus Christ.

I was also curious at how people I know maintain a handle of how they understand and live these values.  So, I texted some friends and solicited what they feel these words where to them.

Gerry Esquivel, MWSS (Metropolitan Waterworks & Sewerage System) Administrator said, “Jesse yan diba?  This was from an Ateneo student, ‘The Bigger Arena of Charity is in Government Service.’”  Gerry and his wife Beng have been giving to charity as a big part of their family value and activity.  When I met them, I have always seen them try to give more.  It seems that Gerry has found that the best way to give is to dedicate a big part of yourself in service to the government as Sec. Jesse had.  From his text, it seems that he has already made Sec. Jesse as a standard in giving.

Kaya Natin Champion Sonia Lorenzo said, “Matino is God fearing with right values, Mahusay is competent & with skill to do the job. Tsinelas is compassion for common people.  I feel this is a clear, simplified definition of what an effective leader should be.”

Rose Fausto, author of the book Raising Pinoy Boys texted, “Matino connotes straight, trustworthy, reliable, good morals. Mahusay is more on efficiency and effectiveness, skill, expertise, galing.  Tsinelas connotes something pangmasa.  This kind of leadership connotes good governance that touches the common people, it's honest leadership that can be understood & felt by the regular ‘Juan’ whereas good governance sounds a bit boardroom level. These terms touch the teleserye hearts of the Pinoys.”

Harvey Keh, a trustee of the Robredo Foundation and lead convenor of Kaya Natin, said, “I feel that this is Sec. Jesse Robredo. These are the words that are now associated with Good Governance & Ethical Leadership.”

Another change-maker and a strong advocate of good governance in Nueva Ecija, Fr. Jeff dela Cruz of the Diocese of Cabanatuan weighed in with this thought, “Para sa akin ito ang pamumuno na naka batay sa katwiran, sapat na kaalaman at hindi iniisip ang pansariling pangangailangan.”

Fr. Bert Alejo, SJ  also gave a good one,
“MATINO: Likas sa kanya ang paggawa ng tama at pag-iwas sa mali, kaya maipagkakatiwala mo sa kanya ang anak mo o ang boto mo.
MAHUSAY: Nagagawa ang dapat gawin sa paraang pulido, tama sa oras, walang aksaya, malikhain.
TSINELAS: Nakatapak sa lupa, madaling lapitan ng karaniwang tao, hindi mahirap kausapin, hindi mataas, nakikinig, nandoon agad sa pangangailangan.

Department of Transportation and Communication Secretary Jun Abaya also responded and said, “This is what a public servant should be. This should be the basis of electing people into public office.”

One of the Kaya Natin Founders, Among Ed Panlilio contributed, “Matino-ethical, empowering people, nagsasakripisyo, hindi nagpapamayanan, may isang salita, naninindigan sa tama, mahinahon. Mahusay-kasama ng mga tao natutugunan ang mga problema at pangangailangan nila, nakakapagpaabot ng mga basic services na kailangan ng tao, naiaangat ang kalidad ng buhay ng mga tao. Tsinelas-kakayahang abutin ang estilo ng panumuhay ng mga maralita, walang maraming bagahe kaya mabilis na kumilos at tumugon, pwede siyang abutin ng mga payak na tao.”

A friend of mine and his son answered the questions together and came up with these: “The tsinelas guys we know of & admire are Emilio Javier, Jesse Robredo, PNoy; Jose Rizal & Bonifacio.” From their answers, I suppose they tried to understand these values thru real people that they have come to know or have studied.  I also admire that they answered my text as a father and son.

My cousin Precy Perez said it reminds her of our grandfather.  She remembers my grandfather, close to the people, riding a motorcycle around town wearing slippers most of the time.

Another classmate of mine in Cornell, DOF (Department of Finance) Undersecretary, Sunny Sevilla, contributed, “Ang matino, yung gumagawa ng tama dahil iyon ang tama, at wala nang hinahanap pang ibang dahilan para gumawa ng tama.

Ang mahusay, yung sinasagad ang kanyang kakayahan at kaalaman para makamit ang kanyang layunin.

Ang tsinelas leadership, yung pamumuno sa pamamagitan ng gawa. Yung tipong ginagalang at sinusundan dahil sa kanyang sipag at malasakit, hindi dahil sa kayamanan, pinag-aralan, o pusisyon.”

Comelec Commissioner Grace Padaca texted: “Matino ay hindi nanloloko.  Mahusay means he knows what he's doing and where he’s going. 
Tsinelas connotes being unaffected with power, having absolutely no sense of entitlement”

Kaya Natin Champion, Congressman Bolet Banal responded as well, He said,"Matino at mahusay" reminds me of Sec Jess and of how he was as a government official -- ethical yet effective. ‘Tsinelas leadership’ on the other hand reminds me of how Sec Rene Almendras described Sec Jesse's leadership style, one that closely matched his modest lifestyle. This made him less intimidating and more accessible, traits commonly found in empowering leaders.”

In my Facebook, Rodelle Lavarias and Nap Beltran said it is about nobility in leadership and public service. It means being transparent, accountable, and effective.

Nonito Cabrera, former Kaya Natin team said, it is Sec. Jesse’s legacy.  He did not boast but he simply worked and achieved.

Alexia Anza posted, “May paninindigan para sa bayan at matatag na ehemplo ng bawat mamayan.  May pag-ibig sa bayang sinilangan.  Gumagawa ng walang alinlangan na ang nasa isip ay mamayan at hindi pansarili lamang.”

Ceny Gunnacao mentioned that the words connoted empathy and connection to the people that is served... being one with the Filipino who is innately simple & good.

Suzy Roxas, another Facebook friend describes the image of a man in solidarity with street kids.

From the responses, I see that different people seem to have a personal connection with these words.  They create a better illustration of what an ethical leader is; someone who moves with the people to empower towards good governance.  I also notice people setting standards that they seem to also aspire by seeing themselves or loved ones as one like Jesse Robredo.  I also sense others getting a hold of these values thru personalities and people that have made an impression in their life.

However you may see these words, Rose Fausto was right; these better describe the leader that we need than words like Good Governance, Ethical, Empowering, and Integrity.  These terms are too heavy.  Try translating these traits starting with ‘Empowering’ and you will know what I mean.

When we try to literally translate these terms, we end up losing our thoughts and we fail to communicate our sentiment.  Could it be that we have such a limited inventory of Tagalog words that capture the meaning?  Or perhaps we lack the experience that make up the collective memory of what an empowering leader is?

Be that as it may, what seems apparent now is that we have set a new description of the kind of leadership we need and long for.  These words suddenly became the equivalent of good governance, ethical, and empowering leadership that Sec. Jesse Robredo exemplified.  He lived a short life but enough to leave a memory in all of us the type of leader that we need and must strive for. 

Matino, Mahusay, Tsinelas Leadership.
As Amie Hernandez and Marisa Lerias, two of our Kaya Natin Core Group said... It is humble. It is Simply Jesse.

If you would like to know more of the life that Sec. Jesse lived. Visit the Jesse Robredo Exhibit at SM Mall of Asia on December 14 to 16.  This is organized by The Robredo Foundation, Kaya Natin Movement for Good Governance & Ethical Leadership, Ateneo School of Government, and SM Foundation.

Comments are welcome at [email protected] or private message through Facebook. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @jesslorenzo for stories of good governance.

Jess Lorenzo is currently the program director of Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership's public health initiatives. @kayanatin on Twitter

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.