Life will always throw a curveball when you least expect it—and it would always be for the best, in hindsight. For San Juan Mayor Francis Zamora, who just graduated from De La Salle University, he was enjoying life and basketball. Fresh from winning back-to-back University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) basketball championships then, the 6’5” team captain of the Green Archers continued to play under the Philippine Basketball League. He eventually got drafted into the Philippine Basketball Association which is every basketball players’ dream.
But an even better life was laid out for him, starting off with the birth of their firstborn and only daughter Amanda. “I was really excited,” Francis says with a spark in his eyes. Fast forward to today, one can see from his social media accounts how proud he is of his family of six. His wife Keri, four children, and the City of San Juan dominate his posts—a sign of how dedicated he is as a husband, father, and mayor.
Being a father earlier than most of his peers, did he encounter challenges? “I just learned along the way,” an answer most parents know all too well. Francis also makes sure he has time set aside for the people who matter, starting with his family. “I was present in all of Keri’s deliveries. In fact, all four children, I cut their umbilical cords,” shares the father-of-four.
This doting father enjoys spending his day with his family, from attending each and every child’s sportsfest and family day to squeezing in lunch and dinner at home. “As mayor, it helps that my job is also here in San Juan. If I’m free for lunch, I go home and spend time with them.” When time permits, the family goes on pockets of getaways. “I love going out of town with them. A change of scenery is always good for your body and mind. But having simple lunch and dinner at home is something I also enjoy. Every single moment with my children is significant.”
As seen from his social media posts, it is clear that he spends one-on-one dates with each family member as he gives individual importance to all of them. “All my children have different personalities. You just have to adapt to all of them. You cannot treat them all the same way,” he realizes. He also notes that because they are a generation apart, views are different. But though they may vary in opinions, Francis respects and tries to understand their world. “As long as they grow up to be responsible, kind-hearted, and hardworking, that’s okay with me.”
Supportive of all his children’s dreams, it fills him with pride to witness each of them getting closer to fulfilling them. For one, Amanda finally got into the latest season of Pinoy Big Brother and is now an ABS-CBN talent and Bench model. “The best thing about her is her drive. She never gave up. She persevered and eventually reached her dream” Basketball varsity player Rocco reminds Francis of himself when he was Rocco’s age. “I can see myself in him now. His passion to excel and to improve. He’s driven and goal-oriented.” Ten-year-old Nicolas is a certified digital native whom Francis describes as an artist. “He loves to dance, likes gadgets, and does a lot of TikTok videos and is very good at it.” Eight-year-old Noah loves basketball and has just started getting into boxing. Their youngest child still sleeps with Francis and Keri, so they get to spend more time with him before going to sleep. “You can tell that, even at a young age, he is very cerebral. He thinks a lot, analyzes, and processes things in his mind.” The two younger boys might still be very young, but Francis is equally proud of the two of them. “There’s so much to be proud of. They would always share with us how they excel in school.”
Having four children can get overwhelming, add the entire City of San Juan and all its governance complexities, and we wonder how Francis can take it all in with a smile on his face and a calming aura to match. “I enjoy what I’m doing. I don’t consider it as a job. It’s my passion and that’s what’s important— to have the passion to serve your people. There are a lot of responsibilities, especially now that we are in a pandemic. It is really challenging, but it also is a test of your leadership skills.”
Every single day since the pandemic, mayors have been in the frontlines and have seen the hardest of hits which is why his personal goal is to make sure that his constituents surpass this challenge. From PCR testing, contact tracing, isolation, treatment, ayuda, and the vaccination process, Francis’ main goal now is to vaccinate every single qualified person. “That is really my objective now. My focus is really to vaccinate everyone qualified in terms of age and health status, to be able to give them, their families and loved ones protection from the virus.
If there’s one common denominator on how the San Juan mayor runs his life at home and at work, it’s him being hands on with everything. “I make sure I communicate with my constituents, my team, and with our employees.” He values each and every team member, and makes sure that he spends time with all of them, including his 2019 pre-pandemic birthday celebration where he had a boodle fight lunch with his San Juan city hall employees. Everyone appreciated his effort, telling him that it was their first time to celebrate with the mayor. “It was very natural for me,” Francis adds, saying that he is very approachable, people can easily talk to him. He always treats them with respect.
He ends the interview with this piece of fatherhood advice, “Nothing can ever come close to family time, to being close to our children, to being a hands-on father. Our children will grow up and, eventually, have their own families. At least, when the time comes, they will always remember that when they were young, they had a father who really dedicated love, time, and attention to them.”