UK town welcomes first Filipina Mayor under Labour Party
Words by Siobhan Doyle, UK The team here at Roots and Wings Magazine would like to congratulate our very own UK Bureau Editor, Myla Arceno, for becoming the new Mayor of Stevenage, Hertfordshire in the UK! Her journey to becoming mayor started in 2021 when she was elected as a councillor for the Martins Wood Ward and served on various committees such as auditing and planning & development. Myla was inaugurated as Stevenage Mayor on the 24th of May, and since then has had a busy few days in her post including an annual jobs fair and a park run. Myla says she is looking forward to a fantastic year as mayor and cannot wait to build strong links with charitable, civic, community, cultural, faiths and denominations, military, schools, social and voluntary groups and to acknowledge, celebrate and support diversity in the town. ‘It is an honour to be elected as Mayor of Stevenage,’ she says. ‘I am given this gift of servitude and I will give it back with full of gratitude.’ The now Mayor of Stevenage grew up in Pulupandan, Negros Occidental, a town where everyone knows everyone! Here, she had a happy childhood and was blessed with a good education. She moved to Stevenage from the Philippines in October 2003 with her 5-year-old son, John Benedict, to join her husband, Joseph, who was recruited by the East and North Herts NHS Trust from the Philippines. Over the past 20 years, Myla has worked in various areas of Physiotherapy in Lister and QE2 hospitals and now focuses on her area of expertise as a Cardiac rehab specialist physiotherapist. She will continue to work in Cardiac Rehab Clinic and exercise classes during her Mayoral year. An active member of the Filipino community, Myla is a co-founder of the Stevenage Filipino-British Community and Barrio Fiesta in Hertfordshire and is also a member of the European Network of Filipino Diaspora and was on the Board of Trustees for two years. In November 2022, Myla received an award as one of the most Influential Filipina Women around the world in Lisbon, Portugal. She is also proud of her Clinical Educator award from the University of Hertfordshire. ‘I hope to inspire not only the Filipino community or people in Stevenage, but many whom I crossed paths with,’ Myla adds. ‘Service to your community opens up an array of opportunities.’ Myla also emphasises the importance of diversity within local councils. ‘Diversity creates beauty,’ she says. ‘The variety of communities, different backgrounds and beliefs in council open more ideas. It will help in gaining more understanding into how to manage the constituents.’ Throughout her first year as Mayor, Myla will support four charities: the Douglas Drive Senior Citizens Association, a day centre for senior citizens from Stevenage and surrounding villages; dementia care service Hertswise; local horticultural therapy project The Red Shed; and the Stevenage World Forum for Ethnic Communities. ‘I want to make Stevenage a dementia-friendly town,’ she said during her inaugural address. ‘Dementia has been affecting many people here in Stevenage and worldwide. A simple awareness and understanding [of dementia] will make a big difference.’ ‘My vision is to not only raise awareness and raise funds for my chosen charities,’ she added. ‘I would like it to be a set of cohesive initiatives and projects for as many organisations as we can get involved.’ This is to make the town more accessible for its residents with dementia, their carers and families. Myla has been known within the Filipino community well before she entered politics and is an inspiration to many people within it. She has given back to the community in many ways through her humility and tenacity. ‘My mum is a woman guided strongly by her values and beliefs,’ says her son John who is also her Mayoral consort. ‘She strives to do better and inspire others, and seeing all the success that she’s had really makes me proud.’ Growing up with Tita Myla, Abygail Fraydon - a resident in Stevenage and a family friend of the Arceno family - has always seen her as an inspiration. ‘She, along with other Filipino nurses, came and started a life in a completely different country - a country where everything from the culture, food and language was different to home,’ she says. ‘Now looking at how far she’s come and the impact she is making to both the local and international community is incredible,’ Aby adds. She also admires Myla’s positive attitude and positive outlook in life. Liza Delfin, a friend of Myla who also works in Lister Hospital in Stevenage, describes Myla as a Filipina leader. ‘Mayor Myla is passionate about diversity and inclusivity this shows in promoting Filipino Culture by being an active participant on cultural activities within Hertfordshire and surrounding areas,’ Liza explains. ‘She inspires young generations to embrace their customs and traditions.’ ‘As a core committee of Filipino Community Organisation in Stevenage, I am honoured and privileged to work with her to enhance camaraderie and bayanihan amongst our kababayan.’ Outside of her professional and Mayoral life, Myla likes to keep fit through Zumba and dancing and has a deep love for travelling and exploring other countries outside of the country. Each country she has visited throughout her travels has been a ‘great learning experience’, but Stevenage will always be a home for her and her family. It’s no wonder she is now Stevenage Mayor. Her dedication and passion toward her work, personal and political life - all while being such a kind-hearted and gracious person - is undoubtedly something to admire and look up to. Myla reflects on her time giving back to the community and continuing this process throughout her time as Mayor. ‘What you get in life is what and how you give. Embrace life with love, understanding and kindness,’ she tells Roots and Wings. ‘With my role as Mayor this year, may my actions, my words and my decisions be a reflection of my faith and values,’ she concluded in her inaugural speech. Congratulations, Myla. You have made us all really proud and looking forward to seeing your light shine in your role as Mayor!