Therese Terlaje on “service” and “being real”
That afternoon, Therese Terlaje asked to meet in historical Tagachang Beach, Yona for the brief chat. It was an overcast day, and the slightly turbulent tide lapped up the limestone cliffs. A praying mantis made an uninvited call, placed itself squarely in the middle as if listening in on the conversation. She placed the creature in her hand, and let it stay there before releasing it safely in the grass.
It was refreshing to see a newly elected member of the legislature in a setting apart from the campaign trail, without any artifice.
Terlaje, the senator-elect who made it to the top three in the recent elections, has been described as genuine by voters. “Those were the thing that people would tell me. After the election, they would tell me, ‘you know, that picture of you in the carabao waving, that’s the reason why you won.’ It was so funny that they would tell me that that was the reason. I think it made them nostalgic for the happier days. I think that it also really solidified in their mind that I’m different, or that I’m willing to do different things,” she said.
She admitted to being naturally shy but Terlaje said she was motivated to do something different for Guam. “To get out there everyday and do things that I’ve never done in my entire life.”
On how people see her role in continuing the legacy of service of the late Senator Ben Pangelinan, Terlaje said, “I think people hoped that I would work selflessly like he did. They were hoping that I would fill his shoes, there is no way that I can. They would comment ‘he was so selfless, he worked so hard, Therese, I hope that you could work that hard.’ And, Yes that is my intention.”
She said the entire government of Guam needs to set priorities, especially the Legislature.
Getting the truth, getting the real facts, and the unbiased facts is important to solving recurring issues on Guam. “These are quality of life issues. It’s the roads. It’s water. It’s power. We have programs already but for some reason, they are just falling short,” she said adding that the legislature plays a very unique role in the government check and balance process.
This year's senatorial election was marked by a monumental upset wherein several incumbent lawmakers lost and seven new faces made the cut. “I did not expect that. I was shocked but it was consistent with the people that I’ve talked to. One hundred percent. They pretty much predicted that,” She said, adding “I think this is a lesson for the government, for all of us, that people want to
be heard and they deserve to be heard.”
Terlaje said, “They know that Guam could be better. And they are willing to act.”
Majority of the seven who made the cut are women. Terlaje, who served as a legal counsel at the Guam Legislature, said this is a good thing for the lawmaking body.
“When I decided to run, one of the first things that came to my mind - I’m going to go there and I’m going to help the women, I’m going to add to that voice, I’m going to add to those four. I’m surprised some of them are not going to be there, especially Speaker Won Pat. She has always been a trailblazer for women in the legislature, and women in Guam, in general,” she said.
Terlaje added, “the women that got elected, I know all of them and I am pretty confident that working with them is going to be good for the legislature. We are going to make much needed changes in the legislature.”