As a mayoral candidate, Mr. Aguirre, 47, promised that the smile mandate would be one of his first actions in office. It was his first political campaign; Aguirre said he was his family’s “last hope” of defeating a rival political clan in the province. An occupational therapist, he had returned to the Philippines in 2016 after living with his wife and children in New York for 10 years.
“The fun part was that I worked in the Bronx, one of the toughest neighborhoods there,” he said. “So I’m used to people not smiling.”
When Mulanay residents go to city hall, he said, “they are met with a lot of disappointments because the services are so slow and sometimes the government employees are not that friendly. One of my battle cries during my campaign was to change that behavior.”
Mr. Aguirre joined another newly elected Filipino mayor, Alston Kevin Anarna of Silang, a city of 296,000 in Cavite province, in bringing smiles to everyone. Mr. Anarna, 37, another first-time civil servant, also promised during his campaign that all City Council officials would be taught to smile.
“Public servants need to smile,” Mr. Anarna said in an interview, “mainly because those who normally go to the mayor’s office are people who have nothing, people who have big problems. Imagine if those who will greet you are serious and moody people, then what? But if they are treated well, with people who are visibly smiling and willing to help them, they will feel a little better.”
Silang’s mayor banned frowning among municipal workers, even when he was asked, during a speech, if some of them had been “brought up out of resentment,” according to local media. Under civil service rules, Anarna said, those who flout his order can be fined or suspended.