CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/10 August) — The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), along with the local officials they supervise, ought to approach their mission more imaginatively or creatively.
They should view local governance as more than just performing the humdrum tasks of bureaucratic routine, as detailed in their handbooks and job descriptions.
It is not clear, for example, that catering to the human needs of the community—physical, psychological, whatever—is an important item on their agenda.
For example, a community needs a civic center, not just a multi-purpose pavement that traditional politicians love to give away with great fanfare.
Such a civic center would include: a) facilities for physical fitness and leisure activities, b) workshop for sharing and learning skills or hobbies, c) space for meetings, small or large, and d) a library or technology resource facility.
In town centers today, one sees students from outlying barangays do their homework in all-night cafes beyond reasonable hours. Many of them do so because they live in crowded homes with no study places or good lighting.
Barangay or town officials ought to take this as a cue for providing a communal study hall, with basic furniture and other facilities, with appropriate supervision, right in neighborhoods or barangays where such students reside.
It shouldn’t be necessary for poor students to go to the poblacion and be exposed to worrisome characters as they study.
In certain barangays, there are women who need a productive pastime, hobby, or in-house work. Sewing circles, 4-H clubs, and rural improvement clubs (RIC) could very well be activated. And the youth should have local access to computers and information technology without having to go to internet cafes that eat up their meager pocket money.
In a typical barangay, what one sees by way of information technology are rundown electronic gaming machines that promote gambling, misuse of information technology, or unseemly carousing.
A civic center should also cater to local artists and artisans and a host of other vocations in need of facilities and facilitators. There are street kids with nothing challenging to do, mental or physical; and there are retired or senior citizens with a variety of experience and skills to share if given the chance.
Promoting vocational, leisure, and productive skills are proper concerns in a community, for which an appropriate civic center would be very helpful—where diverse sectors may also converge and relate to one another.
In the course of interaction, healthy relationships are fostered, productive pursuits are encouraged, health is enhanced, and harmony is promoted.
It is how the ways of civilization and culture are enriched—harmonizing relationships, upgrading productivity, promoting creativity, sharing joy in a communal facility. It is good for self-fulfillment, self-development, and self-actualization for all age groups.
A civic center can enhance the intellectual, cultural, and academic advancement of the community, especially those with little or no access to appropriate facilities.
The absence of such civic centers make people turn to the inane fare dished out by a predatory entertainment industry that promotes superficial values, bizarre tastes and downright immorality.
It reflects badly upon us in our barangays that the governments we establish do not serve as a fulcrum for civilizing activities.
It is also a bad reflection of our sense of values that we leave our barangay compound alone to be used as a staging area for shady characters, lookouts, tong collectors, and coddlers of squatter colonies.
Our cultural sense of hiya should make us uncomfortable about these. Surely we can do better, looking out for our own community, improving its quality of life.
Now, if only the middle and upper classes—the putative movers and shakers of society—would stop surrendering the fate of their barangay to traditional politicians!
Manny is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific; secretary-general, Southeast Asia Publishers Association; director, development academy of Philippines; member, Philippine Mission to the UN; vice chair, Local Government Academy; member, Cory Govt’s Peace Pane; awardee, PPI-UNICEF outstanding columnist. He is president/national convenor, Gising Barangay Movement Inc. firstname.lastname@example.org