CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 13 Aug) – Unless people participate in building the community, the task of transforming the barangays into decent and proper habitats will never be satisfactory.
Parts of it will look neglected, with pockets of exclusive “villages” occupied by the wealthy, but plagued all around by squalor and squatters.
In practically all neighborhoods are architects, designers, and engineers, as are horticulturists, landscape artists, urban planners, and imaginative entrepreneurs with refined taste.
But they might as well not be there because they’re either ignored or not consulted although it’s their community too.
Squalor and unsightly structures persist in the neighborhoods because few if any barangay officials know or follow proper standards for human habitats.
If you know how careless and corrupt the bidding and awarding process of public works or services can be in the barangay, you would also know why there’s a glaring difference in the quality of life enjoyed in private subdivisions compared to that of the larger community.
It’s a difference explained by two factors: a) management know-how and b) adherence to standards for community living: a private subdivision is administered by qualified managers and workers who do their job according to established rules and regulations. They observe performance standards, are transparent in their operations, and take accountability seriously.
On the other hand, the public domain, which is the larger portion of the barangay, is administered by politicos with dubious managerial (governing) skills.
Mostly inexperienced but pretentious, these politicos make as if they know everything and strut about like captains of the defunct Guardia Civil. (Barangay chairmen love to be called kapitan or kapitana!)
The glaring contrast between the privately-administered portion of the barangay and the rest of the jurisdiction (generally shabby, disorderly) exposes the ineptness of elected officials.
The private subdivision (neat, orderly) is a delight to their residents, to passing pedestrians, and to visitors. But the larger portion of the jurisdiction—where most Filipinos reside—is off-putting for its poor maintenance (if any) and ugly surroundings.
This two-faced appearance of the jurisdiction—like contrasting masks in a theater, one grinning, the other grimacing—is an indictment against the integrity, competence, and reliability of barangay officials.
Since it’s the officials who administer the barangay as a whole, the contrasting appearances show how remiss they are in enforcing standards and rules and regulations throughout the jurisdiction. The least they can do is coordinate with the managers of the private subdivision to even out standards more or less, or even ask them to assist in managing the rest of the barangay.
It is so very wrong that the larger portion of the barangay, the public domain, is unkempt, disorderly, kept in substandard conditions, and is a black-eye to official competence.
If the people would only participate in the development process, arrangements in the community would be much more satisfactory. As a result, if you judge a barangay by its facilities or structures you would have to conclude that its residents have no standards, taste, or style.
As for the barangay leaders, they should stop thinking that if slums are good enough for their supporters, it should be good enough for the rest of the community!
That’s how towns and provinces—which are clusters of barangays—get to look like wretched, overgrown barrios. Except for some natural features in some places, no man-made portions of the community inspire awe or admiration.
Cruise or walk around them; note how bereft they are of character or amenity; how inhospitable to visitors; how uninspiring to ambulant citizens. They show how the people in charge are incapable of appreciating the style, standard, or genius of their resident talents!
Otherwise, barangay Halls, even municipal halls and other common areas, would reflect the art or craftsmanship of the people in the neighborhoods.
But what dominates today are unimpressive compounds, tangled wires overhead, unkempt grounds below. Surroundings are cluttered with unsightly items lying helter-skelter, the alleys a shambles, garbage and squatters practically everywhere.
No community can project its finest unless its resident talents or creative members are involved in its development. Without their inputs, quality of life cannot improve.
[Manny is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific; secretary-general, Southeast Asian Publishers Association; director, Development Academy of Philippines; member, Phil Mission to the UN; vice chair, Local Government Academy; member, Cory Government’s Peace Panel, and PPI-UNICEF awardee for outstanding columnist. Today he heads Gising Barangay Movement Inc as National Convenor. firstname.lastname@example.org]