WORM’S EYEVIEW: Beauty, satisfaction, happiness as aspects of governance

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 25 June) – In terms of beauty and satisfaction, how would you rate your barangay? Does it inspire or attract people to live in it? Are the residents happy about their neighborhood? Do they love or dislike its surroundings?

Rarely if at all are these questions asked about one’s community. But in fact aesthetics, appearance, or atmosphere matter to a lot of people.

Whether the surroundings are conducive to peaceful, secure, pleasant living are factors in their decision to move in or out of a given community.

That’s why elegant, well-tended village subdivisions quickly fill up with new residents who are on the lookout for nice, orderly neighborhoods.

What’s curious is that for the most part, it’s private developers who go out of their way to build pleasant communities, not public officials. The latter seem to view beauty or aesthetics as irrelevant to governance or the public service. It doesn’t bother them to see unsightly surroundings, makeshift structures, or shabby neighborhoods in their jurisdiction.

Yet they are the very people who are charged with maintaining neighborhoods, freeing these of garbage, keeping them in good order, and generally assure a pleasant, healthy atmosphere for everyone, resident or visitor.

Keeping people happy and satisfied with their environment is in fact an important task of public administration. It has a qualitative impact on public perception, positive or negative.

Note that among the marks of bad governance is a poor standard of service and maintenance, neglect of surroundings or the environment, tolerating unsightly neighborhoods—which in turn cause bad feelings in people.

One indicator of a community’s pleasantness or likeability is the extent to which its residents would wish to stay put in it or to leave it. A neat community—well-arranged, orderly, and clean—inspires people to reside in it. Poorly maintained or disorderly communities repel or discourage others to live in them.

That being the case, it would be so good if the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) would take account of beauty, satisfaction, or happiness as factors in assessing local governance.

It is bad enough that poverty is pervasive, that so many citizens live under subhuman conditions; it’s worse that they have to make do with disorderly, shabby barangays that are hard-to-love and easy to dislike.

One has but to walk around parts of the barangay where squatters, slums, and filthy canals lay neglected. Such smelly, cluttered, or disorderly neighborhoods are a disgrace to the jurisdiction. It is in them that there’s so much to dislike in our communities.

If we want people to like or love our community, it ought to be lovely. That’s what a British statesman once said about his country and it is notable that the British government and people do make it a point to keep their surroundings lovely and pleasant.

By the same token, a lovely barangay makes it lovable to the beholder, resident or visitor alike—and thus also the municipality or city in which they are located.

Wouldn’t it be great if all barangays are maintained that way by their officials and residents? Barangays would then be easy to like, nice to do business in, or even just to stroll around at leisure.

What it all would amount to is a country of 42,078 lovely and pleasant barangays, all easy to like and love, all desirable to reside or work in, full of tourists, and bustling with productive activity.

No one likes or loves a filthy barangay, municipality, city, province, region, country. Everyone except a few incorrigible ones would want to stay in it.

Being happy or satisfied with one’s community is an important aspect of quality of life. Unhappiness or dissatisfaction makes citizens want to move away and seek better living conditions.

In fact, millions of Filipinos have already left for foreign shores because of disaffection with their community where, in addition to the ugly surroundings, they cannot find decent livelihood.

Why would anyone want to leave a pleasant community? Where one is surrounded by family or loved ones while earning a livelihood?

Unhappiness and dissatisfaction cause people to decamp and become foreign citizens. It is unbecoming. Over ten percent of all Filipinos are abroad! Many of them face the indignity and frustrations of being aliens abroad.

To remedy this demographic hemorrhage, it should be the mission, vision, and obsession of every citizen and official to develop or fix arrangements in his barangay as to render satisfaction as well as livelihood for every family in its jurisdiction.

Doing this would be a great service to our society.

To keep trying to improve things must be everyone’s commitment and dedication. As matters stand today, there’s so much to dislike and feel bad about in our communities and the level of unhappiness and dissatisfaction is already untenable.

[Manny is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific; secretary-general, Southeast Asian Publishers Association; director, Development Academy of the Philippines; member, Permanent Mission to the United Nations; vice chair, Local Government Academy; member, Cory Government’s Peace and Development Panel, and PPI-UNICEF outstanding columnist awardee. valdehuesa@gmail.com]