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Friday, February 18, 2005

Youth at the grassroots

by Maria Eleanor Elape Valeros
November 29, 2004; posted at www.thefreeman.com

The sustained efforts in bringing the youth closer to matters affecting the barangay as shown by the blueprint of the city’s youth-oriented programs and projects brought back all the memory of my participation in political affairs as city councilor, for a day, in the “Know Your City” activity.

We only had a day to simulate the duties and responsibilities of an elected official.

Today, some 80 selected pupils from Cebu City’s public elementary schools in the urban and mountain barangays have taken their oath of office as they assume the post of a barangay captain (punong barangay) for 30 days.

I gushed at the opportunity for our young leaders to be given an orientation and the experience in governance. They are not only to learn governance, but to experience it as well - to get a feel of it; that kind of governance that is at the grassroots level, at the very core of the political structure.

Beginning last November 22, boy and girl officials are holding office and performing duties and conducting activities as outlined by the provisions of Republic Act 7160, a law providing for a local government code that defines the work scope of a barangay captain.

Through the “Know Your Barangay” activity which banners the theme: “Children empowerment through knowledge and understanding of the barangay as a local government unit”, initiated by the Cebu City Youth Development Commission, pupil-barangay captains are introduced to matters affecting the barangay, it being the smallest political unit at the core of the local government structure.

At the smallest local government unit in the Philippines, the barangay captain leads the barangay council (sangguniang barangay) composed of barangay councilors (kagawads).

Historically, the term barangay refers to a community of around 50 to 100 families. The word itself is derived from an ancient Malay boat called “balangay”. This connection between community and boat supports certain theories on the history of pre-colonial Philippines, specifically, that each original coastal barangay was formed as a result of settlers arriving by boat from other places in Southeast Asia.

Tracing its etymological derivation, balangay is an appropriate root term for naming the smallest political unit in the country because barangay could stand for both “collectivity,“ as in the group of families in boats, and “connectivity,” as in the nuclear family system.

As the basic political unit, the barangay serves as the primary planning and implementing unit of government policies, plans, programs, projects, and activities in the community, and as a forum wherein the collective views of the people may be expressed, crystallized and considered, and where disputes may be amicably settled.

Pupil-barangay captains get a hand on how a barangay should be created out of a contiguous territory that has a population of at least 2,000 inhabitants, learning that the state supports the creation of barangays through an Act of Congress, if this is deemed necessary to be able to enhance the delivery of basic services at the grassroots level, with emphasis on indigenous cultural communities.

I find the “Know Your Barangay’ activity as a breather after having been suffocated by reports of children becoming preys of abuse almost everyday as splattered on news banners. The trend is sickening! Before, suspicious personalities and or characters were pinpointed as culprits of abuse to minors. Lately, children have started crying foul at how a school principal and a teacher had carried out their “hands-on” lessons. Pun intended!

Recently, a 14-year-old student of the Luray High School in Toledo City reported to the police that the school principal of Lower Tubod Elementary School raped her last March when she was at the principal’s office to get her elementary diploma. The principal, who succeeded in raping her, gave her a small white tablet to take which her parents believe was an abortificant. The minor gave birth last November 13 to a deformed child who died a few days later.

Meanwhile, at the Tamañas Elementary School in San Fernando town, twelve pupils alleged that their teacher in Music, Arts, Physical Education and Health (MAPEH) molested them by touching their private parts and mashing their breasts while taking their height measurements as a class requirement.

The “Know Your Barangay” activity gives our children a chance to study barangay matters, the kind of national and regional political system we have and how have these affected them, and how they could pool in their resources to create a better world for themselves. Yes, they really have to be street-smart nowadays as they could not expect that every elder they meet along life’s highway would be of any help to them.

I mean, “iya-iya la’g pabadlong ang mga tiguwang ron!” Some elected officials have already turned drug lord protectors. There are school heads becoming suspects of rape and child abuse. Quite a number of teachers already jam with students in drug sessions.

We hope that this avenue given to the selected few would help them create for themselves a better world, and not as training ground for crooks, hoodlums, and perverts next in line.

ADDY BUDDY. “Dear Eleanor: Hi, my name’s veronica, i’m a 20 year-old student currently residing in germany. what can i say about your article in the freeman (i always read the freeman online, every single day) entitled “Reading Keene”? a lot and nothing! it was touché. thank you for bringing this ironically glaring problem to light.

i also grew up reading keene, nancy drew was just an all-time favorite of mine. my first book was the secret of shadow ranch and from then on, i just had to read the nancy drew series! i am still a certified book worm until now and i have to say it was largely due to my mom’s influence who didn’t always give in to our whims (toys, etc.) but never saved on good books.

i agree that our country and the system needs a serious revamp. i am only glad that my teachers during high school in stc were very well-versed in english, i don’t have anything to complain about. but what’s really shocking is the quality of education in public schools and eventually private schools, too. not only are they incompetent in the language, as a consequence, they are also incompetent for the job! my school-life in cebu hasn’t always been immaculately clean but since i’ve been here in germany (3 years and counting), i can see or should i say i am deeply troubled—— we people in the philippines still have a LONG, LONG, LONG , LONG way to go.

i wish for the best for our country, i know every filipino does.....it hurts me to see waves of talented pinoys going abroad. maybe they have no idea what awaits them or maybe they all still believe in the “american” dream.......even if life is a lot better here in europe, nothing replaces home.” -
veronica

(For your comments, reactions, suggestions and contributions, crank up my addy: pinay_mangatkatay@yahoo.com)