BUGUIAS, Benguet – Always dressed in the usual jacket-pants-bonnets, they organize people, conduct assemblies, give rewards and prizes, and partner with agencies that somehow share the same interest as their people.
They do not appear fancy nor eloquent but their management and leadership skills can surely speak for them.
They are the officials of the Barangay Local Government Unit (BLGU) of Barangay Catlubong, Buguias, winner of the Regional Bayani Ka! Awards 2016 held in Baguio on December 15, 2016.
Following the empowerment cycle of the Kapit-bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS) Project of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Barangay Catlubong realized the importance of barangay assemblies.
According to the Local Government Code, barangay assemblies should be held twice a year. However, in Kalahi-CIDSS, the barangays are asked to meet five times a year.
“The barangay assemblies required by Kalahi-CIDSS help in organizing people to target and address the real problem in the barangay,” Punong Barangay Melchor Guesey said.
“However, gathering them in this barangay proved to be a challenge since, culturally, Benguet people usually build their houses near their farms, thus, away from each other,” Guesey added.
“This makes it difficult to call for assemblies and satisfy the 80% participation rate,” he continued.
But having to meet more than usual, the barangay officials seized the opportunity to mobilize the community to work together in a community project.
Guesey narrated one of their strategies in satisfying a high participation rate. “We were delighted members of our constituency used their own vehicle to fetch residents from far sitios so they can join the barangay assemblies,” he shared.
To further encourage participation in their community, the BLGU synchronized the barangay assemblies with other meetings like that of the Parents Teachers Association, the barangay council, and COMELEC.
“Another strategy is we tried to give rewards to sitios that are performing well. We allotted the 20% of the Barangay Development Fund to the sitio with the highest participation rate,” Guesey continued.
According to Community Empowerment Facilitator Grace Dumangeg, the barangay officials started mobilizing their people to join the roster of community volunteers after understanding the purpose of the program.
“The community volunteers are thankful they are able to attend training sponsored by Kalahi-CIDSS and the BLGU as they realize that the time and effort they poured during the training and implementation paid off as they can now discern barangay development efforts in a wider perspective,” Dumangeg added
Meanwhile, the linkage skills of the BLGU was tested while conducting activities stipulated in the Community Empowerment Activity Cycle (CEAC).
Guesey said that gathering people for an activity means spending resources for meals and snacks. But then, through partnerships with other agencies, feeding a whole community did not become a problem at all.
One time, they were able to ask a farm product distributor to sponsor their lunch and snacks. “Though sometimes when the sponsorship is not enough, the barangay officials defray some of the expenses from their own pockets,” Dumangeg said.
Showing support to community-led development is not enough for BLGU Catlubong. Thus, they took it upon themselves to adopt the Kalahi way of allotting budget for barangay assemblies.
“Within one year of the Kalahi-CIDSS Project implementation, the budget plan of our Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) was decided by the barangay assembly. The people are now the main decision-makers,” Guesey proudly remarked. In the past, budgeting the barangay IRA had always been in the hands of the BLGU.
Further, Guesey was requested to help motivate Barangay Sebang, a nearby barangay on the verge of waiving the implementation of the second cycle.
“He gladly said yes so we went to Barangay Sebang during one of the meetings in the barangay. There, he talked about community-driven development emphasizing its benefits to the people,” Dumangeg narrated.
He told them that grants to develop the community is not an everyday thing due to limited resources so they should grab the opportunity.
By Jasmin P. Kiaso