The parol from Pampanga given to me by my balae Bing Arcenas-Carino is up and blinking at my terrace, signaling my active participation in the global celebration of the birthday of Jesus, better known as Christmas.
My gifts to friends, relatives and clients are ready in their original store packaging—the paper or plastic wrapper or box. I always buy gifts all year round so that I don’t have to rush during Christmastime or on occasions. I don’t wrap my gifts in beautiful wrappers, which is a waste of my time and money and is damaging to the environment.
My barangay is ready for Christmas also. There are bright Christmas lights along our streets. And our barangay chairman has a new motorcycle. Huh?!? He stays in the barangay hall the whole day watching the CCTV monitor. His wife stays at home with their children. They live along the old gigantic pipes of MWSS.
The other day as I was approaching our street, I saw this biker standing proud beside his bike right by the building across my house. As I was approaching my gate, I saw my barangay chairman getting ready to ride his big bike. But he turned his head so sharply—as if he was hiding his face—I had to take a second look before I recognized him. Previously I saw him practicing on a borrowed big bike. I was wondering why was he trying to hide from me? In the past, whenever our paths crossed, he would always look at me straight and give me his beautiful smile. Nowadays he doesn’t park there anymore. Hmmm.
Meanwhile, there is this five-story building across the street from my house—with no elevator nor visible fire escape. My barangay chairman said he would report it to City Hall. And this barangay chairman has a new motorcycle.
When the building was under construction, I would complain about the noise of the ready-mix cement trucks that would come to our barangay at 11 in the evening and leave at six in the morning, or sometimes come at 11 in the morning until six in the evening. I could barely get out of my gate because their gigantic trucks were there on my side of the street. The noise of the machine and the loud chatter of the workers kept me and my neighbors around the construction site awake, gritting our teeth over the maximum tolerance our barangay officials had given the contractor to our utter inconvenience. And our barangay chairman has a new motorcycle.
Except for two or three vendors who have been there for years, our sidewalks along V. Mapa Street were wide and unobstructed. People with disability would be happy to walk along our sidewalks safely and leisurely. Now, since this barangay chairman assumed the post, our sidewalks have become unwalkable. There are so many sidewalk vendors and their wares are right on the sidewalk, and even on V. Mapa Street. I have complained about this several times to our chairman and he simply told me that he will talk to them. Meantime, he has a new motorcycle.
I wonder how much salary he is getting as barangay chairman. I am also wondering how much is our barangay’s share of the real estate tax property owners like us pay. And I am likewise wondering about the rumor that the contractors for the street widening, flood control system installation, water pipe installation and repair projects are contributing to our barangay so that it will not complain about the noise, pollution and inconvenience these construction works bring to us. Hmmm, beautiful new big bike.
Corruption starts somewhere, then it grows into a national cancer. What if this barangay chairman becomes a councilor, a vice mayor, or a mayor of Manila? I shudder at the thought. Perhaps it is time to move out to another residence, or are barangay chairmen the same everywhere? Hmmmm.
My brother was our barangay chairman for 18 solid years. He died poor; we could barely pay for his hospitalization and funeral services. When he was chairman he prided himself on being honest and not getting a single centavo from the coffers of our barangay and from politicians who wooed him for the votes of our barangay residents. He would always tell me, “Ate, you can be proud of me. I did not spend a single centavo of our barangay money for my personal use. I even use my personal money to help the poor people here in our barangay, especially the students who couldn’t go to school because they don’t have transportation and food money. As I promise you, I have remained honest.” On his deathbed, he reminded me about honesty in public service and in our personal life. His last word was “honesty!” I am guessing that he is now turning in his grave with the sorry state of our barangay.
Vice President Binay allegedly started to amass his wealth while he was still mayor of Makati. Do you wonder now that he is vice president and aspiring to be president? And together with a barangay chairman like ours, can you imagine what will happen to our national treasury, to our communities, and to our country?
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