Of Oscars and Miss Universe pageants and the LGU award called Galing Pook

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MAURO GIA SAMONTE

THEY’RE Oscars, all right, since they’re given away in recognition of excellent performances. But that’s as far as the comparison goes – in form. In content, they differ. The Hollywoodian genre concerns the illusions of cinema, while those awarded to 10 local government units on the night of October 11 dealt with the hard realities of the unenviable task of serving the people.

Call these Oscars in local governance the Galing Pook Award, a pioneering program for the recognition of exemplary practices of local government units (LGUs). Although the program has been aound since 1993, it has hardly made a dent in the public consciousness, quite unlike the Hollywood event which gets people in their millions around the world glued to their television sets to witness the yearly spectacle of, oh, well, empty glitz and glamour.

First to implement the program were the Local Government Academy-Department of the Interior and Local Government combine, the Ford Foundation, and individuals from the academe, civil society, and government, seriously advocating best practices in local governance. The establishment of the Galing Pook Foundation in 1998 institutionalized the Galing Pook Award, with the Asian Institute of Management carrying out its implementation until 2001.

Like Miss Universe contestants
Very much like the Oscars in procedure perhaps, the Galing Pook Award winners are sorted out in a rather tedious process, undertaken by a 19-member national selection committee, a manner also much reminiscent of, mind you, the Miss Universe Pageant.

This year, for instance, there were 158 aspirants (about as many as there are candidates for Miss Universe) which were reduced to 44 for the site validation stage. This is the stage where, as its nomenclature suggests, the selection committee validates the claims made by the contestants of good governance in its multifarious contexts. (Angono, for example, was validated for its zero waste and zero squatters program as well as for boasting the “healthiest public market” in the country.)

After the validation, the batch of 44 is trimmed down to 20 finalists who are then – we said it – subjected like Miss Universe finalists to a question-and-answer ordeal in order to determine which LGUs will compose the Top 10.

As experts in beauty contests would advise their protegees, “Be yourself,” so did Angono Mayor Gerardo Calderon become just himself, that of the familiar face in public service, drawing upon his rich experience as a local chief executive from way back, in delineating the complex Angono concerns addressed in its entry titled: “Participatory and Systemic Governance for Socio-Economic Development.”

Angono’s concerns
Those concerns include the operations of the public market, which as a result of the Amended Market Code of Angono has doubled its revenue, from P7.9 million in 2008 to P14.4 million in 2016 – and counting, with plans for a projected expansion worth P100 million. The other two areas of concern that Angono addressed in its entry were the informal settler families (ISF) or, bluntly called, squatters, and the waste problem. In both concerns, Mayor Calderon announced that Angono has scored zero: no squatter, no waste.

All that contest rigmarole above, exactly as in the tradition of the Miss Universe finals.

Tension hung in the air that night of October 11 at the Monet 2 Ballroom of the Novotel Manila at the Araneta Center in Cubao, Quezon City. Nine winners had already been announced: San Luis, Aurora; Cagayan de Oro City; San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte; Palompon, Leyte; Davao del Norte; San Felipe, Zambales; Valenzuela City; General Santos City; and Pasig City.

Just one more from the remaining 11 finalists was to be called to complete the 10 Galing Pook Award winners.

“And that last one is,” announced the emcee, “Angono!”

Burst of cheers. Loud applause. Release of long-held breath.

Mayor Calderon—grown much older than the youthful and energetic town executive I met more than two decades ago but who with unbridled enthusiasm continues to make public service a way of life, doing the rounds of Angono even on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays—heaved a sigh of relief.

Truly, as the Bible says, the first shall be the last.

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