The word is derived from balangay, the name for the sailboats that originally brought settlers of Malay stock to the Philippines from Borneo, each boat carrying a large family group, and the datu being the leader. As we know, it is the smallest local government in our country, the grassroots of our political organization, codified under the Local Government Code 1991.
Throughout the country there exist about 42,000 barangays. Bulan alone is composed of 63 barangays. Now what’s the importance of this little statistical data? Well, very big! Following our bottom-up approach in realizing socio-political change in the Philippines (see The New Filipino ), the barangay is our point of departure in bringing about a realistic qualitative change in our politics, particulary Bulan politics. We always seem to ignore the fact that a barangay is a government unit in our country, in our town. It is the oldest political unit, it’s the base that supports and makes possible the municipal government. This is the key to change for each one has an easy access to it, to the punong barangay (barangay captain ) and to the seven barangay Kagawad (barangay councils) in comparison to the Municipal Government whose mayor probably cannot be reached any time. But your barangay captain is accessible almost all the time, in fact, he may be your neighbor. A friendly gestalt who is willing to listen to your concerns as you walk with him by the fields or as you sweep your backyard in the afternoons. You cannot get this kind of intimacy with your mayor for one thing maybe he or she cannot walk around without a handful of bodyguards.
The barangay captain is a man next-door. We must forget for awhile the municipal mayor and concentrate on giving importance to the barangay officers, be ready to offer your help to them anytime. Give recognition to their work , give them your suggestions to the problems of the barangay. You may not realize it but in this setting it is almost direct democracy in action. Think of the small barrio meetings being held from time to time where people can voice out their opinions to matters that concern them and sometimes arriving at a speedy agreement or solution. The barangay should be strengthened nowadays in Bulan if the people want a solid anchor to a government that represents and serves them. If the barangays are united for the good of all, then you have a town that is strong and proud and is able to direct its course.You know, all these problems of corruption and abuses take place only when the government is not rooted in people’s heart and soul and when the people are “broken-hearted” among themselves.
Eleanor Roosevelt rightly remarked “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent” or as we used to say “It takes two to tango”. When you dance to a music you don’t like, this means you cannot say no. People of Bulan suffer then because they just dance along with the music which is not their music. How about if you would gather your strength and say “Stop it, I want my music now!”?
This is the moment we are all waiting for when all the barangays would come together and would say “Stop it now!“. This would herald a new chapter in Bulan’s history and usher the birth of a new Bulan that shines. Ideally, politicians should start from this grassroots level before they should become councillors or chief executive. But this is a process that requires more time for the people to fully understand and integrate in their political thinking and put into practice. For we have seen that a person that is just placed to the top by virtue of wealth and connections is not the solution to the problems of Bulan but rather an additional burden to the town. The hero should come from below, not from above, from Bulan and not from somewhere else.
We should not forget that it was the vision of the the prime author of this Local Government Code 1991-Senator Pimentel -to establish strong self-reliant barangays all over the country. According to him,the barangay officials are the front-liners of the Philippine Government, with the punong barangay as the “face” of the Philippine Government as far as his constituents are concerned, and that the barangay is the key to national development. Behind this is his concept of decentralization of power with the final aim of establishing a federal form of government for the Philippines. I also think that Federation holds the key to the progress of the whole nation for it activates self-reliance and diminishes dependency to the national government which since ages operates on the system of political patronage which in turn hinders fair and equal distribution of national wealth and fosters corruption.
At this point it is also of crucial importance to maintain the Kabataang Barangay for therein is the seed of future local government that is firmly rooted in the traditions of Bulan. Leaders who identify totally with the people think and act for the people and share respect and common visions with one another. There is trust, and trust is a vehicle for progress. In my case for example, I trust that our Justice Department is in good hands for the incumbent Municipal judge also started with the Kabataang Barangay. The youth begins to perceive and appreciate their own town the moment they involve themselves in the Kabataang Barangay. Here they learn the rudiments of political interaction and begin developing their visions for their town. The survival of culture resides in the visions of the youth. It is of utmost importance then that we have to motivate the Kabataan– the Youth- from all corners of Bulan to participate in political process in order to put an end to the political passivity that lingers in Bulan and hinders progress. The German Literature Nobel laureate Heinrich Böll commented that the wealth of the society can be seen in the contents of their trash cans. I may remark also that the strength of the community is seen in the contents of the heads of the people, the grassroots, i.e., on how opinionated the people are. Go and ask anyone in the market of what they think about their mayor or about Bulan as a whole. The strength of their arguments reflect the strength of Bulan.