NUEVA ECIJA, Philippines – Before Gloria “Baby” Congco was first elected mayor of Cabiao, Nueva Ecija, in 1998, she already knew which among the needs of her constituents she needed to prioritize. Her parents, after all, had been mayors before her.
But because of her early exposure to the challenges that her town mates faced, she also knew from the beginning that they needed enormous funds. Judging from past annual budgets, the municipal government wouldn’t be able to cover them.
Congco knew where to go – not to passively ask help from, but to actively establish a partnership with: the private sector.
Scouting for potential partners, Congco introduced them to the remote sitio of Saint Joseph in Barangay San Fernando Sur. It was disconnected from the rest of the town, being the farthest from the center, with no concrete roads that people could ply. For the 300 families in the community, it was virtually impossible to travel to the town proper to receive basic services from the government.
After a year of presenting to several companies the challenges and needs of the people of Saint Joseph, the Cabiao municipal government secured partnerships through corporate social responsibility programs. It also entered into collaboration with organizations in developed countries and non-profit organizations.
These partners, in turn, referred Cabiao to other groups, creating a chain of partners and stakeholders. In time, with authority from the Sangguniang Bayan, Congco was able to reach out to Gawad Kalinga, resulting in a partnership that gave homes to more than 100 indigent families in St. Joseph. Today, there are 4 GK villages with school buildings in Cabiao. This partnership has since extended to other towns in Nueva Ecija.
Photo courtesy of Kaya Natin
Next, Congco targeted partnerships in education programs, believing that education is essential in empowering people and giving them a competitive edge. To improve Cabiao’s educational system, the municipality worked with the Department of Education, the Ateneo de Manila University, and the Security Bank Foundation. The public school teachers and principals were also trained by the Ateneo Center for Educational Development.
The local government unit also partnered with Acts of Hope for the Nation Foundation to inaugurate a public school library. This enabled students to have increased access to knowledge and information. Meanwhile, the Polytechnic University of the Philippines built a satellite school in the town that provides full college scholarships.
“Dati sinisipon lang ako. Ngayon nakapag-aral ako at naramdaman ko na may nagmamahal sa aming pamilya. At dahil sa pagmamahal na ’yan, na-inspire ako na magsikap. At ngayon na nakapagsikap ako, nabawasan ang kahirapan namin,” one of the scholars said.
(I used to be nobody, but now I am able to study, and I can feel that someone cares for our family. I’m inspired to persevere because of this love and care, and my perseverance has somewhat eased our poverty.)
Congco’s efforts helped to empower not just the youth of Cabiao but entire families, who now have proper shelter, more livelihood opportunities, and easier access to health and education.
Even better, the collaboration between the local governments and the private partners continue to this day, even after Congco had finished her term as mayor. The partnerships were, indeed, built not around personalities but for a more developed and competitive community. – Rappler.com
As part of the 10th anniversary celebration of the Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership, the organization has produced a series of articles on inspiring local government officials, published exclusively by Rappler. All current and former local officials featured here are Kaya Natin! Champions, who represent and practice effective, ethical, and empowering leadership. To learn more about Kaya Natin, please visit their website: http://www.kayanatin.ph or call (02) 256-1446.