THE BIG LEAP
Dreaming big is easy for Councilor Roderick Cabral who hopes that someday Nasugbu, Batangas (and even the Philippines) will be like where he lived before Europe.
BY JOYCE REYES-AGUILA
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MANUEL GENEROSO
His third term as councilor of the Municipality of Nasugbu, Batangas is coming to an end this year, but Councilor Roderick Sapico Cabral has signified his intention to serve his constituents further. The public servant filed his candidacy as mayor of the first-class municipality in the 2022 elections.
Cabral’s campaign is pillared on the hashtag #BagongNasugbu (New Nasugbu) that seeks to provide “Makabago at Napapanahong Pamumuno (Modern and Relevant Leadership),” according to his Facebook page. His running mate is fellow councilor Ayen Ramos Chuidian. Their party is promising to focus on the following (stylized with a “C” as both candidates’ last names end in the letter): Caunlaran (progress), Calusugan (health), Calicasan (environment), and Cabuhayan (livelihood).
The Nasugbu-born Cabral is the fourth of the eight children of Corazon “Azon” Salamatin Sapico and the late Remiglo “Emmie” Cabingan Cabral Sr. “Mahirap ang pinagdaanan namin (What we went through was difficult),” he recalls. “Maagang nawala ang aking ama (My father passed away early on). I was 12 years old at that time and our youngest was only six months old.
“As a housewife, my mother…hindi talaga madali pinagdaanan niya at namin. Kasi buhayin mo yung walong anak [nang] solo – walang pang 4Ps, wala pang mga solo parent benefits. Talagang sinikap niya na buhayin kami. Nagluto [siya] ng pangmerienda, lutong ulam. Kasama pa nga kami maglako ng merienda (What she and we went through was really not easy. She supported eight children and at that time, there was no 4Ps or solo-parent benefits yet. She really worked hard to support us. She sold snacks and cooked food. We would help with the selling).”
Cabral and his siblings collected recyclables like used bottles and scrap metal, and sold bread to help their mother support the family. To this day, he says they remain grateful to God for letting them experience such hardships, as they were able to find hope and prove that it is possible to survive any challenge. The councilor’s interest in basketball—specifically his participation in inter-town competitions for Barangay 6 Poblacion and stint as a varsity player—gave him the opportunity to finish his studies. To earn more, Cabral also sidelined as a referee.
When his wife got pregnant when he was in second year college, he stopped school and worked in fast food chains in Manila. “Nagtrabaho talaga para sa income kasi may baby na kami, tapos nag-aaral pa. Kaya ngayon na medyo nakakaranas tayo ng maayos na buhay, alam natin ang pinagdadaanan ng ilang kababayan natin na nandun sa stage ng kahirapan at konti ‘yung opportunity na nabibigay sa kanila. Iba yung maranasan mo ‘yung [paghihirap]. Madaling sabihin ‘yung salitang ‘mahirap’ pero iba ‘pag naranasan mo (I worked to earn for our baby and to support my studies. So, now that we are able to experience a better life, we know what our constituents who are poor and with limited opportunities are experiencing. It’s different to experience poverty firsthand. The word ‘poverty’ is easy to reference, but it’s different when you actually go through it),” he stresses.
Cabral moved to Spain at the age of 26 in 2000, after being petitioned by his partner Alice’s mother. They lived in Spain and Switzerland and got married in 2008, after 10 years of being together.
CABRAL SHARES THAT THE DOMINO EFFECT OF THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC TO MANY SECTORS WAS EVIDENT IN NASUGBU. AND WHILE HE UNDERSTOOD THAT HIS ROLE AS COUNCILOR IS PRIMARILY LEGISLATIVE, HE FOUND WAYS TO HELP DURING THE PANDEMIC, EVEN WITHOUT ANY OFFICIAL BUDGET.
They spent 12 years in Europe, where he says poverty is experienced only by a few. “The poor comprise a small percentage in Europe. The five percent who are poor are lazy. In Europe, the workers pay for social security. After working for six months and then they lose their jobs, they can apply for unemployment. You have a privilege of three months, I think, to receive [help] from the government. It’s hard to compare a Third World country to a First World country. But why did it become a Third World country? It has to do with the system of government,” he opines.
Calling to Serve
When Cabral and his family—this time along with only child Alexander—returned to the Philippines, they initially planned to start a business. That is until an invitation to run for councilor took him in a different direction.
“Alam ko na medyo may iniwan tayong pangalan dahil sa basketball (I know that I left a name somehow because of my basketball career),” he says when asked about his chances during his first electoral race. “[As for the] challenges, dahil bago sa (since I am new to) public service, as municipal councilor, wala kang (I had no) legislative background, especially na nabigay sa akin yung (since what was assigned to me was the) Committee on Health so dun ko nalaman na kailangan natin talagang pag-aralan ang mga problema at ano ang kulang sa ating (that we have to study the problem and what is lacking in our) health sector.”
The councilor acknowledges the pivotal role of experts like their Rural Health Unit Doctor Sarah Marquez, as well as other doctors, midwives, and medical personnel who gave input to his ordinances and programs. Throughout his three terms, Cabral implemented the Sagip Mata Program (Save Eyes Program); and provided canopies to tricycle drivers who also received medical and burial assistance, along with barangay health workers (BHWs). The councilor also distributed aneroid sphygmomanometers, a device that measures blood pressure, to 42 barangays.
In terms of legislation, Cabral was instrumental in the enactment of the following ordinances: Tourism Ecological Fee, Araw ng mga Kabataan (Children’s Day), Araw ng mga BHW at BNS (Barangay Nutrition Scholar), and the Nasugbu Multi-Sectoral TB Control Alliance (MSA).
Cabral says his mayoral campaign is focused on healthcare and education, and believes that the root cause of poverty is the country’s standardization law and implemented wages. Especially during the pandemic, he saw how unprepared his constituents were for their health-related needs. He wants to be able to offer free hospitalization and education if he is elected as mayor.
Empowering barangays is also another priority for the public servant, who believes that implementation at the grassroots level is key to delivering services to the people. Cabral is also eyeing to build a bay walk, and open more mountain trails, hidden springs, and falls to boost tourism in Nasugbu and create more jobs. “I think I will be stricter in the implementation of our laws regarding environmental protection,” he underscores. “We need to protect the environment to support tourism.”
Cabral shares that the domino effect of the COVID-19 pandemic to many sectors was evident in Nasugbu. And while he understood that his role as councilor is primarily legislative, he found ways to help during the pandemic, even without any official budget. Cabral reached out to personnel manning checkpoints to learn if health protocols mandated by the national government were being followed, and distributed food, face masks, and alcohol to some constituents and frontliners.
He also believes that the pandemic proves social awareness is really low in the Philippines and the lack of empowerment at the barangay level contributes to this. “The participation of every person is needed, as well the compliance and belief in leaders. Their needs should be provided for, as we do not see the enemy [during this pandemic],” Cabral says.
“As a leader, you need to be creative. You need to think outside the box. Kailangan isipin mo doon sa problema na ‘to na makagawa ka ng paraan para maibsan ang pinagdadanan ng iyong kababayan. (You need to think of ways to ease the burden of our countrymen),” he adds.
Cabral further stresses the importance of livelihood and being able to offer employment opportunities to enable people to provide for their daily needs. “What really inspires me is the system of government in other countries. I asked myself why our government cannot be run that way. They are able to prioritize health and hospitalization which are of great help to their citizens,” he observes.
The councilor believes that the country should “elevate [its] qualifications in choosing leaders. Anybody can run. As long as you can read and write, pwede ka na (you can run already). Masyadong mababaw ‘yung kwalipikasyon kaya maraming nagsusuffer. Yung ginawa ‘yung batas, may kalayaan ang bawat tao pumili. Sa president, if you are 40 years old and above, and ikaw ay nakakapagbasa at nakakapagsulat, pwede na. Hindi naman sa pagdidiscriminate. Ito ang consequence ng ating ginawang Constitution na pinaglaban natin noong 1986 (The qualifications are too low, and therefore many suffer. When the law was made, we were given freedom to choose a leader. To run for President, you simply have to be 40 years old and above, and be able to read and write. I do not want to discriminate. This is the consequence of the Constitution we fought for in 1986),” he asserts.
Cabral is proud to take ownership of his development as a public servant. He graduated with a degree in political science from Northwestern University in 2015 and earned his master’s degree in public administration from the Lyceum of the Philippines University in Batangas in 2018. In 2021, he earned his doctorate in public administration from the same university.
“I am very much ready [to become mayor] because with nine years of service as municipal councilor–with limited to no budget— we managed to perform our role and responsibility. We know what we have to do to solve our problems.
“Kaya natin pamahalaan at paunlarin ang bayan ng Nasugbu (We can govern and improve Nasugbu),” he says. “Traditional ‘yung pamumuno nung nakalipas. I want to be a transparent leader. Saan ba nailalagay ang mga pera na binabayad na buwis ng ating mga kababayan? Kailangan ingatan natin ang kaban ng bayan na galing sa dugo at pawis ng mga taxpayer natin (We were governed in a traditional way in the past. I want to be a transparent leader. Where was the money from the taxes of our constituents spent? We need to take care of our municipality’s money because it comes from the blood and sweat of our taxpayers).”
The councilor wants to be a transformational leader, as he takes a giant leap from the city council for the mayor’s office. Aside from tourism, Cabral aims to develop Nasugbu’s agriculture sector, and other industries and offer more job employment to more than 200,000 population of their area.
His message to his constituents: “Sa aking mga kababayan, lahat naman tayo ay may responsibilidad sa ating komunidad. Hindi lamang ang mga leaders although kaming mga leaders ang inaasahan nila na gagawa ng mga mabubuti at magagandang proyekto. Ako’y nakikiusap na tayo’y magtulungan sa magagandang layunin ng pamahalaan. Ako’y naniniwala na kung tayo ay magkakaisa, lahat ng mga pangarap maisasakatuparan natin. Sa ating pagkakaisa, may pag-asa (To our constituents, we are also responsible for our community; it’s not just the leaders, although we are the ones you hope to implement effective programs. Let us all help each other when it comes to the good intentions of the government. I believe that we can make our dreams come true if we work together).”