STANDING ON SOLID GROUND
Peaceful, self-contained, and affluent,
Barangay Magallanes, Makati City is an
aspirational place to live in.
BY MAAN D’ASIS PAMARAN
PHOTOGRAPHY BY DANIEL SORIANO
Barangay Magallanes in Makati City is an aspirational place to live in. It is a peaceful, self-contained, and rather affluent residential community with a commercial area, church, and school that also sees progressive leadership under its chairman, Jose Mari A. Alzona. Even though the 32-year-old only took over the position last July, he is no stranger to serving their barangay. He was the next-in-line during the incumbency as barangay chairman of now City Councilor Armand Padilla, being the number one kagawad. Prior to this, he had served as SK chairman.
Through the years, Alzona initiated many projects focusing on the youth, such as holding free basketball clinics at their neighborhood court and cooking classes that come with free ingredients. “We also hold basketball tournaments with nearby barangays so we get to foster camaraderie with them. This is something that our kids look forward to every summer,” he states.
He also gives special attention to the household help in the community. For their Christmas get-together last year, he provided them with gift packs and organized a special dance party or baile.
For the homeowners themselves, he holds a yearly golf tournament, which raises funds for the scholars of their beloved church group, the Catholic Women’s League (CWL). “These gracious ladies have scholars who are studying at Don Bosco, and we have turned over substantial donations, raising up to hundreds of thousands.”
CLEAN, GREEN, AND SAFE
Of course, it is not all fun and games at Barangay Magallanes. They have a flooding problem that the chairman is trying to address. “We are known for our floods. When Ondoy hit, the water level was dangerously high. It rose to about one and a half of my height,” he recalls. This is why they conduct dredging activities regularly at their end of the creek, he says. “Our problem is that the trash also comes from other areas, especially from the informal settlers of Pasay who live at our border. Even though we keep cleaning our part and make sure the creek flows freely in our vicinity, if the other communities around us are not effectively addressing the problem, we are all affected.”
With this in mind, he is also making sure that their community is calamity ready. He regularly holds actual search and rescue trainings for their Bantay Bayan or barangay security group. “There are trainings offered by the government, but these are held at Manila Bay. Knowing that coliform levels are high there, I don’t want to risk it with our personnel. We really allot a budget for their trainings to be held in Batangas, so they can get actual quality training from the MMDA.”
They are all about saving the environment at Barangay Magallanes, tackling the solid waste problem by employing strict measures toward compliance. “We are serious when it comes to waste segregation. After a first warning, we give tickets to households that do not comply. We also don’t pick up waste that is not properly segregated,” says Alzona.
He cites 95% compliance with waste disposal rules, and says that the outliers are often those who are not from the country. “We had a case where we found out one of the houses was being rented by a Chinese group that was using it as a commissary. We dealt with it quite promptly, because we have restrictions against that here. What often happens is that they rent under the pretense that a family will live there, and then you start seeing different people coming in and out of the house.”
“We have a very low crime rate,” he says, with most of the trouble being caused by those from outside communities, which is why security is something that they are proactive with. They have CCTVs installed throughout the barangay, and all the 20 bantay barangay personnel who are assigned on three shifts are equipped with batons and their own radios. “Unlike in other barangays, hindi sila naghihiraman (they don’t need to share),” he says. Their tricycle is likewise equipped with a first aid kit, as their personnel are all adequately trained to become first responders in emergency situations.
ABOVE AND BEYOND
The mandate of a barangay leadership is to deliver basic services, but given the profiles of their residents, Alzona and his team are taking it a step further by making government services more accessible and convenient.
They have a doctor who holds clinic at the barangay office from 8 am to 5 pm, and a dental program that offers free cleaning and filling. They even go to the extent of picking up the free medications for the senior citizens from the city hall. “All they need to do is to coordinate with us and give us the prescription by the Makati doctor, and we will pick it up for them for free,” Alzona says.
Those are not the only services that they offer. They make government paperwork more convenient by bringing the government offices to their barangay. “I simply tried writing letters to the government agencies, and they responded positively,” Alzona smiles. As a result, Barangay Magallanes residents can avail of mobile services from the Land Transportation Office (LTO) for license renewal, student permits, vehicle registration complete with emission testing, and even third-party liability insurance. From the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), they can avail of passport services, and can also get clearances from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). It even goes as far as getting a license to possess firearms from Camp Crame. “Why line up at these government offices, when they can just do it here? They don’t even have to line up because we already give appointment schedules. They just need to show up. The project proved to be very popular, with 600 people availing of the mobile passport services, for example.”
There is also a service where they bring those who are applying for Makati’s “yellow card” to the city hall. “Personal appearance is now required, so we shuttle them there and assist them,” he says.
Alzona has also employed his partnership skills with private entities. They’ve launched a project with Globe where plastic eco-bricks can be exchanged for mobile service points. A plastic soda bottle that reaches a certain weight with its stuffing of plastic wrappers could be exchanged for Php300 load. The biggest haul on record was about Php53,000 worth of load for a church group. “It was also an eye-opener on how much plastic waste we produce,” he says.
They are now in the process of partnering with Hope in a Bottle, which will result in a plastic-grinding machine.
The resulting plastic pellets can be recycled into new things. They have used recycled plastic bricks for their community garden where residents can come and harvest produce for free.
The village also has free WiFi courtesy of another partnership. “It’s only for 30 minutes, and you’ll need to register again. But all of our public places, such as the playground, are covered. The only downside is that the yayas are now paying more attention to their phones instead of the kids,” he grins.
INTO THE FUTURE
Alzona says that he has started streamlining processes in their barangay and technology plays a very big part in such. Their meeting notes are now paperless for the most part. They now use tablets, documents are digital and easier to revise, and then they print only one hard copy for their files.
In pursuit of transparency, meetings are also livestreamed on their official Facebook page, along with other activities such as the dredging and clean-up of their creek. Circulars are now being sent through Viber, WhatsApp, and Viber groups, so that it is easier to bring everyone onboard. “I use my phone a lot, as I’ve realized how powerful it can be as a tool to update everyone. There are those who have started posting items for sale in the groups though,” he chuckles.
The way he is rebranding the barangay started with their change of official logo. It used to be just a square with the words Barangay Magallanes, along with a map and an image of their barangay building. Now, it sports an arch, symbolizing its role as the gateway to Makati’s financial district. The arch is also a bridge to the past and future, with the iconic windmill structure that was found in Magallanes shown together with the church that bears Magellan’s cross. “It symbolizes that our future is also with God,” the chairman explains.
A chef instructor and businessman by profession, Alzona is a hands-on guy. He says that he goes to his barangay office every day after bringing his daughter to school. “At night, I also monitor what is happening, and the people here know that they can reach me right away if a situation calls for it,” he adds.
One could say that Magallanes is a picture of success at the local government level. For other barangay leaders, Alzona advises being diligent about their tax mapping, so as to create more funding. “With our mobile government services, it is more convenient for our homeowners to pay their property taxes, so we have good compliance from the community. Partnerships such as these, with requests from government offices to come to your community, are possible so they should try to take advantage of the same.”
“If you have a heart for public service, and really want to give the best to the members of your community, you will always find a way,” he ends.