Where He Is Destined to Be
Barangay Captain Jomer Cruz of San Mateo, Rizal shares how his faith and kind of leadership has helped
his constituents in his 15 years of public service.
BY KAREN TERESE ROJAS
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ROMEO PERALTA JR.
GROOMING BY JHEF CADION
Leadership that comes naturally. Spiritually-and kindnessdriven. Long-term teaching. Leading by example. That is how Barangay Captain Jomer Alejandro Cruz of Barangay Guitnang Bayan 1 in San Mateo, Rizal describes his brand of leadership. An “action man,” this is how his constituents call him.
A HOMEGROWN LEADER
Barangay Captain Jomer Alejandro Cruz, or ‘Kap Jomer’ to his constituents and kababayans, was born and raised in Guitnang Bayan 1—a homegrown leader, as some people would say. The youngest in the family, Cruz was raised in a loving household, including his mother who was well-known in their area for their pawning business or sanglaan. He says his mother taught him values and morals he still lives by up to this day, and helped strengthen his faith in the Lord.
Cruz, while in school at the Nuestra Señora De Aranzazu Parochial School (NSDAPS), served as a sacristan during celebration of the Holy Mass. He was also part of several religious organizations which further strengthened his Catholic faith and beliefs.
“Hanggang ngayon—hanggang naging kapitan, lahat ‘yun, ‘yung lahat ng experiences kong ‘yun, ‘yun ‘yung mga baseline ko bilang kapitan (Until today–until I became [barangay] captain, all those, all those experiences, they became my baseline when I was elected),” Cruz says. “‘Yung mga act of kindness ko, ‘yung mga nalaman ko doon sa kung saan-saan man, ginagawa ko siya ngayon (Those acts of kindness, everything I learned throughout everything, I apply those lessons until today),” he adds.
STARTING OUT IN POLITICS
Despite having now served for several terms in public office, the barangay captain used to not want to be involved in politics.
“Noong time na kinukuha ako na kagawad pa lang, ayoko talaga kasi ano ‘yan eh, hindi ko naman forte ‘yung public service tapos kakausap ako sa tao, tutulungan ko ‘yung tao. Pero by nature, ganoon ako, hindi ko lang alam (When they were pushing me to run for barangay councilman, I didn’t want to do it, public service is not my forte but I would talk to people, help people. By nature, I am [a public servant], I just didn’t know it at that time),” he says.
That is why when someone asked him to join their ticket back in 2007, he initially declined the offer stating that he has yet to decide on joining the world of politics. But when they saw each other at a gathering of a common friend, Cruz was eventually persuaded to run as a kagawad.
“And the rest is history. 2007, it was my first term as barangay councilman, which led to my second and third term. Eventually, I developed my personality, everything. And now, here I am, a barangay captain,” he adds.
However, the barangay captain shares that it was not his first time in politics. When he was younger, he became a Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) kagawad as well. But just like his political career now, it was as if everything was falling into place, despite it not being what he initially wanted.
“Noong tumakbo ako ng SK kagawad noon, dahil merong nagsabi sa ‘kin na kaibigan ko na tumakbo ako na SK chairman kasi ‘yun ang nakikita nila sa ‘kin (When I ran for SK councilman before, it was because my friend told me to run for SK chairman because they saw me in that position),” he says. “Ngayon ang ginawa ko, pumunta ako doon sa tito ko na councilor that time, at sabi ko tatakbo akong SK chairman. That time, hindi ko kinonsider paano ko siya gagawin. Basta sa akin lang, sinabihan akong tumakbo, ako naman sumunod kasi siyempre meron silang nakikita sa ‘kin (So what I did, I talked to my uncle who was a councilor at that time, and told him that I will run for SK chairman. At that time, I didn’t consider the job. For me, they told me to run, and so I just followed because I know that they see something in me),” he quips.
Unfortunately, someone was already running for the position, which is why he had to run for SK kagawad instead. “Masunurin kasi ako lalo na kapag alam kong para sa tao o para sa amin. Para bang kahit hindi ko alam ang mangyayari, pero alam kong tama, ginagawa ko (I’m an obedient person, especially if I know it benefits people. It’s like even though I don’t completely know what’s going to happen, but as long as I know it’s the right thing to do, I’ll do it),” Cruz shares.
Cruz said that this attitude of his is what brought him to where he is now—a barangay captain in his hometown. “‘Yung attitude na ‘yun, ‘yun ‘yung nag-lead sa ‘kin dito bilang kapitan. Kung makikita mo, ‘yung mga kasama ko ritong mga kagawad, minsan mas matanda pa sa ‘kin, pero bilang leader, kahit sasabihin man na matanda sila sa ‘kin, parang natural na sa ‘kin ‘yung mag-lead (My attitude led me to running for [barangay] captain. Now, even if some of our councilmen are older than me, I don’t find it difficult to lead),” he shares.
A LEADER’S INSPIRATION
When asked what inspired him to become the kind of leader he is today, the barangay captain simply answers, “Purpose.” “Kapag kasi nalaman mo kung ano ‘yung purpose mo, natural, ‘yun ‘yung passion mo (Because when you know your purpose, naturally, that’s your passion),” he stresses. “Noong first time kong tumakbo [as kagawad], kaya lang ako napa-oo kasi ang gusto ko lang ayusin is sports—basketball. Pero noong naging kagawad na ako noon, nakita ko na marami pa palang problema, hindi lang (When I first ran [as barangay councilman], I just agreed because I wanted to focus on sports—basketball. But when I became a councilman, I saw that there are many issues that have to be resolved, not just) sports,” the barangay captain adds.
That was what started everything for Cruz. After serving three terms as a kagawad in their barangay, he discovered and developed his passion for public service. It was what also helped him to discover who he truly is and made him realize that his purpose was to be a lightworker for his constituents.
“‘Di ba sa Bible nakalagay, ‘Be the light and salt of the world’. Sabi ni Jesus Christ, ‘di ba? Totoo naman ‘yun (It’s in the Bible, ‘Be the light and salt of the world.’ Jesus Christ said it, right? It’s true),” Cruz says. “Bilang kapitan, ‘yun ang ginagawa ko. Maging the light and salt sa mga tao (As captain, that’s what I’m doing. Being the light and salt for everyone),” he adds.
Cruz further says that his passion to serve is what drives him to wake up every single day. “‘Yung passion mo, ‘yung makakatulong ka sa tao, isi-share mo ‘yung sarili mo (Passion, helping people, sharing myself to people),” he says. “‘Yun ‘yung nagda-drive sa ‘kin tuwing umaga na it’s a brand new day para makatulong ka sa mga nangangailangan (That’s what drives me every day, every morning, [thinking that] it’s a brand new day to help those in need).”
HELPING PEOPLE, IMPROVING THE BARANGAY
For Cruz, one of his biggest and proudest moments in public service is when he gets to help others. “Kapag nakakatulong ka sa tao, siyempre lahat ‘yun proud ka kasi may nagagawa ka. Pero ‘yung pinaka-proudest moment ko, siguro itong naayos ko ‘yung barangay sa loob lang ng isang term na nakaupo tayo (When you get to help people, of course you’re proud of all those times because you were able to do something. But my proudest moment, I guess would be, when I was able to fix the barangay during this first term that I served),” he reveals. What makes him even prouder is that he was able to achieve it during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, which made everything more challenging, including public service. According to the barangay captain, one of their biggest concerns as of the moment is the informal settlers in their barangay. These informal settlers have constructed their houses on bridges along creeks—which poses a threat to their own safety, not to mention the effects it has on the environment such as pollution.
“Kahit sabihan mo sila, kung ganoon na ‘yung nakaugalian nila, tapon lang sila nang tapon ng basura. So ‘yun ‘yung isa sa biggest concerns ko na sana magkaroon ang local government (LGU) ng programa para sa mahihirap na mabigyan sila ng pabahay (Even when you reprimand them, they got used to that system, they just throw trash [into the creek]. So that’s one of our biggest concerns, that hopefully the local government (LGU) will have a housing program for the indigents),” he shares. He adds that while it is up to the local government and higher units of government, it takes political will to initiate programs like this. “Kasi minsan pag wala kang political will, wala na, lilipas na lang ‘yun [issues]. Dadami ‘yung problema, hindi mo na maaaddress ‘yun (If you don’t have the political will, then it’ll remain that way, the issues will just keep happening. The problems will pile on and you won’t be able to address these any longer),” Cruz laments.
GRATEFUL THROUGH AND THROUGH
Like others who are passionate about their work, Cruz simply answered “sense of happiness” when asked what he loves most about his job. “Simple lang eh, ‘yung masaya ka na marami kang nagagawa and at the same time, ‘yung mga tao natutuwa sa’yo in little ways na kaya nilang itulong, ibibigay sa’yo o kaya ginagawa nila (It’s simple, I’m happy because I get to accomplish so many things, the people are also happy because in their little ways, they also get to help, give, or lend assistance),” the barangay captain muses.
He shares that some of his constituents give his office small tokens of appreciation because of what he and his fellow public servants in Guitnang Bayan 1 are doing in their barangay.
While the job can be fulfilling in many ways, it is not without its challenges and obstacles. Cruz says that the most difficult aspect of his work as a barangay captain is dealing with everyday situations and problems in their barangay.
“Isa sa pinakamahirap ‘yung hindi naiintindihan noong pinaliliwanagan mo ‘yung sitwasyon, ‘yung problema, kasi closeminded sila. Kasi magkakaiba nga ang perception ng mga tao, so
pinaka-mahirap ‘yung meron kang mae-encounter na sarado ‘yung isip tapos pinipilit na tama ‘yung sinasabi o ginagawa nila (One of the hardest things [with the job] is when people don’t understand the problem even when you try to enlighten them because they’re closeminded. Because people have different perceptions and that’s most difficult when you encounter those that have made up their minds and will insist that what they’re doing or saying is right),” he shares.
Asked for a message he can give to his constituents, Cruz said that like always he wants to remind his kababayans in Guitnang Bayan 1 to be grateful for everything they have, and not look at what they do not have.
“Be grateful lagi kung ano ang meron tayo at i-share ‘yung sarili o kung ano ‘yung meron sila sa ibang tao. Kapag nagawa natin lahat ‘yun, lahat tayo pare-parehong maayos, masaya, at walang problema (Always be grateful for what you have and share what you can to other people. When we are able to rise up to the challenge, then we will all live harmoniously, happy and without problems),” he says.
“Walang naiinggit, walang naninira sa kapwa kasi naiintindihan mo na kailangan maging grateful ka sa sarili mo. And nagsisimula ‘yun sa puso, sa sarili (Don’t be envious, don’t malign your neighbors because you understand that it’s better to be grateful and content. That starts with your heart, with yourself),” Cruz ends.