KAP. CELERINO BALASOTO JR.
You don’t need superpowers to do a great job as a public servant. Take it from Barangay Anos, Los Baños, Laguna Kap. Celerino Balasoto Jr.
BY MARIDOL RANOA-BISMARK
PHOTOGRAPHY BY DANIEL SORIANO
The name Celerino Balasoto Jr. may appear in Google search when someone looks for anything about Barangay Anos in Los Baños, Laguna. But its 11,401 residents (as of this writing) prefer to call their barangay captain Kap. Budjong. Teens playing basketball in the covered court call him by this name.
Children run to him and put their bowed forehead on his extended hand to ask for his blessing. Senior citizens tearfully embrace him. The 50-year-old public servant calls his constituents by their first names. The barangay captain, a bachelor, may not have children of his own. But the number of his godchildren more than make up for it. “People ask me to stand as baptismal and wedding sponsor every year,” he says. “I already have grandchildren from some of my married godchildren.”
The barangay official is in his element when talking about his job. He can go on and on describing his projects the way a proud father would discuss his children’s achievements.
He looks up from the pile of documents he’s signing, and points to a row of CCTV screens showing busy streets where jeepneys come and go. Then, he recalls how the barangay acquired these video surveillance systems. He remembers submitting a work program in 2015 to the municipal engineering office.
It included a request to purchase CCTV cameras for P800,000. A year passed, but there was no word from the municipal office. So he took matters into his own hands. Kap. Budjong got the documents and asked his barangay treasurer to purchase CCTV cameras worth P50,000 and below.
Time was running out. Barangay residents and visitors were experiencing road accidents, which could have been captured by the CCTV cameras. Kap. Budjong can send his trained tanod and staff to the scene ASAP and rush them to the nearest health center or hospital, give first aid, and help in other ways. Kap. Budjong worked around the shoestring budget by purchasing six CCTV cameras one at a time.
Instead of getting the “merienda funds,” he requested for another CCTV camera for the street where the elementary school stood, along with its interior premises as well. “There have been no reports of kidnapping since,” he states. Thanks to the CCTVs, a drug addict was arrested, and deadly road accidents were minimized.
Safety is big deal for Kap. Budjong, who instructed his barangay tanods to drive residents home in tricycles, especially at night.
Many of the passengers are women; some are men who had one drink too many. “Anyone who refuses to obey must answer to me. The aggrieved party can get the tanod’s name and report it to me,” Kap. Budjong says.
To deal with fire emergencies, Kap. Budjong turned down an offer to have a fire truck and chose more practical tricycle rescue patrol vehicles with fire extinguishers as these can easily enter and navigate the barangay’s alleys and narrow streets.
They even cost less and are easier to maintain than trucks. “A fireman asked me if the men who rushed to a fire scene are my barangay tanods. He said that the tanods know how to use fire extinguishers,” Kap. Budjong says with pride. That’s because 20 barangay tanods underwent fire safety training from members of the Philippine Army itself.
They’re scheduled to take a refresher course as well. Barangay Anos also has a standby Disaster Rescue Vehicle equipped with life vests, helmets, a ladder, fire extinguishers, rope, and power saw for emergencies.
Knowing who to call in an emergency, and how to readily reach them, can save many lives. So Kap. Budjong thought of printing important numbers, like those of the barangay hall, fire department, police, health center, water district, and Meralco on bright green and orange stickers.
He knows emergency situations create panic and confusion. Every minute counts. These colorful stickers, when displayed on visible places, like the table or the telephone, or when kept in a purse or tote bag, can save lives.