Struggles and hindrances did not stop Marilao, Bulacan Mayor
Ricardo ‘Ricky’ Silvestre from becoming who he is today,
someone constantly serving the people.
BY NOVIE ROSE NUÑEZ
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ROMEO PERALTA JR.
Tourists visiting this 1st class municipality located two hours away from Metro Manila, will be greeted by colorful and vibrant surroundings. The atmosphere in Marilao, Bulacan can only be described as calm
and peaceful, a textbook countryside vibe accentuated by the sunflowers and warm breeze. Beyond the soothing aesthetics of the town, its citizens are just as welcoming, positively reflecting their culture and governance.
SERIES OF FORTUNATE EVENTS
Behind the current success of Marilao is none other than Mayor Ricardo “Ricky” Silvestre. But before all the achievements that eventually led to him leading the municipality, he led life full of struggles.
“Noong 14 years old ako, second year high school, napilitan lang akong tapusin ang second year sapagkat ang kuya kong marino ay nagkasakit kaya minabuti ko na ako na ang magtrabaho para sa pamilya niya. Tumigil ako ng pag-aaral—naggapas ako ng palay, nagtibag ng bato, hanggang
sa napunta ako sa construction (When I was 14 years old, I was in second year high school, I was forced to stop my studies because my older brother who was a seaman got sick and I had to work for his family. My schooling ended—did odd jobs such as harvesting rice and quarrying rocks, and then eventually I landed a job in construction).”
Silvestre says that their life was simple back then, and he tried almost every manual job available at the time. He became a carpenter, electrician, plumber, and even mason. Then, in 1992, he became a contractor and started his own construction firm, Silvestre Builders.
His luck started to turn after he launched his own business. At the young age of 19, Silvestre managed to buy a padiri, pugad ng baboy, and a rest house. Two years later, he married his wife Maria Luisa.
“So, ‘yun ang pinagsimulan natin at nangarap [pa] noong 1994 na magsilbi sa barangay (So, that’s where I started to dream of serving our barangay, in 1994).”
Back then, his vision and ultimate goal was to eradicate drugs within Barangay Patubig in Sta. Maria, Bulacan. He says, “Noong panahon na ‘yon, masyadong malakas ‘yung drugs kaya sabi ko rin sa sarili ko na why not mag-try akong lumaban na punong barangay para malipol ko naman ‘yung drugs na ‘yon.
Ang nangyari doon sa barangay namin noon, nawala ‘yung problema sa droga (Back then, there were a lot of illegal drugs [in our barangay]. I then thought of running for barangay chairperson to eliminate drugs, and [when I was elected], we managed to get rid of the drugs).”
After eliminating illegal drugs in his barangay, Silvestre implemented more projects and programs. He
proudly shares that during his first term as barangay chairperson, he offered school supplies and medicines to his constituents for free.
“Naging barangay chairman ako ng labing anim na taon, barangay pa lamang ginawa ko nang libre lahat ng gamit pang-eskwela. Libre lahat ng gamot sa pangkaraniwang sakit, kami lang ang bukod tanging barangay na naglagay ng sariling doktor sa barangay. Sapagkat mahal ko ang kabarangay ko (I was the
barangay chairman for 16 years. I gave free school supplies and even medicine for common illnesses—all for free. We were the only barangay that had a doctor on staff. Because I love my constituents).”
MOVING FORWARD INTO BIGGER DREAMS
Silvestre’s love for the people, beyond the confines of Barangay Patubig, flourished over time. The beauty of liwasang pangkalikasan has been Silvestre’s vision since he became a barangay chairman and when he got a chance to realize it in the municipality of Marilao, he then grabbed the opportunity. He says that his vision of liwasang pangkalikasan is something he hopes to apply at the national level someday.
In 2019, while campaigning in mayoral race, he told the people, “Basura niyong nabubulok, ibabalik ko sa tahanan ninyo sa pamamagitan ng mga namumungang halaman (We will use your trash to plant fruit-bearing plants in your homes).”
He adds, “Ang ginawa ko rito, ‘yung lupang mataba, tinamnan namin, pinamunga namin, tsaka namin dinala sa mga kabahayan. Nagtanim ako ng limampung libong talong, okra, kamatis, sili para siyang ipamigay sa bahay-bahay at sila ay makumbinsi ko [na] ang basura nilang nabubulok ay ihiwalay nila para magamit namin ito [at] para magawa naming lupang mataba. Ganon ang ginagawa natin (We planted vegetables on the fertile soil and waited for these to bear fruits before distributing these to the people. I planted five thousand seedlings of eggplants, ladies’ fingers, tomatoes, chili to distribute house-to-house and to convince the people that they should segregate their waste to produce fertilizers. It’s something
we do until today).”
Silvestre’s efforts toward the liwasang pangkalikasan benefited not only the environment but also the citizens. Aside from the community gardens, the town also has a materials recovery facilities (MRF)
where waste is segregated before being turned into tiles, vases, and pillars.
Improving his constituents’ livelihood is another proud achievement of the public servant. Silvestre shares that because of this initiative, dozens of Marileños have jobs. He shares, “Kahit wala silang sweldo
sa pamahalaang bayan pero yung nagpipili ng basura, kanila na ‘yung makukuha nila. Nakapagbebenta ang bawat isa [ng mga] limang libo pataas bawat linggo. Ibig sabihin, kumikita sila ng dalawampung libo kada
buwan (Even if they don’t receive salary from the government, they earn from segragating the waste materials collected. They earn up to five thousand pesos every week from selling [recylables]. That’s twenty
thousand pesos a month).”
Although they do not have compensation from the local government of Marilao, Silvestre made sure that they are still supported by giving them additional assistance like uniforms, gadgets, face masks, alcohol, and boots to keep them protected from the hazards of garbage and chemicals.
He gratefully shares that they are a huge help in the municipality’s goal to further lessen the 15 percent waste of Marilao, Bulacan. This is 15 percent of over 7 million waste materials produced by the town. In
addition, Silvestre mentions that the LGU has managed to save money by only using a budgeted over a million pesos to collect the waste materials.
AHEAD OF HIS VISION
“Kapag ang bawat lugar [ay] maraming mas mahirap kesa may pera, lahat ng bayan nangangailangan ng libreng hospital (When every community has more financially challenged families than those who have
money, then every municipality needs a free hospital),” Silvestre reveals when asked about the biggest concern he faces in Marilao.
In order to accomplish this, he has allocated a budget of Php200 million every year. Silvestre also adds that he is planning to build a hospital with up to a 100-bed capacity. “Ang talagang kailangang pera ay
Php200 million a year. ‘Yun ang panggastos mo para mai-operate mo ang isang pangpublikong hospital (We need a Php200 million annual budget to cover operating expenses of a public hospital),” he adds.
“When every community has more financially challenged families than those who have money, then every municipality needs a free hospital.”
Silvestre also plans to provide an MRF for each barangay. He explains, “Para sa ganon sa barangay palang may pagkukunan na ng pera ‘yung mga nandoon. Pwede na sila na bawat barangay ay mayroon silang
makuha na 2-3 [percent] na basura (So that even at the barangay-level, the people will earn money. It’s possible that each barangay will collect 2-3 [percent] of wastes).”
He further says that his initiative in barangays’ waste management was done when the LGU donated a garbage truck to each of Marilao’s 16 barangays. Aside from garbage trucks, Silvestre also purchased 16
“Sabay sabay kong pinurchase ang labing anim na ambulance dahil ayokong may isang kapitan o may sakit tatawag sa Office of the Mayor [para sabihing], ‘Wala pong ambulansya.’ Kung apat ang ambulansya
ng Marilao noon, talagang mas-short (I purchased 16 ambulances in one go because I don’t want a barangay chairman or a sick person calling in my office saying, ‘We don’t have an ambulance.’ If there are
only four ambulances in Marilao before, there will really be a shortage).”
Even after nearly 20 years of public service, he has never forgotten the initiatives he launched in his barangay which he now carries over as a mayor. One of these, as mentioned, is education.
“Ako ang nagsimula ng scholarship program sa bayan ng Marilao. Kasi sa barangay namin, may kinuha agad akong scholar. Ang unang binigay ko sa scholar ko ay unang sweldo ko sa barangay tapos taon-taon nagdadagdag na ako [ng budget] (I started the scholarship in Marilao. In our barangay, I used to have
a similar program. The first educational assistance I gave was actually from my very first salary in barangay then eventually, every year, I would gradually increase the budget).”
Through his ingenuity, Silvestre says that this program was considered by then-Mayor Epifanio Guillermo and continued by former Mayor Juanito Santiago. He also shares that when he was first seated in the office, the program only had 900 scholars but now they currently have 1,600 scholars. They are still accepting applications and expect to add 1,500 more, serving more than 3000 scholars in total.
He further explains, “Ang programa mo, sundan na lang nang sundan ‘yon dahil palakihin mo na lang nang palakihin ‘yung scholar (You should constantly continue your program because all you have to do is to increase the number of scholars).”
“Ganon tayo nag-iisip. Kailangan yung isang project ay maging continuous, hindi mapuputol. Kailangan mahaba vision mo (That’s how we think. It’s important that that one project should be continuous,
not unsustainable. You have to expand your vision),” he notes.
DELIGHTED TO SERVE
Although Silvestre was not raise and born in Marilao, as he is natively fromSta. Maria, he has learned to love the town and its people. “Paano ko hindi mamahalin [ang Marilao]? Dito ako nagka-pamilya, dito ako nagka-anak, dito ako nagka-apo, dito ako umasenso. Sabi ko nga sa sarili ko, mas mahal ko ang bayan
napuntahan ko kesa sa bayan sa kung saan ako isinilang. Kaya mahal na mahal ko ang bayan na ‘to (How could I not love [Marilao]? This is where I built my family, where we had children, where I had grandchildren, where I became successful. I love this place more than my hometown. That’s why I really love this town),” he