Bracing for the Big One
Though situated in a disaster-prone zone (600 meters away from the fault line), Barangay San Antonio, Pasig, under the leadership of Chairman Joselito Dela Merced, is more than ready to take on the ‘Big One’
BY KRISTEL DACUMOS-LAGORZA
PHOTOGRAPHY BY RENJIE TOLENTINO
With thousands of Filipinos in its fold and under its protection, Barangay San Antonio (BSA) positions itself as a small yet powerful unit. It encompasses much of the Ortigas Center Business District, including the Philippine Stock Exchange, University of Asia & the Pacific, Discovery Suites, Astoria Plaza, and various high-rise condominium and office buildings. Thanks to its unique location, smack in the middle of a thriving business district and tight-knit community, BSA has been able to reap success and build for itself a strong foundation. But is it unshakeable?
Here is where BSA finds itself in another predicament. Situated just 600 meters from the fault line, is BSA ready to take on the “Big One,” the impending earthquake, which scientists have for years been warning the metro to brace itself for? And Barangay Chairman Joselito P. Dela Merced proudly and confidently says yes!
“Since the very beginning, my program has always been focused on disaster preparedness and protection, as well as peace and order. From the ambulances to the drills and our emergency response
teams, we are fully equipped. We also regularly host seminars in different condos and residential villages to inform, educate, and train,” says Dela Merced proudly, adding that during these seminars they’ve also given away emergency kits.
PROUD TO SERVE
Since 1967, the chairman has been serving the local government, first working as a kagawad at 20 years old. “Even then, the committee that I always handled was Peace and Order,” he says proudly.
His father was a colonel in the military who later joined the security team responsible for the late Senator Jose Zulueta. De la Merced would follow in his father’s footsteps – not becoming a colonel – but serving the same senator as security detail. He later joined the Criminal Investigation Services group under Zulueta, who became governor of Iloilo. Continuing his line of work under former president, Ferdinand Marcos, Dela Merced was chosen to be part of the elite force of police and military men known as the Metrocom, before continuing to work under Congressman Roquito Ablan in Ilocos Norte.
Looking back on his past, Dela Merced says, “From working in those different roles and duties, I’ve learned that kung walang peace and order, walang uusad. Gusto ko talaga tahimik at mapayapa ang barangay.”
ROAD TO PEACE
In 2007, Dela Merced was elected as barangay chairman and his first order of business was cleaning up his turf. To quell the issue of drugs and criminality, the barangay initiated community drug rehab, offered financial assistance for education to out-of-school youth, and established the Kooperatiba ng Pagpapautang ng San Antonio, Pasig, or KPSAP. “The BSA-KPSAP aims to provide employment opportunities for members of the barangay through micro and small business options. The KPSAP
initiative was primarily intended to promote a sustainable environment where people can make a decent
source of income that will afford them a higher standard of living,” he explains. As part of the program, the barangay has allotted prime space for entrepreneurs for free to sell their wares. “To date, we have
helped over 200 members,” he says, beaming with pride. “By giving them an opportunity to better their lives, many of the members are able to keep themselves and their families out of trouble.”