ALL ROADS LEAD TO PAKIL
Pakil, one of the country’s oldest towns, enters a renaissance of unprecedented growth through good governance
BY JOSELITO M. EBRO JR.
PHOTOS BY DANIEL SORIANO
Athree-hour drive east of Manila leads to a town in Laguna with two noncontiguous parts. Separated
by Laguna de Bay, the town shares a boundary with the province of Rizal in the west, while the other shares a border with Quezon province and other municipalities in Laguna.
“It’s like I am the mayor of two municipalities. I have to travel 30 to 35 minutes through the towns of Pangil, Siniloan, Famy, and Mabitac before I get to the other side,” says Vincent Soriano, the young mayor of the town of Pakil. Despite the obstacle, the municipality has exceeded expectations as it breaks
records in good governance.
“A small town is like a blank canvas on which you can build your own Rome,” says Mayor Soriano. And true enough, it seems Pakil has found its own Augustus.
Soriano is a seasoned public servant, who joined politics when he was 18, a year before graduating cum laude from the University of the Philippines Los Baños. He is an educator and a published writer, and
through his leadership, he hopes to bring Pakil to its Golden Age.
STEEPED IN HISTORY
Pakil is one of the oldest towns in the Philippines. First organized in 1588 as a visita of Paete, it became an independent town on May 12, 1676. Since then, the town has served as a home for people who love to
express themselves through their culture and tradition. At the heart of Pakil’s poblacion is their old-aged church of San Pedro de Alcantara. This baroque church has served to represent the rich heritage and
culture of Pakilenyos.
Pakil is also known for being the site of one of the oldest festivals in the country. Each year, around the months of April and May, Pakilenyos honor the Nuestra Señora de los Dolores de Turumba. A celebration which started in 1788, people dance their hearts out to express gratitude to the miraculous Virgin Mary. Due to the popularity of the festival, neighboring municipalities and cities participate and send their
best brass bands to compete.
“Imagine, Pakil is a small town yet we have three brass bands,” shares Soriano. This love for music is apparent among Pakil’s people, and exemplified through the works of National Artist Marcelo Adonay, a Pakilenyo and an icon of church music in the country.
But culture and sports are not the only areas that Pakilenyos are proud of.
LEAP IN COMPETITIVENESS
Pakil grew rapidly in 2017. Based on the National Competitive Index of all municipalities in the country,
Pakil ranked 90th in the fifth class municipality category, a significant jump from its previous rank of
378. Measured through key indicators such as economic dynamism, government efficiency, and infrastructure, Pakil has scored well in areas pertaining to good public service complete with
the presence of investment promotion unit, availability of basic utilities, and efficient land use plan.
Through efficient government service, the town has secured additional investments such as the
presence of a gasoline station, cockpit arena, and a hollow block factory.
This big step in Pakil’s competitiveness was due to the good mix of clear vision, technical competence, and “a good sense of morality,” which the local government leaders and employees of Pakil aspire to
PLANNING FOR CHANGE
Mayor Soriano believes that the huge leap in competitiveness is a direct result of good governance
initiatives he sought to implement as soon as he sat as the local executive.
After almost two years since he won the mayoralty race, government transactions in Pakil are now computerized, making public service quick and efficient. It also helped in the promotion of more businesses and in turn generated more livelihood for the people.
Law enforcement was also modernized. The Pakil police force is now equipped with body cameras
using the same technology found in the US and Israel to ensure better public service and security.
Pakil is also preparing for the implementation of the MARINA project, which will soon connect
Pakil with Taguig by boat via the Laguna Lake. Through this project, the cost of traveling from Pakil to
major cities in the National Capital Region will be reduced.
The town also joins other cities that transferred their public service operations to a government center
to better address the needs of their constituents. The service provided by this hub will be extended
through various branches stationed in major areas around town.
As the recent projects of the LGU exemplify a harmonious partnership with all concerned parties, Mayor Soriano emphasizes that good relations with the public and private sector is also key in the promotion of numerous services for the people.
The government is responsible for securing a conducive environment for investment and economic growth. Once achieved, the civil society and the business sector would cover the cost needed
to execute numerous projects.
Efficient planning has also played a prominent role in Pakil’s growth. Soriano, who adheres to the value of planning over unprepared action, puts emphasis on the roles of the public officials in promoting a mindset of foresight.
TRANSFORMING THE OLD, EMBRACING THE NEW
Soriano admits that the perspective of the people presents a stumbling block in his leadership. The LGU
desires to widen the horizon for Pakilenyos by changing their mindset and removing their passiveness. They need to believe in the idea that even a small town can accomplish great things. “Hindi dapat tayo ang
susunod, tayo ang susundan. Hindi dapat tayo ang tutulad, tayo ang tutularan (We shouldn’t follow, we
should lead. We shouldn’t copy, we should be emulated),” says Soriano.
Yet, amidst all the progress that has been changing the landscape of Pakil, Mayor Soriano knows
that this could never happen at the expense of Pakil’s rich history and heritage. “How can we accomplish
the challenges of the future if we cannot appreciate our past?” he asks.
To achieve this goal, one of the priority projects envisioned by the LGU of Pakil is the construction of
a heritage plaza. This public space would serve as the heart of art and culture in Pakil. The heritage
plaza will feature monuments, civic buildings, and a gymnasium to cater to the needs of all Pakilenyos.
Inspired to maintain the old plaza system practiced during the Spanish colonization, the LGU of
Pakil aims to show that economic and social development, with culture and history as the backdrop,
Through this balanced view of governance, the town aims to show that the old is never a hindrance to the new.
COMPETING WITH CITIES
This year, the town aims to be included in the top 50 municipalities of 2018. Cityhood may seem to be a tall order for Pakil at the moment, but the possibility certainly lies in the foreseeable future. For now, Pakil
strives to outdo itself in the next years to come.
“I don’t want to compete with fellow municipalities, I want to compete with cities,” says Soriano. He envisions Pakil as a model community that other municipalities may draw inspiration from. “This will
take some time,” admits Mayor Soriano.
After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day. But through a decisive leadership and a relentless pursuit of good governance, Pakil will continue climbing its way to the top.