𝐏𝐫𝐨𝐦𝐨𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐆𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐭 𝐋𝐞𝐚𝐝𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐡𝐢𝐩 𝐓𝐡𝐫𝐨𝐮𝐠𝐡 ‘𝐒𝐞𝐫𝐛𝐢𝐬𝐲𝐨𝐧𝐠 𝐌𝐚𝐲 𝐌𝐚𝐥𝐚𝐬𝐚𝐤𝐢𝐭’
BY CARLOS GERARD SANTOS
Good leaders are essential for progress. They drive growth, embrace change, promote order, and foster unity among the communities they lead. However, great leaders are as rare as they are vital. Mayor Ferdinand Viceo Estrella, or simply “Mayor Ferdie” to his constituents in Baliwag, Bulacan, embodies qualities integral to a good leader in these modern times. Estrella has served the local government unit (LGU) since 2016, starting his political career as a barangay chairman in 2007 and taking on the duties of president of the Association of Barangay Councils (ABC) in Baliwag in 2010. Moreover, being the son of former Mayor Romeo Estrella, Ferdie is no stranger to public service.
When asked about his leadership style, he shares that his brand of leadership is focused on empathy.
While many leaders highlight the significance of discipline and rigorousness, Estrella claims that what people need the most is genuine care and compassion from public servants. “Ang brand of leadership na ginawa ko dito nung simula pa lang ay inangkla ko sa ‘Serbisyong May Malasakit.’ Ang ‘Serbisyong May Malasakit,’ ito yung serbisyo na maagap, magiliw, maaasahan, at magka-katuwang. Ibig sabihin, kapag ikaw ay nagseserbisyo sa ating mga kababayan, dapat may kasamang pagmamahal at malasakit
(The leadership brand that I’ve been implementing from the beginning is anchored on service with compassion. Service with compassion means service that is prompt, friendly, reliable, and holistic),” the mayor explains. He further emphasizes that it’s important for his constituents to always feel welcome whenever they approach him with concerns so that they can go home with peace of mind, knowing their problem will be addressed.
Ang ‘Serbisyong May Malasakit,’ ito ‘yung serbisyo na maagap, magiliw, maaasahan, at magkakatuwang. Ibig sabihin, kapag ikaw ay nagseserbisyo sa ating mga kababayan, dapat may kasamang pagmamahal at malasakit.”
𝐓𝐇𝐄 𝐑𝐎𝐀𝐃 𝐓𝐎 𝐓𝐇𝐄 𝐁𝐀𝐋𝐈𝐖𝐀𝐆 𝐌𝐀𝐘𝐎𝐑𝐀𝐋𝐓𝐘
Estrella talks fondly about his childhood and how he was exposed to the rewarding field of public service at a very young age. In addition to his father being a former mayor, his grandfather also served as vice mayor and OIC mayor of San Rafael, Bulacan. The 43-year-old mayor shares that when he lived with his grandfather, he often saw a lot of people visiting their home to ask for assistance. In their house was a wall decorated with many certificates and plaques, and seeing them sparked in him a hope to grow up like his obliging grandfather. Estrella adds that the joy of helping others was instilled in his heart from childhood.
According to Estrella, when he was still a student, joining politics never crossed his mind until he was invited to join Junior Chamber International (JCI), a non-profit organization helping the youth
improve their leadership skills by creating a positive impact to the community. He claims this organization has helped him experience and learn more things.
In 1996, Estrella won as a Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) chairman and was also elected as the SK Federation president of Baliwag, Bulacan. He was able to achieve this feat at 16 years old, in his second year of secondary studies at La Salle Green Hills (LSGH). In 2007, he served as the barangay captain of Poblacion while simultaneously serving as ABC president of the entire province. He first vied for the mayoralty in 2013 but lost the elections by 500 votes. Then, in 2016, he ran again for mayor and finally won with a lead of over 3,700 votes. Estrella considers his first term as the most memorable in his political career. Before winning the position, he reveals that some friends and allies lost their lives during the fight.
Even their personal businesses were affected. So his first three years in the seat was filled with challenges.
Due to what happened, Estrella realized the importance of the power he earned. “‘Di pala binibigay nang ganonganon lang. Siguro pinapaintindi sa ‘min na itong posisyon na ‘to ay mahalaga (It’s not that easy to earn. Maybe we were made to realize the real weight of this position),” he says.
𝐂𝐎𝐌𝐁𝐀𝐓𝐓𝐈𝐍𝐆 𝐓𝐇𝐄 𝐂𝐎𝐕𝐈𝐃-𝟏𝟗 𝐏𝐀𝐍𝐃𝐄𝐌𝐈𝐂
Being the first mayor to test positive for COVID-19, Estrella tediously developed response programs to manage its spread in Baliwag. The distribution of essential goods was organized. His team also
started ‘Almu-share’ which, as the name implies, involved sharing breakfast with the citizens through community pantries and public food stands. Additionally, he prioritized providing free transportation, especially for frontline workers and dialysis patients. Moreover, Estrella’s office implemented a tracking system for Coronavirus-related mortalities. Baliwag was also the first municipality to facilitate contact tracing through the generation of quick response (QR) codes via the IamSafe web application, a project that was even awarded the Best COVID-19 Pandemic Response by the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and the Galing Pook Awards. Furthermore, their office implemented a public delivery service. At present, the city continues to offer free antigen testing to Baliwag citizens, and
and medical needs.
𝐋𝐄𝐀𝐃𝐈𝐍𝐆 𝐅𝐑𝐎𝐌 𝐓𝐇𝐄 𝐇𝐄𝐀𝐑𝐓
Estrella’s implemented projects in Baliwag speak for his leadership style which he claims is anchored on compassion. Aside from his successful endeavors, Estrella shares that he pays a visit to the LGU hall every week to ensure that the people feel included by and close to the local government. Moreover, every Friday, he visits a barangay to deliver his services directly to the public. Estrella adds that the most unforgettable part of his barangay visits was personally paying calls on the sick. “I visit the houses of my sick citizens, giving as much help as I can, sometimes bringing a doctor with me. Whatever they need, I try to provide. In one barangay, [I would visit] sometimes five, eight, 10 people who are sick.” He stresses that he doesn’t only tend to these tasks during election periods but throughout the year to show sincerity and joy of serving, “Our tagline is anchored on compassion. They don’t need to go to city hall in order to receive help. I visit them myself and bring help to them.” Estrella also talked about his flagship project, the Hatid Kalinga Program, which entails making monthly deliveries of maintenance medicine to the elderly. At present, the program has already catered to 5,000 to 7,000 senior citizens. Meanwhile, for youth and education, Estrella upgraded Baliwag Polytechnic College (BTECH) by extending free education to senior high school students. BTECH also offers new courses—BS Internal Auditing, BS Management Accounting, BS Mathematics, AB History, and BSBA - Human Resource Management. Aside from free tuition, the city also provides some of the 7,000 enrolled students with additional allowance. BTECH is accredited by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED)’s Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST) Program, and was recognized as first placer in “Gawad Parangal 2022 - EDUKALIDAD: Parangal sa Kahusayan” in May 2022. Estrella proudly shares that some of the BTECH graduates were topnotchers in licensure exams.
Estrella also made sure that public school teachers were given attention. The city provided 36 public school teachers and principals with a maximum amount of Php20,000 financial assistance each for their master’s and doctoral degrees to help them get promoted at work. For trade, commerce, and livelihood on the other hand, Estrella improved the city’s processing time by reducing it to 30 minutes or less. Through the Business One Stop Shop (BOSS), residents can apply and renew business and construction permits in one place. It has a comfortable lounge that serves refreshments during renewal season and has a function hall that businessmen can use.
• 2022 Recipient of the Seal of Good Local Governance (SGLG), Awarded by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG)
• 2nd Most Competitive Municipality in the Philippines,
2022 National and Regional Competitiveness Index
• 2022 National Winner, Manila Bayani Award
• 2022 National Winner, Bayanihan Service Award (1st and 2nd Class Category)
• 2022 UA&P HELM Award for Mayor Ferdie Estrella [Community Engagement and Social Advocacy Award - Public Enterprise]
• 2022 Recertified ISO 9001:2015 for Quality Management System
• 2022 Regional Winner, Seal of Child-Friendly Local Governance Award, Awarded by DILG
• 2022 Seal of Financial Housekeeper Passer
• 2022 National Winner, Gawad Paglilingkod sa Sambayanan (GAPAS) Award for Model LGU Implementing Protective Programs and Services
• 2022 Compendium of Best Practices in Local Governance for Five Baliwag LGU Programs
• 2022 National Finalist for Most Business-Friendly Municipality in the Philippines
• 2022 National Finalist, Most Business-Friendly LGU by Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI).
To maintain peace and order in the city, 253 CCTV cameras were installed that are connected to one command center. It monitors traffic, accidents, and other happenings in the city round-the-clock. Other than that, the city has a Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA)-accredited Bahay Pagbabago Reformation Center which is now known as Balay Silangan. It is a facility that offers a three-month reformation program where reformees undergo counselling, spiritual activities, and skills and livelihood training. Estrella shares that over 300 reformees have graduated from this facility. If residents have more concerns, complaints, or questions, Baliwag has a Public Assistance and Complaint Center customer care and rescue hotline which caters to calls 24/7.
Nothing else is more satisfying than knowing that the people are experiencing the town’s improvement firsthand. This is what Estrella is most proud of. When he assumed the position, Baliwag was still a municipality which ranked 960th among the country’s 1,490 municipalities. But after just a year of being the town’s chief, he lifted the municipality’s rank to #47. With this, Baliwag was also recognized as the Most
Improved Local Government Unit in 2017. From the 47th spot, it climbed to #13 in 2018 then back to back third in 2019 and 2020. Another back to back, this time, second place in 2021 and 2022.
Estrella shares that in 2016, he was asked by some vloggers how he envisioned Baliwag in the next 10 years: “I told them that I could envision Baliwag becoming a city from being a first-class municipality.”
The following year, Estrella worked immediately to make his vision a reality. From 2018 to 2019, he took the time to consult different stakeholders including the barangay leaders and volunteers, business communities, religious groups, teachers, medical professionals, even the senior citizens, and private sectors.
In August 2020, Congressman Paolo Duterte and Congressman Eric Go Yap of Anti-Crime and Terrorism
Community Involvement and Support (ACT-CIS) Partylist filed House Bill 7362, or “An Act Converting the
Municipality of Baliwag into a Component City of the Province of Bulacan to be Known as Baliwag City,” in the House of Representatives. Congressman Gavini Pancho of the Second District of Bulacan, eventually filed House Bill 9949, which served as the mother bill for Baliwag cityhood.
Luckily, Republic Act 11929—the conversion of the Municipality of Baliwag into the City of Baliwag—was
ratified in 2021. The plebiscite was the final step to cityhood. Fortunately, the long wait is over and the hard work of everyone in Baliwag has paid off because it is now officially a city. Baliwag is the fourth city in the province of Bulacan and first in the 2nd District. It is the 148th municipality to be converted into a city in the entire country.
According to Estrella, Baliwag’s cityhood will further improve the services in the city, which the people will greatly benefit from. He continues that it will be a permanent change and make a lasting mark in history. Moreover, it will be a great way for the citizens to leave a strong legacy for the future generations of Baliwag. “Walang munisipyo na nagsisi na naging (No municipality ever regretted turning into a) city,”