EVERYONE’S BARANGAY CHAIRWOMAN
While their barangay has a “posh” reputation, Manotok strives to include everyone in their programs because being a good neighbor means treating everyone equally regardless of background.
By Camille F. Cabal
PHOTOGRAPHY BY DANIEL SORIANO
Forbes Park, Makati City, is always associated with the words “posh” and “exclusive” since it’s home to some of the richest and most well-known people in the country. For some, the place may be daunting but Chairwoman Evangeline Manotok has enthusiastically accepted the challenge of leading one of the most
affluent barangays in the country.
Growing up as the youngest child in a family with loving parents and protective siblings shaped Manotok into a community leader with the biggest heart. Manotok spent most of her childhood tagging along with her parents. She shares that her father was active in doing volunteer work, particularly with the Knights of Columbus, and her mother would teach catechism to the youth after mass. There were also times when they would visit the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) to hand out food and magazines.
The years Manotok spent tagging along with her parents exposed her to numerous charitable endeavors. When she became a public servant, the people around her no longer wondered why she belonged in her position. Her childhood experiences had already prepared her for what she would become.
TEARING DOWN THE WALLS
Manotok began her professional career as a certified public accountant. She has a simple story on how she was introduced to the world of politics, yet a special reason on why she accepted the opportunity.
Prior to becoming a barangay chairwoman, Manotok was elected as a barangay councilor in 2007, a position initially offered to her brother. However, her brother declined and suggested she run instead. With this opportunity, Manotok considered her children, who were still young at the time. Instead of declining for this reason, she accepted the invitation because she wanted her children to get to know their neighbors better, and she believed it is best to start early. Inspired by this, Manotok started doing projects for the children in the barangay since the existing projects were mostly focused on the elderly. Manotok founded the Sapphire Girls Club, an exclusive group for girls where cooking and art skills are taught. She says, “I made it a point to ask some of my friends who are skilled in cooking and the arts if they would be willing to teach the children in the barangay every Saturday.” In addition to this, she organized a club
where mothers and their children cook together. She also recalls organizing the first Flores de Mayo in the barangay. “The people here are very shy or very reserved, so I invited all [grandparents to let their]
grandchildren participate.” It was the first time they went around the barangay, and fortunately, the event was well-received, so she added more events and activities like the Chinese New Year Party and the August Mooncake Festival. There was even one time when she invited the Philharmonic Orchestra to perform in a concert series.
God should always come first, followed by family, but if you want to be a good neighbor, you can’t just refer to people as ‘boys’ or ‘staff.’ You shouldn’t feel privileged because lahat naman tayo pantay-pantay.
Manotok explains that she did all these things to encourage residents, especially children, to go out of their homes and socialize with their neighbors.
EVERYONE IS FAMILY
The LEAGUE team arrived at Manotok’s residence early in the morning. Her home, where she was interviewed, exuded a distinct sense of tranquility and peace. While she prepared, she allowed us to freely explore the house to find a suitable spot for her photoshoot. Hospitality was genuinely felt.
We Filipinos are known to be hospitable. We offer visitors food we have at home and provide the most
comfortable seats to them. This is made easier by having househelp whom we treat not just as visitors, but as a part of the family. Filipinos are taught to treat househelps with the same level of respect as a family member, regardless of whether they have one in their home.
Manotok desires that Barangay Forbes Park put the above into practice. “My parents raised me to always keep your family and God in mind. God should always come first, followed by family, but if you want to be a good neighbor, you can’t just refer to people as ‘boys’ or ‘staff.’ You shouldn’t feel privileged because lahat naman tayo pantay-pantay (we are all equal),” Manotok explains why she includes housekeepers in the barangay’s programs.
Although the residents could afford food and supplies during the pandemic, Manotok’s office still gave out food packs because it was not just for the families but also for their staff. She also mentions organizing events for the househelps themselves. The majority of these events, such as Barangay Idol, Barangay Forbes Got Talent, and the most recent Miss Barangay Forbes Park, are contests that showcase the hidden talents of the househelps. While talking about the contest, Manotok brought up that the winner was the househelp of Tessa Prieto, a socialite known for wearing audaciously fashionable attire. Not
surprisingly, the helpers made the most of the events prepared for them and proudly showed what they had.
ANTICIPATIVE AND COMPASSIONATE LEADERSHIP
Manotok, like most public servants in office during the pandemic, recalls the COVID-19 pandemic as the most memorable event in her political career so far. Her sole priority during the height of the emergency was to protect the residents of the barangay. Considering that the situation was full of uncertainties and volatility, Manotok’s first effort was to secure vaccines for all of her constituents. Aside from making sure everyone is reminded of the safety protocols, Manotok also ensured that the needs of those who tested positive will be given due attention. “If there’s one person who tested positive, I made it a point to personally ask them what they need, and I sent medicines and all the things that they required,” she reveals. Although no one wants to lose a constituent under her watch, Manotok was still grateful to have had only one casualty since the beginning of the global medical crisis. The barangay leader, on the other hand, never stops thinking of ways to keep everyone out of harm’s way, even though health protocols have been relaxed as the situation has somewhat gone back to normal. With this, she has made it a point to also
devote enough effort and resources for other needs. Apart from the pandemic, Manotok says, “I guess the biggest challenge is trying to be more anticipative, thinking ahead of what the community needs and wants, like preparing for ‘The Big One’ [a major earthquake that could hit Metro Manila] and floods.”
Manotok shares that they started what they call “block parties” even before the surge of the pandemic. She says that people nowadays do not know who their neighbors are. This initiative intends to familiarize residents with other members of the community they are living in. This is an important part of being a community member, for when a disaster takes place, residents are responsible for their own neighbors.
The entire barangay is divided into 40 blocks. These block parties were briefed on what to do in the event of a disaster and what things they needed to prepare. The primary objective is to check on their neighbors before, during, and after a disaster. The chairwoman states that the population of seniors in the barangay is greater than that of the youth, so this initiative will be of the greatest assistance in times of crisis.
Asked about the programs that she finds closest to her, Manotok enumerates those centered on the youth and environment, emphasizing that whatever a leader thinks to be in the best interest of the people today must also consider the repercussions for the future. “I would like to think of programs that are applicable for both now and the future,” she says, citing examples such as controlling the population or building bridges to solve traffic. For instance, easing the traffic contributes to lessening air pollution.
“I want to [assure Forbes Park residents] that I’m here for them 24 hours, seven days a week, 365 days
a year. But basically, I’m not just a barangay chairwoman. I’m also a friend, a neighbor, a sister, and
someone to talk to when they need help.”
It was a busy day when LEAGUE visited Manotok. The disaster resilience officers of Makati City conducted an inspection of the barangay earlier that day. On the same day, Mandaluyong City officials visited Forbes Park to do benchmarking on the solid waste management efforts in the barangay. The barangay is implementing a zero waste to landfill initiative, which encourages every household to dispose
of less waste that will eventually end up in landfills. Every Wednesday, the residents can bring out their recyclables and sell them. The city has partnered with junkshops that buy their recyclable waste. Meanwhile, they also send recyclable plastics to private companies such as The Plastic Flamingo (Plaf), which transforms plastics into something more useful, and GreenSpace, which collects biodegradable
wastes such as food wastes and leaves for farm use.
Through the years, Manotok’s efforts have borne fruit. The barangay was recognized as the third Cleanest and Greenest Barangay in Makati in 2017 and 2019, and as the Champion in DRMM (Disaster Risk Reduction Management) for the Low Risk Category in December 2022. Forbes Park is also one of the first
barangays to be certified “Drug-free” by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) in 2018. And in 2022, they won fifth place in the competition to determine the Best-Performing Barangay
Anti-Drug Abuse Council.
Manotok, a barangay chairman since 2013, is honest about her intentions to run for reelection. She desires to systematize the communications system, announcements, and processes in the barangay through a Forbes Park mobile application. She wants to centralize all the programs, barangay procedures, and emergency contact information through the application.
Manotok concludes the interview with a message for her constituents: “I want to [assure Forbes Park residents] that I’m here for them 24 hours, seven days a week, 365 days a year. But basically, I’m not just a barangay chairwoman. I’m also a friend, a neighbor, a sister, and someone to talk to when they need help.”