Tulabut: Mabalacat: The result

February 22, 2018 3:13 am /

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

By NOEL G. TULABUT

 

CITYHOOD, it is worth a second look.

My hometown, the city of Mabalacat, is not just festive these days with its month-long Fiesta celebrations. It is also back on its feet, proving to everyone that it deserves to become a premier city.

Mabalacat became a city on a rainy night of July 21, 2012 when its residents voted for it in a plebiscite during the day. The votes cast favoring it was confirmed by then top Comelec executive lawyer Emmanuel Ignacio through a formal declaration as mandated by law. I was a witness to that historic moment. I could not be any prouder becoming a city boy that night.

It was an effort initiated by then Mayor Marino Morales whose main man for the laborious process that went through grilling in Congress was Rosan Pacquia. Mabalacat’s becoming a city has since been on doldrums except perhaps in the area of education where the city was emulated by older Pampanga cities Angeles and San Fernando.

Questions have been raised since then whether Mabalacat deserved to become a city as some basic services like garbage collection, traffic management, beautification were found wanting.

Basic benefits and privileges for senior citizens and PWDs also paled compared to other cities. The provision of medical and health programs for its citizenry was (huge) suspect too. Infrastructure and utilities like drainage and canals did not improve too (our barangay entrance gets flooded during heavy downpour). Ahh, the public market was in decaying state. Not far from it was the worsening and stressful traffic along major intersections.

To a lot of people, there were hardly any difference from being a mere town. Dissatisfaction, if not displeasure, best encapsulates the picture of a town-to-city conversion in its early years.

***

Comes now a new dispensation under Mayor Crisostomo Cunanan Garbo.

Is he a miracle worker? I don’t think so. He has gargantuan tasks since assuming the office in July last year. The city’s coffers, especially its own self-generating funds (from permits, licenses and other revenue sources) was under par. From what I understand, almost a half of its P1.2 billion budget comes from the payment of GIE (gross income earned) of Clark locators, a quarter of it comes from IRA (internal revenue allotment) that is given back by the national government. This leaves only a fourth of it from internally-generated funds.

There were questionable disbursements too especially in the implementation of public works projects that warranted a probe on how the past administration used government funds. Garbo is putting them back in order, putting priorities right so that they are no longer misused.

The biggest challenge perhaps was the provision of much needed health and medical services where Garbo had to devise ways and methods to convince Governor Lilia Pineda that he is different from Morales. And he responded well to that. Garbo put up the Central Pharmacy and practically converted his office into a health center where medical doctors take turn in providing free check-ups. The result: Mabalaqueños need no longer to line up at the Provincial Capitol asking for medical assistance like they used to. The result: Nanay now giving her a nod of approval for something that should have been long adopted.

Traffic at bottleneck Sta. Ines-Mac Arthur Highway-Clark intersection was also kicked in the butt with the adoption of truck ban on rush hours. Something that I have been urging the Morales Administration for the longest time but failed to do so. The result: political will that brings about a true convincing that he really means business.

***

What about the application of political will against those who erred and raped the city’s coffers through questionable projects, you ask? That could be a different story.

I have had a good one-on-one talk with this man who himself was questioned, laughed at and ridiculed for his public pronouncements of his new-found Christian faith.

In our talks, he said that he went through a difficult soul-searching, God-seeking process whether to file cases or not. He had to go to a dedicated prayer hall in their church in Villa Dolores, Angeles City one early morning just right before the filing of cases.

At that instance, in fervent prayer, he said God had three clear words for him – “Vengeance is mine.” That prompted him to stop the filing of cases right then and there.

Sometimes, it takes more than political will to be a very effective leader. One has got to “walk the talk.” The best example of this, he said, is that he cannot in conscience face the Morales children and tell them about God’s love and yet would be doing something that could put their Dad in jail.

This is the example being given by Garbo who publicly tells people of how he has gone astray in the past with vices and that he is now a changed man.

Changed indeed he is that he no longer wants to engage in an eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth kind of politics. If it were another politician who is given only less than a year to build himself up before the next elections, I would probably be seeing fireworks, tirades, black propaganda, filing of cases – anything that would put away possible opponents. But Garbo is not engaging any of that.

***

This is probably the reason why no less than Cabalen and well-respected educator Robby Tantingco has written a very nice piece in his Facebook account just few weeks ago.

He narrates:

Never thought an elected local official would ever impress or even inspire me, but new Mabalacat City Mayor Cris Garbo did this morning, when he bared his heart and soul and the Christian values that guide and animate his politics and leadership.

Some people are turned off by his preaching but it’s their loss, not his, because if they only stay and really listen, they might learn some spiritual insight since this man speaks with sincerity and genuine desire to enrich people’s lives with the Word of God.

When needy people come to him, he counsels them before giving them what they seek, not because he takes advantage of their need to advance his religious agenda but because he believes they need the Word of God more than the financial aid, and he’s right.

And what’s good is he gives them both, which shows that he practices what he preaches, and they walk away celebrating the goodness of God and government. He has no rancor towards his predecessor despite the ruin he inherited; in fact he truly believes God loves the former mayor more than him because He gave him (the former mayor) all those long years and many opportunities to enjoy his power, which other leaders only dream of.

In fact I think one reason Mayor Boking served that long was for Mabalacat to wait for Cris Garbo to mature spiritually, and when Garbo was already a fully formed Christian Leader in the truest sense, God put him in power.

All those years we ranted and raved and lost all hope for our town and lost faith in ourselves and our people–were never in vain after all, and were in fact part of a divine plan!

If Mayor Garbo will be criticized and persecuted for his style and unique brand of Christian leadership (and I am sure he will be), it’s because people are not ready for someone like him. Me, I totally get him. He is the real deal. I was impressed and inspired by him, and I truly believe God rewarded our long wait with a unique kind of leader. I wish him well, I want him to succeed and I will support him.

***

The month of February has always been cheerful for Mabalacat. Even more fun than its cityhood month of July. This is in accordance with the accustomed fiesta celebration of Our Lady of Grace which feast falls on February 2.

Even now that he is a born again Christian, Mayor Garbo does not mind continuing that celebration, After all, that has been the ages-old tradition.

This year, we are witnessing a lot of activities in line with it. Two major events – Caragan Festival, Queen Mabalacat – have been retained by Garbo. Again, a manifestation of his non-vindictiveness, non-politicized brand of leadership. Another proof of that is the retention of June Magbalot, who was a long-time and trusted aide of Morales. The two, however, had falling out even before the latter stepped down.

Garbo did the right thing in having Magbalot around for big events like this. After all, he has been known as an arts and culture patron for many years now. This time, he is also backed by Arwin Paul Lingat, the city’s new tourism officer who is also a Mabalaqueno and a dependable guy when he was at the Capitol.

I’m also glad that this time there is an Art Exhibit by the Sining Mabalacat, a group that Dodjie Aguinaldo and I formed from several years ago.

More than glad am I too that Mayor Garbo has taken in competent quarterbacks like Atty. Emmanuel Ignacio, Fiel Sacay and Frank Madlangbayan. I heard too that historian and author Alex Castro has been helping out. These are well-meaning Mabalaqueños whose expertise and competence can bring about better results for Mabalacat’s cityhood.

Read more: http://www.sunstar.com.ph/pampanga/opinion/2018/02/20/tulabut-mabalacat-result-589935
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