Even the smallest villages can empower people and change lives. Over his many years of service, Brgy. Capt. Felicito “Chito” Valmocina has proven that Barangay Holy Spirit is capable of doing things that can have a great impact to our society.

It’s no secret that during the 1990s, Barangay Holy Spirit was rife with crime. Coupled with the population boom, local government leaders had to deal with all sorts of crimes—robberies, gang wars, and even killings.

“In the past, this place was a dumpsite for bodies. There wasn’t even any electricity; it was like living in the mountains. That’s when I started Oplan Bayanihan because there was no budget. I said to [then] Mayor Ismael “Mel” Mathay, ‘Give us the materials. I can convince the people to work, we’ll dig [the electric pole posts] ourselves,’” he recalls.

They managed to transform Barangay Holy Spirit through this bayanihan system. By removing the 30% of the cost placed for labor and asking the people to help, they managed to produce more results than what the budget initially expected to yield. “If we want to achieve more with the budget we’re given, we need to do what we can. For example, instead of only finishing four walkways, we built ten because people helped out,” says Valmocina.

As a leader, Valmocina’s philosophy can be summarized in a few slogans and acronyms that he regularly repeats to his people. First is a slogan that he got from someone he looks up to, Senator Richard “Dick,” Gordon: “Bawal ang tamad.”

“I raised the daily standard so that the policies are implemented according to plan. All of my policies are useless if people will not follow. I lead by example,” Valmocina stresses, adding that he is a man of his word. For instance, when his waste segregation program first started out and nobody followed the policies despite the wide dissemination, tickets were issued to those who committed the offense. “If you have the will, you can do it,” he says.

Another set of ideals that he espouses are the 4Cs—Communication, Coordination, Cooperation, and Commitment—which are important in any organization so that there are no misunderstandings when it comes to carrying out tasks. Every Monday morning, he tells his staff and the people of the barangay to remember and live out the 4Cs in their work and daily lives.

Also among the values he upholds are contained in the acronym UST, which stands for Unity, Solidarity, and Teamwork.

“[Barangay Holy Spirit] started out from nothing, but because we want to help our people, we continue to find solutions to our problems. I don’t want to be a burden to the [Quezon City government],” Valmocina remarks.

One of the biggest problems that he continues to address are the informal settlers. “What I did was I talked to the private lot owners so that they won’t kick out the squatters. Instead of evicting them, I convinced them to allow these [informal settlers] to pay rent. It may not be much, but at least, you helped your fellow citizens,” says Valmocina.

For Valmocina, his nifty solution is more hassle-free than relocating the informal settlers. Since they will be evicted from a private property, those informal settlers will most likely transfer to another private area or lot. According to him, only squatters living in dangerous locations are placed in relocation sites.

“That’s why I tell [the private lot owners] that if you want to help the government and the people, let them stay,” he says, adding that he feels bad for those whose houses are demolished during evictions.

At the risk of sounding like a nagging parent, Valmocina confesses that he always scolds people in his speeches when it comes to their health. He tells everyone to exercise regularly and to avoid eating anything too fatty, sweet, and salty. Also, he throws in a warning to people who love to eat ‘unlimited’ rice.

“My biggest focus right now is on health and wellness. I always listen to the stories of the people who need assistance and it is saddening when you hear their negative experiences when they ask for assistance in government hospitals,” Valmocina says.

My biggest focus right now is on health and wellness. I always listen to the stories of the people who need assistance and it is saddening when you hear their negative experiences when they ask for assistance in government hospitals.

He tours us around his barangay hall, showing their state-of-art medical equipment bought with their budget and a generous donation from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). With a budget of P5 million, he managed to buy an ECG machine, ultrasound machine, eye refractor, and a blood and urine analyzer. They also have a detox machine that has served over 35,000 people.

Valmocina shares that people from other barangays go to Barangay Holy Spirit to avail of their free healthcare services. “We accept people from other barangays. If they’re not from Barangay Holy Spirit, they don’t have to beg. I’m not selfish with the help that we can provide, as long as it’s available,” he says.

Every day, their barangay receives dozens and sometimes even up to a hundred patients. When it comes to these situations, Valmocina admits that he lets his heart rule over his head. For him, the stories of the people who approach him daily are heartbreaking. This is why he uses his own money to pay for the salaries of the technicians, doctors, and nurses that they hire to run their healthcare center.

Last year, USAID turned over P2.5 billion to Barangay Holy Spirit in an event that was attended by over 500 people. Valmocina recalls hearing undersecretaries, directors, and Americans telling him that their medical equipment are hospital-grade.

Some even told him that their healthcare center is more advanced that the Department of Health (DOH). When Vice President Leni Robredo and Quezon City Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte visited, they also noted that their barangay is more advanced in medical equipment than Quezon City.

Another pride of Barangay Holy Spirit is their livelihood program, which has been studied by over 150,000 people from different countries—comprising a mix of students, government employees, and NGOs. In their livelihood project, their instructors teach various skills such as candle-making, food processing, and more.

Most of their products are recycled from discarded papers, plastic bottles, etc. Each item is being sold in their barangay hall, the products tagged with the maker’s name.

“Every six months, my employees learn something new. Sometimes, they even come up with original ideas for products. I push them to think creatively so that instead of wasting their time whenever nothing is happening in the barangay [hall], they learn new skills and earn money on the side,” Valmocina says.

Whenever juvenile delinquents are issued with community service, they make sure that only half of their time is spent for community service. For the other half, their barangay teaches them livelihood skills. Same goes for drug surrenderers.

“Right now, we’re focusing on recycling garbage because the current focus of President Duterte is on cleaning the streets, clearing garbage,” he says, citing the government cleanup of Boracay and Manila Bay.

Another award-winning project of Barangay Holy Spirit is a bit of a shock, considering their barangay is in right in the middle of a bustling city—their Gulayan or vegetable farm and planting project. Every six months, employees of the barangay undergo renewal. One of the requirements for renewal is to have a vegetable plant in your home and to have a craft item made with recycled materials. With this project, the families of the barangay employees not only get to eat their veggies, but they also earn extra income by selling their produce.

Barangay Holy Spirit won in the barangay category of the 2015 ‘Gulayan at Bulaklakan Award’ and went up against Albay province and Calamba City for the final award. “They pitted the three winners against each other. I said, ‘I’m satisfied with third place because what chance do I have? Ours is only a barangay.’ But surprisingly, we won. They asked me how [we did it], because they’re rural and the competition is on vegetables and flowers,” Valmocina says, laughing at the irony of the situation.

What’s even more astonishing about this barangay is their modern information technology system that pulls together the entire hall into one virtual system. Their centralized barangay system connects the various departments of the hall, with each employee given a personalized access. Their system streamlines the process for people who come to the barangay hall to get clearances, permits, etc. Through the system, the hall employees could automatically see anyone’s information—including pending or closed cases.

Another thing they could see in the records are the filing history and all of the businesses within the barangay. The quarter million-peso project is only a year old but has helped cut their processing time by a huge margin. The great thing about this technology is that Valmocina himself can access the entire system through his mobile phone.

Gulayan in the city—yes, it’s possible!

Valmocina’s steadfast determination to accomplish everything he sets his sights on is inspiring. Even up to now, he makes it a point to think of more solutions and improvements before going to sleep. “Not a day passes by that I don’t do this nightly ritual, thinking of ways to develop our barangay. I also see what I can improve with myself, what else I could learn and more,” Valmocina says, adding that he pushes his people to do the same. “Even if you’re just a driver, aim to be the best driver in the entire country. As for me, I do whatever it takes to be the best captain [for Barangay Holy Spirit],” he says.

His mantra in life is both an inspiration and a challenge for other local government leaders: do you do whatever it takes? — HELEN HERNANE


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