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A Punong Barangay like my father

ONE of the best memories I had with my father was reading an article about him in an old English tabloid published in Bicol just like this paper. The article featured my Papa as the “Lech Walesa of the Barangays.” The tabloid is still stashed somewhere in our old house in Tinambac. The article tenderly recounts my father’s early days as a pre-EDSA 1 barangay captain in our municipality especially how my old man, gone for six years now, brought to life some ambitious projects including a secondary school, now the Antipolo National High School, and our old water system despite being “just” a high school undergraduate. I have a feeling that the write-up has something to do with my affinity to public service. At a young age, it made me appreciate what my father was doing for our people. And so in the same spirit, I would tell you about a young, incumbent barangay captain in Calabanga, Camarines Sur, in the hope that someday his story would inspire others too. I met him while working as District Officer for then Representative now Vice President Leni Gerona-Robredo. He is Punong Barangay Jose P. Asuro of Balongay. In the aftermath of Typhoon Glenda in 2015, he came rushing to the District Office asking us to help his barangay. He was at the brink of tears and we could almost feel the heartbreak without inspection. It turned out, Balongay was badly hit. Almost every house on the riverside were washed out. The disaster was the start of a lasting working relationship. Talk about silver lining. Asuro embarked on a proposal to construct a seawall where the mouth of the Bicol River pushes eats away Balongay. The Department of Public Works and Highways finally saw the importance of the project, with the help of Rep. Robredo, and the barrier that would save residents in the West Coast of Calabanga from storm surges for years was completed in no time. Of course, it was a collaborative effort. But without Asuro’s sense of public service—that kind that burns in the middle of the storm--the seawall would have taken years to see the break of day. In 2016, I convinced him to run for Municipal Councilor of Calabanga. He entertained the thought but he refused, saying if he had an urgent plan in the future it would be getting back some of the lost times with his family. Now on his second term, Asuro had another big project in mind: Solving the flood problem in Balongay Elementary School. For years, the waters of San Miguel Bay have intruded into the school and it could not be long before the cold sweep into the hearts and minds of schoolchildren, at the expense of the future. The captain needs some help. All that he can get. What’s your legacy? I once asked him. He said he just wanted to be remembered as someone who made life in the barangay easier. It’s not easy making things easy, of course. But I am sure he will find a way. Years from now, I want Asuro’s children to read this article and realize how much their father love them, while making them understand why their father was everyone else’s father too at a time when they were growing up. And I hope they would be inspired just the same.

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