Saturday, July 9, 2016

Gov't Exec Stays, Learns how "Tanod" and Family live

Over a year ago, I had the rare opportunity to be immersed and live the life with a 4Ps beneficiary family, in a poorest among the poor fishing community. The husband is a fisherman and barangay tanod (village watchman) while the wife is a Parent Leader and a Barangay Health Worker. They have eight children, the three older ones are working in another province.
IMMERSION. Lawyer Maria Isabel Utit (extreme left) poses with the family of a village watchman (tanod) and his wife and some of his eight children in a remote poor fishing village. Utit lives for 10 days with them by observing how the poor in the Philippines meet both ends as part of her study in a university in the country.
Apprehensions of living in a community where I was a total stranger, I introduced myself to the family as a government scholar. My only sense of security then, was that a fellow scholar was also living with a neighbor family whom I can call for help in any event.

At about 5 pm on my first of 10 days sensing journey, the husband was about to eat dinner when we had this conversation:

Him: Mauna na po ako sa inyong kumain. Maaga kasi ako matutulog dahil magroronda kami mamaya alas nuwebe hanggang alas tres ng madaling araw.

Me: Araw-araw ninyo ba ginagawa yan?

Him: Hindi naman. Mga dalawa o tatlong beses sa isang linggo. O di kaya pag sinabi ni kapitan o ni mayor na kailangan namin magduty. Minsan, pag may activities o may mga bisita si mayor, pag sinabi 24 hours kami magduty, 24 hours kami magdu-duty. Gaya ngayon, kailangan namin magronda. Anim kayo na mga iskolar na bisita ng barangay. Kailangan namin siguraduhin kaligtasan nyo kasi nakakahiya kami pag may nangyari sa inyo.

Me: Magkano naman po sweldo nyo bilang tanod?

Him: Wala po kaming sweldo. Pero meron naman kami honorarium.

Me: Magkano po honorarium nyo?

Him: P250.00 isang buwan.
Me: Okey na po ba sa inyo yon?
Him: okey naman na po. Medyo malaki na rin naman po yon pag natatanggap namin kasi sabay din naman yong kay misis. Quarterly ibinibigay samin honorarium namin.
Me: Magkano naman po kay misis?
Him: P250.00 din po isang buwan.
Me: Sa palagay nyo po, yong P250.00 ninyo na honorarium sa isang buwan e sapat na po ba yon para sa pagpupuyat ninyo sa pagroronda at sa pagdu-duty?
Him: Hindi naman po yon ang importante. Ang importante po e ligtas ang lugar namin. Hindi ako mag-aalala para sa mga anak ko. Lalo na may anak akong dalaga. Hindi ko mababantayan sa lahat ng oras ang mga anak ko pero Payapa ako kasi alam ko ligtas na makakauwi ang dalaga ko.
I was dumbfounded. This barangay tanod understand better than I do, the essence of what public service really is. I couldn't help but stare at the new linoleum carpet they spread on the bamboo floor of their about 12 square meters living area. I knew they bought it as they are expecting a visitor to live with them, a complete stranger at that. I think that linoleum carpet costs more than P250.00. To some, maybe, P250.00 is no big deal. But to this family man, it's worth 1 month of patrol and duty. They almost have nothing, yet they gave it all.
Can I afford to spend my 1 month salary just to welcome in my home a stranger?

NOTE: Author is a Certified Public Accountant and a lawyer. She is one of the youngest Revenue District Office (RDO) chiefs of the Bureau of Internal Revenue in the Philippines. Lawyer Utit is assigned at the RDO-6 based in Urdaneta City, Pangasinan. RDO-6 oversees the mammoth eastern part of Pangasinan's province.  

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