A MODEL popularly refers to those curvaceous women whose body resembles the bottle of a beverage that sugarcane planters are boycotting. However, a model is a thing, a way or behavior worth emulating. In a positive way a model “represents standard of excellence to be imitated.”
To the people of Bacolod with all their complaints and grievances about traffic, illegal occupants of sidewalks and waterways, intermittent power outages, poor or missing water supply and other blights of urban communities, the Manila Times selection of Bacolod as the top rank of the “Philippine Model Cities”, was quite a surprise.
I too was surprised by the news but oftentimes we do not see the best within us. As it is said, those who do not want to see will be unable to see. This is similar to that saying that for those who do not want to believe, no proof is sufficient. Indeed, all things look yellow to a jaundiced eye.
We have a commercial of a beautiful girl who would hide every time she sees a boy of her fantasy because she has a pimple. She sees only the pimple and not her own beauty as a whole.
Nevertheless, what is in Bacolod that observers see but we don’t? What do we have that the board of judges of eminent national personalities saw and presented Bacolod to the rest of the country to be a model worth emulating? How could we have missed these? Or did we miss them because we weren’t looking or these had become so common that we never realized they were indeed great achievements that should inspire other cities?
Last year I went to Patag to see the Japanese tunnels but many had been destroyed by treasure hunters. They found no gold or jewelries, they said. I told them they have treasures in these tunnels but they helped the treasure hunters destroy their true treasure – those musty tunnels of great and continuing profitable tourism value.
The Manila Times judges examined ten parameters or categories. These are: peace and security, rest and recreation, research and development, health and education, clean and green programs, road and home projects, livelihood and employment, youth and elders program, tax and services and emergency and disaster preparedness.
The scope of evaluation is indeed comprehensive although I think Manila Times missed an important category – arts and culture. Though we can add government performance, that can be assumed in how the local government performed in these categories.
The nine candidates for the Model City got each one of these categories. As they were called one after another, the Bacolod delegates were apprehensive they got nothing because they were not called.
But they got their surprise – Bacolod topped them all, that is Bacolod is on top of all the categories; Bacolod is the Philippine Model for all cities and, in the words of Manila Times, the best of “the Most Livable Urban Centers” of the country.
I went over the documents that were partly used as the basis of the evaluation. Of course, the Bacolod presentation as can be expected was all positive and good, but so also were those of other contesting cities. Moreover, the judges knew that each city will present only the best of what they got so they did not rely on these alone but used other measures to validate their judgments.
We must credit the Bacolod City Planning and Development Office under Jean Ramos for the excellent, well documented presentation. In no small measure did this documentation play to convince the jurors of Bacolod’s present state of affairs.
We often criticize our city, myself included, because we care. Criticisms are always part of our civic responsibility. It is when citizens remain silent that power holders are misled to think that all is well and dandy when they’re not.
The vital element in a democracy is citizens’ vigilance and government’s positive response to criticisms. The improvement in garbage collection, the easement of flood waters, the efficiency of traffic management and progressive governance can be attributed to citizen conscientiousness and government officials openness to suggestions.
This is the difference between the way Mayor Evelio Leonardia managed the city and the previous one. While Leonardia built, Monico Puentevella destroyed. Under Leonardia, the city garnered national awards; under the latter the city was at tail’s end.
But as the sage advises: rest not on your laurels.
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