October bears the suffix “-ber” as many of our folks would have it expressed as the Christmas season is fast approaching. In the Christian world, it is a time to enjoy the year-long hard-earned income for a time meant to be spent with family, friends and loved ones; and of course for many others, drinking buddies “beer-days.” But wait, December is not yet coming next month, we still have in November known as Undas or Kalag-kalag (All Souls’ Day). Streets could never be busier already as the last days of October are meant for the “Halloween.”
In the urban locality, due to the lack of open spaces, the streets become an extension of our homes to enjoy the long holidays with friends and neighbors in the block. Needless to say, the streets are extensions of the informal economy where the sari-sari stores and street food meet to be more accessible and available to the consuming public. In the same way as Zukin, Kasinitz, and Chen (2016, 1) conclude, the “local streets are fast becoming a ‘global’ urban habitat, where differences of language and culture are seen, heard, smelled, felt, and certainly tasted…” This has been my long-commitment since finishing my higher studies abroad two years ago; that is, to facilitate a vibrant local community in my immediate neighborhood.
In 2015, when I was elected as the President of our Homeowners Association in Country Homes Subdivision, I embark on a humongous challenge nobody wanted to ever commit. Many of my co-officers, college friends and even the so-called “drinking buddies” laughed it off as the impossible of all the impossibilities. However, I took the challenge with very high hopes aimed at restoring a “sense of neighborhood” in the community and in the local streets. In fact, the slogan of our first “State of the Homeowners’ Address (SOHA)” was “Rebuilding Country Homes through Unity and Solidarity.”
What was the “state of nature” before 2015, if you may ask me back then? On a hindsight, we identified the following issues: crime incidence (i.e. theft, akyat-bahay, gangsterism, drug abuse among others) and the improper waste disposal. We zero-in to the problem of garbage disposal as crimes and other peace and order concerns could be left addressed by the local police and the barangay (village-level government). We thought so that the uncontrollable garbage problem was brought about by a “throw-away” culture – where thrashes are improperly thrown along the streets and un-segregated on the scheduled collection days. In other words, the community lacks a “waste segregation” culture and values for environmental care.
However, while working with the local folks at the community and street level, we realized that crimes and other societal disorders are not exactly the real problem. Those are just external factors and that our problem is more inward in nature – our homeowners lack a sense of community, unity and solidarity. In other words, we did not have a “sense of neighborliness.” Here is the thing, for instance, a “community celebration” was not in the vocabulary of our immediate neighborhood because we were all the socius in a philosophical sense. In layman’s term, the socius is somebody who is too formal in dealing with others (impersonalized or transactional). On the other hand, the neighbor is informal and engages with others on a highly personalized level – appealing to communitarian principles indeed.
Upon direct consultations and street visits (Visita Calzada) at the grassroots level, the homeowners association introduced an ambitious project – the G.O. Streets! G.O. stands for “Green and Orderly” Streets! Project. The slogan “GO Streets!” was utilized as one component of our Neighborhood Rehabilitation Program. This was meant for the residents and homeowners understand the essence of subscribing to a “holistic paradigm” to a progressive community where one aspect of the society is connected to everything else: from the household level (segregation practice), to community level (street mobilization – green and security paradigm), and to society at large (city to national-level through policymaking and sustainable programs: environment). This does not however tantamount to putting security over and above individual freedoms. As Mike Douglass (2016, 5), in citing Amartya Sen (1999), reiterates, “…while individual freedoms are critical for human flourishing, it is realized through inclusive engagement in society, not in isolation from it, and it involves obligations to others as well.”
Undeniably, our realization was that the question of securing our communities is effectively addressed through a vibrant, dynamic and unified neighborhood. This is how local governance should flourished where there is strong partnership between and among the government sector, the non-government organizations and the stakeholders at large. In one of our “Peace and Order Summit,” the Chief of Police of the Buhangin Station then, PCI Alfredo L. Miguel, reminded our street leaders and residents that a crime is consummated when the following prerequisites are present: motivation (plan), instrument (means/tools), and opportunity. The police chief asserted that “opportunity” is a big factor to the success of a criminal act. Indeed, a vigilant and unified neighborhood serves as deterrence to crime and delinquencies.
I could not help but agree on these simple observations and conventional arguments above. In teaching at the Ateneo Graduate School of Business and Governance, I came across a fairly recent theory of public administration, the “New Public Service” introduced a decade ago to the study of good governance and public organizational behavior. Drawing its inspiration from “democratic political theory,” Denhardt (2011, 182) have described this as an alternative to an approach in public management which is concerned with the linkages and networking among citizens, and the connection of such linkages between citizens and their governments. For all its intents and purposes, when I stepped down from office I was optimistic that the newly elected officers will continue to steadfast what we have started in rebuilding our community through the empowerment of our homeowners and the homeowners’ association. As the old proverbs says, “Love thy neighbor as you love thyself.” (davaotoday.com)
Andi, owing to the Japanese Romaji version of his Katakana nickname アンディ, is a loving husband to a wife, a teacher, researcher, political analyst, and a community development specialist. He finished his PhD in Japan and has travelled extensively around East and Southeast Asia.