Sunday, July 19, 2009

Innovative Marikina

In the evening of 17 July 2009, the hard-bound 100-page book, "The Will To Change: Marikina and Its Innovations," was launched at the Ayala Museum, Makati City. Its three chapters were written by Dr. Rufo Mendoza, Anna Felicia Sanchez and Carl Javier, edited by Dr. Dennis Gonzalez, and jointly published by the Marikina City Government and the Ateneo School of Government.

The book was designed by award-winning designer Francisco 'Dopy' Doplon of ArtOne Design & Communications with several pieces from professional photographer Jay Alonzo.

A multi-awarded Filipino and English writer and critic, Dr. Isagani Cruz, offered a review of the book during the launch, and said that its content and design have achieved successfully the purpose of being able to inform, instruct, and inspire. The book is intended for public servants, teachers, students and conscientious citizens interested in local governance.

The book opens with a Foreword each from Sen. Francis 'Kiko' Pangilinan and Dean Antonio G.M. La ViƱa, JSD. The whole book with its high-resolution photos is freely downloadable in 4 parts by visiting and clicking Resources and then Research Papers & Publications.

Below is the Introduction by Carl Javier, a young writer of fiction and non-fiction and a teacher in creative writing at the University of the Philippines and Miriam College in Quezon City.

"Marikina and Its Innovations: Introduction"
In Marikina City Hall, as in any other city hall, there are always visitors. But its visitors in the morning when we started our interviews for this book were special. We were accustomed to seeing people filing all manner of paperwork, people asking officials to settle disputes, people showing up asking for handouts. What we had that particular morning was a class of children on a field trip.

The children, perhaps in kindergarten or first grade, were brought to the city hall so they could witness how government works. In that act many things were accomplished. The children saw the cleanliness, orderliness, and activeness of a government center. At this point in their young lives, they took in images, sights and sounds of what they should expect from a public agency, why public service is desirable, and why city hall and its workers are valuable.

Much like the many visible and invisible influences and interactions in that field trip, many of Marikina’s governance practices and innovations have worked on multiple levels. Its innovations have worked up passions and emotions, advanced personal and public values, improved the delivery of city services, and yielded intended and unintended fruits.

In producing a book about the city’s innovations, there were difficulties faced. Chief among them was deciding which among the many innovations were to be adequately described and which to be merely mentioned. With the city amassing awards and accolades for its accomplishments, one can end up with a thick tome in describing and analyzing them.

The next major difficulty was deciding how much technical information to exclude in order to make the book accessible to both busy local officials and conscientious citizens who are willing to read and learn new things about local governance.

The book’s first chapter describes the social engineering and culture change that the Marikina city government has practiced and preached. The next chapter describes the financial growth and economic management that accompanied and supported the change in social behavior and practices.

The last chapter looks at the city hall bureaucracy and how it has been professionalized and turned into an efficient, well-oiled machine that eases and pleases people. These chapters are products primarily of interviews with selected city hall officials and personnel, local entrepreneurs, and ordinary residents, young and old.

The changes to the city did not just happen. There was much that needed to be overcome such as insufficient resources, the ingrained bureaucratic culture of mediocrity and inefficiency, and popular skepticism, resistance and anger. To overcome them took not only careful planning and implementation, but more so political will, the will to change.

Like the children brought to Marikina City Hall, we can learn much in turning our attention to the city and its governance practices and innovations. This book serves as that tour for readers interested in finding out what has been done to make Marikina the successful city that it is. Hopefully, readers will find a similar will to change things around them and within them for the better and the best.

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