My journey began on July 1, 2007. I made my decision to become your Mayor and had a vague idea of what was ahead of me. In times of uncertainty, I always turn to GOD and ask HIM to be my guide. I pictured myself being alone in a big dark forest. I pictured a path that I was to walk through. This path, in my mind, was slowly lit up as I took each step. That light came from my prayers. That light is still my guiding factor as I take each step through the dark forest. I believe that it is my faith that will guide me to the end of that path. At the end, I see a town, beautiful beyond belief; happy faces; healthy bodies; bountiful harvest; clear and crystal blue waters; majestic trees and mountains. This is the image of Sison that I see each night in my prayers before I rest and prepare for another dayâ€¦
I began to work, sitting under the caimito trees and in the blistering heat, sifting through all the documents, figures and paper work. Meeting all the new faces. I saw desperate faces, hopeful eyes, encouraging smiles and cynical smirks. I saw what was! I saw lots of trash, rotting buildings, I smelled the stench. I heard cries for help. I touched cold hopeless hands. To tell you honestly, it was madness! I took a deep breath and quietly prayed "Help me, LORD!"
I decided to turn all that madness into a challenge. As you all know by now, I am a tough cookie. I am not one who is easy to break. My weapons are my faith and my positive energy.
My ground zero was the municipal town hall. Positive energy shifted my gaze. Preservation of what was already thereâ€¦ of what was worth preserving. The focus should be on the huge acacia trees, the green grass, a little lonely library and intelligent municipal employees who were so willing to give of themselves.
The clean-up began. Six truckloads of trash; plucking out debris composed of dead wood; pruning trees; tiling; adding; subtracting. I had to do all this because I truly believe that it is impossible to work in a chaotic environment.
You might ask where did all this help and support come from? We have 7 people to thank for the magnificent clean-up that is still on-going.
On behalf of the town of Sison, I would like to say thank you to Northern Cement Corporation! They must have sensed my desperation. As members of the Sison community and family, they dispatched their troops. Mind you, I didn't even ask for their help. They took it upon themselves. Thank you to plant manager, Engineer Tembong Asuncion, for sending your troops. Honorable mention must be given to Engineer Jun Lacsinto for the improvements he swiftly carried out to create an office for me. The clean-up and continuing maintenance of the grounds should be credited to Mang Doming De Guzman. The face-lift that you see is being carried out by these two men. My cook, Alex Ilumin, who prepares a sumptuous meal that nourishes our bellies and our minds everyday. Plus, he also prepares food at a moments notice for all our "salo-salo'" in the municipio. Maraming Salamat Alex!
There are three more people in my list whose invaluable concern and help to this town should be truly appreciated. My husband, Cong. Mark (and his staff) who never left my side until he felt I could handle the situation. From Sison, with love, Thank You Mark!
I have been married to Mark for 25 years this December. Being a member of the Cojuangco family for the last 25 years, I have discovered that there is unwritten value code that exists. As members of this family, we do not get involved in or take advantage of the business corporations own by or managed by my father-in-law. That is why, I am so grateful to my father-in-law Ambassador Danding Cojuangco for the help that NCC has extended to our town hall and its surroundings. The help came without my asking. To Dad, who humorously calls me "Jack" (short for Jack Bauer from the TV series "24") THANK YOU for the generous support that you and MOM (Mrs. Gretchen O. Cojuangco) are giving to the town of Sison. THANK YOU for the sincere and loving concern that Mom and You have for all Sisonians. From the bottom of our hearts, May GOD bless you both always! By the way, Mrs. Gretchen Cojuangco is very excited about our town fiesta and has offered her skills in beautifying our plaza this coming December.
The Municipal Building also needed a lot of sprucing up. I felt that it was imperative that the municipal employees be given a decent working atmosphere. With the help of Mrs. Juliet MariĂ±as, each department was moved around to better facilitate their working needs. With our minimal financial resources, these improvements will be an on-going process. This is of great importance, as I feel that, the beneficiaries of these improvements will be the citizens of Sison. Maraming Salamat Mrs. Juliet MariĂ±as, your organizing skills will surely benefit the whole town!
Having put order back into "ground zero", I am now able to give attention to improving the quality of services for our community.
My concerns for the health of our citizens are being addressed with a new sense of urgency. I see the shortcomings of the local government and have instructed Dra. Fe de Guzman to do the following:
- Equip our 10 midwives with medicines, birthing kits, B.P. monitors, etc.
- Improvements are on the way for our 28 Barangay Health Units.
- Coordinate with DSWD's Mrs. Nancy Haban, to accommodate emergency help for our sick and indigent citizens.
- Follow up with the PCSO in securing our much needed ambulance. We need to transport our patients to nearby hospitals in Urdaneta and La Union.
A complete list of Health Programs and Activities is available for your viewing. Also, realignment of funds for Health care and my priority projects has been done. In line with my advocacy for transparency, anybody is welcome to inspect our approved budget.
A clean environment is also key in keeping our town healthy. This being so, I am personally visiting and monitoring our garbage dump sites. I have formed a garbage committee that will start information dissemination on October 22, 2007 in every barangay. Garbage collection and segregation; proper dumping of garbage; compost pits will all be discussed and implemented by this committee.
The Pozorrubio open dump site that has been making life miserable for residents in Killo and Alibeng is currently being addressed. Mayor Emma Chan and I are combining our efforts to fix this problem. I have tasked Mang Jaime Competente and Mang Doming de Guzman to supervise and sanitize the Pozorrubio open dump site. Mayor Chan has agreed to convert the open dump site into a sanitary land fill just as we did in Asan Sur. We sent the districts heavy equipment to assist Mayor Emma Chan in getting the job done. I will also personally visit and observe the activity.
Our Sangguniang Bayan and Vice Mayor MariĂ±as are currently working on ordinances that will aid in the protection of our environment. Once this is done, I will enforce and use the full power of the law to penalize and fine anyone that disposes their garbage in our creeks, streams, and rivers. And of course, in the general vicinity of Sison.
My love affair with Antong Falls continues as I consider these water falls in the mountains of Inmalog as precious. I will be providing picnic huts for tourists that will be visiting our awesome gift from GOD. But, I will do everything in my power to protect the falls. Tourists will now be prohibited from eating and throwing their garbage in the area of the water falls - from the foot to the top of the mountain. For your information, we have people coming from outside Sison to enjoy our natural wonder. They can continue to enjoy Antong Falls but I will make sure that they respect the area. This is ours and every Sisonian deserves its preservation for the good of our town and future generations. Mother Nature deserves our respect and protection.
Last August 6, 2007, I permanently closed 8 of the 15 beer garden as they have broken the law operating within the 200 meter radius of the Asan Sur elementary and high schools and churches. The remaining 7 beer gardens were temporarily closed pending strict compliance of the new regulations I have drafted. Dra. Fe de Guzman conducts regular screening for STD's of the GRO's in their employ. Chief of Police Basi conducts regular inspections in these bars to make sure no laws are broken.
I understand the concerns of all Sisonians with regards to the closure of these bars. As your Mayor, my hands are tied as I can only regulate their operations. As citizens of the town of Sison, this problem is really in your hands. You are free to petition the local law making body to create ordinances which will either allow these beer gardens to stay or permanently leave our town. This is the democratic way to do it. I assure you that our Sangguniang Bayan is in very good hands. The support I have received from all of them is tremendous. Vice Mayor Ben MariĂ±as is on top of all situations affecting the town. Kgwd. Eric Biason is always around and ready to help; Kgwd. Benson Aquino; Kgwd. Marlon Saturnino; Kgwd. Freddy Lagmay; Kgwd. Mina Joy Pangasinan; Kgwd. Samson Murao are all devoting their services to all of you. Kgwd. Doming Padua is ever ready with his tireless energy and has the experience needed to give me very good advice. We are on top of the situation in Western Sison care of Kgwd. Esto Lagmay.
In the area of Agriculture, I am pleased to announce that a massive fruit and vegetable campaign has began. I have designated the Red Lady papaya as our banner crop. It is healthy, organically grown, drought resistant and is very much sought after all over the country. There is a big demand for this fruit in markets and 1st Class supermarkets. My hope is that once our trees bear fruit, we can form a united association to sell these fruits to markets all over the country. I am counting on our united efforts to make this dream come true. We will continue providing the seeds and technical assistance to the 28 barangays. We hope to complete this massive planting in 18 months. My two efficient assistants, Mr. Cario Carganilla and Mr. Keong Reyes will continue coordinating with the barangays for scheduled planting. Cario and Keong deserve your applauses and appreciationâ€¦ As they have been working hard in this project and many other activities in Sison. Thanks to both of you. So far, we have planted in Calunetan, Tara-Tara, Agat and Camangaan. We will not stop until all barangays are covered. Then we start all over again. Please ask our hard-working Agriculturist Belinda Villanueva for a complete list of our accomplishment report.
As you all know, I invited Agriculture Secretary, Arthur Yap to visit Sison. After his visit last August 10, 2007, he committed 25 flat bed dryers. We have so far availed of 17. He also brought with him 10 units of shallow tube wells, animal drugs, Biologics, certified rice, corn and vegetable seeds for the farmers who were affected by the recent drought. I also asked him to help us in the establishment of 3 barangay food terminals or what I choose to call satellite markets. We are currently waiting for his approval. But, I have decided to push through with our satellite markets. Funding for this have already been sourced as our Congressman Mark will be taking care of the market in Poblacion Central, and special thank you's are in order for the Abono Party List group represented by Cong. Eskimo Estrella who will be funding our market in the western side of Sison. I am very excited about these two markets as I know these will greatly improve the condition of our residents in the Eastern and Western sides of Sison. They will no longer have to spend so much money for "pamasahe" just to do their marketing. I will be tasking a Market Campaign Committee to ensure the success of this project. Your help and cooperation will also ensure its success. Lets promote Sison for the Sisonians instead of spending our market money in La Union and Pozorrubio.
In the educational sector, I have been stressing the importance of quality education. Our teachers should concentrate on broadening the horizons of our students. I have started venturing into the global information world by setting up six computers with internet plus a printer in our public library. I encourage all schools from nearby barangays to use this facility so that students will become computer friendly and enrich their knowledge through research. They can do their homework in our library. This is all for free. Thank you again, Cong. Mark for his assistance in the purchasing of these computers. I intend to replicate this current set up in different areas so that all barangays will enjoy these same services for free. In line with this, we have purchased 12 units of wireless antenna for internet connection and communication devices for different schools and barangays.
I will be spearheading an intensive tax collection campaign. To help me with this, SB headed by VM MariĂ±as has realigned P1,000,000.00 to facilitate the purchase of a geographical information system. This system will assist us in tax mapping. We will be able to identify real estate owners, business establishments, boundaries, soil sampling analysis for planning land elevation and drainage systems. Going back to the intensive tax campaign, our Congressman Mark has also assisted us through the purchase of 6 additional computers for the use of our Treasury, Assesor's Office and Engineering Office. All of these measures should result in a more efficient tax collection. Please do not let this discourage youâ€¦ on the contrary, under my leadership, I will assure you that all the money collected will go back to all of you in the form of basic services. The taxes you will be paying are for your benefit. I warn everybody here today that if I catch anyone using the taxpayers money for anything other than the taxpayers I will use the full extent of the law to punish the offender. I also ask all Sisonians to be vigilant and report to me directly any knowledge you have with regards to extortion of public funds, or any unlawful practice of collection using the municipality's name. The good news here is that, a successful tax campaign is going to go back to all of you in the form of better and more efficient services from your municipality. I would like to take this opportunity to ask all of you to help me in this endeavor together and with a positive attitude. As your leader, I will do my part to fulfill our duties and as citizens, I will ask you all to do your part to make Sison a municipality to be admired and stand apart from the rest. This is where our municipal employees come in. I have felt your enthusiasm from the start and I want everyone to know this. Let us give a big hand for our municipal employeesâ€¦ we have a group of very capable and intelligent civil servants and I am confident that each of you will play a big role in improving our situation in this town. Thank You All.
Another project that I am excited about is our new website. We are currently working on it and hope to have it on line by next week. The opening of our very own Sison website opens our door to the world. I have discovered that we have Sisonians in Hongkong, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Italy, London, the United States and Canada. This website gives us a chance to keep our kababayans in touched with us. We miss them and I know, from my trip to California, that they miss us too. They're all keeping their fingers crossed that one day they can come back to Sison. Come back to retire and enjoy their native land. So lets all work hard to make their dreams come true. They are working hard out there and deserve the very best from us over here. Lets keep in touch with them and unite as one big family. The Sison website will be called "The SEASON for SISON".
With regards to this matter, special thank you's are in order for Brgy. Secretary Loejan Anudon of Sagunto who has gone over and above his duties to keep in touch with our kababayans. He is our special online ambassador. Thank you Ambassador Loejan!
Fiesta Season is coming up! I can feel the December excitement in the air. For info regarding our Fiesta, please contact our chairman Vice Mayor MariĂ±as and our Vice Chairman who is Kagawad Padua. All funds raised will go to the improvement of our municipal auditorium. We chose the auditorium for the simple reason that we want to celebrate life with our townmates and our kababayans abroad in a place we can all be proud of. Lets all get involved. This is a start and opportunity for all of you to get involved in town building. Kagawad Padua, I am calling on you to use your charm to entice everybody to join our fiesta activities. Vice Chairman Padua has done a big share in building our town but, I still need his talents to do some more for us especially his contagious charm! Go for it, Kagawad Padua!
Finally, I would like to wrap up my speech so I can continue my personal journey. Let me tell you that I have come to love this townâ€¦ more and more with each day that passesâ€¦
My vision for Sison is to make our town a self -sustainable community. I would like to see the day when Sison is the town that is in perfect harmony with its environment. An environment that consist of nature that is preserve to the max in harmony with all the amenities of modern living. A place that we will proudly call our home. So tonight, in my prayers before I rest and prepare for another dayâ€¦ I will picture in my mind that image I have of Sisonâ€¦ A town, beautiful beyond belief, clear and crystal blue waters, majestic trees and mountains. Happy faces, healthy bodies, and bountiful harvests. Thank you ALL! And, May the good LORD Bless us today and always as we embark on this journey together!