THE SHELVES are filled with new books, and there are colorful tables and chairs ready for readers. There is even a storytelling nook strewn with mats and pillows for those who would rather stretch out as they flip through the pages of their favorite books or while listening to tales being read aloud to them. On one wall is a mural that livens up the room all the more, while children’s artworks are proudly displayed on another.
THEY MAY not seem to have anything in common, but there is something that the first-class province of Negros Oriental, the second-class city of Surigao in Surigao del Norte, and the fifth-class municipality of Sabangan in Mt. Province share: all three are held up as exemplars of excellence in local governance, thanks to the stewardship of their respective local chief executives.
OKAY, SO Marikina still doesn’t look like Beijing before China undertook market reforms and made mainlanders crazy over cars. No other city in the Philippines, however, has a network of bike paths like Marikina. Sixty-nine percent of the city’s locally funded bike paths run parallel with its rivers and creeks. Other paths have been built next to major thoroughfares, while some meander in quiet subdivisions.
ON THE surface, Marikina looks like any other city in Metro Manila. But after a few minutes of just standing there, many of the things that set it apart from most of its neighbors become apparent: In Marikina, people actually use the pedestrian lanes. Public utility vehicles give way instead of bullying cars and jeepneys off to the side. There is no trash clogging the gutters and no stray animals wander around. And among Metro Manila cities, Marikina is the only one with an extensive network of bicycle lanes.
ERNESTO Beren, 61, remembers the Manila Boys Town of old with fondness. He recalls that the 23-hectare institution had a rustic landscape, surrounded as it was by trees, and huge grounds that gave him and his fellow young wards plenty of room to play.
The life it offered was not exactly ideal for the 10-year-old boy since he had to be away from his family, but the priests who ran the place made sure the boys felt safe and loved. And while daily chores were included in their daily schedule of study and play, Beren himself says these only helped instill in the wards discipline and good values.
SEVENTEEN-year-old Paul was already resigned to sleep at the guardhouse of Manila Boys Town in Parang, Marikina as part of his punishment for a minor mischief he says he did not commit. But then the officer-in-charge of the facility changed his mind; Paul was to stay at the OIC’s living quarters while the boy was still “under observation.”
MARIKINA CITY — As a young boy, Vic Sabiniano never had to worry about spending money even if his family was poor. If his pockets were empty, all he had to do was go to any neighborhood shoe factory in Marikina and offer to help — for a fee, of course.
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