George Yabes has waited a lifetime for a child. But what fate could not give him, destiny would.
Fate is what you wait for; destiny is what you make. The Mayor of Maitum town in Sarangani province was destined to be “father” to hundreds of children grateful for his caring protection.
In his town, Mayor Yabes makes sure babies are born healthy; mothers and kids get medical attention; children of school age learn, get time to play, and express their ideas. In his town, children are shielded from harm and abuse.
In 2002, a program was launched that focused on children’s health, education and protection. The program’s vision: to make Maitum a child-friendly municipality with responsible, educated, healthy and happy children living in a peaceful and ecologically sound environment.
A third-class municipality, Maitum is no stranger to poverty. Nearly 20% of its children were malnourished. And it didn’t help that nearby towns periodically experienced gun battles between government forces and Muslim separatists.
“We’re adjacent to Sultan Kudarat. People evacuate to our place every time there’s war,” the Mayor said. “Once the smoke cleared, they go back to their homes. That’s why students in our schools suddenly diminished.”
To make the program work, Maitum came up with what it calls “the four gifts for children”–a municipal development plan, an annual investment plan, a local code, and a monitoring system–all solely for children. To show the program was hitting targets, information, results tracking and reporting were promptly incorporated.
Dumanon Kailian, which translates to “visit the place,” was employed to bring government closer to the people. Schools, hospitals and daycare centers were transformed into ‘child-friendly’ locations.
From 2002 to 2004, infant mortality dropped, and so did the incidence of children’s diseases. Day care centers sprouted, and more parents went back to school.
In 2003, Maitum won the National Award for Most Child-Friendly Municipality and a cash prize of P1 million. Naturally, the prize money went back to the kids.
This program is recognized as one of the Ten Outstanding Programs in the 2005 Galing Pook Awards.