Through the Mayor, You touch a Nation
For politician Dr. Matt Palabrica, Haggai marks the point at which he began to take his Christian leadership role seriously – with powerful results.
“Haggai changed my outlook on public services,” Matt says. “Before, our family had clout in our town politically, but it was not really based on Christian leadership. But when I joined Haggai, it changed my total outlook.”
His town is Bingawan, the least populous municipality in the Philippines’ Iloilo province at 14,500 inhabitants, and where Matt served as mayor for nine consecutive years. He is currently vice-mayor
and presiding officer of the Municipal Council.
“The greatest challenge in my leadership is how to combat poverty, which is so prevalent in our community,” Matt shares. “Sixty-nine percent of our people are living below the poverty line or earning less than $168 per month.”
With poverty comes challenges to social order and healthcare provision. Not only that, but insurgency still rages on as some national government officials and private sector leaders continue to tolerate illegal gambling and drugs and other threats to local and national security.
Matt never used to think of his faith as relevant to his job. Now all that has changed. He makes sure his citizens are cared for, both physically and spiritually.
“By using the power to govern, I can share the Word of God with influence and authority,” he notes. “A politician can not only offer solutions to poverty through money and support, but also through spiritual insights that can bring poor people, church people, professionals, masses, and other stakeholders to Jesus Christ.”
Politically, his influence extends far beyond Bingawan’s boundaries.
“The way we manage our town has a deep impact on the country as a whole,” he says. “It has become a model in Asia for public dialogue with the people, for social accountability, for response in social services, and for risk management. It emanates to other principalities; it sets an example.”
Already awarded Galing Pook (“Best Place”) status in 2010 under then-President Benigno S. Aquino III, Bingawan has most recently (2015) been endorsed by the Department of Interior and Local Government for the Seal of Good Local Governance. The endorsement recognizes their
financial integrity, public order, social service responsibility, and disaster response readiness.
“The training made me realize that every day and every time is an obligation to share God’s love through word and deed. Leadership principles should emanate from God by way of servant leadership.”
Matt leads from the front in sharing the Gospel at high schools, at the public market, in local villages, and at ecumenical worship services every Sunday. Bingawan also allows government employees to have Monday morning devotional time every week, after the Philippine National Flag Raising Ceremony.
“Every work, whether personal or in government service, is an obligation and opportunity to share the Gospel to other people,” Matt says. “So far, I have shared the love of Christ with our municipal employees, school teachers and parents, and people that I met and preached to at two churches. Some of them received Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.”
He was deeply influenced by reading Dr. Haggai’s How to Win Over Worry. Since his Haggai Leader Experience, Matt says, he has lived without worry, prioritizing personal time and devotion with God, giving a tithe, and reading the Bible with his wife and children. He is notably the only politician to sit on the Board of the Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches.
“Haggai changed my outlook in serving God,” Matt expresses, “and working in the government is just one avenue of serving Him by doing what is right. There is hope in poverty if the leadership has a fear of God. Then there is always a hope and a dream of a better future.“
Vice-mayor and presiding officer of the Municipal Council of Bingawan, Philippines.
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