Broken glass bottles meant to keep out intruders laced the dark gray concrete walls that showed years of wear. As I poked my head inside the massive sliding doors, a broken-down oil transport truck that took up half the warehouse was all I could see.
While I was looking at goats to buy from the local market across the street from the warehouse, a spotless black Kia Sportage parked in front of the afore-mentioned building for only a split second. Out of the passenger door stepped a large Filipino man quickly surrounded by an entourage of other well-dressed men. The reactions of people around me confirmed my hunch that this man was important. Later I was informed that he was the Mayor of the city and had served in some political office for the last 20 years.
Maybe 30 seconds later, a police car stopped in the same spot. Out stepped the police chief of the region. The Vice-Mayor soon followed in another car with his own entourage.
Each man quickly entered the dreary warehouse in the remote village of San Antonio in the Bogo Province on the island of Cebu, Philippines. They had organized a Town Hall Meeting with the local farmers.
Roughly 5 minutes later, I was ushered into the building by a police officer and members of the mayors’ entourage to a plastic chair among a group of 20-30 Filipino farmers a few feet away from the Mayor, Vice-Mayor, Police Chief, Director of Agriculture, and other officials. Soon after the meeting began.
One problem. The meeting was in Cebuano, I only understood a few words that I have memorized as well as the verbs that are from Spanish roots. I acted like I understood it all and simply took cues from the other men. When they clapped, I clapped. When they laughed, so did I.
Luckily the General Manager of our goat program in this region, Dodong, was sitting next to me. He would interpret the major points and pass them on to me. Policemen would now be stationed at the market to give extra security and middlemen livestock sellers were now entitled to a larger part of the selling price.
The oddest yet most practical item to come of the meeting was the promise to finally build a CR (restroom) after years of requesting. The group erupted in appreciation at this announcement. If you are taking notes, to win a Philippine election, simply promise to build more public restrooms.
After the meeting finished, I spoke with the mayor and police Chief. Both of them were supportive of our goat program work and invited us to meet with them in their offices to further discuss ways they could be of help.