RALPH CATABIAN LANTION was born on July 29, 1953 to Col. Daniel C. Lantion of Nueva Vizcaya and Rizalina B. Catabian of Isabela. He is the youngest in a brood of four: Former Undersecretary of the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) Ret. Gen. Thompson C. Lantion, Court of Appeals Associate Justice Aurora Jane C. Lantion, and Dra. Lina C. Lantion-Ang, a reputable endocrinologist.
He graduated as Valedictorian from Murphy Elementary School in 1965, then proceeded to the University of Santo Tomas High School where he graduated in 1969. He garnered his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of the Philippines in 1973, and graduated with Bachelor of Laws in 1977, after which he was admitted to the Bar the following year.
NOT YOUR ORDINARY MAYOR
People could easily address him as “Atty. Lantion,” since after passing the Bar, he worked as a Trial Attorney at the Office of Solicitor General from 1977 to 1981, and as State Corporate Attorney at the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel from 1993 to 1994; or as “Judge Lantion,” since he served as a Regional Trial Court Judge of Manila in the late 1990s, and as President of The Regional Trial Court Judges of Manila in 1997. “Prof. Lantion” would also be appropriate, owing to his stint as a faculty member in the San Sebastian College of Law and the Lyceum College of Law. “Commissioner Ralph” would also be nice to hear since he was a Commissioner of the Commission on Elections from 2000 to 2004.
But, Mayor Ralph C. Lantion is not your generic, run-of-the-mill chief executive. In fact, he does not even wish to be referred to as “Mayor” by the more than 60,000 residents of this first class municipality. To the people of Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya, Ralph C. Lantion is not any of these honorable appelatives. He is simply everybody’s KUYA RALPH.
Kuya Ralph is looked up to as a brother figure by so many. It would not be surprising to encounter people at the municipal hall lobby not asking if the mayor is in his office. Citizens and visitors do not look for the mayor. They ask for Kuya Ralph.
And such is the premise of his administration as the leader of this town: everything is all about treating everyone as members of a family, from where Kuya Ralph learned how to be humble, caring for others, and how it is to be selfless and share blessings. Simply put, he is just the first among equals in a world of hierarchies and organizational flowcharts.
A PERSONAL TOUCH FROM KUYA RALPH
In his ten-point agenda which he offered to the people of Bayombong, one of the key points is donating his entire salary for the scholars of public high schools in Bayombong. But, apparently was not content with giving just that. Kuya Ralph donated a substantial part of his personal property to local and national agencies to ensure the efficient and effective delivery of services to the residents: to name a few, the Philippine National Police (PNP) received 1,000 square meters, and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) received 300 square meters, another 100 square meters for the Bayombong Rural Health Unit – all from his personal property.
Kuya Ralph realizes that transportation is a key point in the progress of a town; thus, he ensures that people are provided with basic transport system by according financial assistance to tricycle drivers in the renewal of their permits and franchises. Market vendors are not spared from his kindness, as he offers his personal help to those who have their own stalls; and, for the small-scale merchants who sell their produce in baskets (bilao), their taxes waived.
Because he puts premium on education, his private resources are not only dedicated to the high school scholars, he extends his brotherly hand to students who dream of studying at the Philippine Science High School (Cagayan Valley Campus, located in Bayombong). He also allows free use of the Bayombong Food Processing and Training Center, a facility that caters to the research and development of local industries.
BRINGING BAYOMBONG TO THE LIMELIGHT
Under the watch of Kuya Ralph, it was simply a matter of time before this peaceful town would catch the attention of award-giving entities on the national scale. Upon his assumption of office, he immediately rolled up his sleeves and immersed himself hands-on with the town’s stakeholders; and all their efforts were recognized. The Department of Health (DOH) bestowed upon the town the much-coveted Red Orchid Award for being 100 percent tobacco-free. Bayombong became a recipient of a Certificate of Recognition as a national qualifier in the 2017 Seal of Good Local Governance, a first for the local government unit. For assuring that the town is sensitive and caring of the welfare of its future citizens, Bayombong was declared Most Child-Friendly Municipality. And, for promoting and disseminating the complementary foods project of Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST) and the STARBOOKS Project, the town was presented a Plaque of Recognition as an active science and technology partner of the DOST Nueva Vizcaya.
Add to these accolades the individual awards and recognitions of the citizens of Bayombong who were supported by Kuya Ralph on their way to success: bar and board-passers, achievers in sports and other competitions, and beauty titlists in the national and international arenas – all of them were helped by his municipal administration.
ALL FOR BAYOMBONG
Bayombong is not only the capital municipality of the province of Nueva Vizcaya. It is also the educational center of the province where thousands upon thousands of students from the neighboring provinces study at its public and private universities, colleges, and basic educational institutions, thereby converting the town into a hub for investors, travellers, and students.
It is with these thoughts that Kuya Ralph made sure that, on his first day in office, he would map out a plan to make sure that all those who reside, and who come and stay in the town would experience how it is to be in a first-class municipality.
Believing that the tangible features of any place is the first to be noticed, the town had an aesthetic make-over, with the town center, public plaza, and parks being first on the list. Now, residents and visitors alike can use these facilities for their enjoyment and selfie-pictorials, which, when transformed into social media mileage, puts Bayombong in the list of tourist destinations.
Barangay roads were concreted to ease transportation of people and produce, three vermin-compost pits were made, bridges and drainages were improved, a two-storey building for the Rural Health Unit and a birthing clinic has been erected. Another two-storey structure was put up to house a venue for various activities of the local government unit. A building has also been constructed for the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). These are just some of the other twenty-five (25) on-going infrastructure projects.
To maintain Bayombong’s reputation as a peace-loving locality, there is a seen improvement of the peace and order situation in the municip[ality through the augmentation of the Bayombong Police Auxiliary to the PNP. The Bayombong Emergency Response Unit is on call 24/7 with an average response time of 2-3 minutes, and the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Management (MDRRM) Division team is provided with adequate equipment and capacity enhancement trainings. All barangays are with a desk especially dealing on cases on Violence Against Women and Children (VAWC). Dump trucks were purchased for sanitation, and ambulances are always ready to transport the sick.
But wait, there’s more!
Indigent families, 300 of them and counting, are already enrolled in PhilHealth, allowing them easy access to health care. The Day Care Services Program has been upgraded with the accreditation of 11 day-care workers who monitor potentially neglected children. Underweight children are given attention through supplemental feeding programs, and the Municipal Hall already has a pink room for the protection and management of child victims of abuse, neglect and exploitation.
Elderlies receive social pension; senior citizens and persons with disabilities (PWDs) are assured of their discounts through the expeditious issuance of their IDs.
Almost a thousand beneficiaries now enjoy the cash-for-work on climate change, adaptation, and mitigation program. Counseling and food-for-work were extended to drug surenderees, and 25 families are now enjoying the “Idol Kong Entrepreneur Program.” Over a thousand families are recipients of the Aid In Crisis Situation (AICS).
PAINTING BAYOMBONG GREEN
Kuya Ralph has always wanted Bayombong to be an environmental haven; after all, the famous Bangan Hill has been declared a protected area by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). The National Greening Project is flourishing, under the bottom-up budgeting (BUB) Program of the government. A municipal nursery was established, with its replication in all barangays underway. Bamboo is being planted at the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) of the town, and the synchronized “Linis Barangay” activity (OPLAN PLASTIC) together with the “Bayan Ko, Linis Ko” program guarantee the cleanliness of the environs.
But the greening of Bayombong is not Kuya Ralph’s alone. The municipality is working closely with the different schools as well as public and private agencies in the promotion and maintenance of its clean and green and smoke-free programs. In Bayombong, it is not surprising to see barangay officials and students cleaning the neighborhood together.
A quick perusal of Kuya Ralph’s ten-point agenda would suggest that those enumerated are difficult to achieve. But, in the first year of his term as local chief executive of Bayombong, Kuya Ralph was already able to meet his targets: providing barangay ambulances, surrendering his salary for high school students, arranging for barangay fire trucks, organizing cooperatives and technical support agricultural programs, offering personal assistance to market vendors and waiving taxes for small-scale vendors, assisting tricycle drivers in their franchise-renewal, ensuring that the local police force is with the necessary equipment for the immediate response against crime and drugs and collaborating with concerned agencies and non-government organizations in addressing concerns on risk-reduction and management, improving the services in the municipal health center, and making sure that ethics and morality would define his administration.
But this man who is a brother to all does not stop and rest, assured that everything is doing well in Bayombong. He knows that there are still many things that can be done, all for the love of his community and its people. Hence, he formed partnerships with individuals and organizations to make the town a better place to live in. Senator Panfilo Lacson has agreed to donate mountain bikes, computers, and other equipment to the local PNP. There is an on-going collaboration with National Bookstore and DOST in distributing school supplies and rubber sandals to elementary schools. With the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the municipality is mentoring start-up capital livelihood projects such as soap-making to benefit overseas Filipino worker-returnees and other civil society organizations. Agbiag Partylist Representative Michelle Antonio is most kind to assist in the acquisition of bulldozer through the Local Government Support Fund (LGSF). These, and more, sum up the associations that Bayombong has to promote active people participation and a professionalized corps of civil servants.
Indeed, Kuya Ralph is one person who does not tire of thinking of ways and means to improve the town and its people. After all, this is the way a brother truly thinks, acts, and works for the welfare of all the members of his family. For a brother, nothing is impossible for his family’s well-being.
Isn’t Bayombong blessed and lucky to have a protective and caring brother like Kuya Ralph?