I USED TO HAVE a great disdain for government employees. I always imagined them as inept, inefficient, corrupt, and good only in petty gossiping. Your karikna also considered them as insensitive, arrogant and proud, what with clerks acting like the proverbial “langaw na nakatungtong sa kalabaw.”
As fate would have it, however, I myself am now a civil servant, and, providentially, with an agency highly regarded for its exacting standards and well-earned feats. Thus, I now swallow, with little difficulty, some of my words, and acknowledge that there are actually honorable men and women in the service of the Filipino people.
Make no mistake, there are still many rotten tomatoes in the basket, but the refreshing virtue of a few overshadow the stench of many.
Leoncio A. Pagtama, 52, a janitor at the MMSU College of Engineering (CoE), is one of them good fellows, and he is increasingly gaining popularity in cyberspace due to his honest deeds.
Pagtama, who joined MMSU in 1983 as a casual employee, has, on several occasions, returned lost items ranging from wallets containing thousands of pesos to calculators and watches. One of the many students Pagtama has helped is Alyn John Soriano, a fifth year electronics and communications engineering student, who lost his wallet containing a huge amount of money he borrowed from a loan facility to pay his tuition fee and to finance other school requirements. Pagtama saw the wallet in a classroom he was cleaning, and immediately submitted it to the Dean’s Office.
A high school undergraduate, Pagtama says his decision to return lost items comes easy. He says that, as a parent, he knows the difficulty of sending one’s children to school. All of his three daughters—Sheryll, Leizl, and Rubielyn—are graduates of MMSU. Leizl took up BSBA-Management and is now working in a company based in Metro Manila. Sheryll and Rubielyn finished civil engineering and are now employed in a construction firm in Quezon City. His wife being a fulltime homemaker, the burden of earning a living was borne mainly on his shoulders.
A few months ago, this writer published in this column the article, “Pitaka ng pag-asa: Isang pagpupugay kay Leoncio Pagtama at sa lahat ng tulad niya.” Almost 30,000 Internet users have viewed the article in this blog since then, many of them asking for more information about their newfound hero.
In the Internet, Google searches for “Mga Pilipinong nakagawa ng kabutihan sa kapwa”, “Mga Pilipinong nagsauli ng pera o gamit”, “Larawan ng kagandahang ugali ng mga Pilipino”, or “Mga tapat na tao sa Pilipinas” yield results that point to Pagtama, who was recently recognized by the Civil Service Commission for twenty-five years of faithful service to the Republic.
Prior to his joining government, Pagtama, a resident of Brgy. Baligat, Batac, was a full-time farmer. He continues to tend his small farm during weekends.
It is not difficult to understand why a previously unknown janitor would rise to national acclaim. With the Philippines being considered as one of the most corrupt economies in Asia, Filipinos seem to search for a ray of hope for this benighted land by looking for individuals who choose virtue over greed even in times of great personal need.
Mary Jane of Laguna left a comment at the Riknakem blog, “Congratulations, Mang Leoncio Pagtama..Thank you..! You make us proud to be Ilocano…Sana madami pang Leoncio Pagtama ang maipanganak sa mundo.”
Diana Jean, a blog visitor from the Visayas, thus remarked, “Despite the crisis, may mga tao pa ring mabubuti ang kalooban. I’m proud that an Ilocano is now in the roster of honest persons. Mahirap man ang buhay, di pa rin siya nasilaw sa pera. That’s what Ilocanos are.”
Emie of Canada, is surprised to know that “there are still people who exist like Mr. Leoncio.” Hoping that that all people in government will replicate Pagtama’s good deeds, she wrote, “I’m proud of you. It only shows that despite the financial crisis, Filipinos still possess the value of honesty. GO PINOY. Itaguyod niyo lahi natin… Ipakita natin sa buong mundo kung sino talaga tayo!”
What is beautiful about Mang Leoncio is that he does good for goodness’ sake. The great philosopher Plato posits that real virtue is when one does right even when no one is looking. And Mang Leoncio expects nothing from doing good, not fame, not material rewards, except that he can sleep soundly at night, at peace with himself and with the world.