How Being a Psychologist has Helped Me as a Barangay Captain

by Angela Fabiola D. Regala, PhD

Psychology is a behavioral science very relevant to everyday life.  It contributes to the health, productivity, well-being, and resilience of people, family, and societies in a world of differing personalities.  I believe that the most important type of skills to succeed in life are psychological skills. This includes the ability to show real concern for others and knowing how to express that concern in interactions with others. Other skills I learned as a psychologist include the ability to help others develop and grow, the ability to create harmony in difficult situations, knowing how to motivate others, being able to understand another’s true motives during an interaction, and many others. Being a psychologist, I am better able to increase the motivation and energy of others, which has contributed to my being more effective in my line of work. 

     My job as a barangay captain is a mix of a certain level of intellectual and administrative skill and a lot of psychological know-how.  Being a psychologist has sharpened my social skills.  In today’s atmosphere of public life, these skills acquire a premium. Knowledge on how to deal with the public, understanding the art of persuasion and presentation, presence of mind, being attentive and energized, observation of others, considering and sometimes adjusting to others’ viewpont/s and, finally, accomplishment, fall under social skills. Manners, disposition and character play a very large part in one’s role as a barangay captain.

What makes me say this? – my own experience as a barangay chairperson for the past 8 years. 

     The barangay captain is the executive head of the smallest unit of government. My duties and responsibilities include governance, fiscal administration, development planning, barangay legislation, basic services and facilities and compliance to directives.

     As a basic political unit, the barangay serves as the chief planning and implementing unit of government policies, plans, programs, projects, and activities in the community, where the collective views of the people may be expressed, crystallized and considered, and where disputes may be amicably settled.

The following are some of the duties and functions of a barangay captain and how I am able to blend psychology in the performance of these tasks:

(1)   Enforce all laws and ordinances which are applicable within the barangay.  Enforcing laws within the barangay sounds simple but it requires a certain level of firmness and a lot of human understanding.  It is not easy to please everyone but I have to do what is necessary to put order in my area of responsibility. The ability to listen, negotiate, and collaborate has been very useful in my eight years in office as a barangay captain.  I consider everyday as a learning experience to better myself for the service of my community.  Patience is the key to handling people.  I view them as part of my team so I can effectively deliver results for the good of the barangay.  Because of this philosophy, I am able to deal with others more efficiently and resolve disputes immediately.  This results in higher compliance with minimal resistance.

(2)   Negotiate, enter into, and sign contracts for and in behalf of the barangay. Negotiating is a skill and I can personally say that I was able to develop it because of a better understanding of human behavior. This would not have been possible if not for my education as a psychologist.  I believe that because I am able to communicate effectively, I am able to use this as a link or tool for all parties to bring on the table their concerns and negotiate on it.  I always remind them that whatever the decision is, it is always for the good of the majority and not for a personal agenda.  Win-win negotiation is all about finding a solution that is acceptable to all involved and to achieve the feeling that they have won in some way.

 (3)   Maintain public order in the barangay and assist the city mayor and the sanggunian members in the performance of their duties and functions. Motivation has a lot to do with maintaining public order in our barangay.  I believe because of my understanding of it and application among my barangay council members that maintaining public order within our barangay has not been too difficult a task.

(4) Call and preside over the sessions of the sangguniang barangay and the barangay assembly.  My secret in being able to handle barangay sessions effectively is practicing positive self-talk before every meeting.  I do not get stressed because I prepare for it and make sure there is an agenda for the assembly.  By managing the time during our meetings, we are able to cover all the concerns related to our barangay. 

 (5) Organize and lead an emergency group whenever the same may be necessary for the maintenance of peace and order or on occasions of emergency or calamity within the barangay.  Whenever there are emergency situations, I always focus my energy on “team effort.”  I believe that in teamwork, we are able to achieve more, especially in emergencies.  Focus is not only on peace and order but more importantly, going beyond the physical – the emotional and psychological effects of stress-filled situations on people.

 (6) Administer the operation of the Katarungang Pambarangay in accordance with the provisions of this Code.  Katarungang Pambarangay requires that anyone from our barangay who has a problem with someone else in our barangay has to go through our office before they can file the case in court.  The problem can be anything: domestic fights, failure of one to pay rent, arguments between household help, resident owner vs. helper, verbal harassment, and others.  The Barangay captain must try to resolve the problem within her level so that it does not need to go to a higher court.  This can be really difficult when the complainant and the respondent do not see each other’s point.  It is always easy to settle a dispute when both parties are willing “to fix” the problem.  My style in conflict resolution depends on the scale of disagreement, misunderstanding, or problem.  First, I set the goal/s for the meeting.  Some of the questions I ask the parties involved include:

  • What are the expected outcomes?
  • Is it possible to reach a compromise?  How?
  • What are the consequences?
  • What are the possible solutions?

I want both parties to come up with a mutual and acceptable decision and my role is to process and guide them in achieving this.

 (7) Promote the general welfare of the barangay.  I strongly believe that psychological skills are competencies that make life better. Academic and work skills are part of the set which also include efficiency, cheerfulness, compassion, determination, decision-making, conflict-resolution, nonviolence, and self-discipline.  As barangay captain, I know that I will never be able to please everyone – but with these traits, I have a better chance of attaining a higher level of “customer satisfaction”.  As a chairwoman, having these qualities definitely facilitates my performance of all duties and responsibilities. 

     Although I was tasked to write on how being a psychologist has helped me as a barangay captain, I would like to say that being a psychologist has helped me also in other very important roles in my life: as wife, mother, teacher, and therapist.  Being an “expert” in human behavior has given me the tools to become a constructive influence in my everyday life.  Psychology has prepared me well to make a difference in whatever path I choose.

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