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The political expansion of Cynthia Barker

Now a Deputy Mayor in UK… 

Hertsmere News congratulated the new Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Hertsmere 2019-2020 : Cllr Alan Plancey and Cllr. Cynthia Barker (photo by Cllr Paul Morris)

Slowly but surely.

This is how the political journey of Cynthia Alcantara-Barker—the first ever elected Filipina councilor in the United Kingdom—can be best described.

Her political beginning as well isn’t the typical start of a dynastic government service. Instead it was a solo performance by an ethnic minority characterized by personal integration within a multiracial as well as in the mainstream British society.

Cllr Cynthia Barker prepares for the Annual Council meeting on 15 May 2019 (photo by Des Withey)

After years of altruistic activities not only in London but in various districts and boroughs as well, Cynthia—a native of idyllic San Pablo City in the Philippines—was spotted by some Conservative Party members in Elstree and Borehamwood towns, notably by former mayor Charles Kelly, to become one of their protégées in the local politics of the areas.

“We saw in Cynthia the commitment and dedication to community service. She’s very compassionate and hard working as a socio-civic volunteer.

Cllr David Carter supports Cynthia Barker’s nomination for Deputy Mayor (photo by Des Withey)

“Cynthia seemed to be untiring of social work and development she has endeared so much to the members of the communities. She was a byword in our boroughs,” recalled Charles who has been Alcantara-Barker’s business associate for the longest time especially when they put up a recruitment agency for nurses in London in the 1990s from all around the globe.

Mayor Alan Plancey and Deputy Mayor Cynthia Barker were inaugurated at the Annual Council meeting last 15 May 2019. (official photo by Hertsmere Borough Council)

Barker wasn’t a new immigrant during the time since she went to the UK in the mid-80s and she was able to mix successfully with the white people but not without racial issues. “I had the patience,” she quipped.

She went on to become a member of the Rotary Club International in Elstree and Borehamwood and later elected as the first Filipina president of the organization. This membership started her outreach projects for the people of her districts that catapulted her to social services not easily ignored by the common residents but the local leaders as well.

Mayor Alan Plancey hands over the deputy chain of office to Cynthia Barker at this week's Mayor-making ceremony in Hertsmere (photo by Des Withey)

In 2015, she was encouraged and pursued by Kelly and company to run for the board council membership of the twin towns and won the polls hands down.

It was an impressive social, cultural and political participation in Hertfordshire that she was egged on to run for reelection.

Cynthia was a complete social animal during her first term as councilor. Her dedication to public service was her second skin. This writer vividly remembers when she was in the Philippines last year during Christmas season. We were having dinner when her phone rang. On the other line was a fellow Filipino who was asking for her help because according to her, her kababayan was being ejected from his residence.

Deputy Mayor Cynthia Barker made her Declaration of Acceptance of Office. (photo by Des Withey)

Right there and then, Cynthia talked intently to her compatriot and advised him to do as she said. “Gano’n ang mga ginagawa namin sa (That’s what we do in) local politics,” she said.

That’s only one of the minor although mostly personal problems and concerns her constituents have to bring up to her for consultancy. There are still many other major interests she has to tackle and resolve like proper garbage disposal, street lightings, cultural appreciation etc.

Cynthia Barker signs the Declaration of Acceptance of Office Book while Chief Executive Donald Graham countersigns. (photo by Des Withey)

In her reelection bid recently, Barker won in a very tight battle with most Labour Party members. Since the stand of the Conservatives is Brexit in the controversial issue, Cynthia was still in a very big was affected by the party beliefs but she has retained the trust and confidence of her citizenry. She placed second in a three-spot council post among two Labour candidates, Rebecca Zoe Butler who got the highest votes and Jaffer Kumail who had only three-vote margin against her. “It was a tough fight, indeed,” she chuckled.

It was a triumph not only among Filipinos in the UK but among people back home because there was this Filipina who was able to pull off an immense power from the people taking their politicians very seriously.

Cynthia Barker gave a short speech thanking her colleagues for selecting her for the position of Deputy Mayor. (photo by Des Withey)

“Ibang-iba ang pulitika sa Great Britain. Walang pera-pera sa eleksyon. Seryoso ang tingin nila sa mga pulitiko ro’n. Paglilingkod sa mga tao ang gusto nila. Sa atin, mapapel lang ang mga pulitiko. Sa UK, isyu ang inaalam ng mga tao at dito nila isinasalalay ang boto nila sa mga kandidato (Politics in Great Britain is a totally different game. There’s no money or bribery involved in election there. They take politicians seriously. Service to the people is the prime reason for being in politics. Real service and not just lip service is the essence of politics. Here in the Philippines, politics is grandstanding. In UK, the issues are very important for discussion. They are talked about very importantly. Their votes rely on candidates’ sincerity and relevance to issues),” revealed controversial Fil-Briton filmmaker Jowee Morel who studied his high school, college and post-graduate studies in London. He has also been in and out of the UK for years.

The Council Chamber cheered for outgoing Mayor Brenda Batten. (photo by Des Withey)

Just recently, another feather was added in Cynthia’s cap when she was nominated as Deputy Mayor of Hertsmere, a local government district. According to Jowee, Hertsmere is a big district. “It’s like Laguna Province,” he compared.

Elstree and Borehamwood also belong to Hertsmere. 

“I was proposed to be the Deputy Mayor to the Worshipful Mayor of Hertsmere. We had a meeting and I was chosen to be the Deputy Mayor,” said Cynthia in her social media shouts to us.

Cllr Cynthia Barker goes through the Agenda with Cllr Harry Mortimer and Cllr David Carter (photo by Des Withey)

Again, Barker won the post unanimously.

“I am again challenged by this leadership. Politics is also having true heart for people. It’s doing things naturally. I am able to prove it. Just be sincere,” said Cynthia.

Her being Deputy Mayor doesn’t mean that she’s out as councilor of Elstree and Borehamwood.

Barker’s political responsibilities just expanded.

Mayor Alan Plancey presents a token of appreciation to former Mayor's consort John Batten (photo by Des Withey)

According to Morel, being a deputy mayor means a representation of the Queen, this time, of Queen Elizabeth II.

“A deputy mayor performs the roles of a charitable person, a public servant, a socio-civic leader which are already being performed by Cynthia,” informed Jowee who has been a friend of Cynthia from way back.

Gene Alcantara, Deputy Mayor Cllr. Cynthia Barker, MP Oliver Dowden and Rey Ramir Alcantara (Photo by Charles Kelly)

“I can see the sincerity in Cynthia’s leadership. She is as normal as a human person as us but she is cut above the rest,” beamed Morel. 

Filipinos all around the world are proud of Cynthia Alcantara-Barker. Just see for yourselves the complimentary words netizens are pouring on her. 

Deputy Mayor Cllr. Cynthia Barker and Philippine Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Frank Cimafranka (Photo by Charles Kelly)

 

 

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