Pat Balderama (PB): I was born and raised in the Philippines; in the province of Sorsogon, about 250 miles southeast of Manila. I’m the oldest of ten children. For college, I moved to Manila and studied civil engineering. After graduation I worked for the Department of Public Works and Highways of the Philippines for about a year and then worked for an American company in Saigon, Vietnam for three years during the war. I immigrated to the United States in 1969. I lived in San Francisco and Daly City before moving to Novato in 1978. The first time I set foot in Novato was in 1971 and there was only one traffic light in town and very few paved roads.
Q: What brought you to work for Marin County?
PB: When I moved to Marin, I was working for a private engineering consultant company. In 1982 I was laid off due to the drop in the housing and construction industry. Unaware where the unemployment office was located, I went to the Civic Center to inquire about applying for unemployment benefit, instead found myself at the “Personnel Department” (now the Human Resources Department). It must have been fate. While waiting for someone to attend to me, I looked through the Job Opening list on the board and there was an opening for a Flood Control engineer. It was about 4 p.m. on a Friday and the application deadline was 5 p.m. that day. I read through the job description, thought that I qualified for the position and decided to apply on the spot. I didn’t even have my resume in hand, but I was kindly granted an exception to bring in my resume the following Monday. On Wednesday morning, I got called in for an interview and that afternoon was offered an extra hire six-week assignment in the Flood Control division. The six-week job has turned into a 32-year career. I guess I got lucky getting hired as a result of the disastrous flood in 1982, the biggest one in Marin County ever since.
Q: Can you tell me more about your campaign effort to donate computers and other supplies to schools in the Philippines?
PB: Since 2006 I have visited my hometown in the Philippines at least yearly. Curious and wanting to reminisce my schooling days I visited my elementary school and was surprised to see there wasn’t even a single computer in the school. Students were learning how to use the computer by looking at pictures. It was like learning how to play the piano without the piano. I was determined to help. On my return trip the following year, I was able to secure ten donated computers and brought them back to the school. Word soon got around. To date I’ve donated at least two or more computers to 33 elementary schools, two high schools, the town library, health center and public defender’s office. Besides computers, I’ve also collected clothing, shoes, school supplies, books, dental supplies, sporting equipment and many more. I’m hoping to expand this program after I retire on March 27th.
Q: What’re your plans after your retirement?
PB: I’m going to visit my newborn grandson in Chicago. After that, I’ll spend more time tending to my charity program and planning to expand it by attracting more resources and bring much-needed supplies to the schools and other institutions in the community.
If you’ve any computer and other supplies that you would like to donate, please contact Pat Balderama at (415) 342-5393 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The interview was conducted by Jacalyn Mah on Monday, March 10, 2014. Photos are courtesy of Pat Balderama.