Filipinos today face a great challenge. Rather than allowing it to handicap us, we must all choose to rise to the occasion and take the heroic step forward.
On the afternoon of March 20, at the ATM here in Bacolod City, I bumped into a Toastmaster friend of mine, who also happens to be a nurse.
I asked in Hiligaynon, “How’s it going in the hospital?”
“Hay nako, J. Ginakulang gid kami bala sa PPE (Hay nako, J. We’re really lacking in Personal Protective Equipment.)”
“Hala tuod? Pwede kami da ka bulig? (Oh really? Can we help you with that?)”
“Nahuya kami, J. Pero okay gid if pwede tani (We’re really shy. But it would be okay if you can.)”
“Waay kaso ah. Contact ta ka karon (Oh no, it’s all right. I’ll contact you later.)”
That night, news spread on Facebook that Bacolod finally had its first coronavirus case.
Some people got mad at the government. Some defended the government. Others continued posting Enrile memes. Most just expressed their fears of the virus.
I felt numb. Just the night before, I watched a documentary featuring Wuhan and saw how difficult the situation was there. Now, all of a sudden, the scourge is here in our beloved city.
I was scared to go out but reason told me that I had to do something. I couldn’t allow this moment to just pass by without doing anything. I knew I could do something.
After moments of discernment, my desire to help prevailed. I stayed up late into the wee hours of the morning, sending messages through Facebook Messenger to private individuals, and asking for donations such as PPEs for our health workers and frontliners.
The next day, to my surprise and relief, many replied, telling me that they will donate cash for the much-needed medical materials. (READ: [OPINION] A day in the life of a volunteer driver)
I connected with my fellow volunteers Alee, Ching, and Emily. We decided to divide the tasks. The couple Alee and Ching were in charge of making face shields. Emily, with her connections with the Chinese community, helped me with outsourcing raw materials. I was in charge of the fundraising and delivery.
We reached out to hospitals and asked them what they needed. Once we got the numbers, the production team worked day and night to reach them. When they were done, I called our contact in the hospitals and arranged suitable drop-off points for the PPEs.
I wore my face shield, mask, and gloves. Feeling much like a Spartan, I was good to go. I went from one drop-off point to another, spraying alcohol on my hands from time to time.
Volunteerism isn’t new to our team. We are members of non-profit organizations and advocates for more working opportunities for people with determination (PWD) and enhancement of leadership and communication skills. We also help when there are fire and flood victims in our city.
But I now realize volunteering to fight COVID-19 was different from our previous experiences. The enemy is invisible, and we fear one of us may already be carrying it. We might unknowingly infect our family.
But the fear during this time somehow upped the fulfilment. And it gave us the sense that we are on top of the situation.
In 9 days, we were able to come up with P200,000 worth of PPEs that we distributed to several hospitals.
Sure, we didn’t save the world with our effort. The number of new cases keeps soaring by the day. The curve hasn’t flattened out yet.
Our efforts were also just one among millions happening all over the country – from the police officer who slept in a tent outside of their home to avoid infecting his children, to the doctor who had to be on duty for several days straight and endure minimal sleep, risking her own health and life. (READ: Volunteer your skills during the lockdown through these initiatives)
But the sum of our combined efforts amounts to something truly wonderful.
Each of us can contribute something for the greater good. The digital marketer can use her skills in spreading awareness on social distancing. The gym instructor can make home workout vlogs. The aspiring chef can make ready-to-eat meals for our hospital workers (who knows, he might form a customer base).
As we lend our helping hand to others, let’s make our safety our number one priority. Here are tips from our experience:
- Always wear protective gear when going out
- Disinfect your hands from time to time
- Avoid physical meetups if possible
- Constantly communicate with your groups online
- When donating, identify good, safe drop-off points for your goods.
Volunteering is like a snowball that grows ever bigger with each turnover. Your actions might inspire others to help, and their actions might inspire others as well, and so on. Soon the community’s combined effort gets bigger and bigger. Hopefully, it will be big enough to flatten the curve completely.
As the great Filipino writer Nick Joaquin once wrote, “Challenges, when met with superior response, advance and enlarge a people, so that what may have been a handicap or a doom becomes a heroic step forward.”
My dear Filipinos, let’s choose to make this a heroic step forward. Kaya natin ito. Mabuhay! – Rappler.com
Joseph Tuvilla Jr is currently working as an area manager handling the whole Visayas for Interfarma Nutraceuticals Inc. He is an officer of several non-profit organizations such as Toastmasters, Lion’s Club, Rotaract, Negros Love, and Citizens for Better Bacolod. He is a graduate of Commerce Major in Agribusiness in the University of St. Lasalle, and is about to finish his master’s degree in business administration.