Monday, September 28, 2009

A Great Day --September 27, 2009

It was a good day yesterday. In fact, I would say it was a great day!

Usually, I reserve my Sundays for my family, taking the time to play with them, have lunch or dinner, or go to the mall. But yesterday, inspite of being a Sunday, I left the house while they were still sleeping and when I got home ( which was actually Monday already), they are already in dreamland.

Eight out of the nine barnagays in my district were under water. People traveled the streets in bancas, making the scene similar to Venice, except that instead of gondolas, people were riding in fishing bancas. Around 1,900 families, or an estimate of 10,000 persons, were living in evacuation centers with little food and dismal sanitary conditions. More people were trapped in their homes, finding shelter on the roof instead of under.

But it was a great day. Why?

Well, it was great because in spite of the gloomy weather, disastrous conditions and me being torn from my usual routine with my family, it was a day that Filipinos showed their best qualities and virtues that made everyday people extraordinary heroes.

I refuse to acknowledge the sorrow and pain brought about by the loss of life and property during the storm. I refuse to give in to the anger at incompetence and neglect which led to delayed disaster response and failure to prepare. I do not want to highlight that which is depressing but rather encourage everyone with what is inspiring.

Yesterday was good because of the various stories of good Samaritans, people who extended their hands to help a fellow human being. Like those soldiers and CAFGU who gave up their lives in order for others to live. Or that video I saw in Youtube and Facebook, where a man jumped from a roof into swirling waters which had cars floating and bumping against each other in order to reach a woman in danger. Or the people who opened their homes to strangers who were stranded by the rising flood waters. There are so many stories during the attack of Ondoy that makes you proud to be a Filipino, proud to be human.

My own experience with these heroes compel me to praise them and give them honor.

Since my district was badly devastated and thousands of my constituents were suffering, my father and I immediately activated our relief operations and assembled relief packs for those in the evacuation centers. Using funds available to our offices, we purchased foodstuffs for distribution to the victims of the typhoon and floods.

Realizing that the people needed many more items other than food, and that our available resources were already depleted, I sent out a call for donations through my Facebook account and text messages to friends.

Admittedly, I wasn’t really expecting much, especially that other groups like the Red Cross and the NGOs of the big media networks were already receiving donations. Add to that the fact that people have low regard and trust for politicians, I was actually expecting to receive responses from friends.

But I was pleasantly surprised to find out that by lunch time that day, donations were coming in not just from friends, but from complete strangers. They said they simply heard the call for donations and felt they had to respond. Actually, it is the good nature of these people which led them to give. 

I instructed my staff to give acknowledgment receipts to those donate, but they were puzzled why others did not even bother to wait for the receipts. Still, others even refused to identify themselves. 

But I owe it to those people who went out of their comfort zones and gave for others. I will make sure that those who gave will be recognized, not just in the interest of giving them due recognition but also for transparency. After all, it is they who should be given credit. I was just a conduit.

In fact, even those who did not come to my office to donate something specific, as long as they are diligent taxpayers, they have already done their part because a majority of the funds we used to prepare relief goods were funds allocated to our office by the government. We are mere administrators of those funds.

As we went around the evacuation centers, my concern that we will run out of goods to deliver was eased. With each passing hour, more contributions came in. For a while, I was worried that our staff would be overwhelmed. My family members were already lending their hands. But that concern too, was allayed because volunteer workers started coming in. 

People who were not even part of my district gave and came, simply because they wanted to be of help to their fellowman. People of such character are heroes in my book. 

Am proud to have known these people. I am even prouder to serve them. It was a great day yesterday, September 27, 2009. No amount of destruction, death and deluge will take that away. In the coming days, while there is much work to be done, I will continue to be inspired by these good people. Heroes, really.

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