It takes courage to be kind; it takes bravery to care. My moments of hope are the times when I witness a surprising act of generosity and kindness like the time my senior high school classmates worked together to send help to Taal victims.
On January 12, 2020 (Sunday), news of Taal volcano spewing ashes alarmed our nation. Mount Taal is our second most active volcano, located in the province of Batangas, the northern part of the Philippines. It is among our tourist spots because of its caldera, a volcanic feature formed by the collapse of a volcano into itself, making it a large, special form of volcanic crater It has erupted before.
Last Sunday, residents living near Mount Taal evacuated as the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) subsequently issued an Alert Level 4, which means a hazardous eruption is on its way.
Due to the heavy plumes of smoke emitted by Mount Taal, there was a high demand for face masks, specifically N-95 masks, for protection from the ashfall. Only geologists can explain what phreatic eruption means, but the sight of ashfall from the social media posts delivered an urgent message that the people in Luzon need help.
On Monday night, I saw a post from Davao City's Public Forum by Ms. Shangy Cuenca asking for donations to send 1,000 N-95 masks to Taal victims. She posted it with a question, "Kaya ba nato?" (Is it possible?). I shared this post to a number of Facebook groupchats I'm in without any expectation, but somewhat hopeful that there will be a response.
The next morning, I read positive responses from my section Bonifacio classmates.
John Paul Samson replied, "Kaya kaayo" (We can do it).
He said that he was already facilitating donations for face masks to be sent to his brother in Laguna. Then Basil Gumanit seconded the request, asking everyone to share any amount they can give. This to me came as a surprise. First of all, these two used to be happy-go-lucky boys back in our high school days, and yet they took the initiative to help. I then began to post a call to send N-95 masks donations to Taal Victims on Facebook.
In just a few minutes after that call, our classmate who is based in the United States and is also a World Pulse Sister, Diane said she can send money. Basil Gumanit made himself available to remit her generous cash donation right away.
Another classmate, Richard Redublado, who barely attended classes in high school, asked Basil to drop by in his house so he can give some cash. Thea Roque Singcol, Carla Carmona and other classmates also gave their share of donations.
Basil, with his heart to serve, drove in different parts of Davao City just to collect cash donations from our classmates. He later handed the cash to John Paul Samson who coordinated with the Filipino Chinese Fire Fighters for the shipment of our masks. Basil and John Paul's acts of service are already enough as it is, but they both contributed cash to add more masks.
Due to the already limited supply of N-95 Masks, John Paul placed his order by noontime. During that short call for donations, our section purchased a total of *560 pieces of face masks (210 N-95 masks, and 350 ordinary masks).
When John Paul showed the photo of the box of the donated masks ready for shipment, my tears fell. I was overwhelmed with joy because I never expected what one call to action can do. I feel so proud of our classmates for responding to care in times of need. We have classmates who donated through other means, too. Our classmate, Leah Mae Jagonoy Sargado, is also actively participating in ways to help her community in Cavite City.
The news said about half a million were affected by Taal's eruption, our 560 masks is such a small humble contribution to a magnanimous need, but there is joy in knowing that amidst the mask panic buying, 560 will receive their masks for FREE. This definitely made all of us happier because this act of kindness awakened the hero inside of us.
Our high school section is Bonifacio, named after Andres Bonifacio, a national hero who was often called, "the Father of the Philippine Revolution". Our section is the not brightest in our batch. In fact, we had teachers walked out of our classes because we were quite a challenge to handle. We might have been a source of headache, rather than a source of pride back then. I should add that I was not close to any of these classmates mentioned above until we reconnected online just in time to plan for a reunion. This is why I am so proud of each one who supported this "project". It reminds me of an anonymous quote:
"There are three kinds of people: Those who MAKE things happen, those who WATCH things happen, and those who wake up one day, and asked, ' What happened?'."
Our country has been plagued by numerous calamities for the past few months (destructive earthquakes, deadly typhoons, and now an erupting volcano). We as a nation lost a lot of loved ones, homes, livelihoods and more, and yet these disasters don't stop coming. We offer prayers and supplications for help, and we find peace in our hearts amidst the confusing times. The Filipinos survival guide includes faith, resilience, and a lot of sense of humor. (This is a good summary of how Filipinos are helping Taal victims).
What gives me hope? The Bayanihan spirit of the Filipino people (the close English translation for Bayanihan is a concerted effort).
Bayanihan is a term we use when community members gather together to carry one Nipa house to transfer it to another location. "Bayani" as its root word means "hero". Perhaps it's safe to say Bayanihan is heroes coming together to provide a solution to a problem.
Bayanihan for me is a concerted effort of kindness. We do not need to be the wealthiest, the smartest, the most popular in the world to affect change. We only need empathy to awaken that hero inside of us. Empathy compels us to act.
Thus, in times of trials, my moment of hope is in BAYANIHAN: heroes being brave together to show kindness; heroes being courageous together to care.
MABUHAY ANG SECTION BONIFACIO '99! Daghang salamat sa inyong tanan!
*Two classmates sent additional money after John Paul handed the masks to the Fiilipino Chinese Firefighters. The box in the photo is the first batch of shipment.
P.S. Ms. Shangy Cuenca shipped around 1,150 N-95 masks donation from her call to donate 1,000 masks. The 560 masks from our section is a different shipment.