It started when reports streamed out that besieged residents around the ridge overlooking the Taal Volcano had offered to wash vehicles covered in toxic ash free-of-charge. There was no hidden agenda. No quid pro quo. It was simply to rid the vehicles of the ash that prevented not simply a clear view of the evacuation routes but posed as additional dangers to anyone on the road.
There is the inspiring story of jeepney driver Roger Villa who stood on the roof of his house and washed off the ash covering vehicles passing below. No politician had asked him to do this. Villa was compelled by a higher purpose.
From Batangueños similarly victimized by the volcano, one would think that the first order of the day was to flee and all other concerns be damned. Yet what was evident was a deep sense of concern and community, a spontaneous sense of selfless volunteerism.
A small eatery by the ridge had offered anyone a quick meal, food and water, and the owner would be so accommodating she packaged more to-go. All free of charge.
Nothing it seems is free nowadays. We’ve come to surrender to the utilitarianism of even public officials as they might have us believe they have only the public welfare in mind. Never mind the elective posts they sought and salivated after.
Remember that idiot during the “Yolanda” crisis who predicated the assistance of his department on the prior realization that victims were constituents of a political clan that were archenemies of then Pres. Benigno Aquino III. Where a crisis was afoot and lives were at stake, it is unconceivable that partisan animosities would enter the equation. But in the case of this loser politics was foremost in his mind.
So lacking in requisite empathy, compelled by grand ambitions and an even greater ego and inflated sense of self-worth, he imagined that crises recognized partisanship and that aid and succor depend on the warped pecking order he fomented. His battle cry was. “Bahala kayo sa buhay ninyo! (It’s up to you to take care of yourselves.)”
Where there were self-centered heels then, there are heroes now.
There are convoys of trucks motoring to Tagaytay, their payload overflowing with relief goods, food, water, blankets, even clothes. Alongside are private vans organized by groups of individuals, doctors, lawyers, high school students, parishioners, residential villagers, and many more Good Samaritans. The list is endless, the sense of community, immeasurable.
From the most prolific and powerful corporations to a 61year-old seamstress, their bayanihan spirit has soared higher than the highest plumes of the volcano.
Lucio Tan’s Asia Brewery Inc. had immediately coordinated with local government and nongovernment organizations to initially donate over 115,000 bottles of Absolute water. They’ve assured more will be forthcoming in terms of other kinds of assistance.
The SM Group of Companies, SM Supermalls, SM Cares and SM Foundation Inc. had immediately set up “Oplan Tulong Express” in 12 malls in Southern Luzon. Their assistance ranges from distributing relief packs to offering safe parking for vehicles beset from the ashfall, to water distribution and the mobilization of donations, food, medicine and basic essentials.
PrimeWater Infrastructure Corp., one of the companies among the Villar Group partnered with Crystal Clear Water and had deployed volunteers to deliver thousands of gallons of safe drinking water.
Perhaps the most touching example of leadership was shown by Rosalina Mantuano, a seamstress for 45 years. Seeing the demand for face masks against its scarcity, using scraps she started sewing hundreds and gave these away for free. When people heard of this, cloth donations started pouring in and more joined in the effort.
This crisis is largely cauterized from partisanship. Victims of looters were not subjected to derision and ridicule by a moron leader who could not tell the difference between victim and victimizer.
There were no motorcycle publicity stunts, no debating causality numbers, no lying, no electioneering gimmickry like cardboard fans and comic books.
What confronts this crisis is thoughtful resolve and a profusion of empathy led by a president from whom the public can see and feel magnanimous genuine concern and caring that inspire others to do their part in whatever form and manner they could. For all his flaws this is how disasters are treated by Rodrigo Duterte. He relates and he inspires. It is leadership by empathy and it has made all the difference.