Digicast Negros

Leadership with a heart

In several group chats I belong to, raising funds for those affected by the onslaught of Typhoons Quinta, Rolly and Ulysses remain the top agenda.

In our Rotary District 3850 page, Rotary clubs have been raising funds to course help through club counterparts in affected areas. Tatak Kalamay also raised at least P500,000 from sugar mills, sugar federations, individual planters to help Cagayan where over 3 million people are reportedly affected and some 300,000 still in evacuation centers.

The Diocese of Bacolod was among the first here to send assistance, conducting special collections for the past two Sundays to raise funds and initially sent P385,000. Bishop Patricio Buzon and the Social Action Center continue to appeal for more donations in cash or in kind which can be remitted to the parishes.

The provincial government of Negros Occidental is also donating P4 million to affected provinces from Bicol to Cagayan. Media outlets like Aksyon Radyo also conducted a donation drive and followers sent money and rice.

Even young entrepreneurs are socially conscious enough to donate part of their earnings like 25-year old Christie Inso who just launched her Konsepto Meraki tote bags and will share part of the profit to relief groups aiding those who were severely affected by the typhoons that slammed our country in three succeeding weeks.

My brother, Junjun, who is a nurse in Ireland also launched his own run-for-a-cause and they’ve raised over P50,000 which they already sent and continue to raise more.

If you’ve seen footages and read story of the devastation that these typhoons left behind, especially Ulysses that did not only bring rain but caused landslides, leaving more than 70 people dead and countless more missing, your heart will break into pieces – that is if you have a heart and not indifferent to the sufferings of others.

I’ve been following the coverage of ABS-CBN online and they’ve truly lived up to their promise to continue bringing news to the public despite the revocation of their franchise. Even New York Times reported that the loss of ABS-CBN, which was the main source of information in these provinces, could have led to the information gap between national agencies and local government units, especially when the Magat Dam was forced to release water that added to the worsening situation.

Jason Phillip Guiterrez who writes for the NY Times wrote a powerful story of Ulysses’s effects in Cagayan, quoting Francisco Pagulayan whose two sons and his mother-in-law were buried in a landslide after the mountainside collapsed.

Jason wrote that the family survived the flash flood but not the landslide. “From the air, it is hard to distinguish where the Cagayan River ends and the land begins,” Jason said. He also hailed Chiara Zambrano of ABS-CBN whom he said “still crawled through the mud even without their franchise. Salute!”

The response from concerned LGUs and private groups and individuals are overwhelming, showing that in times of crisis, empathy is present.

It makes me wonder what Bacolod is doing about it. I’ve been scrolling pages including the Bacolod PIO page if the city is doing a similar drive or have had some conscience to help those who are in dire need but I couldn’t find any.

It is quite ironic to be thankful that the last three storms spared us from devastation but we ought to be and that should be more than enough to make us dip a little into our pockets to help those who may need months to recover from this tragedy.

I do not begrudge government employees in both the province and the city who have been asking for bonuses or additional incentives. This is understandable as they have been so used in the past to get as much as P50,000 from the provincial government especially. This pandemic has caused so much misery as well in all of us. But I sincerely hope that the employees would share a little as well to typhoon stricken areas.

I understand that Bacolod Mayor Bing Leonardia is also the president of the League of Mayors in the Philippines. That is a powerful position to mobilize LGUs around the country to help out. Billions are needed to help these affected areas recover.

But how can you lead by example when Bacolod City itself is slow to respond? What if it happened to us? Wouldn’t we be praying for help from others too? Especially since these affected areas have probably used up their calamity funds as well in their fight against COVID-19.

To rely on the national government alone will lead you nowhere. I’ve stopped following the president and his cabinet in their response to these disasters as there is really a lack of empathy from the top guy who can even afford to throw a sexist joke in the middle of it all, not to mention lambasting Vice President Leni Robredo who has been working non-stop to provide assistance and comfort in various areas.

It is all about empathy. And that tells you a lot about the characters of our leaders.*

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