"What this Country needs is not a change OF men but a change IN men" March 1980

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Jose Rizal: My Ateneo Hero

Our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, is my Ateneo hero because he dared to break the walls built by Spanish colonizers around Filipino minds to conquer us into servitude. His entire life was dedicated to the proposition that Filipinos can overcome our self-imposed apathy and indifference and that, like our early ancestors, we become horizon chasers who know no limit to our dreams and aspirations. 

To project their might and power, the Spanish built the formidable walls of Intramuros and intimidating structures within the colonial city. This physical barrier worked not only to keep the lower-ranked indios away, but to the greater detriment of the Filipino people, subjugated our minds into submission, propagating the myth that we are incapable of unity and the creation of a strong independent nation.

Despite colonial efforts to limit education for Filipinos, Rizal pursued and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Ateneo Municipal de Manila in Intramuros. At school, he exhibited natural intelligence, and the Jesuits further honed his intellectual capability to organize, discern and critically think.  So he started to ask questions and see things differently than other people of his time.

Rizal’s passion for education was relentless, and he took up Medicine at the University of Santo Tomas. He went abroad and continued his studies in Universidad Central de Madrid, earning the degree of Licentiate in Medicine. He also attended the University of Paris and later on earned a second doctorate at the University of Heidelburg. He educated himself some more and proved that Filipinos could debate, argue, compete with the best and most importantly, that we could assert ourselves. Rizal became the first of our people to break the walls in his mind; walls, which were built to psychologically bludgeon the Filipinos’ consciousness. He realized that even if we were colonized by foreign nations, we can refuse to be bound by them and can achieve far beyond what we think we can reach, if only we have the vision and the will to achieve it. His values dared with a concept that the Filipino will one day be free especially through the perseverance and determination of young people like him to saw the future and chased after it. 

The road, he knew, would not always be easy.  Initially using the pen name Laong Laan, Rizal later overcame his own fears and put his own name down to Noli Me Tangere and the El Filibusterismo. This was a valiant effort to awaken the Filipinos to boldly fight for their freedom and liberty.  In the face persecution and death, Rizal came home to face and accept his fate, knowing that by his sacrifice, the Filipino would awaken and aspire for a nation that is independent and free.   

I grew up as an Atenean trying to emulate Rizal’s short but meaningful life as an ideal which shows that we must break the walls in our minds, regain confidence in our capabilities, and become courageous about the future as he did.

Like Rizal, I learned to conquer apathy and indifference by initiating change. I grew up in a city and community that was faced with many challenges.  Together with the people of Olongapo, we made fear our friend, and faced these challenges head on. Our efforts as a united people, rising above our own limitations and seeing what we could become, just as Rizal would have hoped, have seen us through the most difficult times of our history.  In the 1980s Olongapo became a model city for peace and order, governance, and public services. After the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo and the withdrawal of the U.S. Navy in 1992, a community of volunteers transformed Subic into a modern Freeport, making it the nation’s showcase for progress and development. Rallying the entire nation to scream Wow Philippines saw our country overcome overwhelming odds in the last decade. And in the Philippine Red Cross, an organization fueled by the energy and dedication of thousands of volunteers, we have able faced the tumultuous disasters of the new millennium.

For me, Rizal unlocked us from the bondage of the mind and soul. In death, he consecrated his blood in Bagumbayan (what today is known as the Rizal Park in Manila) as with Fathers Gomez, Burgos and Zamora and before them Rajah Sulayman. It was not a mere coincidence but a symbol of what he wanted for the Filipinos -- a new Philippines, a Bagumbayan – the new country.  Bagumbayan is not a place. It is an attitude. It is time we become horizon-chasers once again like the Ateneo eagle. We have to change ourselves, reinvent ourselves, and we must not cease from hoping. It is time we break our walls and say, we can do it. We have the power to shape our future and determine the destiny of our country.

Bagumbayan is Rizal’s dream of a new nation, and I continue to aspire to fulfill Rizal’s Bagumbayan, not as a place or a circumstance, but an attitude crying to break free. We need to change from being a transactional country to a transformational people, guided by a common vision – grounded in  steadfast values and responsive to the call of lofty and worthwhile causes through volunteerism so that we can emerge as a nation no longer of victims, but a victorious nation, defined in its identity, united in its goals and passionate in its freedom and pride.

I thank my parents, the real heroes in my life, who did not finish college but through perseverance and hard work, were able to send me to the Ateneo, inculcating the right values and work ethic in my formative years.  My father chose to become Filipino and dared that one day Olongapo would be free from American rule like the rest of the country.  Heroism encompasses not one singular act, but the collective acts of bold decisions that involve much effort and self sacrifice to achieve lofty ideals for mankind.

(My Ateneo Hero, By Richard J. Gordon HS’62, AB’66; "My Ateneo Hero: A collection of 150 Essays"; August 2010)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas with the most vulnerable

December 24, 2004: Bringing Christmas cheer to children victims of the Aurora and Quezon province mudslides.

December 24, 2006: Spending Christmas with victims of Typhoon Reming in Albay..

December 24, 25, 26, 27 2009: The Holidays spent with victims of Mt. Mayon eruption and fires in Pasay as well as rescuing victims of M/V Baleno sinking in Batangas.

December 22, 2010: Yuletide season turning over homes for Typhoon Ondoy victims in Rizal.

PRC Antipolo shelter beneficiaries deserve their new found homes

"We did not award the shelters to the 355 Typhoon Ondoy affected families out of mere pity. We did it because they deserve it," Philippine Red Cross (PRC) Chairman Richard J. Gordon firmly stated in line with the PRC Antipolo shelters turnover ceremony held at Sitio Sumilang, Barangay San Jose, Antipolo, Rizal yesterday (December 22).

And to further elaborate this thought, he added, "The Philippine Red Cross is never all about spoon-feeding, and this is the reason why we incorporated a sweat equity program in this project."

The sweat equity program is an arrangement between the PRC and the beneficiaries, which requires the latter to participate in the actual construction of their homes. Its purpose is to uplift the dignity of the typhoon-affected population by showing them that they are not passive recipients of what the PRC has to offer, but rather an active partner of the organization in alleviating human suffering and uplifting human dignity.

"At least, through this program, these families could further appreciate the value of their new homes, since they themselves built it with their own hands," Gordon uttered in line with the advantages of this program.

To date, 400 transitional shelters have already been completed in Antipolo; but unfortunately, not all were distributed yesterday since some of the recipients of the said project are still halfway from concluding their responsibilities, as posed by the sweat equity program.

Other than the transitional shelters, on the other hand, the 355 beneficiaries yesterday received additional benefits, such as, kitchen sets and sanitation kits. And by January next year, the PRC will start the livelihood program for them, with Php 7,000.00 starting capital.

The PRC has much more than material things in store. More importantly than tangible things that provide relief, what the PRC aims to offer is an opportunity for the vulnerable to regain their dignity their own way; and be the help they need, not only for the benefit of their own well-being, but also for the benefit of others.


Philippine Red Cross turns over 355 transitional shelters in Antipolo

In time for the Yuletide season, the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) formally turned over the first 355, out of 1,100, transitional shelters for Typhoon Ondoy affected families in Sitio Sumilang, Barangay San Jose, Antipolo, Rizal on December 22.

And for starters, PRC also provided additional 355 kitchen and sanitation kits to the beneficiaries of the abovementioned shelters, in order to warmly welcome all of them in their new homes.

No less than PRC Chairman and CEO Richard J. Gordon led the turnover with PRC Secretary General Gwendolyn Pang, Rizal Chapter Chairman Alfred Burgos, International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Head of Delegation Selvaratnam Sinnadura and was also graced by the attendance of Rizal Province Governor Casimiro Ynares, III and other renowned guests.

Christmas is one of the most celebrated occasions in the Philippines; and hopefully, this activity will further give some of the Typhoon Ondoy affected families more reason to rejoice," Gordon cheerfully uttered.

He added, "We truly understand that most, if not all, of them tremendously suffered from late last year's super typhoon's attack; but despite the said desolation, we are looking forward that this event could help them rebuild their lives."

In totality, PRC targets to put up 3,476 transitional shelters for the vulnerable families who have been devastated by last year's successive super typhoons, Ondoy and Pepeng. As of December 20, a sum of 1,744 have already been constructed within the areas of Benguet, La Union, Laguna, Kalinga, Pangasinan, and Rizal; not to mention the 5,418 shelter repair kits that have been distributed nationwide to some of the families who were left with partially damaged houses after the said super typhoons.

"Currently, we are at the rehabilitation stage of our Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng operation," Pang elaborated, in line with the still ongoing transitional shelter project.

She also added, "Other than transitional shelters, we are also working on the provision of livelihood programs for those typhoon-affected families who wish to start income generating activities."

According to recent records, around 986 families have already benefited from PRC's livelihood program. Each of them has received Php 7,000.00, which could serve as a starting capital for their prospected businesses.

Meanwhile, it has been recorded that, all in all, the PRC was able to provide more than 15,000 homes all over the country—particularly in the provinces of Southern Leyte, Albay, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Marinduque, Mindoro Oriental, Quezon, Aurora, Isabela, Nueva Ecija, Quirino, Sorsogon, Lanao del Norte, Iloilo, and Aklan—for families affected by major disasters ever since year 2005.

Photos courtesy of Edgardo Vasquez

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Safety Tips from Red Cross

The Christmas season is a time for countless parties, family reunions and exchanges of presents. However, this is also a time when several incidents of fire due to faulty Christmas lights and crimes such as robbery holdup occur.

"It is said that the Philippines has the longest Christmas celebration in the world. It starts from the onset of 'ber' months until the Epiphany in January. That means, our heightened alertness for any untoward incident during the Christmas season lasts for about five months," said Philippine Red Cross Chairman Richard Gordon.

Stay safe while keeping the festive mood alive during the Yuletide season by following these reminders:

 At Home
1. Examine your Christmas decors like Christmas lights and lanterns. Make sure that these were inspected by the Department of Trade and Industry.
2. Put up your Christmas tree and decorations away from curtains and other combustible materials.
3. Avoid leaving Christmas lights turned on overnight to avoid fire or overheating.
4. Avoid octopus lines to minimize overloading of electrical system.
5. Never place appliance cords or extension cords under a carpet.
6. Do not leave infants or children alone in places where they are in danger of falling or near electrical outlets or gadgets and candles.
7. Always position appliances (TV, computer, sound system, heating appliances, etc.) in a spacious area to prevent overheating.
8. Repair faulty functioning appliances.
9. Use appliances at a specified voltage only.
10. Unplug appliances by grasping the plug, not by yanking the cord, when not in use and when leaving the house.

To Avoid Incidents of Holdup/Snatching1. Avoid wearing jewelries, talking over the phone and texting in a crowded area.
2. When waiting for a public utility vehicle, do not stay in a dark area.
3. It is best to call for a company taxi in case you will go home at midnight or early in the morning. Lock all doors once inside to prevent "bukas kotse gang" from declaring hold up. Do not sleep inside the taxi. Make sure to get the plate number of the taxi and give it to a friend in case something happens.


PRC turns over PHC Infra Projects in Quirino

Philippine Red Cross (PRC) formally turns over infrastructure projects to barangay beneficiaries of Primary Health Care (PHC) Program in Quirino last December 8.

PRC Chairman Richard Gordon, PRC Secretary General Gwendolyn Pang, PRC Quirino Chapter Board of Directors and Japanese Red Cross Society (JRCS) representatives graced the symbolic turnover ceremony.

Prior to the turnover program, PRC officials conducted site visits in Barangay Ramos and Barangay Cabugao in Aglipay, Quirino where latrines and a barangay health station were constructed and hand pumps were given, respectively.

The PHC Project is an initiative of PRC which seeks to improve the health and living conditions of the vulnerable people in priority upland barangays of the municipalities of Nagtipunan and Aglipay in Quirino.

The key components of the project include community health education and mobilization of trained community health volunteers; water sanitation, hygiene and health promotion; construction and rehabilitation of barangay health stations and rural health units; and strengthening of community health planning and organizational support.

Started in 2005 in Nagtipunan, the PHC Project is funded by JRCS and implemented by PRC Quirino Chapter, in partnership with the local government of Quirino.