Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Beyond Ourselves (Day 7)

Beyond Ourselves (Day 7)

by Rey Laguda

(This is the DepEd USec Rey Laguda's Day 7 of 50-day journey being serialized here with his permission, culled from his Facebook account. - Blogger/owner)

Since 2010, there was no respite from disasters that hit our country. In 2010, Typhoon Juan hit Region 2. In 2011, Typhoon Sendong hit parts of Visayas and Northern Mindanao especially Cagayan de Oro and Iligan cities. In 2012, we saw Typhoon Pablo ravage Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley followed by an earthquake in Negros Oriental. In 2013, it was Bohol and Central Visayas' turn to have a major earthquake. As if it weren't enough, Typhoon Yolanda broke records affecting six regions. There were relatively small but damaging typhoons that followed in the ensuing years - Glenda, Ruby and Nona, to name a few. Indeed, we are in the ring of fire and in the typhoon belt. Aside from these natural disasters, we have seen the sad effects of human induced disasters like fire, violence, and conflict.

I had just come from a psychosocial debriefing session in Angono, Rizal for teachers who were involved in a recent bus accident. Br Armin asked me to say something and I couldn't help but remember heroic acts in times of adversity. I spoke about how my experience in DepEd over the last six years was characterized by attending to one calamity after another. And yet, more than the damage and destruction, what struck me were the human acts of resilience, survival, kindness, generosity, and love our people have shown throughout.

I remember a teacher and her family in Iligan who were swept away by ravaging floods during Typhoon Sendong. After going through a culvert (which according to her accounts felt like a washing machine), they were all separated from each other. She managed to cling to a tree the whole night and was found the following day stripped naked on top of that tree. Eventually, her husband and two kids found their way back to the area where their house used to stand. They searched every hospital until they found her. When I spoke to her eldest son, he was recounting what happened and revealed that he had another brother, the youngest, who died. He felt responsible for losing his youngest brother because he didn't hold him tight enough. As the teacher-mom was talking about their ordeal, she would crack jokes and was surprisingly in a jovial and upbeat mood. We asked why she was in such a mood. She said she needed to be strong for her family. Her husband almost thought of taking his own life when they couldn't find her during the initial days. She needed to provide hope to her kids and to tell them things would be alright.

Havoc Wrought by Typhoon Yolanda
Havoc Wrought by Typhoon Yolanda

During Typhoon Yolanda, one teacher in Panay lost his life while conducting rescue operations. Being an active member of the community, he was part of the barangay rescue, a role he took on in addition to his school duties. The day after, a superintendent in Region 8, despite being injured, immediately went around to check on schools and on his people. He went from town to town to inform personnel to look out for their colleagues and account for them. A security guard of the Tacloban City division didn't abandon his post because he didn't want the division property to be stolen. A superintendent of Eastern Samar immediately went through town after town to check on damage and coordinate with local chief executives.

I will not forget being generously offered a place to stay in Eastern Samar by a DepEd couple because there were no facilities to sleep in as we went around to assess the situation. They offered their room to me and seeing their Monday uniform hanging from the door made me realize that commitment is not a word to be taken lightly.

During the Zamboanga siege, a teacher was about to leave her house when armed elements barged into the gate to take hostages. Without any hesitation, she stopped them and said there was no one else in the house except her. She went with them so that other members of her family would not be taken.

Bohol Earthquake Extent of Damage
Bohol Earthquake Extent of Damage

I will never forget that the DepEd personnel of Bohol, Cebu and other earthquake-hit areas told us that they will be okay and that we should give more attention to Region 8 which was worst hit as a whole. Nor will I forget the thousands of letters coming from students from the whole of Luzon offering words of support and encouragement to affected typhoon victims.

These are acts of courage. Acts of compassion. Acts of love. These are acts done by ordinary people who comprise the Department of Education. I am proud to be among them. Whoever steers the Department in the years to come, please take care of them.



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