Inspiring and uplifting | Inquirer Opinion
Saturday, August 18, 2018
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Inspiring and uplifting

There is so much negativity in the air: the cruel machinations of the Duterte administration against independent-minded women officials; the toxic exchange of views on what the Rappler closure means and the “chilling effect” on the rest of the media; the looming threat of “Con-ass” on the instigation of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, at the expense of even the Senate and of the people; and the steps being taken to march the country down the road to federalism.

Amid all this negativity, we cling to even the littlest signs, the smallest bits of positivity, to brighten our fading belief in our country and our people. Which is why the guests at this week’s “Bulong Pulungan sa Sofitel” were such a welcome respite from the relentless barrage of bad news around us.

The guests were three men among the 10 awardees of Metrobank Foundation’s “The Outstanding Filipino” laurels. The “TOF” awards are a conglomeration of three national searches for notable citizens that the foundation used to conduct. The awardees for 2017 consisted of four teachers, three soldiers, and three police officers, all of whom, said foundation president Aniceto “Chito” Sobrepena, were “personal heroes” whose deeds brought “a lasting impact on their communities.”

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And indeed, judging from their back stories, the three men exemplified the spirit of excellence, service and commitment that marks today’s generation of heroes.

Certainly a hero in terms of both bravery in the field and service to the communities he serves, Lt. Col. Elmer Suderio is described as “Basilan’s Soldier-Trailblazer.” Even as he led the 3rd Scout Ranger Battalion in armed operations against the Abu Sayyaf, Suderio was also preoccupied with transforming the soldiers assigned to him, “mostly rejects from other Scout Ranger companies,” into a disciplined and cohesive unit. But, not content with working only among his fellow soldiers, Suderio likewise reached out to the larger community, working to provide alternative livelihood opportunities for Moro National Liberation Front returnees.

After his stint in Basilan, Suderio was assigned to Marawi, where he served as operations officer. Over lunch, the colonel told us of soldiers who, though wounded in battle, would still volunteer for another tour after their injuries had healed. Some of them would get injured anew, and five of them would perish when they returned to the frontline.

Even after his recognition, Suderio has kept alive his concern for the men serving under him in Basilan. Asked what he would do with his P1 million prize money, he said he would turn over the majority of the amount to his wife, if only to make up for the fact that throughout his 28 years in service, he would see her only twice a year. Part of the money, though, he would use to build housing for soldiers and their families in Basilan. Inspiring, indeed!

Another uniformed “Outstanding Filipino” is Chief Insp. Rosalino Ibay Jr., born and raised in Tondo and now serving as chief of the Manila Police District’s Intelligence and Operation Unit. Ibay is best known for the dramatic downturn in car theft cases in 2012, after he was assigned to head the task force. Through what he called the “systematic encoding of [stolen] vehicles,” he was able to track the carjackers and resellers and scaled down the extent of the crime extensively.

Today, he uses his familiarity with Tondo and the close relations he has established with his neighbors in antidrug operations, using what he termed the “barangay management system.”

The third awardee at the “Bulong” lunch was Dr. Alonzo Gabriel, a food science and technology professor at UP where his focus of research and advocacy has been food security and safety, and the development of food products. Currently, he is developing the use of corn meal in sachets, packed together with viands, for distribution to families hit by natural disasters and other large-scale emergencies.

Metrobank Foundation is now accepting nominations for this year’s search for Outstanding Filipinos. Deadline for submissions is March 1.

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TAGS: chilling effect, Con-ass, Duterte administration, federalism, Media, Rappler closure
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