We recently encountered another conflict greater than all of us: a conflict with nature. The nameless habagat or monsoon that struck us hard back in August was a destructive, yet familiar, force.
After countless natural disasters, my observation is this: We are getting better at crisis and disaster management as a nation. The reason? Each individual is getting better at solving problems along with others, and each individual is inspired to become more charitable the next time around.
When we’re faced with calamity, “bayanihan” emerges. But the bayanihan today is not the same as the bayanihan of yesterday. We seldom carry a neighbor’s nipa hut anymore, but we constantly carry the spirit of bayanihan.
As a student of politics and governance, I have always argued for bayanihan when managing crises large and small. I’m of the position that nations, organizations, and individuals should work toward developing a genuine relationship built on charity, responsibility, and justice. Effective management of crises can only be possible when the parties involved are partners rather than enemies.
We have learned lessons from calamity and disaster. This year, the Red Cross facilitated rescue operations and distribution of relief goods provided by parishes, barangays, and corporations. Local government units tended to the displaced families and provided them the basic necessities. Never have I seen stronger coordination among government and nongovernment units in working toward achieving a common goal.
I was fascinated by Metro Manila Development Authority Chair Francis Tolentino’s tweet on the steps by which the MMDA was to conduct rescue operations: Upon receipt of a report on families that need rescue, the MMDA will first confirm with the local government unit concerned before coordinating with the Red Cross unit in charge of deploying volunteers. Simple, yet effective!
When my friends and I went out to get relief packages for donation to our parish, we witnessed an organized and systematic way of packing and distributing the goods. It was very different from the aftermath of Tropical Storm “Ondoy” back in September 2009. Back then, we volunteers from our parish had to distribute the relief packages ourselves in the flooded areas of Muntinlupa. Only this year did I witness Red Cross volunteers in large trucks managing the distribution of donations. Systematic!
During the time of Ondoy, I was among the commuters who couldn’t get home after work. I arrived home at 1 a.m. on Sept. 24, all because I wasn’t aware of the weather conditions.
Nowadays, what happened to me will most likely not happen to you. During the habagat, we witnessed the amazing power of the social media through Facebook and Twitter to disseminate critical and life-saving information fast.
The use of social media to facilitate the spirit of bayanihan into a coordinated, effective, and efficient network of communication has made saving lives easier. Twitter and Facebook have allowed each netizen to become proactive in the service of others. Our devices have been transformed from mere personal possessions into tools to help save lives. From netizens, we have become public servants.
Fortunately, public officials seized the opportunity and made their respective government profiles on the Internet contacts for disaster response. President Aquino had the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office’s Twitter account, Red Cross chair Dick Gordon had his accounts active all over Facebook and Twitter, and the MMDA’s Tolentino had his Twitter and Facebook account linked to local government units ready to provide volunteers for rescue operations.
The path to progress is the empowerment of the bayanihan spirit through well-coordinated government moves. Public welfare is best addressed when both the individual and the state work toward collective action, while not restricting the individual’s ability to act upon what’s best for him and his family. There must be a bayanihan of efforts among the individuals affected, and the public and private sectors.
A perceptive assessment of what happened during the habagat will show that in any conflict, disaster, or crisis, manmade or not, the strengthened coordination of efforts among groups and the individual’s genuine desire to serve others wins the end game.
But before bayanihan can be harnessed on a large scale, the individual must first have its spirit formed in him—a life dedicated to genuine service to others—pagiging makatao—and a love for the truth (the truth of being a family of human beings who happen to be Filipino).
No relief operation can be conducted successfully without the virtue of charity in one. It may seem ironic, but the moment one values the life of another person more, one’s life becomes more valuable.
Personally, I think that all of us being directly part of the resolution of conflict has always been one of life’s exciting thrills! Through each conflict and calamity, we become wiser, recognize the duty to serve the nation before the self, and understand that through our combined efforts, genuine progress and authentic human development are possible.
Involving everyone in solving our greatest conflicts should be the aim of the nation. Unless each and every individual gives himself in the service of others, there can be no genuine progress. The process is indeed a complex one, but it has now been made easier by the Internet and new technology.
I’m extremely proud of the spirit of bayanihan coming alive last August. But for all of us studying or working, bayanihan does not have to take action only during disasters and calamities. It can be done by way of service to the people around us. Service to others done with great love increases man’s virtue. When a person is charitable, that person empowers others to become charitable, too, thereby strengthening the bayanihan spirit. There lies our secret for progress: knowing that great accomplishments are combinations of small acts done with love.
There is no life-saving without self-giving, no formed nation without a common vision. And certainly, no rescue and relief operation without bayanihan.
Nico Ordoñez, 20, is a third year political economy student at the University of Asia and the Pacific.
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