"It is heartwarming to see people helping people."
I write on behalf of the township of Looc, Romblon — my endeared hometown. Poetically said, my birth province, Romblon, is the "heart of the Philippines."
Whether the romantic notion is supported by science of Geography or not, however, Romblonese, will not easily concede. Optically, the group of Romblon Islands somewhat lend credence to oral claim, the Land of Marble is the "center" of Philippine Archipelago.
Between the period of February 2020 to February 2021, there was only one active COVID case — no deaths. But at the onset of the month of March 2021, the local leadership declared a granular lockdown.
There was a sudden surge of positive COVID cases constraining the municipal government to appropriate 159 classrooms including evacuation centers, and day care centers as quarantine facilities.
The Town of Looc is a fourth-class municipality, with a little over 25,000 population, comprising five thousand households. It covers a territory of 6.8 square kilometers.
When news came out that the town has been placed under lockdown, in-country Loocnons and expatriates immediately banded together to come to the succor of their kin and kababayan who could not eke out a living or procure food.
Joy Glori, an active civic leader, posted on her FB wall the appeal for help. Upon reading the heart-rending plea, I sent out a letter to the Office of the President appealing to succor Romblon, particularly the Municipality of Looc. DSWD Region 4, promptly responded.
In tandem with the local government unit, the website "Tabang Looc" was created. Help poured out from neighboring towns and the provincial government.
The various batches of Looc National High School were activated. Each class raised funds to procure medical equipment for the municipal rural health unit.
The Gabuna clan, under the initiative of DOH Cluster Director Gomel Clemente Gabuna, and Attorney Jay Gabuna Masangcay, mobilized their angkan to donate assorted items from foam, to food packs, and medicines.
Samaritan Purse, through the SEED Foundation, contributed funds to purchase boxes of Vitamin C + zinc, Spanish sardines, and carne norte, distributed to frontliners, and to far-flung sitios.
Crews of volunteers braved riding bancas to reach places inaccessible to land vehicles. Volunteers Rodom Esquejo, RJ and Leonicar Gabuna took time off their jobs to supervise and help in the distribution of food packs.
Trucking services bound for Romblon donated the freight cost as contribution to the campaign. Suppliers of canned goods and vitamins almost did not realize any profits.
It is heartwarming to witness people helping people. I felt the essence of the virtue of being "kapuwa nilikha," living for others, when helpers exposed themselves to risks, too.
COVID is a curse.
Life is short.
Life is fragile.
Indeed, life must be handled with care.