What the Fuss

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By Anna Liza Gaspar

“Greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this city”
~From the song God of this City

I HEARD this song the first time at a breakfast celebrating the 38th anniversary of the Philippine National Prayer Breakfast Foundation, Inc. with Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno as the guest of honor.

This song is pregnant with faithful hope in these difficult times as the people affected by Typhoon Yolanda are still in the process of rebuilding. It also reminded me of the unbelievable acts of kindness I witness in one of the times I volunteered in packing relief goods for the survivors of Yolanda.

Equivalent to a General

I didn’t plan on actually helping out at any of the relief packing centers. I told myself I’ve done my share last August when I together with two very hard working people, my friend’s driver and house help, helped pack more than 300 bags of relief goods for the people of Biñan, Laguna which we distributed in the same week.

If they award military ranks for relief goods packing skills, mine would be equivalent to a general. Imagine that. People calling me equivalent-to-a-general Gaspar. Fancy.

In the social media networks, calls to donate cash, used clothes, food items, vehicles and drivers to bring survivors arriving at Villamore Airbase to their relatives’ place in Metro Manila and even as far as Baguio, time to help take care of children at the temporary day care center at the base, and time to help relief goods for the millions of Filipinos affected by Yolanda were uploaded so frequently I couldn’t help but notice how much help is needed.

Because of this and the selflessness of a Korean, whom I wrote about below, inspired me that I finally decided to check what the fuss is all about. I went to the gymnasium of Villamor Airbase to help pack relief goods and to meet this person.

Balikbayan to Help

Before I went to the gym, I first checked out the volunteer center at the grandstand, where evacuees from Leyte and Samar arrive via C-130. This sounds really smart, but actually I got lost. I got off at the wrong volunteer stop. But being the nosy person that I am, I used the opportunity to check how everyone is doing.

I chatted up one of the ‘main’ volunteers, if a newbie has a question this person asks one of these ‘main’ volunteers. They’ve been volunteering at the site for several days.

Her name is Maria Yrene Calaguian. This lovely lady has an even lovelier heart. She arrived on November 17 from Dubai where she works and planned to stay until November 30. Though she doesn’t have relatives affected by the horrifying devastation wrought by Yolanda, she was so moved by the singular destruction that she came home just to help out.

After the day she arrived in the country, she’s been volunteering every day. Her generosity is exemplary. Imagine the cost of a round-trip ticket to Dubai and what she gave up for a two-week off from work in exchange for the challenges of volunteering.
When I asked her why she’s here rather than merely donating what is costing her to come and stay for two weeks, Maria told me, “Everything cannot be resolved by money.” I agree. Money is not everything. Most of the time, people are needed more. Right now volunteer mechanics, carpenters, and plumbers are needed in the rebuilding efforts. Please go to bit.ly/opinyonvolunteers to know more.

A Korean for the Philippines

The Korean Government and various Korean groups have contributed so much to the relief operations, but the action of a Korean inspired me more than anything to go to Villamor Airbase and help repack goods. When I heard what he has done, I told myself, “If he could why have I not?”

His name is Hyun-bae Park. It is his first time travelling to the Philippines and he came here just to help pack relief goods, in his words, “To carry rice.”

At the gym, the relief packing operations supervised by the Development Bank of the Philippines, run like a well-oiled machine. Just how highly competent bankers operate a bank – efficient and as precise as clock work. In each sack of relief goods, there are four bags. Each bag contain 6 kilos of rice, 3 cans of sardines, 3 cans of corned beef, 8 pieces of coffee, and 8 pieces of noodles. Everything is packed into 1 bag except the 6 kilos of rice which is packed separately. A volunteer carries the packed rice to the final assembly point, to the people putting together a sack of relief goods.

Hyun-bae helped carried rice every day since she stepped off the plane which flew him from Korean.
When I asked him what has he seen in the few days since he arrived, he told me, “Just Villamor Airbase and Malate where I stay.”
Who can’t be inspired by the selfless action of this man?

These are just two of the unbelievable acts of kindness I witnessed during my short-time at the Airbase.

I also met people from Adarna Publishing and HR Team Asia, Inc. who were given free time by their bosses to volunteer in any of the relief operations. What is amazing is that these companies are paying them for their time to volunteer. It is not taken out from their vacation or sick leave days. When I run a company, surely I will do the same.

With these so many people I met and talked to in the few hours I was at Villamor, you may be asking yourself, did Liza actually volunteered?

Don’t worry, I managed to helped pack several boxes of canned sardines. Don’t forget my equivalent-to-a-general skills in packing relief goods – I commandeered one volunteer and we formed an assembly line of packing canned sardines. I grabbed a bag of relief goods already filled with 3 cans of corned beef, the commandeered volunteer puts in 3 cans of sardines, and I set aside the bad for another volunteer to bring to the noodle-packing section. I am proud to say that we packed twice as past than if we worked individually.
Liza fancies herself a writer, but what she wants to do is to actually spend all her time reading what others have written. In the meantime she fashions herself as a personal finance enthusiast. Visit her Web site at thegirlninja.com, email her at liza@thegirlninja.com, or follow her at http://www.facebook.com/annalizagaspar.

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