Whenever I hear the word Bayanihan, the first thing that comes to mind is a picture of a group of people carrying an entire bahay kubo on their shoulders and literally moving it from one place to another.
But while that image of Bayanihan is now just part of old textbooks that spirit of camaraderie continues to live on in the hearts of many Filipinos.
The imagery might have changed, the concept evolved, but our willingness to help one another has never been more evident especially during calamities.
As the say, tragedy is the great equalizer. It chooses no one, whether man or woman, young or old, rich or poor, when disaster strikes, everyone needs everybody’s help.
When Typhoon Chedeng (International Name Maysak) made landfall in Baler, Aurora, something new was waiting for it—the Private Sector Disaster Management Network (PSDMN) – Rescue Recon Reliable Rapid Response (PSDMNR5) team.
The volunteer group was already pre-positioned in the municipality in anticipation of needed rescue and disaster recovery services should the typhoon wreak havoc and devastation. When the Typhoon was also detected to hit other towns, namely, Dilasag and Casiguran, the Rapid Response Team split into two where the other half proceeded to these towns known for landslides during heavy rain.
Fortunately, Typhoon Chedeng was not as destructive as it was anticipated; hence, no loss of lives has been reported with minimal economic impact and disruption to business and livelihoods.
The idea of sending a private rapid response team is part of NDRRMC’s whole-of-society approach to disaster response and management. NDRRMC head Undersecretary Alexander P. Pama emphasized this during the debriefing meeting at the NDRRMC Conference Room last April 7, when the PSDMNR5 Team returned home to Manila from their provincial deployment.
The creation of a Rapid Response Team and Private Sector Disaster Management Network (PSDMN) is the brainchild CDR Peter P. Negrido PCGA and spearheaded by the efforts of Chairman Col. Alejandro “Alex” T. Escaño.
Negrido, a professional rescuer and an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) has devoted most of his life to serving others, from the search and rescue team of the ill-fated Cebu Pacific Flight 387 that crashed in Mt. Sumagaya in Cagayan de Oro in 1998 to the Rapid Response Team under the Rescue Recon banner who responded to Typhoon Yolanda. He was also part of the team that responded to Typhoon Ruby last December 2014 and went to Borongan City, Eastern Samar, this time under the banner of the combined PSDMN-Rescue Recon.
Aurora Province Governor, Atty. Gerardo A. Noveras, Baler Mayor Nelianto Bihasa, San Luis Mayor Annabelle C. Tangson, Dilasag Mayor Victorio Briones and Casiguran Mayor Dr. Ricardo Bitong expressed their thanks to the group as well as to the NDRRMC for demonstrating the commitment of the national government to provide support to local government units (LGUs) affected by typhoons and other disasters.
During a recent media briefing Chairman Col. Alejandro “Alex” T. Escaño stressed the need to support volunteer rescue groups and vowed that he will be looking for more resources to enhance the team’s disaster logistics by adding more ambulances as he envisions more Rapid Response Teams in the immediate future so that more areas can be assisted in case of more disasters take place.
His vision for the PSDMN is to eventually put up a building that would house the most modern rescue facilities and equipment that will be readily available wherever needed in times of disaster. The group also plans to hold a special training for media personnel as they are often the first to arrive at the scene to report about the situation.
The PSDMNR5 Team will also be working closely with the local counterparts from the provincial and municipal DRRMOs, Bureau of Fire, Coast Guard, PNP, 7ID, DOH, DSWD, DPWH and DOST-PAGASA. The PSDMNR5 Team comprised of volunteers remains committed to be in places where they are needed. Their motto captures the team spirit and passion – ready to serve, ready to save so that others may live.
Who said you need superpowers to become heroes, as Negrido and his team have proven time and again, anyone can be a volunteer, you don’t need to have superhuman abilities, just the power of dedication and that unwavering passion to help save lives.