Issue of September 2, 2018
     
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Benguet
Mt. Province
 
OPINION
 

2018
Panagbenga Flower Festival
 
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Volunteers: Unknown heroes during calamities
by PNA release

Forty-six years ago, Baguio suffered from a massive landslide caused by 30 days of continuous rain. The landslide affected a large portion of Rimando Road and Bugallon Street in Aurora Hill, killing scores of people, and destroying several houses.

The rains from July 1 to Aug. 1, 1972 that caused what was considered the “great landslide” at that time led to the birth of the oldest emergency response volunteer organization, the Baguio-Benguet Public Information and Civic Action Group (BB-Picag).

The organization, initially composed of soldiers, policemen, and private individuals, was formed to have a group that can readily respond during emergencies, said founding president Oscar Cadeliña.

For decades, they existed and survived with volunteers willing to give their time, resources, talent, and commitment to serve others.

Cadeliña, a retired forester and government professor, said volunteers of the organization simply have the desire to help, which allows the organization to continue pursuing its vision to contribute in mitigating sufferings and saving lives during calamities without expecting any form of remuneration.

Their members are men and women from 21 years old to 82 years old.

Some of their members are also entrepreneurs who contribute their time and money during “alert situations.”

When it is not rainy season, the group engages in preparedness activities on their own or in collaboration with other Disaster Risk Reduction Management (DRRM) groups or other government agencies in advancing “preparedness” measures in schools, barangays, companies and business establishments, and for their members’ capacity building.

In Baguio, he said, “Nakakahawa ang commitment at spirit of volunteerism ng mga taga-Baguio. Patuloy na dumadami ang miyembro ng tribo at nagbibigay ng serbisyo para sa kapwa,” he said.

City Administrator Carlos Canilao, whose department handles the DRRM office, said “there is a good indication that our people want to help the government. The government cannot do everything kaya dito sa disaster management natin, we are happy that there are many volunteer communication and disaster response groups.”

There are emergency response groups from business establishments, schools, Philippine Military Academy, Philippine Air Force, Army reservist, private groups, and non-government organizations that aid the city during calamities and disasters.

“We just welcome everybody,” who are willing to help, Canilao said.

“I cannot over emphasize their importance. We have limited personnel, only 13 in the local DRRM office that operates 24 hours and the groups augment whenever they are needed. At times they are even the first to respond to emergencies,” he said.

He also shares the desire of President Rodrigo Duterte to have a DRRM department.

Canilao shared the experience in July 16, 1990 which has opened the gates for the “volunteerism” among the residents.

Barangay DRRM committees are also capacitated to respond to any form of emergency.

The city is thankful it has hundreds of volunteers whom they constantly recognize for their selflessness, Canilao said. “There is no age, gender requirement to be a volunteer, only the willingness and selflessness to serve,” he added.

Mayor Mauricio Domogan also lauded the volunteers. “To me, they are heroes in their own right. Ang dami nila, not only during typhoons but also during special occasions and events in the city.”


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