Unsung heroes
INTROSPECTIVE - Tony Katigbak (The Philippine Star) - June 3, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — There is a lot of bad going on in the world today. Every week I write a column and I feel myself bemoaning 2020 more and more. I recall a time when I thought it couldn’t possibly get any worse. Those days are long behind now as I realize it can get worse and it does. Between brushfires, eruptions, a global pandemic, riots, and so much more, I’m ready to return 2020 and ask for a refund.

However, amidst all the turmoil and uncertainty and, quite frankly, fear that abounds during these challenging times, it’s important to remember the good that has manifested too. While we are all struggling and worrying about the future, some have allowed this pandemic to reveal their best selves. These are usually seen in small gestures, the heartfelt moments people do what they can to help one another.

Those are the stories that help us survive from one piece of bad news to the next. Those are the people that inspire us to look inside ourselves and ask ourselves what we can do to make the situation better, instead of worse. They inspire us to help those in need.

One of the many unsung hero tales that inspired me recently was the story of the Good Samaritan policeman who showed not only empathy in the line of duty, but also kindness and compassion too. His name is Police Corporal Sirjon Nacino and he apprehended a motorcyclist at a quarantine checkpoint along España Boulevard last week. The motorcyclist – a food and delivery rider named Joshua Basa – immediately began apologizing and was worried because he had no money to give in case he would be asked.

Basa told Nacino that he was a working student who was doing what he needed to do to pay the bills. After a lecture about following the road laws and not doing it again, Nacino showed real empathy for the working student and gave him P100 out of his own pocket to help him with his expenses.

And, as they say, what goes around comes around. After his story circulated, Nacino was called into his superior’s office. At first, he was worried that he was going to be reprimanded. But, as it turns out, he was given P100,000 as a reward for his kindness by an anonymous donor. It was perfectly timed and truly needed as Nacino said his wife was just about to give birth.

This story warmed my heart and was a timely reminder that kindness begets kindness. If we want to make a difference in the world, we can start by being kinder to others. I know on some days it seems impossible to smile, but it’s important to remember that everyone is suffering through his or her own battle and if we work harder to be nicer to one another, we might all feel the soothing balm that empathy brings.

I hope to hear more stories like Nacino’s. During this time of social distancing and isolation, it has become even more important for us to come together. I recall reading about families driving around every day in the south to hand out food to people on the streets, or regular people creating PPEs and meals for frontliners, and even entertainers offering to entertain and educate children during the pandemic.

This is what we need more of. If we focus on silver linings like this and working together, we can emerge stronger and build a much more kind and compassionate world.

*     *     *

Speaking of kindness, kindness was the theme of Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK this May. The United States also celebrates Mental Health Awareness Month in May and sheds the light on important mental health issues in the hopes of removing the stigma and encouraging people to help others or get the help they need.

I think that mental health is also a very important consideration during this global pandemic. Depression and anxiety were already highly prevalent in the country before the lockdown. This has no doubt increased even more due to being cooped up for so long and the uncertainty of the future. It’s understandable and it’s not something to be ashamed of, or something to bottle up inside.

I encourage everyone who needs a mental health check, to open up to someone. Whether it’s a family member, a help hotline, or even a social media friend. We all need to be able to share and address our feelings when we are confused, sad, scared, or anxious. If we do, we can avoid depression and long-term mental health problems. Keeping these feelings inside won’t make them go away, it usually only makes them worse.

So if you need help, ask for it. In the Philippines, several mental health organizations can offer help, especially during these difficult times. You can try the National Center for Mental Health Crisis Hotline at (0917) 899-USAP(8727) or the Philippine Mental Health Association Online Support at (0917) 565-2046 or through PMHA Facebook Messenger or email – pmhacds@gmail.com. These are just some of several mental health organizations offering support. Don’t be afraid of reaching out.

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