Red Cross ‘oldies’ awarded
FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - July 25, 2019 - 12:00am

I’ve spoken with Philippine Red Cross volunteers, and their enthusiasm and quickness simply  amaze me.  Students,  new college graduates waiting for jobs, housewives and professionals quickly spring from bed  or drop  whatever they’re doing, and rush to sites of  earthquakes and floods and fires taking place near and far from their residences,  to help victims get up on their feet, give them first aid treatment, feed them, give them water,  and take them home when needed. They look like they enjoy saving lives.

Many volunteers end up working as regular Red Cross staffers, and the wonder is that they stay on for years, as though the Red Cross is in their blood.

After several decades, the Philippine Red Cross gave out awards to 137 volunteers and staffers belonging to Mindanao chapters in recognition of their service.  More than 300 awardees,  PRC staffers and administrators  from as far as  Gingoog City, Surigao, the two Zamboangas, the two Cotabatos, Compostela Valley,   Sultan Kudarat, Lanao del Norte and Iligan   met at the Ritz Hotel in Davao city a week ago to receive, or witness, the giving of awards at merry  ceremonies from PRC governors and executives from the PRC headquarters in Manila and the provinces. 

Similar awarding ceremonies are scheduled to be held in the Visayas and Luzon.  

Last week’s  awards consisted of service badges for those who have worked with PRC for five to nine years; bronze service crosses  for those serving 10 to 24 years; silver service crosses  for those with 25 to 29 years of service, and gold service crosses for those working for 30 years and above.

The awardees’ common  citation read: “For  your (number of years) of outstanding leadership and service, your passion, dedication and perseverance in fulfilling your assigned function (that)  contributed to the development of the organization and its transformation into what it is today – ‘Always first, Always Ready, Always There.’”

Unable to make it to the occasion, PRC Chairman/CEO Richard “Dick” Gordon congratulated the awardees via Skype. The  accomplishments of the organization have earned it the respect and cooperation of the International Red Cross, England, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Canada. “We’re admired for our fast, flexible and always forward-looking accomplishments,” Dick said. “We must be the life line of the people.”

PRC Secretary General Liza Zaballa challenged the participants to work fast and inspire others to fulfill the humanitarian organization’s goal to help humanity. “It  always feels good when we are helping others,” she said. 

PRC governors were present:  Joseph Francis Jalandoni, Saeed A. Daof, George Lim and   Ernesto Isla.  And so were  Davao City chairman of the board Eduardo G. Robillo, ICRC head of sub-delegation office Roberto Petronio, Davao City, Dir. Ma. Ana Buensuceso, and Lawrence Macahiya  of Qatar Red Cross. 

Governor Daof,  who is co- chair of the Disaster Management and Safety Committee, after praising the performance and commitment of the awardees and officers, “We know this is not the end of your Samaritan journey. As in the past, beyond saving lives, you are meeting more challenges—helping raise funds  for your chapters, inviting people to volunteer their services, and updating your knowledge of the benefits of information technology.”

Governor  Jalandoni said of the volunteers as “enabled to do their work, and we are ennobled as we do our job with dignity.” 

Among the gold  service cross awardees was Nemesio A. Geroso, a driver for the Davao del Norte chapter for 31 years and eight months. The work of driving, according to Sec. Gen. Zaballa, is important in the work of all chapters. 

Felomina  B. Rivamonte  has been with the Surigao del Sur chapter for 39 year. She started as a volunteer,  enjoying tasks involved in  helping victims of calamities. Now she trains people for disaster management  as well as fund-raising activities.

Joseline Fernandez  started as a volunteer 31 years and three months ago with the Zamboanga chapter of which she is now OIC. “ Our chapter was put to the test during the 2013 Zamboanga siege,” she told me.  “As a mother it broke my heart to leave my children to take care of other children.  My  husband also did volunteer work during the siege,  and was nearly killed in a blast.

“I stood firm, I washed away my tears.  Helping during calamities is not an easy job, but it gives me a sense of  fulfilment. I am a nurse coming from a poor family,  so my passion to serve led me to my position now. PRC is my home.”

 Among the guests was  Bai Fatima Sinsuat, 80 years old, now retired, who was connected with the Cotabato city-Mindanao chapter for 42 years. She has held top posts : as a member of the UP Board of Regents, and a former mayor of Upi, Maguindanao. “I believe I’m Red Cross,” she told me proudly, smiling. 

There was Rev. Solomon Bilaoan Jr., a Silliman University theology graduate. He is  chair of the  Agusan del Sur chapter.

*     *     *

Now, a few good words about my nephew, Vincent  Warren Geroso Torrevillas. Once a call center employee  and party organizer in Manila,  he has found his niche as an entrepreneur in Gingoog, where he now resides (and lives with his parents, my brother Warto and wife Vee, next door to my place).  Last week, he and close friends  Alan Jose and Ramon Fernandez have opened a skateboard, surf and streetwear  shop at the Tatak commercial center. 

The shop is called RISK.PECT (a play on words --the word risk, he says, is because skateboarding can be risky for beginners, PECT is the second part of the word respect). It’s registered as Gingoog Tatak Skateboard and Extreme Sports, Inc., with the Security and Exchange Commission.  

The group has 20 members, consisting of  working professionals and students. President is Johnny Yongco, and vice-president is Jobhenz Sales; Rielan Sumastre is treasurer; Vincent Warren Torrevillas,  secretary. Core members are Juneryl  Comcom and Kid Nantes. Active girl skaters are Grace Guanzon Guiang and Rhea Ruevelyn Lacre.

The group trains young boys and girls interested in skateboarding; older folks can also join the training sessions. The group hosts monthly competitions for trainees In Gingoog. It sponsored four young skateboard trainees to join  a competition in Cagayan de Oro last month.

Warren relates that he met twin brothers Alan and Bren Jose when they were just kids in Manila. Now Alan is an engineer working in the Middle East, and  Bren is an architect. Alan decided to put his dollar earnings to good use by investing in a sporting goods project.

Alan and Ramon live in Manila, and allow  Warren run RISK.PECT. Warren says he felt the strain in acquiring a business permit, and was at first reluctant to manage the business. But not anymore. Warren has quickly learned the ropes in operating the project,  a virtue cited by Rev. Liza Yaes of the Gingoog UCCP  who officiated in the blessing of the shop.

Warren says there may be a good market for skateboards and apparel with unique designs in the first and only skateboard shop in Gingoog. His partners and he plan to advertise and sell their products through social media.

If you see Warren skateboarding with skill and precision, and grinning from ear to ear, you know what happiness is.

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