Bridges of compassion
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - August 12, 2020 - 12:00am

Social media trendsetter and author Ken Poirot once said “build a bridge by extending your hand.” It’s an appropriate quote considering referee/judge Robert Bridges was one of five men from the Philippines recently awarded medals as “Heroes Of Humanity” for their “acts of selfless heroism in these challenging times” by the World Boxing Council (WBC). The five men were Sen. Manny Pacquiao, GAB chairman Baham Mitra, referee/judge Bruce McTavish, lightweight boxer Mercito Gesta and Bridges.

Of the five awardees, Bridges is the least known. He’s actually an American born in Japan where his late father Raymond, a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars, was stationed as a US Marine in Okinawa. His mother Chieko is Japanese and today, lives in Florida. Bridges moved to the US from Japan when he was five. One of three children, he once attended Texas A&M University but because his father was assigned from base to base with the family, finished his Psychology and Criminal Justice studies through the Harcourt digital school system.

Bridges, 46, served 2 1/2 years with the US Navy in Iraq then relocated to live in Angat, Bulacan, with his Bicolana wife July Abestro in 2007. The Philippines has been Bridges’ home since then. Boxing has been a passion with Bridges from when he was four. In Angat, he put up a fitness gym behind his house and teaches boxing. His love for the sport led to taking out a GAB license as a judge in 2014 and three years later, as a referee.

Bridges has logged over 280 fights as a judge and 12 as a referee. Last year, he was in Singapore to work a fight for the vacant WBC Silver female superbantamweight title and in Beijing to do two bouts. Bridges would’ve had a lot more ring assignments if not for the pandemic. During this crisis, he has reached out to frontliners, first responders, the elderly and the less fortunate in Angat and nearby towns, delivering food packs and relief goods. Bridges said it’s his small way of sharing what he has with those who are in need. True to his name, he has become a bridge by extending his hand to the marginalized sector.

WBC international secretary/WBC Cares chairperson Jill Diamond recently acknowledged the “Heroes of Humanity” from the Philippines. She said the acts of kindness “brought hope and tears and a belief that in the end, we are one world, one people with one goal: To make life better for each other…that when the call goes out, we leave any personal differences behind and become an army of angels.”

Diamond said the idea of recognizing “Heroes of Humanity” was inspired by Pacquiao. She also cited Mitra, McTavish, Gesta and Bridges for their generosity in this pandemic. Diamond mentioned that Bridges’ family regularly provides food and supplies to the aged.

In his Facebook page, Bridges has posted inspiring quotes from Mother Teresa (“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving” and “Love is not patronizing and charity isn’t about pity, it’s about love…charity and love are the same…with charity, you give love so don’t just give money but reach out instead”) and Charles Dickens (“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” Bridges said, “When someone thanks you for your help, tell them, ‘There’s no need to thank me…just help others when you can and ask them to do the same.’”

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