Like other front-liners, Army, Navy, and Air Force reservists in Cebu have displayed their “bayanihan” spirit in augmenting government efforts to combat the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

As they became home buddies when community quarantine protocols began last March, many reservists volunteered to do various tasks, such as repacking family food packs at the Department of Social Welfare and Development – Visayas Disaster Response Center (DSWD-VDRC) in Mandaue City.

Top photo: ‘BAYANIHAN’ SPIRIT. Master Sgt. Emmanuel “Manny” Barcenas (left), a general surgeon and urologist at the Mactan Doctor’s Hospital, seals packs of rice while Maj. Thadeo Jovito “Jonkie” Ouano helps fill plastic packs with grains at the Department of Social Welfare and Development – Visayas Disaster Response Center in Mandaue City, Cebu. They are among the 1,799 volunteers of the uniformed service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine Coast Guard who render services in repacking some 100,000 family food packs for families affected by the enhanced community quarantine in their localities. (Photo courtesy of Sgt. Edison delos Angeles)

Director of DSWD 7 (Central Visayas), Rebecca Geamala, commended the reservists for their “bayanihan” in helping the agency produce some 100,000 family food packs intended for the poor in six different regional locations since the start of the nationally imposed enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

In the first half of May, a total of 73,810 family food packs produced by the reservists at the DSWD-VDRC augmented the requirements in Central, Eastern, and Western Visayas and the Northern Mindanao regions, as well as in the National Resource Operations Center in Pasay City.

Young reservist Sgt. Yedda Rea Loquellano, a business promotions specialist, became jobless after the bakeshop company that she was working for closed down after Mayor Edgardo Labella signed Executive Order 64 placing the city under ECQ, which was extended until May 31.

However, she reported to her unit, the 1901st Ready Reserve Infantry Brigade stationed at the 7th Regional Community Defense Center (7RCDG) in Camp Lapu-Lapu here, where she and other female reservists waited for a vehicle that would bring them to the DSWD-VDRC to prepare family food packs, along with reservists of the Naval Reserve Center Eastern Visayas in Pier 3 and the 5th Air Force Reserve Center in Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base.

Sgt. Jean Princess Pepito was among the staff of the Lapu-Lapu City Tourism Office who was forced to work from home when the ECQ was implemented by Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard Chan. However, during weekends and work breaks, Pepito joined other reservists in volunteering at the DSWD-VDRC to repack goods.

Master Sgt. Cristopher Ngosiok, a registered nurse, said, “I also like to volunteer because I like to help in a way that I can because I am a reservist and at the same time a nurse. We are here for DSWD to promote the (well-being) of our people who have nothing to eat, so we can reach for them in this way”.

Ngosiok is known in the 1901st Ready Reserve Infantry Brigade as the “brother of all seasons” because he always extended help by driving home other reservists after their repacking activities at the DSWD.

Among the reservists who served at the VDRC are a human resource development officer, call center supervisors and agents, hospital staff members, convenient store operator, government employees, teachers, barangay peace officers, and mall security consultant.

“I am very thankful dun sa (for the) teamwork between the DSWD staff and the reservists. Malaking pera, na wala tayo, ang magastos ng DSWD, that’s why nanghingi tayo ng tulong sa mga partners natin (A huge amount of money, which we do not have, would have been spent by the DSWD. That is why we sought help from our partners) to produce family food packs that will help our needy constituents,” Geamala said.

She said they found it easy to tap uniformed personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) because DSWD Secretary Rolando Joselito Bautista was the commanding general of the Philippine Army before he joined the Duterte administration.

Bautista is a member of the Philippine Military Academy “Sandiwa” Class of 1985.

Geamala said AFP personnel, such as the regular soldiers and reservists, are responsible and committed and have a sense of direction in doing their job.

“With the presence of our uniformed men, plus our secretary and undersecretary who are actually close to the upper echelon of the AFP, mas madali makipag-MOA (memorandum of agreement) sa mga grupo ninyo (it’s easy to have a MOA with your group) so that we can realize our dream of faster service,” she said.

Derick Triumfo, a DSWD-VDRC coordinator for volunteers, praised the work attitude of the AFP volunteers.

“They are very passionate and dedicated to help. The AFP has always been a partner to the DSWD in the uplifting of the poor and vulnerable. Their compassion has been a huge factor in the disaster relief augmentation of the department, as well as the Visayas Disaster Resource Center,” Triumfo told the Philippine News Agency (PNA).

According to him, the DSWD-VDRC was able to mobilize 1,799 uniformed volunteers from both the reservists and regulars of the AFP, as well as the Philippine Coast Guard.

Regular officers and enlisted men of the Central Command, 53rd Engineering Brigade, Naval Fleet in Cebu City, and air force squadrons from Mactan airbase also helped repack goods.

At the VDRC facility, Triumfo briefs volunteers and reminds them to wash their hands, undergo temperature checks, and disinfect their boots or shoes.

Col. Ricky Bunayog, chief of the 7RCDG, Army Reserve Command said the deployment of the reservists to the VDRC has a letter order.

“Our reservists are trained for disaster preparedness and being protectors of our vital structures. They also feel that they could contribute to the overall development and well-being of the Filipinos and how they can contribute to the improvement of the Philippine society,” Bunayog said of the “bayanihan” spirit shown by the reservists during the ECQ. (John Rey Saavedra, PNA)