Five brave people who went out of their comfort zones to spread love and positivity in the middle of COVID-19 pandemic

Published June 14, 2021, 5:47 PM

by Jessica Pag-iwayan

When ordinary citizens become heroes

All bad things aside, COVID-19 has brought the best out of us.

Many courageous and generous individuals have come out of the woodwork, joining forces, to help those in need. Manila Bulletin talks with five ordinary citizens, from an artist with terminal illness and a struggling writer to healthcare professionals, who braved COVID-19 threat to be the light bearer on the darkest days of the pandemic.

Angelo Aurelio

ART FOR FRONTLINERS Gelo painting Kalasag to honor frontliners (Photo by JJ Landingin)

What’s more devastating than to live in a pandemic era while at the same time finding out that you have a terminal illness? This is what happened to Baguio-based artist Angelo Aurelio. At the height of the COVID-19 surge, he was diagnosed with lymphoma, a cancer in the lymphatic system.

His unstable income, sickness, and uncertainty in life notwithstanding, Gelo has found ways to help. “I was diagnosed with terminal illness. It was devastating not knowing how long I still had to live,” he says. “But while every uniformed personnel are on the frontline, as a creative person you cannot help but to think and ask yourself: What’s your personal worth?”

This is when he decided to create a documentary film about the strong earthquake that hit Luzon in 1990. “July 2020 was the 30th anniversary of the great Baguio earthquake,” he says. “And I thought of making a documentary film to inspire the people, to get some lessons from the past on how we could survive in this type of situation.”

Titled “Writing Thirty,” the docu film was aired in Baguio. After this, Gelo also initiated the Kalasag project, an art mural that honors COVID-19 frontliners.

Lorna M. Zaragosa

READ YOUR ANXIETY AWAY Lorna manning her community library

While going through depression and anxiety on her own, the Happy LibLarry founder, Lorna was inspired by Patricia Non’s community pantry on Maginhawa Street in Quezon City. She decided to put up her own pantry with a twist—a community library.

“I went through depression and had bad anxiety attacks a year ago, but it was reading books that helped me deal with my mental health problems,” she says. “A lot of parents who have picked up a book or two from our community pantry-library keep coming back for books, and you would be surprised because they are after the books more than the food we have on display in our pantry. They are very grateful that we have been giving away books because now they can bring home these reading materials to their kids at home without spending any money.”

Lorna’s initiative has caught the attention of many individuals and organizations and since then, donations have been pouring in to help her continue her advocacy.

‘But while every uniformed personnel are on the frontline, as a creative person you cannot help but to think and ask yourself: What’s your personal worth?’

Dr. Aila Edzmier A. Diansuy and Dr. Rhey Kenneth L. De Torres

DUO DOCS Aila Edzmier A. Diansuy, MD, DFM and Rhey Kenneth L. De Torres, MD, DFM

As most people were fumbling in the dark during the first months of COVID-19, medical doctors and couple Aila and Rhey decided to use their platform to educate people about the invisible enemy.

Through the power of technology, the couple gave free medical consultation online and used social media to combat misinformation.

“As doctors, the first thing we did was read various studies about the COVID-19 virus, its transmission, treatment, and prevention,” the couple says.  “After this, we shared what we learned, explaining it in simple terms on social media. We conducted free consultations online and guided them on what to do during this difficult time. Currently, we are promoting the benefits of COVID-19 vaccinations and how the vaccines can help us win in our fight against this pandemic.”

On top of this, they were also assigned to man a quarantine facility.

Christine Sy Meskers

ASTUTE TEACHER Owner of Brilliant Juniors’ Academic Enhancement, Christine Sy Meskers

One of the most badly hit sectors in this pandemic is the education field. Schools were closed, leaving so many teachers jobless. Knowing this, teacher Christine, the principal and owner of Brilliant Juniors’ Academic Enhancement Center Inc. (BJAEC), finds creative ways to keep the business afloat and making sure her teachers will retain their jobs with full salary and benefits.

The widow-teacher turned her home into a small market. She partners with local farmers that supply her with their produce. Meanwhile, she also opened her doors to her teachers who helped her sell the goods. Christine uses the proceeds to pay the salaries of the teachers. Later on, the teachers started to create art through painted pots, glasses, and stones.

“BJAEC like any other private schools struggled, most especially with its finances. Our clients were also hit by the pandemic, thus some of them were not able to settle their obligations. It was really hard to ask for payments as we believe we were all in the same boat,” Christine says. “Through this initiative, BJAEC was not only able to help the teachers to continuously receive a full month salary but also helped the people receive their basic commodities in the comforts of their own home, far from the harm that the virus might bring.”