Tuesday, January 06, 2015

More for others in 2015?

My January 6, 2015 column.


A new year is always an opportune time for reflection and, hopefully, formulation of some actionable plans designed to improve the way things are —if not in the world, then at least within our own spheres of influence. 
There are people who smirk at the whole process.  Thanks to consumerism, this whole process of making new year’s resolutions have become an annual exercise in wishful thinking, mostly about achieving some personal goals designed to meet other people’s approval.  I know quite a number of people whose annual list revolve around losing weight, being healthier, looking better, and getting richer.  These are not necessarily awful resolutions, of course.  But if we really come to think about it, the aforementioned may be considered requisites for anyone who intends to live comfortably even upon reaching senior citizenship.  So perhaps the whole process can be expanded beyond personal needs and goals. Perhaps, we can make the whole process more meaningful by also making action plans designed to help our communities, our country, or even other people particularly those who need help the most. 
Our problems as a nation and as a people are complex and deeply rooted in many social, cultural and structural configurations.  If we want more effective solutions, we all just have to pitch in somehow. 
For example, two of the most vexing problems that confront us with increasing regularity—traffic and flooding—cannot be solved with just two or three interventions.  These problems are quite complex and need to be addressed at various levels - national, local, community, and individual.  The solutions also need to be multi-faceted and multi-pronged and should take into account, among others, infrastructure development, policies and enforcement, education and values development, and yes, political will. We can blame government and local executives for lack of leadership, sincerity, and management skills—but we also need to realize that simply assigning blame won’t really get us anywhere.  We need to propose solutions; better still, we need to become part of the solution.
Over the holidays, friends and relatives in Leyte and Samar bewailed the sudden transformation of their communities into swamplands.  Areas that never experienced flooding in the past were suddenly buried in waist-deep water and in many areas, for two weeks running.  It is always easy to blame developers and local executives who built or authorized the construction of roads and structures that blocked natural waterways.  But we all know climate change as well as environmental degradation are the major vectors for flooding and the other natural calamities that visit us with more alarming frequency and intensity.  So perhaps instead of just ranting, we can all resolve that in 2015 we will plant 100 trees each, practice better waste management, recycle plastic, participate and make our voices be heard in our communities, etc.  These will help reduce, if not solve the flooding.
Instead of just posting shoutouts about how bad the traffic is and castigating officials for supposed inefficiency, we can choose to be more proactive by carpooling, getting updates on traffic conditions and avoiding clogged roads, being patient on the road and resisting the temptation to make counterflows or blocking intersections that aggravate the situation, getting to work earlier or much later, etc.  In short, we can all stop thinking that the traffic is a problem that only affects us specifically and individually because they really affect everyone else; so thinking less about ourselves and more about others will go a long way. 
There are many things we can do for others.  My friends and I support quite a number of charity wards in various public hospitals but, admittedly, mainly during the Christmas season.  We intend to do more in 2015 because there’s really a lot of indigent patients in public hospitals that desperately need help; you will find families there with nothing—absolutely nothing—in terms of resources to buy simple prescriptions worth a couple of hundred pesos or finance the simplest medical procedure.
A couple friend, Nicky and Cely Franco has launched an appeal for help for pediatric Ward 9 of the Philippine General Hospital. According to the couple, Ward 9 has 45 beds packed side by side or end to end in an open hall (no cubicles or partitions) that is probably unbearable in summer months.  It’s a place that requires visitors to have emotional fortitude as the sight of children with terminal cases can be heartbreaking.  But the Francos tell me Ward 9 has improved significantly today. They now use IV drip machines and new incubators. There are also more doctors. However, the patients of Ward 9 are still in dire need of help from everyone and anyone.  When the couple was there recently, they found two cases of biliary atresia (liver), a two-day old child who had just undergone an operation, a father who seemed ready to break down because he had already lost two children and and his third was intubated due to complications from a genetic condition, a single mom from Mindanao with no relatives in Manila and who was abandoned by the father of her child with a two-month old daughter about to undergo an operation; a teenager with Type I diabetes needing emergency dialysis, newborns, abandoned for one reason or another just waiting to be big enough to be taken in by orphanages, a premature baby in an incubator who unfortunately died hours after they saw him.
But the Francos also noted “flickers of hope.” They said a few patients were almost well enough to go home. Parents/grandparents were doing all they could to keep their children/grandchildren alive. Wardmates showed concerned for one another. The doctors were very dedicated, working longer hours than their shifts required them to and even using their own money for their patients.
The Francos are appealing for help for the children of Ward 9 of PGH.  Theres’ a list of medicines that need to be bought for the children or medical procedures that need to be done.  You can personally visit PGH and make your donations there.  Or you can contact me at bongaustero@yahoo.com and I can put you in touch with the Francos who are coordinating an assistance fund for the ward.  
We can all make 2015 a great year not just for ourselves individually, but for others too, particularly for those who truly deserve our kindness and generosity.

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