In my mind, I was telling myself, “How I wish I am in their shoes and getting hit for my beloved city and country.” In fact, to me, even death in that manner is worth it. The worse way to die is in bed or in the course of doing mundane stuff like getting a heart attack in the middle of the night, in traffic or while taking a shower (which some of my VIP friends died while doing).
Still, how can I be in their shoes when my glory days at the Zamboanga Red Cross under Mr. Vic Leozo is but a fading memory, although I still remember submitting this black and while “totoy” high school picture to Mr. Leozo when I was one of those chosen to represent the Zamboanga City Red Cross Chapter in a delegation that went to Davao to compete in a Frist Aid competition.
In one of the first aid trainings I helped give in Claret High School, I remember demonstrating the mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on my schoolmate and fellow Red Cross volunteer Charlie Mariano. But then I forgot I had a huge White Rabbit candy in my mouth and which I blew in Mr. Manalo’s mouth! We later had to get him to choke the candy out of his throat!
I just saved a future city councilor who I also near killed hehehe!
Back to the matter of heroism, actually not all of us should be wearing Red Cross uniforms to become heroes. We don’t even have to wear briefs or jockeys outside of our pants or underpants to become Superman or Batman.
We can only be ourselves yet not be afraid or lazy or selfish to do something for our fellow man. At the very least, we only have to get out of our comfort zones and do something that will benefit other people – better if they are total strangers – and good causes that do not necessarily benefit us.
Heroes are just ordinary people that do selfless acts. Heroes are just ordinary people that get out of their comfort zones to go into discomforting situation to help their fellow man.
Heroes are people like you and me who just got tired and bored of posting, commenting and sharing their Facebook, Twitter etc posts and decided to do something concrete for their fellow man.
In short, heroes are people who decided that they are not gonna be victims of circumstances and wallow in self-pity for themselves and their city (like Zamboanga) and decided to do something about the situation.
No one is born a hero; circumstances make him one.
This was our experience at the Kristiyano-Islam Peace Library (Kris Library) literacy advocacy. We started the advocacy – then known Kariton y Libro and later A-Book-Saya Group (ABSG) – in 2001 precisely because of the MNLF hostage-taking incident in Cabantangan as well as the kidnapping of my relatives in my barangay in Manicahan, Zamboanga City.
Maybe if I were not born into a barangay now known as the “jump off” point of the Abu Sayyaf and my mom had not received letters from Abu Sayyaf asking her to give them money so they will not kidnap her, I would not be CRAZY to put up Kris Library and do something to educate people in conflict areas so they may turn back from the culture of guns and violence.
Actually if I look back and compute the money I’ve lost by giving time and effort running, financing and raising funds; and spreading the message of Christian-Muslim unity for Kris Library, I’d say that I've lost millions that could have gone to our family savings or financed my love for travelling. You see, with my kind of communication business where VIP clients almost always require my personal appearance at meetings, time spend on the Kris Library advocacy is time lost in business!
But we all have no regrets, we'd do it all over again!
Indeed! I confirm what some of my relatives say that we are indeed CRAZY to put up the Kris Library advocacy. Thus, I do not consider myself or my daughter Arizza Nocum or our volunteers as heroes, we are just plain crazy folks like some of you.
But then the attack on Zamboanga City shows that we are not crazy after all. The wounding of the Red Cross volunteers show we are not crazy after all. The deaths of the policemen, navy men and civilian casualties show we are not crazy after all.
Thus, I enjoin all my beloved Zamboanguenos to go crazy too. Let us all – anywhere we are in the world – resolve to get out of our comfort zones, leave our computers and do CONCRETE ACTION to help our city and its beleaguered people.
If we are abroad, we can do so by either sending funds or relief goods to trusted non-government organization or charitable institutions to help the victims and later to help vulnerable children there get good education that they may grow up to be responsible citizens and not terrorists, kidnappers, robbers and rebels.
If we are living in Zamboanga City, we must take courage to report crime and testify to crimes. Even before the MNLF attack, Zamboanguenos were already under attack by rising and unsolved kidnapping, murder, robbery and other serious crimes for lack of witnesses. We must also report and testify to crimes of corrupt local officials and policemen who do not solve crimes or are in collusion with criminal syndicates.
Those in the city can also attend to the immediate needs of the victims and the military fighting the MNLF by cooking food for them and giving clothing, used bags and other basic needs of those whose houses were engulfed by fire.
Deadly and violent circumstances in life -- like the one we have now in our city -- will draw out our true character as a people, are we going to be cowards crying in self-pity or stand up to the aggressors by showing them we are bigger and better than them in our unity and determination to help each other and make our city rise again!
The MNLF, the Abu Sayyaf and their supporters will have a fun time laughing at us for cowering in fear and doing nothing. They have already occupied our city, will we still allow them to invade our minds and hearts and bring us to submission? Shall we stand up to or kneel down before the aggressors?
What differentiates us from the animals is that God gave us superior intelligence and free will to decide what to do with our lives. We can decide to be victors or victims. The world is watching what Zamboanguenos will decide to become.
Let us resolve to stop being victims today and do something crazy!