VOLUNTEERS: ERIC INGLES & HIS TEAM PROVIDENT ATENEO + FRIENDS

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Bleachers' Brew blogspot 'Dig Out Your Souls' By RICK OLIVARES from cached URL: 2009_11_01_archive.html

MANILA, NOVEMBER 12, 2009 (STAR) PEOPLE By Joanne Rae M. Ramirez

Ateneo's English

Being able to express oneself articulately in English has been one of the trademarks of an Atenean. But how does an Atenean express his responsibility towards others? Why, in English, too, of course. Or more precisely, in the person of Eric Ingles, a true-blue Atenean from grade school to college.

In the aftermath of Typhoon Ondoy, Eric Ingles took it upon himself to organize a team of volunteers to help in the relief and rescue efforts in Marikina, one of the most ravaged cities in the metropolis. Never mind that Eric’s house in Katipunan was also knee-deep in water. Never mind that his car was filled with mud and muck. Never mind that he was in no way obligated to help; that was the government’s responsibility, wasn’t it? But Eric had that gnawing urge to help out. To be a man for others.

Eric approached the authorities in Ateneo to give their imprimatur to his plan. Unfortunately, the school could not do so at a moment’s notice. Sensing that time was not an ally, Eric started calling, texting and e-mailing his school buddies to help him out. In no time, word had spread around. Volunteers were raising their hands.

Ironically, on the first day of volunteer work, hardly any Atenean showed up. Instead, Eric saw a long line of students from Informatics — 15-strong — with their boots on and shovels on their shoulders. Eric had his army: Team Provident Ateneo + Friends.

In the weekends that followed, his former football teammates joined in. Followed by other Ateneo and Miriam College football teams — past and present, boys and girls.

“Our highest count was 70, and the lowest was four,” recounts Eric with a laugh. “I was just waiting for it to fade away and die a natural death after the initial passion and excitement. But they kept coming,” a bewildered Eric adds.

They kept coming. From different school batches. Different walks of life. Different nationalities. Even an American call center employee, “Mike,” who works in Shaw, showed up. Asked how he came to know of the project, he said that he read it on Facebook.

With no special training at relief operations, Team Provident made do with what their compassion and heart told them to. Every weekend, they would gather at the Jesuit Communication building inside the campus and take a 30-minute march down Ateneo to Marikina. Once in a while, they would get cheers from Marikina residents. But, at times, a reprimand from the MMDA relief personnel.

Mike McCleod, Eric’s football buddy, recounts one incident where they were shoveling the spillover mud from the river onto the streets, thinking that it would be easier for the MMDA pay loaders to scoop it up. However, they were told by the MMDA that what they were doing was all wrong. “So we had to shovel all our mess back to where we got them,” Mike says in typical schoolboy jest.

One month after the typhoon, Marikina residents are still in a state of shock. Abandoned cars, baking in mud under the sun, still dot the streets. Tattered sofas and warped cabinets line the sidewalks. “When we first got here, it looked like a war zone,” Eric exclaims. Mud was flowing all over like lava. There was stench everywhere. But more disturbing was the blank stare on people’s faces. In their eyes one could see total surrender.

After all the material possessions have been replaced, how does one get over the trauma?

Perhaps strangers like Eric and Team Provident, who came when nobody did, who consoled when there was no shoulder to cry on, provided some soothing balm to the pain.

Bobby Cruz, a resident of Provident Village in Marikina, whose house was inundated up to its second floor recalls the trauma. “The water just kept rising. We were powerless to do anything,” narrates Bobby. Yet, in spite of being in danger himself, Bobby reached out to his next-door neighbors whose bungalow was completely submerged. There were senior citizens living in that house who were helpless to save themselves.

Eric and Team Provident paid Bobby a visit on Oct. 24. Bobby, who also graduated from Ateneo, was met by his former classmates. Some he had not seen for decades. As one classmate, Randy Oliva, commented after noticing Bobby lost in thought: “What could be in Bobby’s mind right now: What moves old friends from way back to go out of their way to do such a truly Christian deed?; what did I do to deserve such great friends?; is this what ‘Man for others’ really means?”

The questions will linger on in the minds of these Marikina residents. But they will never be answered. Nor should they need to be understood. For the likes of Eric Ingles, they will always speak a language that baffles logic. Volunteers who give up their weekends to reach out. Volunteers who take a leave from work to roll up their sleeves. Volunteers, even from abroad, who pass the hat for strangers who have nothing left but hope. Volunteers digging deep into their resources to provide food, clothing and medicine.

They all speak the language of hope.

PHOTOS OF PROVIDENT VILLAGE, MARIKINA AFTER ONDOY:

 

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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