Sensitivity

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By Ramon Dacawi

Benchwarmer

Friday, July 11, 2014


AT THE 1996 "Palarong Pambansa" in Socsargen (South Cotabato,-Sarangani-General Santos), a radio reporter positioned himself after the finish line, waiting to interview the winner in a still on-going long-distance race on the track.

Which particular event skips me now, but I’m sure it was grueling enough as the runners – from first to last – needed to catch their breath after crossing the finish line. Precisely, that’s the reason why I remember it. It had something to do with the human need to catch one’s breath at the end of a lung-busting, tiresome ordeal.

The winner had just completed his final sprint and was sitting on his lane box, trying to restore his normal breathing. Before he could do so, the reporter was beside him, asking him his name and shoving his mike towards the athlete’s mouth.

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Instead of a name, the mike caught the gasping, the deep heaving of the athlete who couldn’t pronounce his name, which got in the way of his need to breathe.

“Pare, antayin mo munang makahinga s’ya bago mo interbyuhin, para maintindihan mo ang sagot,” I told the reporter in a voice I struggled to sound gentle. “Iskup mo pa rin ‘yan dahil live ang report mo; ang report namin, bukas pa lalabas sa d’yaryo.”

-o0o-

One of the most intrusive questions I ever heard was posed by a newsman inside the funeral home here. We met inside the parlor while we were both following up details of a family tragedy.

Early that morning, a security guard had just finished doing the graveyard shift and had gone home to rest. He placed his .38 caliber revolver on top of an empty drum, perhaps thinking it was safe from his three-year old son, who was too short to reach for it.

He was wrong. Somehow, the toddler’s clumsy hand tagged the revolver which fell to the ground. The impact triggered an explosion, and the boy was fatally hit in the abdomen.

Inside the memorial chapel, the reporter, now on a live report, asked the security guard the most painful, uncaring question I ever heard.

“Ania ti riknam kadi a kas tatang tatta ta nadisgrasya ti paltog mo ‘toy ubing mo? (How do you feel as a father now that your gun accidentally killed your son?),” the broadcast journalist asked.
The poor security guard couldn’t answer. He just wailed, “Anak kooooo!”

-o0o-

The cultural dimension of saving lives during emergencies is only starting to be understood and appreciated now. Sensitivity for the well-being of rescuers, those volunteers involved in the gruesome retrieval of victims in a tragic bus accident along Naguilian Road prompted a cleansing ritual offered by then punong barangay Ferdy Bayasen of Guisad Central here.

Retired Anglican priest, Fr. Francis Daoey presided over the ritual. In a return of a native to the native, Fr. Francis blended Christian and traditional native prayers as he asked the Almighty/Kabunian to keep the rescuers and the covering journalists out of harm’s way so they could keep alive and document the spirit of volunteerism and heroism.
At the “dap-ay” in Guisad, Paeng Valencia, the dyed-in-the-wool rescuer of 911, told me he had a bout of fever after the teams had accounted all the victims and their valuables. The feeling had descended on him immediately after a previous rescue operation.

“I told Manong John (Ullibac, a fire officer and fellow rescuer) I needed him to do a cleansing ritual and I just felt relief after he did,” Paeng confessed.

Over 14 years ago, the native cleansing ritual was what one Ifugao youth needed. He had just attended to the injured and the dying among passengers of another bus that plunged into a ravine in Banangan, near where another bus hurtled into in 2010.

A native of Banaue Ifugao, the boy was living in a shanty beside where the ill-fated bus fell.Then fellow newsman Nathan Alcantara told me the boy, who was the first rescuer on the scene, was losing his grip on reality after doing what he had to do – try to save others.
Together with the late police officer Teofilo Alinos, a culture-bound Ibaloy, Nathan and I tried to look for a “mumbaki”, an Ifugao native priest who, by then, was already a rarity. At first,the native priest we located was reluctant to do the ritual, unbelieving we were that serious until we repeatedly swore we were.

To our relief, he said all he needed was a bottle of “bayah” (rice wine) and a pair of native chickens, not a whole pig.

So on we went to Banangan. A week later, Nathan told me the young rescuer was back in his normal orbit. (e-mail: mondaxbench@yahoo.com for comments)

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on July 12, 2014.

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