METRO CEBU is hit by several fires every year. Some of which are fatal.
However, there is a silver lining in each tragic situation. The spirit of bayanihan prevails among the brave firefighters who risk their lives to save others and properties.
One group of volunteers has vowed to make a difference in the Cebuano community through firefighting.
The Cebu Filipino-Chinese Volunteer Fire Brigade (CFCVFB) is a soci-civic organization that was conceptualized in 1977 and founded in 1979 by representatives of the Filipino- Chinese United Community.
“In coordination with the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) Region 7, we intend really to help more people, to prevent more disastrous fires by being stronger and being more effective,” said Leonardo Sylvianco, a pioneer member of the CFCVFB.
Ronnie Gocuan, another pioneer member, said the volunteer fire brigade was formed as a response to the challenges faced by the Cebu City Government when responding to fires.
“There was that call to help the government from the private sector. It was in the mid 1970s. So members of the United Chinese Community took the challenge and organized, and eventually this organization came into being. The inspiration is the 'bayanihan spirit,' because the government was encouraging the private citizenry to participate in helping the community,” he said.
Since it first responded to a fire in December 1980, the fire brigade has had 150 fire volunteers. It currently has 45 active members. Some are doctors, lawyers, and businessmen. However, they become firefighters at night or during their free time.
Last year, the group responded to 90 fire alarms.
“What stuck to my memory most was the fire in Barangay Gizo, Mandaue City in 2016. It was memorable in the sense that, we, as volunteers, when we respond to fires, we empathize with the fire victims. That fire, we saw a lot of emotions. You could really see the people hoping firefighters would put out the fire before the flames would consume their homes and their belongings. But sometimes, when the fire is already too big, we can only do so much,” said Russel, Ronnie's son.
Russel is a CFCVFB member for nine years.
Justin David Tieng recalled his experience during the Metro Ayala Fire in January 2018.
“It lasted so long. Metro had been there for a long time. Most of the people went there to buy their commodities. When it burned, something was taken away from Cebu,” he said.
The CFCVFB primarily responds to fire alarms in Cebu City.
“Since we are Cebu City-based, our direct, immediate concern, of course, (our) area of responsibility is within our vicinity, within the five-mile radius of our station. But we go beyond. We go to Mandaue Lapu-Lapu, Talisay, on a case-to-case basis,” Ronnie said.
CFCVFB volunteers do not receive monetary compensation. But what they receive is something more valuable.
"In the process, that's where you learn to humble yourself, in a sense. You're entering something, you're back to square one just like when you went to college. You have to be open to learn. It's hard to say that you are very good and you don't work with others as well,” he said.
To continue the legacy of volunteerism, the brigade is looking for new members.
“It is an ongoing process that there is a continuing need to recruit volunteers because we believe it is one way, especially for the younger generation, to feel that they are able to help... The most important quality that we are looking for in a volunteer when we recruit is their dedication. That they are willing to commit their time despite that this service is without pay.” Sylvianco said. (Wenilyn Sabalo/ USJ-R Intern)