FROM facing bombs to diffusing another kind of bomb.
Journalist-turned-diplomat Elmer Cato, now the Consul General (ConGen) in New York City, may have left strife-torn, bomb-plagued foreign posts but he is in another one where there is a different kind of bomb.
The hate crime against Asians where Pinoys are also targets is one explosive issue for a diplomat, especially for a head of foreign post. For New York, it is double the headache. Double the effort. Double the fear.
If one thinks that ConGen Cato landed on a nice post where he could sit on an executive chair and just put his feet up high on the table, that may not happen. Yes, the post may seem glamorous and prestigious but it definitely comes with certain hazards.
While he may have developed a certain toughness after his previous assignments Baghdad then Tripoli (where he willingly volunteered), his current assignment requires a different kind of bravery.
It’s the kind where it is necessary to permeate courage to our Kababayans who are now subjected to fear due to violence and hatred. It is the kind where he has to diffuse the bomb that carries anxiety, distrust, treachery and even loss of faith and confidence.
One must remember how the ConGen hit the ground running in the Big Apple.
Few hours after leaving Libya, high profile cases greeted his arrival in NYC where violence against Filipinos had been carried by some news outlets. He had to burn the lines and craft a plan even while 35,000 feet up in the air. This has helped lead to the arrest of one Brandon Elliot, suspect in the violent assault on Vilma Kari, the 65-year old Filipino mother while she was walking to church in Manhattan.
TV news footages show Elliot, a 38-year-old convict who is out on parole for killing his own mother, kicked the helpless Vilma without provocation and stomped on her face while yelling at her “You don’t belong here!”
There was this violence also on 61-year-old Noel Quintana, while riding the subway on his way to work also in Manhattan, got his face slashed after he was attacked with a box cutter.
Cato rallied the Filipino community, as well as other Asians, that they do belong in New York (where 25 percent of Filipinos there are in the healthcare industry), and tri-state members New Jersey and Connecticut and even the whole USA.
And indeed our Kababayans do. It is the Filipino nurses who take care of the sick in the land flowing with milk and honey. Especially at this time of global pandemic. About 30 percent of the nearly 200 nurses who lost their lives in the US in the fight against Covid are Filipinos.
I have seen how my former editor in Today Newspaper and the Angeles Sun, work his butt out. From his early years in DFA when he put up the Regional Consular office in Clark and those he established at malls and elsewhere.
I have also personally witnessed how he burned the midnight oil when I covered in New York for this paper the United Nations General Assembly from 2005 to 2009 when he was assigned at the Philippine Mission to UN.
With his plate so full during a quick visit to his office while serving as a Press Officer at the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC in 2013, he did not mind me helping out draft a Public Statement when a Filipina was shot by cops in a grocery. The reason? He was almost drowning then in other vital assignments.
FREE INTERNET CARDS. If not busy minding how his constituency – qualified at that -- can all be vaccinated, Angeles City Mayor Pogi Lazatin is doing similar moves that could alleviate the plight of the Angelenos.
The distribution of free internet cards is a timely move while we are still in a pandemic. It may still be long haul for us. And what we need is a facility for information. An avenue of learning. This can only be through the provision of free internet.
Not all of us can afford that. Mayor Lazatin, while filling the physical and medical needs of Angelenos, is also providing ways that the mental, psychological and educational aspects are also covered.
This is through the planned distribution of a total of 57,530 internet cards to the city’s public school students, grades 4 to 12. These are the same students who also received the free tablets from the City Government.
Already given out are 5,404 internet cards during its initial distribution -- 1,782 for the City College of Angeles (CCA); 493 for Marisol Bliss Elementary School; 1,036 for Sta. Teresita Elementary School; and 2,093 for Malabanias Integrated School. This was reported by this paper’s witty newshen Charlene Cayabyab.
RENEWED COVID STRATEGY. In neighbor Mabalacat City, Mayor Cris Garbo will not be outdone when it comes to facing the pandemic head on.
The City Government, according to City Administrator Atty. Emmanuel Ignacio, will be putting up more facilities to accommodate Covid patients. There is a planned isolation facility that will be put up in Barangay Tabun while a hotel in Dau will be converted into an infirmary for mild Covid cases.
They have also tapped the services of Dr. Jay Rivera who will oversee this renewed prevention and management program on Covid. There will be telemedicine where doctors and nurses would not have to risk physical visits and rounds.
With rising cases of Covid all over, Mabalacat City residents are somehow assured that they will not have to wait for long to be accommodated in hospitals when stricken by the virus.
This new approach is a parallel effort with what the national government is doing. It also covers the procurement and administration of Covid vaccines. That way, qualified Mabalaquenos may no longer need to wait for their turn based on vaccines being made available to them by the DOH.
This new strategy is not just laudable. It is a welcome news as it shows that the local government of Mabalacat is on top of the situation. It helps dispel despair and distrust in government leaders.
Mayor Garbo, as the joke would have it, has yet to take the misstep in order to be seen as not doing his job well. At the rate he is chalking up points for services he renders for his Cabalens, the parents of his would be defeater are yet to be born. (yes, parents and not yet the opponent him/herself).