Paano Kita Mapasasalamatan: Heroism and service in a difficult year of COVID-19, natural disasters, ABS-CBN franchise denial

Since the beginning of 2020, the country has already faced adversity after adversity - from the destructive calamities to the spread of COVID-19. Challenging would be an understatement if we were to describe how the recently concluded year has been for the most of us.

The difficult year started with the eruption of Taal Volcano. Many Filipinos were greatly affected by the calamity. One of them was Jelly Pelaez Bibat, a single mother and a house helper in Batangas. Her husband already passed away and because of this, she assumed all the responsibilities of a mother and a father. When Taal Volcano erupted, Jelly was inside the church. They were all scared so they all immediately rushed to go home.

Flora Perez Cabingas, also a single mother and a sari-sari store owner from Batangas, has five children, whom her philandering husband left to her care. During the time that Taal Volcano was erupting, Flora and her children were at home, and she said that it felt like there was an earthquake every minute. While they had not received any advice to evacuate, they all did what they could do to leave their houses. Flora contacted her friend Zeny Perez to ask if she and her children could stay temporarily at her place. Zeny immediately asked for help from their barangay and welcomed 30 people including Flora, Jelly, and senior citizens in her house during the Taal crisis. Zeny chose to help these people who were in need because her family also experienced being greatly affected by floods during a typhoon. Flora and Jelly shared that Zeny always treated them like family and are grateful for that.  

Right after the Taal crisis, Filipinos weren’t prepared for the much graver news, which was the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the country. One of those who were most greatly alarmed with the virus spread was Liezel Caballero, a staff nurse assigned to a milk bank section of a Manila hospital. Even at the onset of the pandemic, Liezel chose to continue her work because she knew our fellow Filipinos needed her service. She also sacrificed her time with her family spending more hours of work as a medical frontliner. What’s more saddening was she wasn’t able to attend the wake and the cremation of her late father. Liezel also got worried because the potential donors of milk for the babies were also afraid already to go out and donate because of the pandemic. But because of Project Hero, more and more mothers were able to donate breast milk. AR Angcos, the co-founder of the donation drive Project Hero, said got inspiration and influence from his parents who always choose to extend help to others. His co-founder, Steffan Juquiana, also looks up to her parents who do not think twice in helping others. Indeed, Project Hero has helped the babies in the milk bank section of the hospital as they donated milk that they collected from the donation drive. AR and Steffan were given a diamond art, which has a design of a mother and child.

As COVID-19 brought much pain and suffering throughout the year, two typhoons, Rolly and Ulysses, wreaked havoc towards the latter part of 2020.  And we are still lucky to have fellow Filipinos who are always ready to help the ones affected by the natural calamities. Maria Katrina Mora was among those rescued when typhoon Ulysses hit the country. She was actually at work when the typhoon came and could not go home to check on her family. When rescuers arrived, she asked them if they could rescue her family. Sherwin Buguina, who was part of the rescue team, shared that they couldn’t immediately reach Katrina’s family because of some obstructions. While they were on their way back to the headquarters, the rescuing team suffered from an accidental electrocution. Their team leader during that time, Kelly Villario, who had saved many lives before the incident, didn’t survive and was hailed as a hero. Katrina will forever be grateful and thankful for the help that Kelly has given not only to her but to many. His wife Melanie Villarao is extremely proud of her late husband’s heroism and compassion for others.

As monstrous challenges besieged the country, dark times befell the Philippine broadcast industry as ABS-CBN was forced to shut its broadcast operations after Congress denied the network a renewal of its franchise in the midst of the pandemic. As a result, thousands of employees were retrenched, including Sheilla Diamse, a former executive producer of the late night newscast Bandila, and Melaine Dinoy, former story editor of the early evening primetime news program TV Patrol.

When the franchise denial was announced in July, Sheilla was with her boyfriend to celebrate his birthday. But the festivities turned grim and they became emotional as they heard the news since they were aware of the terrible consequences of the decision. Melanie, on the other hand, was at the newsroom with her media colleagues who also shed tears when the franchise denial was announced. But even though they both got retrenched, Sheilla and Melanie continued to exude and express the network mantra, “in the service of the Filipino people.”  And, despite all the adversities the network and its journalists, employees and executives faced, that mantra remained instilled in all their minds and hearts as the Kapamilya network continued to serve through the available platforms it can use. Residents from Tanay, Rizal whose livelihoods were greatly affected by the pandemic and by the recent typhoons were very thankful to ABS-CBN, which continues its relief operations to people in need, no matter what.

Watch Paano Kita Mapasasalamatan, hosted by Judy Ann Santos-Agoncillo, every Saturday at 7pm on the Kapamilya Channel, Kapamilya Online Live, and A2Z Channel 11.