Malilong: Goodwill in the time of Ursula

Frank Malilong

POLITICIAN Edgar Labella had nothing to gain from it. These were not Cebu City voters who were stranded by typhoon Ursula at the pier. They were transients on their way to their hometowns in the neighboring islands. Besides, the elections are still too far away.

But when he learned that many of the stranded passengers could no longer be accommodated inside the pier terminals, he knew he had to do something. The forecast was that Ursula would bring heavy rains and he could not imagine the passengers soaked to the skin because they had nowhere to find shelter.

So he instructed his people to fetch the passengers and bring them to the gymnasium at the Cebu City Sports Center. Get those who were outside the terminals first, he ordered. Then came back for those who were inside but who wished to be accommodated elsewhere.

It was early evening of Christmas Eve. Elsewhere in the city, families were preparing for the Noche Buena, refusing to be dampened by the rains that were starting to pelt areas along Ursula’s path. But for the passengers, the need was immediate. They have to have supper.

Labella started making calls. The city’s department of social services, which had been mobilized much earlier, made provisions for the evening’s meal; Michel Lhuillier sent boxes of bottled water, and someone donated loaves of bread for the children. But what about the following day’s sustenance?

He called his friends in Walk and Talk. I will understand if you say no, he told them, but we have unexpected guests who need help. The response was spontaneous. Yes, they said, we will take care of lunch. In less than 30 minutes, they had pledges from Club members, including those who are on holiday abroad, enough to feed a thousand mouths.

Good deeds are not supposed to be bandied about and I am particularly uncomfortable writing about our Club. But I have never been prouder of my friends than on Christmas Day so I beg to make an exception of this one.

It was a day that was supposed to be spent exclusively with families but at lunch on Dec. 25, 2019, the mayor’s (and mine too) friends trooped to the CCSC bringing food to share with our guests. And did I ever see gratitude greater than those worn on their faces as they looked at us.

I spoke to one who profusely thanked me because she thought I was the mayor. She had come from a tour of Negros and Iloilo with her family and was set to sail for Butuan when Ursula stopped her. Please tell Mayor Labella, she told me after I introduced myself, that while we missed home, we never felt alone because the Cebuanos took care of us.

Statements like those warm the hearts but what to my friends was really satisfying was the knowledge that on Christmas Day, they had the opportunity to do something that truly defines the Christian spirit of care for fellowmen.

Thank you, Mayor Edgar, for making it possible for our friends to spread goodwill amid adversity.