The power of one

By Manuel Mejorada

Around 33 years ago, I paid then OIC-councilor (appointed under the revolutionary government of Pres. Cory Aquino) Jerry P. Trenas at his law office in downtown Iloilo City. I was editor of the weekly Western Visayas Times. I had set an appointment for an interview, and he gladly accepted. At the appointed hour, I was ushered into his office.

But before I could start to ask questions, JPT pulled out a book from a drawer. It was entitled, ‘The Power of One,” by the Australian author Bryce Courtenay. JPT must have figured I loved books, and he gifted me with one of the best books I’ve ever read. Its impact upon me is so strong that I continue to cite its theme in many of my writings.

Its message is simple: We are awestruck by the sight of a big waterfall. It is magnificent as it is powerful. But what we see as a tremendous cascade of water began as small drops of rain somewhere in the mountains. Individual drops of rain pooled together to form a rivulet of water. This rivulet flows down the mountain surface and joins other rivulets of water. They form a creek, and several creeks converge to form a river. It goes on and on this way until it becomes a waterfall.

What JPT has done for Iloilo City to combat the Covid 19 is an illustration of how everybody can contribute to a larger effort to defeat it and save lives. JPT has harnessed the energy and talents and resources of the community to effectively enforce the community quarantine and soften the adverse effects of the lockdown on people. From what I see, Iloilo City is a model of effective containment of the Covid 19.

JPT is a believer in symbols, practical symbols. And he found no better symbol of the community’s unity in staving off the hunger of the people during the lockdown than the distribution of the “Ilonggo pandesal” to the barangays. He enlisted the help of local bakeries to produce a steady supply of pandesal. To make sure there’s enough flour and other ingredients, JPT also asked suppliers to deliver the supplies to Iloilo City.

The City’s 180 barangays also rose to the occasion under the able leadership of my good friend, Liga ng mga Barangay president Rene Ong. The barangays are in the forefront of quarantine enforcement and the distribution of relief assistance. From what I’ve been hearing, the barangay captains of Iloilo City are doing a very good job. They have provided the much-needed backbone for this effort to our city government.

In a previous column, I have written about how the community also responded with the production of colorful personal protective equipment for our medical frontliners. Everybody got involved. The UPV alumni association was instrumental in making it possible for Iloilo City to have its own Covid 19 testing facilities. The decibel level for complaints have stayed low because the people understood the difficulties confronting the city government. Instead of complaining, people found ways to help.

Not all leaders are created equal. In Metro Manila, Quezon City is a leading example of how the pandemic could be mismanaged and make it the epicenter of Covid 19 infections. Mayor Joy Belmonte has miserably failed to enforce the lockdown. Her distribution system for relief assistance is saddled with problems. Her city is where Kadamay found a way to cause trouble. Quezon City is perhaps among the top three richest cities in the country. But its experience in coping with the crisis has been bad.

We can expect Iloilo City to declare an “all clear” by the end of the month and lift the quarantine gradually. With zero in new Covid 19 infections recorded in the past few days, it is safe to assume that the worst is over for Iloilo City.

As Ilonggos get back to their normal lives, the city government will still need to impose restrictions on travel. Much effort and sacrifice have been put into this success, and JPT could not gamble on a resurgence with the easing of travel restrictions. It will have to be a careful journey back to recovery.