A Volunteer Forever
For 47 years now and as the current chairman and CEO of the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC), Sen. Dick Gordon and his able people are very active in the disaster rescue, relief, and rehabilitation efforts.
He was there in the July 16, 1990 killer quake that hit the Luzon provinces; the June 15, 1991 Mt. Pinatubo eruption, and typhoons, the latest being typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng last September.
He also negotiated (without ransom paid), for the release of 18 Filipino hostages from the Abu Sayyaf in in March 2000; the May 2001 Dos Palmas, Palawan kidnapping; the OFWs in Southern Lebanon caught in the Hezbollah-Israeli conflict in August 2006, and in March 2009, led a prayer rally and appealed for the successful release of International Red Cross volunteers abducted in Sulu.
“Dati, ang ganda ng Sulu. Ngayon, mas mahirap pa sa daga. Bakit, niyayakap ba natin ang mga Muslim? Takot kayo sa Muslim, eh. Ako lang ang tangang lumalapit sa kanila. Ako lang nakakakuha ng hostages from them ng walang bayad. Ngayon naghahanap ako ng koneksyon para mapalaya `yung pari (Fr. Michael Sinnott) at `yung anak ng kaklase ko na arkitekto. Kailangan bang mangyari ito? No. Pagawa mo ang mga infrastructure roon. Bakit hindi sila magrerebelde? Kung ako nakatira roon magrerebelde ako,” Sen. Gordon points out.
He also mobilized aid for the February 2004 Superferry fire; the 2006 Ultra stampede of the Wowowee anniversary show; the October 2007 Glorietta blast; the June 2008 MV Princess of the Stars tragedy, and provided psychosocial and first aid assistance and transported home the survivors of Superferry 9 tragedy last June.
Sen. Gordon also appealed to the international communities for support to PNRC. He launched the Millenium Partner fund in February 2000 wherein corporate donations were pooled to sustain disaster relief and rehabilitation efforts. Currently, it already raised P27 million in funds. It was during his term as PNRC Chairman and CEO that, for the first time, the organization became an international donor when they gave $35,000 cash contribution and disaster experts to help in the relief and rehabilitation of tsunami-stricken areas in Indonesia, Thailand, and Sri Lanka.
In 2006, he launched the Project 143 I Love Red Cross on International Volunteers Day to prepare and train communities to be self-reliant and ready in the face of calamities and typhoons. Also, a total of 15,000 houses were repaired and built from 2004 to 2008 in
Albay, Aurora, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Isabela, Nueva Ecija, Laguna, Marinduque, Mindoro Oriental, Lanao del Norte, Southern Leyte, Quezon, Quirino, Sorsogon devastated by Guinsaugon landslide, typhoons Milenyo, Reming, Yoyong, Violeta, and Unding, and armed conflict in Mindanao.
During the 62nd anniversary of PNRC, Sen. Gordon distributed 62 ambulances and fire trucks to their chapters, in line with his dream of modernizing and strengthening PNRC’s rescue capability. He is also active in important discussions and conferences on disaster management and training, and climate change.
“Basta may disaster, naroon ako. Sinasama ko mga tao ko. I’ll stay in the Red Cross for as long as I want. I’m a volunteer, nobody can fire me unless I steal,” he says. He adds, “Even if I’m the President of the Philippines, I’ll still be in Red Cross. I’ll be a volunteer forever.”
By Lynda C. Corpuz
Photography by Carl Valentin