Philippine Red Cross chairman Sen. Richard Gordon and Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray brought a message of hope to typhoon victims in Catanduanes last Saturday as they led the distribution of cash assistance to 364 beneficiaries in Palnab del Sur, Virac.
The senator and the beauty queen arrived at about 3 P.M. on Dec. 5, 2020 at Virac airport together with PRC secretary general Elizabeth Zaballa and PRC disaster management services chief Leonardo Ebajo.
They were met by Governor Joseph Cua, Virac Mayor Sinforoso Sarmiento Jr., USAID country representative Joseph Curry, American Red Cross country representative Shir Shah Ayobi, PRC Catanduanes chairman Gabriel Tejerero and the board of directors.
Upon arrival at the Palnab covered court, hundreds of residents, including some who perched on the nearby church’s roof, cheered the senator and his guest, who was escorted by a human security cordon on her way to the stage.
Following a rousing welcome address by the mayor, Ayobi and Curry said they were impressed by how the people of Catanduanes were coping with the recent typhoons and lauded the event as a good example of how the Red Cross is working and how it is connected to the community.
In her remarks, the former Ms. Universe said she was so proud of the work that the Red Cross is doing to help all come together to rebuild.
“You are not alone in this struggle of rebuilding,” Gray stated. “We are here to help you. Hindi kayo mag-isa. Makakabangon kayo uli.”
She said she was happy to be here to celebrate and share in the happiness and that she looks forward to returning and see how the people have rebuilt together.
Ms. Gray also took the opportunity to recognize the efforts of the hard-working Red Cross volunteers especially as Dec. 5 is the International Day of Volunteers.
She likewise lauded Chairman Gordon’s leadership of the Red Cross and his partnership with USAID, American Red Cross and local officials.
In a 20-minute address, Gordon urged the crowd to be like the Red Cross volunteers and to help themselves.
“Masarap tulungan ang tumutulong sa sarili,” he said. “Ang volunteers ay may kusang loob, may malasakit at may kapwa-tao.”
Describing Catandunganons as a proud people with dignity, the senator said that the Red Cross is bringing a message of hope.
“We are here to boost your confidence in facing all the challenges,” he remarked, as he encouraged 364 recipients of P3,500 cash assistance to use it to improve their economic lot by engaging in business.
“We are the only ones who can help ourselves back on our feet,” he said, adding that the Red Cross will help rebuild the devastated abaca industry.
“Our country has a lot of challenges. Dadaan tayo sa butas ng karayom,” Gordon stressed, citing RP’s more than P3-trillion debt due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Ang dami-dami nating pinag-aaksayahan ng panahon,” he pointed out. “We should have a common vision.”
“Vision, values and volunteerism equals victory,” he concluded. “Kung wala tayong pananaw, kung wala tayong ugaling Pilipinong uliran, kung hindi tayo magkukusang-loob na tumulong sa isa’t-isa, we cannot attain victory.”
Following the distribution of the cash assistance, Gordon also turned over a Toyota Hi-Luz pickup truck and five (5) Honda XRM motorcycles from the American Red Cross to the local Red Cross chapter headed by administrator Reymund Reginaldo, then celebrating his birthday.
The senator and his party later went to the governor’s office to discuss a Red Cross proposal to assist in the rehabilitation of the abaca industry by providing livelihood support.