Manila, Philippines, National Heroes Day has been observed in the Philippines every 29th of August.
What’s interesting about this day is that we are not only reminded of the heroes who fought for our independence, but also about the heroism of regular people around us. This year, Revlon Professional Philippines took this opportunity to interview and reward the heroes who braved the challenges and fought for what we all deserve, a happier and healthier world. The brand that lives by ‘Living Boldly’ provided a head-to-toe makeover to three different advocates on Mental Health, Education, and Agriculture! More than that, they made sure that their heroism will resonate in this year’s celebration, featuring Rural Rising Philippines, Avegale Acosta, and Prof. Emmanuel Raon – Santos. Rural Rising Philippines (RuRi), led by spouses Ace and Andie Estrada of Baguio City, is a collective, non-profit grassroots effort to help distressed Filipino farmers get back on their feet and feed the nation with pride. RuRi conducts “Rescue Buys” in areas where there is a surplus of fruits and vegetables, paying farmers over-farm gate prices, then distributing the rescued produce to its members at below-bagsakan prices. It’s a win-win formula for both farmers and consumers. All fruits and vegetables that are not claimed within 48 hours are automatically donated to hungry communities in the NCR and to various community pantries. No produce goes to waste. “We believe that when farmers are paid the right price, they have a chance at achieving rural prosperity; that by giving members access to fresh and cheap produce, they would share what they cannot consume to the needy, or perhaps create a profitable reseller business; that by channeling all unclaimed or unsold produce to residents in economically depressed communities, their lives are sustained, their souls given hope”.
Today, RuRi is working to erect vegetable tramlines in Benguet, create a water and forest conservation project in Nueva Ecija, and establish community libraries in various farmer communities. It also aims to establish a processing and packaging facility for rescued produce, and the country’s first Rescue Kitchen.
“We welcome offers of help in whatever form it comes if it would help the farmers and create small but impactful change in the countryside.”
Avegale Acosta, MA, RPsy, RPm, Lecturer, Ateneo de Manila University; Psychologist, Ateneo Bulatao Center. Avy has been practicing in the field of psychology for 12 years, and has been teaching for 7 years. She provides psychotherapy for those who experienced trauma, anxiety, grief, and other mental health concerns. She also worked with communities by co-developing and implementing resilience and community-based drug recovery interventions.
During this time when an estimate of 3.6 million Filipinos are facing mental health issues (DOH) with a limited mental health professionals, she spends most of her time providing psychosocial support to those experiencing mental health distress, teaching and mentoring future psychologists, and training individuals from schools and organizations to provide psychological first aid for those in distress.
“Ang mental health issues ay isang invisible epidemic. Maaaring hindi natin makita agad ang sintomas nito. May mga tao na tinatago ito. Pero hindi natin alam na marami na pala silang pinagdadaanan na problema o maaaring nakaranas ng traumatic events o maaaring nabu-burnout na. Madalas isinasawalang bahala rin natin ang ating mental health hanggang sa dumating ang araw na maaaring sasabog na lang ito, o wala na tayong motibasyon o ganang mabuhay, o nagkakasakit na tayo”.
“Ang pagsuporta sa mental health ay hindi lamang trabaho ng professionals. If we can educate more people how to prioritize and take care of their mental health and how to respond to people in distress, we can prevent many mental health distress from escalating to mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and substance use,” she added.
Prof. Emmanuel Raon – Santos of PUP, Manila. Sir Ems as his students fondly call him, has been teaching since 2008. But in 2015, he decided to pursue a path outside the academe and flew to Dubai. The odds turned in his favor and he successfully got a lucrative job in the corporate arena. During the pandemic, he decided to stay in the Philippines. When asked why, he shared:
“I had many chances of going back in the UAE. Pero nakita ko yung mga kaibigan kong nurses at doctors, lumalaban talaga sila para sa bansa natin. Naramdaman ko na bilang isang Filipino at guro that I should do my part as well, most especially sa ganitong pitch dark moments natin. Maraming educational institutions ang nangailangan ng mga guro na kayang sumabak sa virtual classes. Kaya, I decided na mag-stay muna.”
He also told us that the pandemic is not just a battle meant to be fought by medical professionals.
“Eh yung pandemic eh hindi lang ito laban ng mga medical professionals e. Laban ito nating lahat. Laban ng bawa’t Pinoy! Education must continue lalung-lalo na sa ganitong pagkakataon. There are no small roles sa ganitong uri ng giyera. Bawat isa sa atin ay essential. Pinipili ko na mag-contribute sa alam kong paraan.”
Ace, Andie, Avy, and Ems are from different sectors, but all of them are heroes! Their advocacies are timely and essential to our post Pandemic world. May the stories shared today inspire the hero amongst all of us. Happy National Heroes Day!