The City Government of Bacolod, led by Mayor Evelio Leonardia, hosted an Appreciation Ceremony for seven volunteers of the Emergency Operations Center Task Force (EOC-TF) at the Bacolod City Government Center lobby Thursday night, February 4.
These volunteers include Dr. Chris Sorongon – deputy medical cluster; Dr. Hector Gayares Jr. – deputy medical cluster; Dr. Dolores Rommela Ruiz – president of the Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases-Western Visayas; Dr. Michael Thomas Salvador – president of the Philippine College of Physicians-Negros Occidental Chapter; John Dave Dueñas – deputy for data management; Noelle Ibarra, and Jinky Besana.
EOC executive director Em Ang said these volunteers have greatly contributed to the EOC, in particular, and the City Government, in general, in sustaining the harmonized and synchronized strategies and activities geared towards containing the spread of COVID-19.
They initiated the information and education campaign, data management and analysis, and consolidation of hospital data.
“We would really want to say thank you from the bottom of our hearts. That’s the least and the most that we can do,” Leonardia told the volunteers at the ceremony.
He added: “We started from scratch — not only that, we were also in the dark, which is also same with other cities. If not for you then where do you think we are now?”
According to the mayor, Bacolod – like any other LGU – has suffered from the impact of the pandemic but this struggle became bearable when the volunteers showed up and helped. He said this is the advantage of the City.
Bacolod had once recorded an average of 86 COVID-19 cases per day, or 2,500 cases a month. But recent data showed that the city’s daily fresh case count is only at a single digit.
“It didn’t happen because of natural process. It was a man-made process. That man-made process was made possible because of you,” Leonardia said, addressing the volunteers.
Ang also said the volunteers have been invaluable in the planning and running of the initiatives, responses, procedures, and activities geared towards curbing the spread of the virus.
“Our dedicated volunteers pulled us through the toughest times. Thank you for being our guiding light in those dark days of the COVID crisis. The EOC is proud of all of you. You are the best expression of who we are as Bacolodnons. You saw the need and you responded,” Ang said.
She added that with the help of volunteers and the functional EOC, Bacolod is ready to face any challenge or public health emergency that may come.
“In the words of (retired Major General Mel) Feliciano, what makes Bacolod City different from other cities is that there are volunteers like you who make things happen without expectations of reward,” Ang said.
She also shared the story of how the volunteers started to take part in government actions to save the lives of Bacolodnons; it was when Leonardia established the COVID-19 Technical Working Group (TWG).
“Since no one knows exactly what COVID-19 is during that time, and there was no guide on how to win against it, mayor saw it fit to convene an expert advisory committee to review data and emerging evidence to make recommendations to the city officials,” the city administrator said.
The first project of the TWG was the operation of the Bacolod Respiratory Outpatient (BRO) Center, where Salvador and Sorongon rendered consultation services free of charge.
“Both of them risked their own health while other doctors closed their clinics because of the fear of infections,” Ang said.
Sorongon and Salvador also donated supplies to help the frontliners at the BRO Center.
Meanwhile, Gayares and Ruiz, for their part, supervised the BRO operations by giving timely and reliable advice and support.
Gayares and Ruiz also helped train and retrain the nurses and personnel who were deployed by the health department due to the urgent need of additional healthcare workers.
Dueñas helped in the information technology-related matters. He assisted in the data management for the consolidated approach employed by the city to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Ibarra, on the other hand, set up a crisis communications strategy at a time when the city was bombarded by criticisms from the public in its COVID-19 response.
“She has patiently mentored and assisted us on how to effectively get our message across the community,” Ang said.
Besana, for her part, was the one who designed the now iconic logo of the EOC.
The seven volunteers have received plaques of appreciation from the City Government, presented by Leonardia – EOC Task Force head; Ang – also EOC deputy for administration and operations; Councilor Renecito Novero – chair of both the Quarantine Centers Action Team and the Vaccination Centers Action Team; and Councilor Ayesha Joy Villaflor – chair of the Action Team on APORs (Authorized Persons Outside Residence).
Gayares, Sorongon, Salvador, and Dueñas also received a plaque from the Philippine National Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency and the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA-6) as “Outstanding COVID-19 Volunteers.”
Also attending the Appreciation Ceremony were Executive Assistants George Zulueta and Teresa Manalili, and Col. Manuel Placido, OIC- city director of the Bacolod City Police Office.