FRONTLINERS the world over have been hailed as modern-day heroes who have put their lives on the line in their efforts to save others.  Doctors and nurses, lab technicians and orderlies, kitchen staff and janitors have worked without let up to keep our hospitals running and to keep our hopes alive.

A Doctor’s Call for 30 Bikes

Thus, when Dr. Tony Dans, a doctor from the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) where he heads its Epidemiology Center whose embattled workforce has been walking back and forth at all odd hours of the day, sent a message to an elder brother’s classmate that he needed thirty bicycles for the use of exhausted hospital staff exposed to the elements to, come in and go home from work, it took no time for a group of classmates with a few friends to come together and procure the thirty bikes.

By any measure, thirty bikes do not seem much but it is not the number of bicycles but the spirit of the times that I wish to underline here. 

More than fifty years ago, in 1966 to be exact, a group of some forty boys in sophomore year in high school became classmates huddled in a classroom perched near the edge of a hill.  They called themselves “Rebs” – rebels, I presume for they were a motley crew, noisy and wild at times, but friendly and generous to the core. 

“Just for Fun”

They were ordinary students with extraordinary energy then who were willing to experiment and do things “just for fun”.  Since they were bored with their religion classes, and they took no pains to hide the truth from me to take one example, we decided to embark on a weekend of fun and friendship, of prayer that we then dubbed, “Days with the Lord”.  We called on some fellow teachers initially to share a few thoughts and later some of their own classmates shed their initial shyness to share their insights about growing up, relationships with family and friends, and life in the in-between years.

The unforgettable experience became contagious and soon classes from different sections in school took up the challenge to undergo the “Daze” as it was fondly called or “Basta Ikaw, Lord” (BIL) as our venerable teacher Mr Pagsi aptly put it – “whatever you say, Lord”.  In a few years, other pioneers adopted the experience in different schools in different places, including a few abroad.

Reaching Out

A few of the “Rebs” together with other schoolmates also joined the “Summer of Service” – spending a summer in an urban poor resettlement area in Sapang Palay in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan, where they lived, taught and played with the youngsters in the community.  A few went on an exposure trip to Mindanao, in another version of the “Summer of Service”.

Fast forward to nearly half a century later, and the members of the class they called “Rebs” are still around though when the roll is called not everyone can raise their hands for quite a few have gone ahead of the rest.

Our Lives Are No Longer Our Own

Teaching is largely a thankless task, but it is a vocation where one hopes to make a difference in the lives of their students.  It is thus gratifying to see even a small modest effort like the bikes for PGH workers bringing classmates and a few friends together give of their time and resources during the quarantine period that we are living through.  Mostly sheltering in self-isolation in this time of lockdown, classmates can reach each other by different virtual means and stretch a hand to those in the frontlines of fire.

While we are bombarded daily by stories of death and devastation in different regions of the globe, while we are besieged by feelings of uncertainty even fear, it is these small stories of hope that can encourage others that we’re all in this together.  Together, we will pull through!

Our lives are no longer our own.