ABS-CBN chairman Eugenio Lopez IIIIn this year’s LAA, there is a special category being awarded aptly entitled the “Yolanda Heroes”.
When you hear the name Yolanda, I’m certain all of you vividly recall November 6, 2013, when Typhoon Haiyan entered the Philippine area of responsibility. Haiyan, more infamously known to us as Yolanda, unleashed 315 kilometer per hour winds on sustained one minute intervals. It was a monster typhoon and one of the strongest in world history.
Yolanda’s landfall in the Philippines triggered a chain of three unprecedented events.
The first was gruesome destruction. Yolanda left more than 5,000 dead, almost 24,000 injured, and roughly three million people displaced. But those statistics hardly describe the rage and fury of the typhoon and the human suffering it wrought.
Like me, I know a number of you visited Tacloban or Leyte after Yolanda exited the country.
Flying to Tacloban, you could see the path of devastation. Coconut trees were felled by the hundreds as Yolanda's winds made its way through the countryside. The trees looked like toothpicks strewn across the land directing the wind towards the cities where it could cause the most damage. The trees that did not fall took on a freakish countenance as their branches all pointed in the direction the wind travelled. They looked like umbrellas turned inside out but with the spokes contorted to all point the same way. Some trees that did not collapse at all, their branches making them appear like electrical poles misplaced amidst nature, standing as mute witnesses to a tragedy about to unfold.
In some places, swaths of earth were carved out of the ground by the wind. Deep long gullies ran across the landscape like raw, gaping wounds.
Tacloban city itself was indescribable. Take the images of the damage Ondoy inflicted on provident village in Marikina, multiply that by a thousand times, and perhaps you might begin to have an approximation of Yolanda's ferocity. Tacloban and Leyte captured the most attention but do not forget the same level of destruction happened throughout eastern Visayas as well.
This was the first unprecedented event triggered by Yolanda - gruesome destruction.
The second unprecedented event was the human response to this destruction. The Filipino, as one nation, spontaneously came to the aid of their brother. The power of this authentic and urgent desire to help more than equaled the force of Yolanda.
Driven by their need to assist the Yolanda victims, like never before, people instinctively made their way to ABS-CBN. This was the third unprecedented event.
ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation received over a billion pesos in cash and goods for the Yolanda victims. The PBB hall and center road of our compound overflowed with donations in kind. We had to divert deliveries to the Bayantel warehouse in Fairview so we would have more space to receive, package, and dispatch goods. And still this was not enough.
At one point, we were forced to call a moratorium on deliveries. Inflow of stocks far exceeded our capacity to package and send them out. Even gma7 employees drove to Fairview to entrust us with their donations to the victims.
Apart from this, we sold over 1.1 million “Tulong Na, Tabang Na” t-shirts. The lines of people buying the shirts started within the abs compound and stretched to the MRT station on EDSA. Still, people waited patiently and maintained discipline until they were able to buy their shirts. Often times, cash on hand did not reconcile with inventory. There was more cash than t-shirts sold because buyers would not collect their change knowing every peso would go to a countryman in need.
While abs has always been at the heart of the significant events in our country, never in the past has the public's trust been so strongly and unequivocally manifested as in the aftermath of Yolanda. This is the true scorecard of our sixty years of living our mission. And once again, it is an irrefutable reminder that never can we abandon our mission of being in the service of the Filipino.
Let me move now from a situation of high and inescapable visibility to one of invisibility.
Calamities such as Yolanda bring about the emergence of heroes – people who do more than is expected or they even put themselves at risk to serve their countrymen. In the same manner, however, calamities such as Yolanda also highlight the reality that for every hero, there are a thousand Filipinos working in the background to ensure victims receive the aid they need. They perform far less dramatic but equally necessary tasks such as packing goods, sorting clothes, cleaning the warehouse, and making phone calls.
This situation replicates itself daily in our work environment.
Working with and among us, are many co-employees who are silent, steady operators. In their roles or perhaps, because of capability, they really do not have the opportunity to do any one extraordinary thing that might capture the attention of an award-giving body such as the LAA. But they are the ones who work unnoticed behind the scenes, always present and available, taking care of what we might deem little and minor things. Often times, they are taken for granted and become virtually invisible to the rest of us.
One of my favorite metaphors is about the air we breathe. We never notice it until it goes bad or there is not enough of it and we start to suffocate.
For me, the contribution of these unnoticed, unobtrusive workers is akin to air. While they go on their steady way, delivering day after day the things we need and assume will always be available to us; we pay no attention to them. However, once they fail in their delivery, we suddenly realize the value that they create. When the busted light bulb is not replaced, when the phone message is not relayed, or when the service vehicle is not at the airport to pick up our guest. This is the only time our fellow employees who up to that point were invisible, abruptly take the foreground.
In the way the LAA committee struggled looking for a system to recognize all the Lopez group employees who gave time and effort to Yolanda relief operations, I say we must deliberately seek out and recognize the majority of our co-workers who work behind the scenes.’
They are the ones who are never absent. They quietly work their way up the organization from almost always very humble beginnings. It is their one goal to ensure we have what we need so we may work undisturbed and without bother. The only reward they seek is to put in an honest day's work, and go home to their loved ones at night.
And therein lies their heroism: the constant staying power to quietly deliver day in and day out. And there, too, is their extraordinary contribution that produces immeasurable value for the organization.
They are the unsung heroes of every company. And woe to us if we allow their contributions to be taken for granted simply because they are part of the unseen majority.
In our walk on water awards at ABS-CBN, we have a category named “the unsung hero”. The objective of this category is precisely to draw attention to our co-workers who do nothing singularly extraordinary but without fail carry out their tasks, day after day, year after year.
I propose to the LAA program management team that such a category be created within the Lopez Group. The unsung hero comprises the larger part of our work force. It is time that the reliable, steady, solid performer be recognized alongside those who are selected as nominees and winners in every other category.
Yolanda once again showed that in times of dire need, in their desire to serve others, persons will arise as heroes, and rightly so, these are our Yolanda heroes.
But Yolanda also underscored the contribution of thousands of Filipinos who worked in the background to ensure aid reached those who needed it. These are our unsung heroes.
I ask then, if there is a “Yolanda Hero”, why can there not be an “unsung hero”?
To all the nominees and awardees of this year’s Lopez Achievement Awards, congratulations! Good afternoon and let us enjoy today’s proceedings.