We’re still not completely in the clear, pandemic-wise, but we can almost see it. What we can do in the meantime is to recognize the heroes of our time, those who stood up and did something for others despite the many risks involved. We asked Lifestyle personalities who they considered their pandemic heroes, and why. These were their answers:
“The pandemic produced two heroes,” said noted cardiologist and Lifestyle columnist Dr. Rafael Castillo. First were “the front-liners in all areas—health-care professionals consisting of doctors, nurses, lab techs and hospital nursing aides who risked their lives so the lives of others (COVID patients) could be saved; business front-liners (bank tellers, wait staff, sales people) who helped steer the economy back into shape; and peace and order front-liners (policemen, soldiers, traffic enforcers, barangay officers) who helped maintain calm and orderliness in society amidst the brewing restlessness and helplessness.
“Second were the vigilant civil society groups—professional organizations, health alliances, health advocates, scientists and researchers, journalists/columnists, religious organizations, NGOs—which closely monitored the government’s antipandemic response, praised government agencies when they were doing their job well, but called them out unequivocally when they maintained their untenable decisions and plans of actions that blatantly ignored what best available scientific evidence was highly recommending.
“These heroes unrelentingly tried to guide the concerned government agencies on the rational path despite the harsh criticism and public ridicule (‘conspiracy theorists!’) they were subjected to. Recent events and studies now suggest that they were apparently correct, after all.”
Front-liners were also singled out by Br. Edmundo “Dodo” Fernandez, president of both the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde and La Salle Green Hills, because they risked their lives. “This was especially true at the start of the pandemic when people didn’t know too much about the virus, and they were even being discriminated against in their own homes,” Fernandez said.
For Emerson Yao, managing director of Lucerne Group, his heroes were health-care professionals who sacrificed by working long hours and missing their families. “They showed courage by getting near a potentially lethal virus.”
Bienvenido “Donnie” Tantoco III singled out the health-care workers at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) as his heroes. “Amidst so many examples of the worst and most selfish kind of leadership around the world, PGH stuck to their purpose of providing quality health care to the most marginalized and most vulnerable members of our society. Even when there was so much uncertainty, so much risk to their own lives, they focused on their purpose and the Hippocratic oath.
“I would also like mention a personal hero, Dr. Randy Francisco. He selflessly supported the members of our family, gave us strength and healing, even during periods when he was weak and he himself was sick and needed healing. He was never a source of false hope. He always spoke the truth with great love and deep caring.”
“Without a doubt, my heroes of the pandemic are the health-care workers serving on the front line,” said veteran model Gem Padilla. “They risked the most and were often repaid with ostracism—therefore, the need for dorms—and measly hazard pay that many didn’t even receive. A side note of thanks to Rico Blanco for his ‘Liwanag sa Dilim’ tribute to them. But I will also add the common folk who gave their time and resources to those who needed it more.
“In the early parts of the pandemic, I saw a call on social media about lending bikes to health workers/front-liners so they could get to work. I messaged the point person and I got to know her. Like me, she is an avid biker. With the help of some people she knew and people she just met, she was able to lend bikes to a number of nurses and other health-care workers at UERMMMC (University of the East–Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center). That, to me, is admirable.
“I’m also in awe of a friend who donated bikes, and friends who volunteered to pick up and deliver them at a time when going out meant risking either getting the virus or getting caught by the police. These people were heroes. They all lived up to Bowie’s words: ‘We could be heroes, just for one day.’”
My heroes during the pandemic were the delivery riders (Grab, Lalamove, etc.). I saw how careful they were in handling the items being delivered, making sure they kept their distance. We could also see how tired and anxious they were, which is why we made sure to give them ice cold bottled water. The smiles on their faces were priceless.
—Patty Betita, veteran model
Many depended on delivery riders for their food, medicines and groceries. They’re unsung heroes. These riders would do all the tasks one would usually do. Many are unaware of the extent of their sacrifice. Although we pay these riders, we have to admit that they helped us throughout the pandemic, mustering grit, courage, and drive against all odds.—Pauline Banusing, restaurateur
My heroes were the health-care workers and the Grab and Lalamove delivery men and women. The delivery crews of Grab and Lalamove worked tirelessly, risking exposure to the virus when there was no vaccine yet to make sure what people needed—food, medicine, health-care equipment—were delivered and received. They were truly my heroes, together with the health-care workers.—Lady Bess Howe, PR practitioner
It’s hard to single out a particular group of heroes. Everybody was just struggling to survive physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually. First to come in mind are the medical front-liners, but also the scientists and researchers who worked 24/7 to formulate vaccines against COVID-19 to stall the rising death rates.—Marlon Tuazon, fashion designer
The heroes of pandemic are the scientists who created vaccines in such a short period of time. They were all under pressure by the world, but despite this, they were able to manage and produce vaccines. They are our superstars!—Cary Santiago, fashion designer
Family and friends
My true two heroes were our home front-liners: Yaya Cathy, who would brave the outside world to get food and medicines for all of us with a quarantine pass. And my husband (ace photographer) Jun braved going to the hospital every day for 30 days (during my breast cancer treatment). The vaccines weren’t available yet. He would bring me to the radiation department, then line up at PhilHealth, and then line up again at the cashier. I would be under the radiation machine and I would pray so hard that he wouldn’t get COVID. God is so good, he kept us protected.—Abbygale Arenas de Leon, certified image coach and veteran model
My children, Azi and Amos, are my heroes. They give me strength, they make my worst day better, they taught me how to communicate with patience. My kids made me realize that I have to be fully present. They taught me what it means to live life fully present in each moment. I know now to cherish those moments.
—Michelle Garcia-Arce, PR practitioner
Living with my father who is in his 90s, we observed very strict health protocols throughout the pandemic. This meant that nobody left our house and nobody from outside came in. My heroes throughout those two years of lockdown were definitely our loyal house helpers who worked tirelessly to look after us and our home, in particular attending to all my dad’s needs—and all this with no days off. I know what a big sacrifice this was on their part, especially with a pared-down pandemic staff. Their exceptional service made our lives so much easier and will never be forgotten.
Another hero was my cousin Pilar who, from the moment lockdowns were announced, so generously offered to do our weekly grocery runs and continued to do so until we were fully vaccinated and ready to go out into the world again. It was thanks to her and to many dear friends that our table was like a horn of plenty throughout the lockdown!
Last but definitely not least would be my pandemic prayer partners who I’d consider my spiritual heroes and beacons of light during the times of uncertainty.—Barangay Forbes Park kagawad Mia Borromeo
Robert Alejandro is the person I consider my hero during the pandemic. He gave free online art lessons on his Facebook page for kids and kids at heart. He gave his generous time and knowledge to teach the kids how to draw. What he did was a kind gesture for the kids to overcome boredom during the lockdown and be creative at the same time. — Elmer Borlongan, painter
I consider my core group of friends my heroes. We kept each other company in our group chat, sending photos and videos of our morning routines. They shared food they discovered online. We kept each other sane.—JC Buendia, fashion designer
My heroes were our employees who stuck with us. The pandemic was unprecedented and we saw businesses fail, but because of our employees, we were able to weather the storm and come out stronger. Despite salary cuts, the loyal employees stayed with us, and because of that I am truly grateful, and I promised them to get things back to how they used to be.—Eric Dee, CEO of Foodee Global Concepts
Aside from the medical front-liners, my heroes were volunteers who cooked and distributed food; those who work in supermarkets, markets, gas stations, the food industry; drivers in the public and private sector; and employees who sacrificed isolation from their families for weeks and months on end.”—Joy Navarro of Estrel’s Caramel Cakes
Many heroes emerged during the pandemic, and I would like to mention our microfinance institutions and microentrepreneurs who demonstrated resilience and pursued innovations amid the challenges of the pandemic. By doing so, they ensured the survival of their families. They made a difference and were awarded this year in the Digital Financial Inclusion Awards (DFIA). This is a testament to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’s (BSP) commitment to ensure that all Filipinos will be financially included.—BSP deputy governor Berna Romulo Puyat
Apart from medical front-liners, business owners were heroes for taking a hit to help keep the livelihood of employees, and for braving the uncertain, just to keep business and industry going.—Roselle Andaya, Mr. DIY Philippines CEO