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One must have felt and experienced the economic and social cost and the subsequent scenario brought about by the closure of U.S. Naval Base before one could see the patriotic sacrifice of the volunteerism that happened at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone for what it truly is. Those who did not feel the experience that sudden shift in the way of their lives, risking the possibility of being misled and have an unclear perception of the volunteer system as an institution of communal reaction, therefore have a very shallow and materialistic outlook about this noble Filipino trait of “malasakit” system and indeed, very way of life.

Former Base Workers

Starting from the destruction caused by the eruption of Pinatubo, followed by the rejection of the Base Treaty and the sudden pull-out up of the American forces to the reality of establishing a Freeport within a special economic zone from ground zero with all the intricacies of political and bureaucratic interplays and intrigues. One can call it in any other name but it spells nothing but crisis.

Olongapo Fighting to Preserve the Subic Naval Base

Amidst the peril, the resident of Metro Subic did not sulk in the corner and cry out in pain and despair and self-pity. They instead fought back and stood steadily in order to restore their way of life with utmost dignity and pride. They fought their way out of their predicaments collectively with nothing but determination, dream and vision. They accepted in stolid silence the responsibility of establishing something out of the ruins and ashes, despite the insurmountable mental and emotional crises – the vision of rising above that is to exert effort and sacrifice beyond the ordinary. So came the emergence of volunteerism deeper than Subic Bay itself. Onto the waves of stormy intrigues, the residents of Metro Subic rode on majestically with hope and confidence that in a matter of time, the Freeport vision will be realized.

Olongapo Residents – Protect Preserve to Prosper

And so, “Fight on, Olongapo…”, “Bawat Oras Sama-Sama”, “Bawal ang Tamad sa Olongapo”, “With Dignity”, “with Determination”, “Out-of-Duty”, “Aim High”, “Preparation, Hardwork and Opportunity”- were not just slogans, but moral values that led all of us. Until finally it became “Subic: Rising above it all.” But it all started from “Protect, Preserve and Prosper” – where the concept of volunteerism was born. Out of faith and belief of a vision; of “malasakit”, of patriotism, of feeling of preserving and protecting something for the common good.

SBMA Law Enforcement Officers

Perhaps among the volunteers the anticipation of employment subconsciously existed – which is a normal and natural tendency that can only be natural – despite it not being guaranteed by the agency. In fact, the volunteers went to the extent of signing a waiver to the effect that the volunteers will not ask for any remuneration someday. Although it felt that this waiver was “a sort of insult” to the nobility of their intention, they all did so for documentation purposes. It was a reality, despite what type of incentives were promised assuming there were any at all, if a volunteer wants to stay or no, it was their own prerogative.

Yet, worthy of reflection was the fact that if the intention of the volunteer is only for employment purposes, he can do it up to the period of time, that is, up to the extent his resources is can allow; but, when he stays for months sacrificing, making both ends meet for his family – that can no longer be just because of a promise of employment – it is above and beyond consumerism. It is beyond what money can compensate.

Volunteer Americians

Many of the volunteers saw it that way: that the achievement of the vision of a Freeport was for the benefit of the country. And the feeling of contributing something for its establishment is a heroic act. It is not “a form of extorting free labor”, rather an opportunity to do something good for the community. And so that Filipino trait of resiliency was awakened, manifested by the spirit of “Bayanihan,” a volunteerism to sacrifice material convenience for the sake of a vision.

Consider this, if a man volunteers free labor for only the sake of employment, maybe he can do so for a week or so; chances are that he will get out of it and stop if that motive is not realized. But if he stays months sacrificing the livelihood of his family – then it is more than bread that counts and matter.

“Not by bread alone does man live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” (MT. 4:4) Indeed, the volunteers need salary to sustain theirs and their family’s livehood. Yet, there is also the moral and spiritual value of serving and loving for the common good. The volunteers are not that poor that they have nothing to give and contribute for the good of the community. The time and service rendered in the spirit of volunteerism are wealth and talent the poorest of the poor can share. The volunteers too believe they “have to eat in order to live, but they are not living in order to eat alone.”

Subic Bay Freeport Magsaysay Main Gate

It is unfair therefore, equate the volunteerism at the SBMA down to the level of promised employment and down to the opportunity of landing a job someday. The deeper cause must be told with due respect and appreciation, if not with due applause and admiration. For it was not really that lowly as it is misunderstood by some; and those whose who volunteered were not that naïve to be subjected to empty promises, and they were not that lowly and miserable with no vision but bread and butter.

Balikatan Ladies

To those who say therefore, that volunteerism at SBMA is “an extortion of free labor and it is unfair and unjust”, it is tantamount to saying that the Filipino are incapable of patriotic sacrifice and as people say they nothing but hungry ones permitting themselves to be exploited just to have a piece of bread. It is same to saying that the Filipinos could not render a noble act of working together for a common good at their own liking and volition without remuneration. In other words, it is an offensive assessment on the true Filipino values and character; an insult to the dignity of the FILIPINOS. It is belittling the Filipinos! It is insulting the Filipinos.

Is it a sin? To tell a lie? it is. But, better, ask a priest.

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