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President Duterte, along with Manuel Pangilinan (seated left), Tessie Coson-Sy (seated, 3rd from left), former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (seated, 5th from left) and Joey Concepcion (seated, 4th from right) meet with the bereaved families of the troops killed in Marawi.
It has been two months since war broke out in Marawi City. Many families have been displaced, not knowing if they can still return to their houses. Many lives were lost fighting for sovereignty and peace. These people are worthy to be recognized and honored.
Last Tuesday, July 25, we celebrated the lives of our fallen heroes who died fighting for the country. Over the span of 10 days, our team had to call the members of the 101 bereaved families to inform them that the Go Negosyo Kapatid community would be honoring them. Our team burned the lines to contact and research them by all means of communication. We wanted everyone to be here in Manila and no one should be left behind.
Members and representatives of the families were all flown to Manila to receive the assistance the Kapatids big-heartedly provided. Philippine Airlines, thanks to Lucio Tan and Mike Tan, extended their support by sponsoring the flights of the families. Since some of them were not able to get copies of their tickets, PAL still accommodated them.
Upon their arrival in Manila, the families were billeted at Hotel 101 which is owned by Injap Sia who also supported the project by providing accommodations, meals for the families.
When they arrived in Manila, the families were still grieving. On their first night, when they met with the AFP officers and Duterte Cabinet spouses, many were still crying. I personally saw the sadness in their eyes.
On the day of the turnover ceremony, the families arrived by bus. While waiting for the President to arrive, we felt something was missing. On one side of the venue people were all weeping, while on the other side, the business community was cheerfully greeting each other.
To set the proper tone of the event, we paused the socialization and started with the pre-program. After sharing the stories of some of the fallen heroes, we requested some of our Go Negosyo big brothers to converse with the families.
Former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo approached the wives and parents of the fallen troops. She chatted with them and held their hands. The Cabinet spouses, led by Betty Medialdea and Edith Lorenzana, went around to console the families. My wife and the other women entrepreneurs ended up crying with the families as they heard their stories. I was told Alfredo Yao also teared up as he talk to the families. Steve Benitez also shared in our Viber group, “Frankly speaking, I didn’t know how to approach them at first. Hearing them share their stories grounded me and made me grateful. It was difficult to listen because there was no amount of words that could ease their pain. All I could offer was my presence, and my prayers for their families and continued support.”
When President Duterte arrived, we played an emotional video of some families sharing their message to the fallen soldiers. During my talk, I honored and gave thanks for the lives of our troops. We were there to honor the 101 troops. It was hard to talk about death and how the families were feeling. With the presence of the Go Negosyo Kapatids and the President, we somehow made the wives, parents, siblings and children of the troops feel that they are not alone at this time of grieving.
During the turnover ceremony, the families were personally greeted by the President. He even took some of the children to sit on his lap. I likewise held one of them as well.
After the program, many approached me for some photos. Many of them happily thanked me for what we did. People congratulated me, but it is I who should congratulate them. We are all instruments of change and of hope. I am glad I was able to break my own fear on dealing with situations like this. Sometimes we would shy away from the real issues in life and live in our comfort zones. But moments like this make us realize real life.
The atmosphere changed a lot. It was now a different feeling compared to the time I saw them enter. This was now part of the healing process. We promised the families that we will continue to help them. They can call us anytime. We are also providing mentoring since they are receiving more financial assistance. Secretaries Ramon Lopez, Bebot Bello and Boy Dela Pena also offered assistance.
Ginggay Hontiveros-Malvar, who was the project coordinator of our Go Negosyo Kapatid for Marawi, coordinated with the officers in charge in Marawi to deliver assistance to the displaced families and deployed soldiers since the war started.
President Duterte thanked all the big brothers, “Joey, he’s an active organizer at iyong mga kaibigan niyang negosyante, marami pong salamat sa inyong lahat and we will remember you.”
Thank you to our Go Negosyo big brothers, especially the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers who supported the project. You are all blessings to the people who needed help. Your support has provided the families with hope to continue their lives. I assure all of you that your donations and support are well appreciated.
This is one of our missions in life – to help those who are in need. And this is a worthy cause to pursue. As entrepreneurs, we are dealing with businesses everyday, but for programs like this, we are in touch with our roots to help our fellow countrymen.
To the bereaved families, we are all here with you.
To our 101 troops, we appreciate your bravery and sacrifice. You have lived a meaningful life. Salamat magigiting na mandirigma.