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Leadership beyond borders: Manila, DLSU at the forefront against COVID-19

Times of crisis underscore the need for effective leadership amid difficulty. Facing several dilemmas in the continuing fight against COVID-19, strides were made by the Manila City Government and DLSU to aid sectors hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Manila Mayor Isko Moreno joined Vice President for Lasallian Mission Fritzie de Vera in an online forum held last June 24 titled Conversation with The Leaders: Leadership Amid COVID-19 via Facebook Live. 

The dialogue was hosted by the organizers of LaSallian Animo in e-Learning, Leadership, and E-vents or LA SALLE 2020, together with the Office of Student Leadership, Involvement, Formation and Empowerment.

Maximizing ‘aggressive’ efforts

During the forum, Moreno highlighted the extensive efforts of the City of Manila to control local transmission of COVID-19. Moreno prided that during the quarantine period, the city has already conducted more than 120,000 tests through rapid testing and 13,000 PCR-based swab tests—the latter being the “gold standard” of testing indicated by the Department of Health (DOH). Twelve quarantine facilities in the city currently house various  patients as well.

Moreno also revealed that a testing laboratory is already being built within the city and is expected to bolster the nationwide struggle against the pandemic. The new laboratory, he added, is expected to greatly boost the testing capacity of the Manila City Health Department and reduce testing costs that currently range from P5,000 to P8,000 to a more manageable P1,600 per test.

Manileños hard hit by the pandemic can expect aid through the City Amelioration Crisis Assistance Fund. This includes students who are still sheltering in their dormitories, according to Moreno.

He admitted that “there is no playbook” to resolve the “unique” situation created by the health crisis. For him, the efforts being exhausted by the city government are “a continuing development”, furthering that “the best thing we can do [right now] is to literally control the [COVID-19] infection rate.” 

Despite the breadth of the city’s current efforts, Moreno confessed that assisting students and teachers in shifting to distance and online learning remains an arduous task. “It’s going to take about eight to 10 months of [distance] learning; I think baka mahirapan ang mga nanay at tatay to acquire bandwidth [for internet access],” Moreno stated.

(I think parents might find it hard to acquire bandwidth [for internet access].)

Communion and mission

Although relief initiatives were also heavily limited by the pandemic’s onset, De Vera shared that the spirit of community persisted among Lasallians, drawing its members from “all over the country and some even [from] abroad”. This spirit of community, according to De Vera, sparked “Lasallian leadership” in volunteerism. “We belong to a family [that is] always willing to serve the bigger community,” she elaborated. 

Through the Kada-Uno initiative, members of the Lasallian community nationwide were able to pitch in contributions to relief operations and donation drives spearheaded by De La Salle Philippines and its partners. The network of Kada-Uno projects includes the Safe Shelters program for health care workers, the homeless, and repatriated overseas Filipino workers, as well as Isang Libo, Kada-Uno, which aims to feed a family of five for a week with P1,000. 

De Vera also emphasized how the University transformed its capacities to offer help in crisis, “What is interesting in these programs, in particular the Telepsychology for the Lasallian Community (TLC), is that they have gathered more than 70 volunteers of counselors and psychologists [to help] out in providing a listening ear to anyone who needs [company].”

The University provides online services—self-care guides, webinar sessions and counseling, and spiritual companionship—through Lasallian Initiatives Versus the pandEmic, a collaboration between the Office of Counseling and Career Services, the Lasallian Pastoral Office, the Psychology Department, and the Counselling and Educational Psychology Department. 

“We cannot do things alone. We need partnerships; we need networking,” de Vera expressed. “As a Lasallian community, we recognize our common purpose during this time.” 

A unified call to action

For La Salle Green Hills (LSGH) Integrated School Principal Br. Alexander Diaz FSC, the pandemic will not hinder schools from delivering education to their students. To respond to the challenges that await, Diaz brandished LSGH’s own online platform, the Flexible Lasallian Education Through Technology and Collaboration at Home, to serve its students.

Meanwhile, University Student Government Vice President for External Affairs Ronin Leviste announced that his office has allocated funds for the coming term to support their relief initiative of providing medical care packages for Philippine General Hospital health workers. Following this, Leviste explained, is the launch of the #ConquerCovid project, tasked with aiding non-medical frontliners, such as jeepney drivers and security guards, through “giving without counting the cost”. 

For Caroline Sahagun, president of Regnum Christi Life Taft, taking action has created avenues for individuals to grow spiritually. She expressed gratification for their organization being able to help those left hopeless by the crisis.

Moreno urged everyone to be a “man for others” and to be compassionate in extending help amid the crisis, emphasizing, “If there’s a possibility of being active, make it productive.”

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