CEBU CITY, Philippines — He started out as a volunteer.
Today, 23-year-old Martin Lorenzo “Renzo” Del Rosario is the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Group Leader for COVID-19 Emergency Medical Services and Chief of Data Management for the Office of Disasters. of Cebu City.
In nearly a decade of volunteering, Del Rosario has witnessed various struggles the city has faced, such as the pandemic and the recent Typhoon Odette in December 2021.
In fact, Renzo was one of the keys to preparing the city for Odette as he may have been the first to alert the Disaster Office and Mayor Michael Rama to the Super Typhoon’s arrival.
He works continuously with the city government in rehabilitation efforts following the disastrous event while completing his Bachelor of Science in Nursing at Velez College.
Volunteer at heart
In 2011, Del Rosario witnessed an accident while crossing a road with his father and he felt the desire to help, but could not because at that time he was only 11 years old.
“Well, it happened that my father and I, as we were going to cross the road, naay naaksidente. Criticism of the motorcycle driver is not sure. From that moment it became a commitment, to help people,” he said.
Del Rosario started volunteering in 2012 at the age of 12, training for the Red Cross until he was 16.
Volunteering has allowed Renzo to see the world and the tragedies that affect it. He was even part of a Red Cross delegation that visited areas affected by Typhoon Yolanda in 2013.
He later volunteered for the Barangay Guadalupe emergency response and in 2019 he finally volunteered for the city’s Office of Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (CDRRMO).
Renzo’s volunteerism has paid off as he was ranked as one of the top 3 National Outstanding Volunteers by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) and the Philippine National Voluntary Service Coordinating Agency (PNVSCA) in 2018.
The following year, he was also the recipient of a regional award for outstanding volunteerism.
Renzo’s volunteerism has intensified during the pandemic. As the courses moved online, he had more time to help CDRRMO respond to emergencies, gaining even more experience in emergency medical response.
Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama noticed Del Rosario during one of the extreme weather disruption briefings while Rama was still acting on behalf of the late Mayor Edgardo Labella.
Rama encouraged Del Rosario to work for the city government as the mayor saw the young volunteer’s dedication.
Witness to a tragedy
Renzo said one of the hardest parts of being an emergency responder is witnessing tragedies and disasters that happen to ordinary people.
The accident that marked him the most was the accident between a bus and an ambulance in October 2020, which made headlines for the number of injuries and casualties.
“It was catastrophic because it’s not common among working people, among medical frontliners and then at the height of the pandemic, madesgrasya,” he said, referring to medical professionals at the ambulance assisting the patient on board.
Although it was just one of many accidents he responded to, Renzo said it was difficult to see the tragedy and to be the first to respond to it.
“I can’t forget, checking patients one by one, it wasn’t to get used to the idea of seeing nga patients who were unconscious, disoriented, bleeding,” he added.
Besides this incident, Typhoon Odette is also etched in Renzo’s memory as one of the most difficult incidents to date.
Renzo was working all night at the City Hall command center when the typhoon hit.
Even City Hall was badly hit, prompting CDRRMO to relocate to Cebu City Sports Center where another command center was already set up for reinforcement.
The devastation of the city and the colossal work to survey, check the damage and respond to incidents hit differently as Renzo was also worried about his own family.
Fortunately, he prepared his family for disaster and by the time he was able to return home, a few days after the typhoon hit, he was happy to find that their house was only lightly affected.
“Since I was able to alert the mayor of the typhoon, I first secured my family. I had enough time to plan what my family and I were going to do. When the bagyo arrived I was very optimistic they will not be affected,” he said.
Currently, the city continues to recover from the typhoon and Renzo continues to play his role with CDRRMO and EOC.
A higher purpose
Renzo is expected to graduate from college in 2023. Until then, he will have to leave city government to focus on his nursing license exams.
This may be a goodbye for a long time because once Renzo gets his license, he plans to continue his journey to become a doctor.
“I have to, I will have to give up, to fulfill my commitment, to become a doctor and to focus on the medical career. But, if I am called to serve, if time and schedule conflict, I will serve without any hesitation,” Renzo said.
The young emergency responder said volunteering is an important part of community.
“Having volunteers is the backbone of the bayanihan spirit. If we get more people trained, it increases the survivability of a particular site, you feel more secure. When more people are trained, it will prevent small incidents from becoming big incidents,” he said.
Renzo urged the public to volunteer as CDRRMO offers free training to volunteer responders. This will help communities during disasters that Cebu City may face in the future.
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