Health workers are heroes unmasked

The health care sector took among the heaviest beating in this pandemic. And yet, the frontline workers from doctors to medical staff like janitors are also the most overlooked. The recent premiere of the milestone music video “Heroes Unmasked,” composed by National Artist Ryan Cayabyab and sung as a duet by Lea Salonga and Gary Valenciano (a first-time collaboration), served to correct this oversight.

TOYM chair Bienvenido “Donnie” Tantoco III said his organization is not just an award-giving body that recognizes people 18-40 years old who have contributed much to their respective fields and communities. During the pandemic, TOYM also sought relevance by transporting COVID-19 test kits and distributing them nationwide. Through Panatag na Kanlungan, accommodation of health workers in facilities around PGH assured them of a place to go home to after COVID duties. Beds and meals were provided, all by TOYM.

He said TOYM was “compelled to take bold action to those who need it most. We have been here since 1959, but in the past 20 months, we realized we must evolve and do something bigger besides the area of awards.”

He described TOYM as “a powerful community, not wealthy in financial resources but abundant in people with talents and tremendous patriotism.” These people were tapped to “provide strength” for what he called “the under-supported heroes in our country” at the PGH.

He noted that the pandemic was receding, but the inequality in access to quality health care remained. He called the PGH “one of the best hospitals in the country. At its heart are doctors, nurses and other health workers, the doctors being among the best in the world. Their calling is their priority. The hospital provides proper health care for our loved ones and ourselves.”

TOYM was able to tap musicians with “enormous empathy for our health workers. Ryan, Gary V and Lea are passionate about quality health care for all,” Tantoco said.

Dr. Gerardo Legaspi, PGH director, said the hospital has 1,500 beds, 4,500 employees, 4,700 trainees and services 700,000 patients a year. It has also been operating as a COVID Referral Center since March 2020.

When PGH was named as that central hub, he said, “Without knowing and having much, I was reminded about the scenes in World War II showing soldiers about to land in Normandy. As a father, I felt like I was sending my own children to war not knowing what weapons they would fight with. But these residents, experienced doctors, determined nurses, confused personnel set off to war.”

Legaspi also said the staff’s coming to work daily was “a testament to the determination of these people who have sworn to serve in the fight against the enemy.”

Hidden behind the staff’s personal protective equipment are their smiles which are effective in increasing the patient’s well-being, he continued. He also said the staff “communicated episodes of anxiety and depression. They are stressed about infecting their families or not doing enough for the patient. When the surge happened, they didn’t want to go home. They felt that they were carriers. That is even more admirable of them.”

He summed up the lessons from the COVID war into four:

  • Fight the fear;
  • Believe in good science;
  • Never let your guard down; and
  • Take care of each other

Legaspi considered himself “lucky to see the greatness of the human spirit.” He warned though that the “new normal” is still to continue wearing face masks despite dropping COVID rates. “It’s still there, then it flares up now and then. Keep health protocols. This will not go away until end of next year.”

For the music video, Tantoco originally envisioned something like “Live Aid” as peg. He approached Cayabyab to ask how to do it and was told it was too expensive. Mr. C (as he is called in the music industry) said, “ I’ll produce something from scratch for you.” He composed a song and thought of only two persons who could do it “with the meaning of the song that it deserves.”

The members of media who first saw and heard the video complimented the composer for the melody and lyrics’ power. It was suggested that a Filipino version be made to double the impact. He said, “I’ll just ask Joey Reyes to translate. This will entice more people to sing along. I will also ask my Visayan and Ilokano friends to translate the lyrics in the vernacular. After all, PGH not only cares for NCR people but also for the rest of the nation.”

The video can be found here:

Valenciano said he was “honored to be part of a project like this. I believe that the frontliners need to be reminded of their critical role in our lives. I’ve been swabbed so many times. I spend time with frontliners. You can see a change in them not so much because I’m Gary V but because somebody took an interest in them. I encourage putting out good news that frontliners deserve our thanks. Now that kids can go out and enjoy, that’s part of the frontliners’ successful work. We couldn’t have gone this far without them.”

TOYM is inviting the public to support, through donations, its efforts to continue its projects with the PGH through this QR code:

Heroes unmasked, donation QR code.

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