Speaking at the GK Canada Summit dinner on 8 June this year, Jose Mari Oquinena, former GK Head of Operations and now Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Undersecretary for Special Concerns spoke about giving and the reason for giving. He also spoke about heroism. He said: “We want to give, but we give out of our excess. It’s difficult to give when it’s painful. [We say] We will help when we are stable, we will help when we have work. We should not hold anything sacred in our heart, apart from our love for God, our love for country. It is difficult to help. We have to be childlike. We give until it hurts”.
Mari said that he was inspired by his five year old daughter who had seen images of the typhoon and of children affected by the typhoon and asked her mother what had happened. Her mother explained that the children had lost everything. So his daughter went to get her toys to give to the children who had lost everything.
Mari’s wife asked him: “What do we do”?
Mari said: “You give her a box and let her put her toys in it”.
As the box was being filled, Mari’s wife pulled out a toy and said, “Even this”? It was an expensive toy.
Mari, said, “Yes, even, this”. He said that it is often painful to give, but we need to be childlike in our giving and give till it is painful.
He also went on to say that we should be careful when we use the words heroism and ‘Bayani’ (hero in Tagalog) because those words mean a lot and are not to be used lightly. He told the story of taking a midnight boat trip with GK Founder and Chair, Tito Tony Meloto, and Mari’s brother, Luis Oquinena, Executive Director of GK International. Around one or two in the morning, there was chaos as a fire had broken out on the boat. They and other passengers made their way to the back of the boat, where the captain told them to await the signal to jump into the water. It was dark and chaotic. As they stood waiting for the signal, Mari observed a young boy saying to his father that he did not want to jump. Mari noticed that the boy did not have a life jacket.
Mari went on to say: “I don’t know how to swim. I have given a lot of talks about being a hero for others”. He said that all those talks went through his head in fast forward as he wondered whether he should give his own life jacket to the boy. “Should I or should I not give. Am I or am I not a hero”?
As a result of Mari’s own turmoil, he lashed out at the father and asked him how he could bring his son up on deck without a life jacket. The father replied that he did not know where to get one and Mari told him that they were back inside the boat. The father asked Mari to look after the boy while he went back to get a life jacket. As Mari stood on the deck in his own life jacket with the young boy, his brother Luis turned to him and said: “So, now, what if the father does not come back”?
Mari said: “Be careful when you use the word hero or ‘Bayani’. Be willing to live it out. Be willing to take responsibility for that word”.