by Kristine Leigh G. Domingo
For weeks the news has been about the 44 gallant men who were slain in the line of duty last January 25, 2015. The first we heard of it we take it in with a heavy heart, a shake of the head, heave a heavy sigh, and we allow ourselves to stop feeling awful by changing the channel or turning off the television.
So many of us tried to look the other way because we couldn’t handle the heartbreak, we couldn’t comprehend how something like that could have happened, why something so horrid was allowed to happen.
When you are left helpless, powerless, sometimes you think the best thing to do is turn the other way and remain clueless, ignorant. This was the easy way out—the easiest way out; to say that you don’t want any part of it because you are powerless and oblivious of the matter. Or perhaps remain silent like you never even heard of it in the first place. Life goes on—life doesn’t stop for anybody—and all those other mantras that would convince and console you from the ugly truth.
But then we remember that these 44 brave, courageous heroes were fathers, sons, husbands, fiances, friends, they were someone to somebody. To us, the only memory we have of them is that they so bravely sacrificed their lives in order to fulfill their duties to the country and their countrymen, but to their families they are so much more than that. So much more that the pain they are feeling is beyond our comprehension. During the necrological services the families of the fallen 44 stood by their coffins trying to remember the good times, their last moments together, the promises and words exchanged, the memories they hold on to, and now the agony, emptiness, and heartbreak they are feeling that sometimes words might not be able to express.
Days passed and we learn more of what these men went through that fateful and harrowing day and we were informed of the days and events that led to it. We looked for faces to blame, people we could point our fingers at because we needed to be angry because that is how we grieve. Somehow this was how it worked, the pain was masked with anger and we searched for someone to scream at, to criticize, to lambaste. And in our angry search, all roads led to the Commander-in-Chief. It made sense to most, it did seem like he was the one to blame for everything that transpired.
But amidst the harsh and acrimonious words thrown and all the fingers pointed at him, the request (or demand) of resignation, one man decided to give a helping hand.
On the 16th of February, Bro. Eli Soriano tweeted “#NoynoyParin” which his twitter followers quickly picked up on and not long after, the hashtag trended. “Let us support a [government] not supportive of religious caprices! #NoynoyParin,” he tweeted the following day as the hashtag continues to trend on the social media platform.
“Instead of blaming PNoy of an incident beyond his mental & physical control [let’s] help him help our fallen heroes!” he posted on the 19th of February and on the same day, he finally voiced out his plans of launching a charity concert in partnership with Dr. Daniel Razon of UNTV for the benefit of the families of the Gallant 44.
A month later, SM Mall of Asia Arena was filled with people who answered to Bro. Eli’s call for support for the charity concert entitled Songs For Heroes.
Before the concert began, the families of the Gallant 44 were already escorted to their seats and my friend and I sat near them and just observed. They were quiet, some were talking to the person next to them, you can sense the hint of excitement from them but at the same time, it was as if something was holding them back. But then there were the children playing amongst each other, all smiles as they exchanged stories. And then I realized and remembered that this was the reason why this was so important.
These brave men sacrificed their lives for the comfort of others—for our comfort—and I feel that the least that we can do is to ensure that their families, especially the children, live a life that our heroes had envisioned for them. For the children to grow up knowing that there are people, strangers, and more importantly, fellow Filipinos, who will be there for them so that they grow up without any bitterness in their hearts, because in their young memory they can reminisce a moment in their lives wherein strangers got together to help them live better lives; so that when they grow up they won’t be revengeful and untrusting of this world, because they will remember this act of kindness. Even though they lost a father, a brother, a friend, they will be consoled of the fact that they are not alone because there are people who care and they saw those people that night. So that when they grow up, they will be the kind of people their fallen fathers, brothers, and friends imagined them to be.
Another thing I was reminded of that night was the power of music. Hans Christian Andersen was right when he said that music speaks. Sometimes words are not enough, but we are thankful that there are songs composed to mend a broken heart and ease the weary mind.
I was taking photos of the performances when I noticed the woman in the front row silently weeping as she sang along to the song the artist was performing, the woman next to her covered her face with a handkerchief as I saw her shoulders shake a little. I, too, had a little lump in my throat as I am sure everybody did in that arena that night.
Noel Cabangon performed his hit Kanlungan and it was probably one of the most emotional moments of the night, joining the woman in front were the people around her that had let the tears stream down their faces. But at the end of the song, they let out shaky breaths and a tiny smile, they looked like a little bit of the heavy burden was lifted from their shoulders.
Another moment that stood out for me amongst the many I can’t possibly mention here for the lack of space, is when Gerald Santos sang his rendition of Luther Vandross’ iconic song Dance With My Father. Midway through the song, I noticed a man put a little boy on his lap as he encircled his arms around him in an embrace and another boy—much older than the one on the man’s lap—rested his head on the man’s shoulder as they watched Gerald Santos perform and a few rows behind them was a woman embracing a child as she cried in the duration of the song, at times she would squeeze the child tightly as if afraid someone would take him away from her.
Whether you were seated at the very back, one of those who raised their phones to lit up the arena during Kanlungan, one of those who started the chants for an encore from the PNP member who sang In My Life by the Beatles and the AFP member who performed Go The Distance, or even if you were just someone who tweeted about Songs for Heroes to let people know of this benefit concert, you were part of the reason why it became such a successful event.
You are part of the reason why that little boy safe in the embrace of the man will look back in years to come and remember that despite the loss, he was given that night to let him know that there are people whom he has never met but care for him a great deal. You are the reason why the woman in the front row who was crying for most of the time had a smile on her face by the end of the night because she, too, realized that there will be people by her side ready to fight for justice for the fallen 44, for their fallen fathers, husbands, brothers, fiances, and friends.
Before the night ended, Dr. Daniel Razon went up the stage to give a little speech to cap off the night. He mentioned that he had troubles finishing the voice overs because the whole time he was thinking of his young daughter as I’m sure we all are during the night. We thought of our own fathers we are fortunate enough to still have, as well as our husbands, brothers, fiances, and friends. That night we looked at our very own, thankful to still have them in our lives.
That night MCGI and UNTV were able to raise 6 million pesos in total for the families of the Gallant 44 and the injured members of the PNP and an additional 1 million pesos from Bro. Eli Soriano for the AFP and also awarded the children of the Gallant 44 scholarships to La Verdad Christian School. But as Bro. Eli said, peace is priceless and that night he made a promise, a promise that this will not be the last.
To God be the glory.
Mr. Public Service Kuya Daniel Razon with the families of the Gallant 44 at Songs for Heroes benefit concert. (Kristine Leigh Domingo)
OPM artists Faith Cuneta and Bo Cerrudo in one of their performance at the concert. (Kristine Domingo)
Families of the Gallant 44 in tears during the “Songs for Heroes” concert (Kristine Domingo)
Talented men from AFP and PNP share the stage with OPM’s finest in consoling the families of the SAF 44. (Kristine Leigh Domingo)
PNP Choral joined the concert along with the AFP’s singing group and soldiers to give their share of consoling songs for the families of our country’s Gallant 44. (Kristine Domingo)