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Acts of kindness in the ‘new normal’

December 11 ------ Angel Locsin and Jane de Leon aren’t just known to have portrayed Filipino superhero Darna with convincing flair and aplomb. They’re also fondly remembered for using their time, money and other resources to help those in need at the height of the pandemic-driven lockdowns.

But Angel and Jane weren’t the only ones flexing their stellar might to help others. Many celebrities also stepped up to use their platforms to launch donation drives (Bela Padilla, Vice Ganda, Maine Mendoza), distribute food packs (Ivana Alawi, Pokwang) and medical supplies (Sarah Lahbati), and spent a considerable chunk of their own money (Heart Evangelista) to provide laptops and other school supplies for cash-strapped students. Now that the country has lifted stultifying restrictions that limited people’s mobility in those dark days, our countrymen must find ways to settle into the new normal. But that’s easier said than done because each person has different needs and requires specific assistance. Indeed, acts of kindness never go out of style.

Gretchen Ho launched the “Donate a Bike, Save a Job” campaign and managed to distribute more than 500 bicycles in 10 Metro Manila cities. The said bike drive inspired Gretchen to pitch the idea for her show “Woman in Action,” whose concept she described as a “call to action.” As she said in an interview, “If you want to do something, such as travel or embark on an adventure, take courage and make that first step. Making things happen is what the show is all about. Everyone can relate to that.”

For her part, actress and former Miss International Kylie Verzosa continues to use her platform to draw attention to her mental health advocacy. The beauty queen is one of the people behind Mental Health Matters, the nongovernmental organization (NGO) and online support group that seeks to remove the stigma surrounding mental illness and raise awareness for mental health issues. The NGO provides counseling and psychiatric treatments for free.

In our interview with Kylie, she aptly noted, “There are times when we can’t seem to handle our problems any longer, and talking to our parents, friends and loved ones isn’t enough, right? That’s the time when we need to talk to a professional about what we’re going through. Here in the Philippines, there’s still a stigma when we tell people we’re seeing a psychiatrist. They’d say, ‘Ay, baliw na ‘yan!’ But it’s common practice in the US. It doesn’t hurt to have someone help you organize your thoughts and sort out your problems.”

The efforts of another beauty queen, former Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach, weren’t just meant to address COVID-related woes during lengthy lockdowns (she distributed 25,000 face masks to various hospitals in the metropolis). She also wanted to draw attention to programs that help prevent the rise of HIV infection in the country during the pandemic.

In a Q&A with UNAIDS (Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS), Pia talked about her collaboration with LoveYourself. She said, “Every day, I am in contact with LoveYourself, the civil society organization I volunteer for in the Philippines, to update each other on what is going on and to monitor the needs of people living with HIV.

“I post information on my social media platforms about HIV and COVID-19 prevention and how to stay healthy. I keep my followers informed of the services provided by LoveYourself to support people living with HIV during the pandemic, such as home delivery of antiretroviral medicines.”



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