Death by apathy

A few days ago, I read the story of Reynaldo Cacillar - a pedicab driver who "died a tragically lonesome death on June 21, going largely unaided and unattended despite suffering an apparent heart attack or stroke in front of many passersby right outside a university." (Full story here.)

After reading his story, I resolved I would do things differently if presented with the same situation.

Today, as I was walking home, I passed by an elderly woman lying unconscious on the sidewalk. I pass on the same street often and I know it's not the usual spot where homeless people would rest or sleep. Looking at her position, and the fact that one of her slippers was off and on the main road, it seemed she passed out or there was an accident. Foamy saliva was flowing out of her mouth and I wasn't even sure if she was breathing.

Several people passed by her almost lifeless body. A few were standing and buying food not far from where she was. But no one was helping her. And her body was less than 50 meters from the Barangay Hall of Sto. Cristo, Quezon City.

Then one barangay staff (BPSO or tanod) came. When I asked him why are they not helping her, his answer was that they are waiting for the go-signal from someone. Irked, I asked if I could talk to their Officer-In-Charge. He pointed to a man wearing a pink shirt who was outside the barangay hall. He said the guy is a barangay kagawad. Unfortunately, he was walking away as I was approaching the Barangay Hall, as if he cannot be bothered by such a mundane problem.

So I went inside and reported the situation. Apparently, they already know what's happening but they claimed they are not helping her because of two reasons.

1. They claim they cannot bring her to the hospital because based on their previous experience, the hospitals would not accept her without a family member with her.

2. They claimed they would rather not touch her fearing she would further be harmed since they are not trained to handle such situations.

Frustrated, I went back to where the woman was and there I met two other concerned citizens. One of them was apparently the first one who reported to the barangay about 15 minutes before I came. Feeling helpless, I posted a tweet asking for contact numbers of relevant agencies. I called a friend to ask for the contact number of one of the Barangay Kagawads. I told him the situation and he promised to call and order the barangay staff to help. Only when I was sure that help was coming did I bother to take the picture above.

After a few minutes, the very same barangay staff I talked to earlier came and tried to wake her up. Thankfully, she woke up but she was clearly very weak and disoriented. They brought her to the barangay hall where they said she would be checked and and there is a place to rest in the meantime.

I went home bothered by this incident and with the following realizations:

1. Barangay BSDO and Tanods are supposed to be our first responders. But they admitted they are ill-equipped to handle such situations. Considering that Sto. Cristo is a rich barangay given that a portion of SM North Edsa is under their jurisdiction, yet they cannot afford (or maybe failed to allocate) for proper equipment and training for their first responders.

2. Apathy is prevalent in our society. At least a hundred people passed by and saw that woman and yet very few stopped and bothered to help.

3. I'm not sure whether it is true that hospitals would not accept a patient without a family member, but they claimed it was based on their experience. If true, I think this is such a heartless policy.

I am not yet sure how to proceed but I am determined to ensure this is not the end of this. I feel the barangay should be made responsible for their actions. Other barangays should learn from this. And hospitals should be barred from refusing to accept patients just because they are without a relative.

What do you think? I would appreciate it if you could share your thoughts.

Patuloy na umiibig sa Pilipinas,
At naniniwala sa galing ng Pilipino,

Froilan Grate | GreenMinds
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