It is understandable that men cower when faced by extraordinary trials. Ordinary men yes, but a leader cringes his teeth and strengthens his knees. That is the resolute character shown by Guiuan Mayor Christopher Sheen Gonzales when he and his town faced super typhoon Yolanda five years ago.
In an interview with Wall Street Journal’s Paul Baylis and Kate O’Keeffe, Gonzales gave details to his fears when faced by a magnitude of devastation that was super typhoon Yolanda. His fears, however, gave us an insight to his hopes, aspirations and strengths. When said typhoon happened Mayor Sheen was still on the early months of his first term as Guiuan’s Chief Executive and was on transition period from being Eastern Samar’s Vice-Governor which is a Legislative function. But there was no time to waste, he said. He had to take the reins and man-up for his people.
Days before the typhoon he already ordered concerned local government agencies to stage a massive evacuation of those living in coastal areas, and prepositioned essential commodities in preparation for the rescue and relief operations. Foresight, he said, is an essential asset. Leaders have to have foresight if they are to serve well their constituents. Although Guiuan’s local government unit was crippled he never had any doubt as to his capacity and that of his people. This is what the people of Guiuan saw – an emanation of hope and strength. He broke political barriers and worked in extending additional aid to his people. Gonzales made it easy for international aid to reach every household. There were regular meetings between the local government unit and heads of international organizations. This way the people’s needs were quickly identified and prioritized. Guiuan became a relief operations hub. This hub served not only said town but other nearby localities in desperate need of basic commodities.
There could never be any tale of courage and resiliency as staunch as that of Guiuan’s story during super typhoon Yolanda as it was a time when a great people stood up and a great leader took the reins. It seems that nothing can stop the hopes and aspirations of this Mayor.
Mayor Sheen’s interview by Wall Street Journal.