Can the most significant global public health crisis lead to a reawakening of the greatest human values of altruism, compassion, and trust? According to the speakers at the University of the Philippines’ (UP) 4th Colleges and Universities Public Service Conference (CUPSCon), yes, it can.
The UP Padayon Public Service Office held this year’s CUPSCon on October 21, 2021, via online platforms. The purpose of this conference was to share information with the attendees on the best practices and challenges that come with public service and the direction where future public service is heading.
This year’s theme was “Public Service in Time of COVID: The Role of Academic-Community Partnership in Addressing the Challenges of a Global Pandemic,” which aimed to highlight how the partnerships between academe and other institutions have played a pivotal role in combating and handling the global COVID-19 pandemic and showcasing the various engagements of academe with multiple sectors such as government, civil society, communities, and industries in its pursuit of public service.
In her welcome address, UP Vice President for Public Affairs, Elena E. Pernia noted that within the past 18 months since the beginning of the pandemic, the Filipino public has gone through five forms of emotions: anxiety, empathy, anger, hope, and boredom, with anxiety and empathy being the two most dominant emotions. Different factors played a large part in creating anxiety among Filipinos, such as the government’s handling of the pandemic, information on the virus, and the rising number of positive cases.
“Despite these negative feelings, our struggles with COVID-19 have awakened our innate ability to empathize and to become compassionate,” Pernia said. Various examples of Filipinos exhibiting compassion include donations to frontline workers from prominent individuals and companies, which have gained massive traction from the online community.
“Bayanihan is a beautiful Filipino term and an even more meaningful response at this time of the pandemic. Bayanihan, that Filipino spirit that encapsulates solidarity, cooperation, partnership, and compassion becomes manifest as various sectors think together in spontaneous magnanimity, to volunteer their services and to provide funds, consumable goods, various health equipment, and supplies, innovative solutions, and even quarantine facilities and testing center.” Pernia finished by talking about this year’s CUPSCon highlights, the resilience and stories of human kindness that helped Filipinos in their daily lives combating the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Gerardo P. Legaspi, Director of the UP Philippine General Hospital (UP PGH), spoke on his experiences with the UP PGH during the COVID pandemic. He said that the future was looking bright for the hospital before the pandemic. However, once the coronavirus began to spread, both the hospital’s patients and staff members experienced fear of and uncertainty with this new contagious disease, to the point where they had to suspend their services as a safety measure temporarily. Dr. Legaspi also mentioned that while there were doubts once they converted the hospital into a COVID center, it did not take long until people from different communities and organizations came together to cooperate.
According to Dr. Legaspi, this pandemic has proven no more valuable resource than human resources. He said that with help from many people, they managed the fear from the pandemic, kept up to date with the latest information on the virus, and kept both their frontline workers and patients feel safe and comfortable through PPE, housing, and transport. What started initially as a war against COVID-19 blossomed became a cooperative partnership, a source of pride and inspiration. And it wasn’t just his staff that came together but various communities that offered their support, such as the UP System, Big Business, NGOs, other hospitals, and many other influential individuals.
Dr. Legaspi said that hope was an essential factor that led to the creation of all these partnerships. “I think at that time when it was very chaotic, and there was no clear plan in what was going to be done, maybe the PGH offered a glimmer of hope of some organization or some scientific reasoning for what is being done. And just maybe, that the healthcare workers continue to report working in the hospital that everything will be alright,” he said. He mentioned that the next vital factor in helping secure and maintain their relationship was trust. “Trust is what brings forth continuous partnerships and continuous relationships with our benefactors.”
Dr. Legaspi ended his talk by comparing his UP PGH trainees’ experience with his own from the EDSA Revolution in 1986 when it came to the massive disruption in their daily lives and the uncertainty and fear around them. Just as he learned so much when he was on the field, his trainees were able to learn very much as well. They should be proud to claim that they were there during these challenging times by providing support and continuing to support them after the pandemic.
Watch the CUPSCon virtual plenary here.