Photo credit: FO3 Joffre Amador Gonzales, Jhelyna Caila Arcinue Chua

Nine in the morning. All Saints Day, Rolly barged into the country with fury. He looked outside and saw something unusually familiar: water was rising rapidly. Instinctively, he quickly moved his family of three – his wife and two children (one four-month old, the other six years old) – to safety on the third floor of their house. Shortly after, relatives living nearby came rushing to him for help, three families seeking shelter not just from the ominous storm but also refuge from the impending deluge.

Fire Officer 3 Joffre Amador Gonzales, a firefighter assigned in Quezon City Fire District, got back home to Guinobatan, Albay, for his furlough, just in time. Made aware through weather forecast and typhoon advisories, he took his rescue rope with him on his trip home. Just in case…

Five houses away from his, neighbors started crying for help. They were trapped in their house engulfed by the continuously rising and surging flood water. Right away, he grabbed his rescue rope still waiting in his car and used the assistance of his brother and a friend to hitch the rope. They moored themselves onto the rope line and fought their way through the deep rushing waters to the family in distress.

First, they rescued the child about 9 years old. Then, they came back for the mother of the child and two other family members. For his third and last lap, he managed to save the pet chihuahua of the rescued family, just before a wall gave in and collapsed along the direction of the strong current.

Gonzales let the rescued family stay under his roof until it was safe to go and start rebuilding their house that Rolly wrecked.

Whenasked if he felt fear or had second thoughts about saving his neighbors, he said candidly, “Honestly, ewan [ko] nga eh. Hindi ko din alam… Na-realize ko lang lahat-lahat noong tapos na. Nanaig ang pagiging public servant” (Translation: Honestly, I don’t know. I just realized [the possibilities or implications] after the rescue. My being a public servant got the better of me).

Truly, “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others*”.

*Mahatma Gandhi