Thursday, November 4, 2010

Miracle, live on 'Dr. Love RAdio Show'

JANICE (NOT her real name) was holding a bottle of pills and ready to gulp them down and call it quits. But first she was going to end the lives of her four young children before ending her own.
That was the scenario in her mind when she called dzMM Teleradyo on Tuesday night. When Janice called out for help, the “Dr. Love Radio Show” (10 p.m. to 12 midnight, Monday to Friday) of Brother Jun Banaag, O.P., was not yet on air so staffers had to keep her engaged. Who knows what Janice was going to do in those desperate moments? When “Dr. Love” finally went on air, Janice was heard sobbing, sobbing, sobbing.
Before I go to sleep, I usually do a last-minute TV surfing to find out if there are late breaking news in the world out there. Since some radio programs have become live viewing on TV, it has become my habit to “drop” by them and read the latest news updates crawling on the TV screen. “Interrupting” these regular teleradyo programs are news that are breathlessly delivered in crackling street-corner Filipino. (I sometimes imagine myself spoofing them.)

“Dr. Love,” hosted by the 50-ish Brother Jun (a married, lay Dominican), happens to be aired during my last-minute surfing. Brother Jun counsels callers who have all sorts of problems mostly of the heart and about family, including OFWs’ woes. He provides information and Bible-inspired reflections. The program also plays period and inspirational music. One could tell that the program has avid followers. Brother Jun dishes out no-holds-barred and in-your-face responses (“Bakit kasi naghubad ka ng panty?” or “Ang asawa mong kuneho na tinamaan ng kidlat” or something) but which are, I must say, unabashedly Catholic.

Janice was not the only caller last Tuesday night, but she was the one who held the listeners’ breath. She wanted to end her and her children’s lives. She had a problematic husband (uncaring, addicted to gambling) and sick children who, that night, hadn’t had supper. One of them had bleeding gums and another could be heard throwing up. Janice had a doctor’s prescription but she had no money to buy the medicines.

Her crisis had begun long ago. From the sound of her, one could surmise that Janice was at the end of her rope and had no one to turn to. She was ashamed to run to her parents. Although she was working in the Department of Education, her earnings were not enough to support a household. Her husband, who, she said, just got a job after many years of joblessness, was often in the casino.

What did Dr. Love/Brother Jun do? He zeroed in right away on the children and their needs. They should be taken to the hospital, he said. He told Janice to find the doctor’s prescription. (Bad doctor’s handwriting, so she couldn’t read them.) He asked what the kids needed. He and the staff were calling so-and-so and so-and-so for help for the children. Phone lines were burning.

My initial reaction was, my goodness, zero in on Janice first, not the children. Save her first, I thought. And I remembered the airplane emergency instructions for adults to first put on their oxygen masks before helping the children put on theirs.

But Brother Jun’s fast moves to zero in on the kids turned out to be effective. He was able to take Janice’s thoughts away from herself and her dark intentions and make her concentrate on the task at hand during those frenzied moments. He called roving “Radyo Patrol” reporter Eric Dastas to go to Janice’s Marikina address and pick her up and the sick kids. (Janice’s real name and Marikina address were never aired.) He called Assistant Health Secretary Elmer Punzalan who directed them to go to the Quirino Medical Center which was near Marikina. The good “asec” was on his way there at that time of night to meet Janice.

In the meantime, listeners (here and abroad) were sending text messages to “Dr. Love” pledging help for Janice. An anonymous listener right away delivered a bag full of goodies. The goodies could be seen on teleradyo. And there were more pledges to be delivered.

And taxi drivers, oh bless them, who were tuned in to the program were driving to the hospital to contribute money. (I am wiping away tears while writing this, ha.)

When Janice and the kids arrived at the hospital, Asec Punzalan and the hospital staff were there to meet them. They were given VIP treatment. Some footage was shown but none of Janice and the sick kids who were being given a work-up. Meanwhile Dastas was giving an account of what was going on at the hospital. Low-decibel, thank God, and no attempt to turn the incident into a melodrama. (Salamat, ha.) But what a cinematic true-to-life docu it would make.

The messages kept pouring in and despite Brother Jun’s efforts to deflect the credit away from himself, he could not deny that he took part in saving lives and in a miracle that was playing out before our eyes (and ears). Punzalan has promised psychiatric intervention for Janice in the days to come. Family counseling will surely be included.

While all that was going on, I was comfortably seated on my bed and all I could do was write down notes. So here I am telling you about the miracle that I witnessed live. The miracle was not just about lives saved. It was about so many hearts pouring out for a beleaguered, badly stricken human being. Hands reaching out concretely and without delay.

Dr. Love/Brother Jun, I heard you say you will go on a pilgrimage starting today. Janice and her family will be in good hands while you’re away. I hope to meet you one day.