Relief – defined in cans of sardines and bowls of noodles, as written in the book Pinatubo: Triumph of the Kapampangan Spirit which I was most honored to craft and edit – finds one more meaning in Lucia Gutierrez, chief of the provincial social welfare and development office of Pampanga.
For as long as I can remember, Pampanga had no social welfare and development officer (SWDO) other than Luchie.
For as long as I can remember, Luchie had always excelled in her mission of providing relief to the most disadvantaged of the Kapampangans not only in times of natural calamities but also in instances of man-made distress.
From the scourge of Pampanga’s annual flooding at the time of Gov. Bren Z. Guiao, the Kapampangan found relief literally and figuratively in Luchie’s office’s quick response to his needs.
Inhered in the challenges of one calamity after another, Luchie thus was not totally unprepared for the worst calamity ever – the Mount Pinatubo eruptions.
Beyond the physiological requisite of feeding, clothing and housing the thousands of evacuees, Luchie’s office provided them with psychological counseling as well as spiritual relief. It was here that the “legend of Sta. Lucia of the tent cities” was born.
That the Pampanga government’s relief operations remained largely immaculate amid all the muck of corruption attendant to the Pinatubo rehabilitation efforts – the scams in the diking systems including the megadike itself, the sabo dams, the desilting operations, the livelihood centers and funds, the resettlement sites, among others – is a testament to the integrity of Luchie.
Conversely now: That the Church’s local social action center at that time lost undetermined millions of pesos, principally grants and donations for the Pinatubo victims – to a wily con artist-friend of the center’s chief per public knowledge – is equally a testament to the questionable judgment, if not doubtful character of that center’s revered head.
No definitive closure to that social action center scam up to this very moment, over 18 years after the fact. The perpetrator (s) remaining at large, unscathed and, most probably, still uncouth, finding new fields to sow his/their evil schemes. As in the field of politics?
Outside calamities, Kapampangans in distress found relief in Luchie too. Ever fresh in my mind is how Luchie managed to bring home the bodies of two Kapampangan traders abducted by some renegade terrorist group in the hinterlands of Mindanao, along with one survivor who was nearly a nervous wreck. Yes, it was Luchie that helped the latter fully recover from his traumatic ordeal.
How many abused women and children have found solace and comfort at her office, not even Luchie can remember for the sheer immensity in number.
And then, Luchie’s office is not only all social welfare and none other. The “development” aspect in its nomenclature most manifest in the livelihood training programs conducted there, instituted by Luchie herself in partnership with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
How many men and women who passed the trainings there are now gainfully employed here and abroad, not even Luchie can remember for the sheer immensity in number.
A grateful Pampanga has long accorded Luchie the recognition for her excellent work in helping the province rise from the ashes of Pinatubo and her outstanding contribution to its development.
Now, Luchie is into a different kind of relief. A politically-embattled, intellectually-challenged and administratively-inept Capitol slapped Luchie with a 90-day suspension for her office allegedly serving expired noodles to some kids and – if talks out of the woodwork are true – the governor himself.
That the Capitol grounded Luchie’s suspension – according to topnotch lawyer Fred Mangiliman – on the sexual harassment provisions in the civil service rules is not only ridiculously stupid. It absolutely exonerates Luchie from all charges. (The lord and lady at the Capitol must have been taken so much by the Hayden Kho-Katrina Halili sex scandal.)
Atty. Fred cries “absence of due process” in the suspension of his client, having been deprived of the opportunity to answer the complaints before an investigating body prior to the suspension which was a most unwelcome gesture to Luchie upon her arrival from Japan.
Anyways, Luchie has taken her case to the courts. So, we just have to give here our two-baht worth: Eating the “expired” noodles did not do any harm to the governor. His state of mind remains as is. Malilio.
Talk of gratitude now. Better yet, talk of ineptness. As has long been held, a state of idiocy obtains at the Capitol.