FILIPINOS are known to always find reasons to smile in the midst of disaster or tragedy, and the recent department store fire in Ayala Center Cebu was no exemption.
When the fire hit Metro Department Store last January 5, social media erupted with updates regarding the situation at the fire scene, and an attractive firefighter interviewed by the media via Facebook Live didn't go unnoticed.
Senior Inspector Paul Patrick Laude, the good-looking fireman who went viral on social media, said that combating the Metro Ayala inferno was one of the "best and biggest" operations he handled in his four years of service in the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP). The blaze under control on January 7.
According to the 26-year-old officer, the operation was managed well by the firefighters headed by BFP-Central Visayas director Samuel Tadeo and Cebu City Fire Marshal Noel Nelson Ababon.
“Actually, if naa tay tagaan ug credits sila gyud to ang mga nagkombate didto. (Actually, all the credit should go to the all the firemen who fought the blaze),” said Laude.
Laude initially wanted to take up Hotel and Restaurant Management in college, but his brother, a Philippine Military Academy (PMA) graduate, encouraged him to join the PMA or the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA).
Laude heed his brother's advice and eventually passed the PNPA entrance examination.
PNPA is the country's public safety school of the Philippine National Police (PNP), Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) and the BFP.
“Wala ko kahibaw kung unsay kinabuhi nga akong maabtan pagsulod nako didto sa academy. (I have no idea what life would be inside the academy),” he said.
Laude, who wanted to join the BFP, underwent rigorous training and faced the painstaking selection process at the academy.
Only four slots were available to the 26 other cadets who wanted to join the BFP, Laude recalled, saying that the chance to make it to the BFP's quota was very slim as one of the four available slots was already reserved for the highest-ranking student of their batch.
He was lucky enough to grab a spot at the BFP.
“Siguro plano gyud sa Ginoo nga patabangon ko sa fire. (Maybe it was really God's plan for me to be in the fire department)," Laude said, adding that it was in the BFP where he also found the woman that God had planned for him.
Laude is happily married to a fellow firefighter, Anne Moncada, a member of the BFP-Specialized Rescue Unit. The couple was blessed with a son, two-year-old Mavis.
Laude said being a junior fire official is daunting.
"Bata pa kaayo ta ni graduate sa academy at the same time officer pa gyud ta. Ang adjustment nimo sa pagdala sa tawo labi na ang imong mga tawo mas maguwang pa sa imoha (I'm still young when I graduated from the academy. As a junior official, it is somehow difficult in dealing with senior officers under me)," he said.
He, however, said that he always instill discipline in the workplace -- a quality he learned during his training at the academy.
"Bombero, police, jail [officers] -- tanang mga uniformed service -- pareho ra sila nindot nga trabaho. Depende ra sa tawo unsaon pagdala," he added. (Erica Jill Dancel and Lawrice Glee Eltagonde, USC AB Communications Interns/SunStar Philippines)