SPOTLIGHT - 04/25/2003
Ashley Uy: A Tsinoy on Fire
by Blessy M. Feliciano
Rewind 26 years, a group of volunteers was washing Nueva Street in Binondo. Filled with curiosity, a 7-year old boy asked his mother, "What are they doing?" The mother answered, "They are washing the street to make it clean. They are firemen." "Can I help them?" the boy asked. Then he started sweeping the street debris upon getting his mother's approval.
Overwhelmed by this act of kindness, the lady bought a pair of blue rubber boots to protect his son's feet from water, and the young boy considered it his "first firefighting gear".
Apparently, that chain of events woke up the kid's subconscious aspiration -- to become a fireman.
Determined to climb the fire truck, he took the first step to his dream when he received his very first award -- his first "firefighting" Merit Badge -- from the Boy Scout of the Philippines. Numerous awards from the scouting movement followed.
Fast forward to present, that child has gone far. He is now the training consultant for fire and rescue at Sta. Cruz Volunteer Fire Brigade, the director for planning and training at the Co Kim Eh Rescue Foundation, and the deputy fire chief for operation at the Bonifacio Global City. Community, may I introduce to you another Tsinoy to look up to, Ashley L. Uy.
Blessy: Ashley, how long have you been a volunteer?
Ashley: I've been a volunteer for almost 15 years.
Blessy: So you were only 18 when you started. What made you decide to volunteer at that young age?
Ashley: It was all because of the fun riding in a big red fire truck and the excitement in putting out fires.
Blessy: And what was your parents' reaction? Did they approve it?
Ashley: They were against it because the waiver they had to sign stated that the group holds no liability as to whatever happens to the volunteer. There actually came a time when I had to escape from the house just to report to the fire station.
Blessy: You were very brave at that! What about the mishaps in the field? Didn?t these dangers scare you?
Ashley: Sometime I got a small cut in my left eyebrow from a fire in San Nicolas, Binondo. I also got zapped from a dangling electrical line at a fire in Quezon City. Luckily, it was a low voltage electrical line and was immediately cut. I also fell in the ceiling and slide from a roof. These accidents scared me at first; but as I got more and more training and actual experience, the fear of getting hurt has slowly disappeared.
Blessy: I see, you have attended nine firefighting and first aid trainings in and out the country. Anyway, there's a lot of Chinese volunteer groups. How did you land at Co Kim Eh?
Ashley: Co Kim Eh Rescue Foundation was founded by five people, myself included, and it is our purpose to train other fellow volunteer firefighters in the field of firefighting and emergency care.
Blessy: Is there a lot of Tsinoy volunteers?
Ashley: Yes, throughout the country.
Blessy: Why do you think so?
Ashley: We all have the same goal -- to serve.
Blessy: Until when would stay in your volunteer work?
Ashley: As long as I can. This is my life and I love it very much. It fulfills my childhood dream of becoming a fireman/paramedic.
Blessy: Let's talk about firefighting as a profession. How long have you been a professional firefighter?
Ashley: Almost 15 years.
Blessy: So you've been a volunteer and a professional firefighter at the same time...-and you were also studying! That's kinda' tough. I think that was a double punch to your family, wasn't it?
Ashley: Precisely. They discouraged me at first because fire service doesn?t earn me money and the risk of getting killed is very high. They told me to look for another job or put up a business, which can be more rewarding than volunteering.
Blessy: That's what to expect since you have "the blood of a businessman" and you eventually took up Marketing in college (from the Philippine School of Business Administration). So, how did your family finally accept your decision?
Ashley: When I was hired at Fort Bonifacio and was sent to England to study and get trained, everything has changed then. They realized that there's money in firefighting, although to me it's not the money that I'm after but the fulfillment of my dream.
Blessy: What's so special about firefighting that makes you hold on to it that much?
Ashley: Saving lives.
Blessy: Wow! So you're like a real-life super hero. Plus all the community service awards you received, those will surely encourage you to stay. But it's not that easy, right? What then is the worst thing?
Ashley: When one of your brother firefighter get killed or died in the line of duty.
Blessy: What difference would you like to make in this field?
Ashley: I want to upgrade the firefighting standard of the Philippine fire service.
Blessy: What's the most important lesson you learned from your job that you can share with us?
Ashley: Be humble. Sacrifice your life for others.
Blessy: Any advice for your fellow Tsinoys who are interested to volunteer?
Ashley: Always follow your dreams. Sometimes there are hindrances and barriers in life that will try to block you; try to overcome them by being what you are, and always be humble. One day, you will see what you wish for in life.
Blessy: Very well said.
Living one's dream and undergoing the byways of hardships before enjoying the highways of success may be as scratched as those stories of younger generation Chinese and Tsinoys turning their back to the stereotypical businessman image and courageously facing new career opportunities. But like Ashley's burning passion that never enervates, it will always be our hope that the examples laid down by the pioneers will never cease to inspire the youngsters to kindle and rekindle the fire of volunteerism and community service in their heart.
To Ashley and to all Tsinoy volunteers, Tsinoy.com salutes you and may your tribe increase!