IT is that time of the year when almost everyone takes a break to welcome the new year, but it's just another day at the office for Blackwater alternate governor Wilbert Loa.
Loa, 43, is a member of the Association of Fire Chiefs and Fire Fighters of the Philippines Inc. and spends his New Year's Eve on standby for emergencies with his fire brigade, just as he has done since he was 14 years old.
"Taon-taon hindi ako nag New Year celebration. Kasi mas kailangan natin ang tumulong sa kapwa," said Loa, who was influenced into firefighting by his neighbors and high school friends.
"Pag ganito kasi New Year's celebration, maraming insidente ng sunog. Red alert kami pag ganito. Kami yung agad rume-responde," he added.
Loa said they can't afford to rest since hundreds of fires break out at the height of the New Year revelry.
"Hindi naman natin pinapanalangin, pero taon-taon yan. Maraming nasusunugan. Marami rin kasing matitigas ang ulo sa paputok," said Loa, although he admits cases of fires have gone down over the past few years.
"Pero sa totoo lang, bumababa ang insidente ng sunog kasi maganda rin ang information dissemination at warning ng DOH (Department of Health)," Loa said.
The amiable Blackwater team official bared that he used to be at the frontline of firefighting, until he was moved to being a firetruck driver owing to his position as the group's executive vice president.
"Dati lumulusob ako sa mga sunog. Ngayon ako na lang nag co-command ng mga ibang volunteers. Kasi may position na ako eh," said Loa, who is already lined up to become the next president of the firefighting group.
So passionate is Loa with his voluntary job that he even bought and donated a firetruck which he has designed with the logo of the PBA and Blackwater team.
"Papagamit ko rin yun sa mga programa ng PBA. Siyempre, andito na tayo. Mainam rin 'yung ilapit pa natin lalo ang PBA sa ating mga kababayan," he said.
Asked how he shares time with his family when all others are at home during the revelry, Loa only let out a smile.
"Sanay na family ko. Taon taon. Kahit noong binata pa ako, pag New Year nasa Binondo fire station ako," he said of his wife Marilyn and children Beatriz, Danielle, Gabrielle and Zachary.
"Ginagawa ko na lang, inaaya ko sila ng lunch tapos tatakbo na ko sa Binondo. Tulad ngayon. Lunch kami, mamaya nasa office na ko. Kasi kailangan ko nang mag-monitor," said Loa, who also owns the Vital-C vitamin brand.
Blackwater team owner Dioceldo Sy bared that it is in Loa's nature to help and reach out.
"Mabait 'yan si Wilbert. Very loud ang personality nyan pero mahusay makisama. Kita mo he is all around the PBA. Mahilig talaga sa basketball 'yan kaya almost every game nasa venue yan," said Sy.