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The hero in ‘sir Jo’

Security and rescue technology innovator gives back to the community

Published

“There’s a hero
If you look inside your heart
You don’t have to be afraid
Of what you are…”

Maybe Mariah Carey is right. Heroism may be innate in each of us. But while we have the everyday opportunity to become heroes even through small gestures, there will also be those who stand tall amongst us — not only because of heroism, but because of helping.

Around 100 students line up to receive school supplies from Rosita Soliman Foundation Inc.

Around 100 students line up to receive school supplies from Rosita Soliman Foundation Inc.

One of those who embodies this is Jomerito “Jo” Soliman of Pure Force & Rescue Corp. One would size him up as a typical Filipino-Chinese businessman who values industriousness, thrift, and attention to detail. His company, Pure Force, provides security and rescue solutions to the government and private sectors.

The Sitio Kinabuan principal (in light blue barong) accepts the books donated by the Foundation. The group of utility terrain vehicle (UTV) riders, including the donor, loaded all the books and school supplies on UTVs and crossed several rivers to deliver the materials to Sitio Kinabuan, a remote area.

The Sitio Kinabuan principal (in light blue barong) accepts the books donated by the Foundation. The group of utility terrain vehicle (UTV) riders, including the donor, loaded all the books and school supplies on UTVs and crossed several rivers to deliver the materials to Sitio Kinabuan, a remote area.

But one cannot be but awed by how “sir Jo,” as he is known, extends help as an instinct and natural reaction.

Sitio Kinabuan in Rodriguez, Rizal, has two barrio classrooms but no proper curriculum books. All grade levels share whatever books are given to them. Rosita Soliman Foundation Inc., requested the principal for a headcount of the students and donated sets of books, with the help of Rex Bookstore that gave the Foundation a discount.

Sitio Kinabuan in Rodriguez, Rizal, has two barrio classrooms but no proper curriculum books. All grade levels share whatever books are given to them. Rosita Soliman Foundation Inc., requested the principal for a headcount of the students and donated sets of books, with the help of Rex Bookstore that gave the Foundation a discount.

To trigger him into action, all it takes is a phone call. A reply from him is an instant guarantee that help is on the way.

Airlift from Boracay to Manila

Take, for instance, the time when a couple in Boracay needed to be airlifted back to Manila because of a medical emergency.

As he recalled, “One day, I received a call/ text from an old friend… she had an unfortunate incident in Boracay that she had to be immediately airlifted from Boracay to St. Luke’s [Hospital] BGC [Bonifacio Global City] for her spinal treatment.

“The next day, my cousin-in-law called me up to thank me, saying that her cousin mentioned my name and is thanking me for my help… I was a bit confused and did not know how they were related…I learned just tonight after thanking them for the gift that the fiancé, Jeff Chua, was the grandson of Antonio Roxas Chua and the son of my Uncle Severino…

“Small world, payback time for the goodness you give, goodness you shall reap.”

As it turned out, Antonio Roxas Chua and Severino Chua were instrumental in helping sir Jo’s father when he was starting his grains business. Coincidence? Or meant to be? Certainly it’s an inspirational, feel-good story of paying forward and paying back what you owe.

And there are more of these stories of sir Jo that enable him to loom larger than life.

Daring helicopter rescue in Rizal

There was this accident in the boondocks of Rodriguez, Rizal which he vividly remembers.

“[I] was on my way to a wedding January of 2015,” sir Jo recounted.

“It was a few months, two to be exact, when Pure Force was incorporated. ‘Jo, kelangan ko helicopter.’ I asked, why? ‘Nahulog kasama namin sa bundok, mga six floors equivalent, matarik,’ Kako, paano natin kukunin? May tali ako pang rappel, may helicopter, may tao. Padala ko agad. ‘May mga taga bundok na bumaba kinuha sila.’ Ok, I said.

(Jo, I need a helicopter. – Why? – Our companion on a mountain climb fell the equivalent of six floors, very steep. – I said, how do we get them? I have rappelling ropes, helicopter, people. I will send them to you immediately. – Some people on the mountain went down to be with them.)

“Called my flight buddies, pilot, and driver told them to fly. Instructed them to use the small chopper because it was impossible to fly in due to trees and uneven surface of the accident site, which was Rodriguez, Rizal. Also asked if patient can sit, doctors said yes.

“Good thing that doctors, nurses, and other first responders were all ready when we landed. The pilot was hesitant due to its uneven and mountainous surface. We told the families to coordinate with St Luke’s [Hospital] Global and we will fly in. We also helped them with the coordination.

“Patient 1 had multiple spinal bones broken. Patient 2 had his eyes popped out and broken helmet due to it went in between a big rock and roll cage of the UTV. The chopper landed in BGC in 20 minutes.

“Patient 1, if am not mistaken, had three or more [injuries] in the spine while Patient 2 had operations on the head and taking therapy. A week after, they kept calling wanting to meet and thank me because I really did not know them at all.

“The car dealer kept calling me asking and thanking [me], it turned out to be one if the managers of the dealers I buy cars [from] and asked help when I needed blood donors!!! The other one was an owner of a well-known garment factory. Surprising, but the world is round, huh.

“Then finally we all met at one event, they told me that doctors said had they not been flown in using helicopter, they will not survive. So they lived happily ever after…”

Earthquake in Nepal

One thing about sir Jo and his way of rendering assistance is that it seems boundless and borderless. There is no limitation or hindrance, even if the help is needed outside the country.

When Nepal was struck by a devastating earthquake, a team of Filipino disaster response experts helped the survivors get access to much needed medical supplies and food.

The five-man team was led by Art Valdez, former team leader of the Philippine Mount Everest Expedition, with Dr Ted Esguerra, head of the Energy Development Corporation’s Emergency and Disaster Response Unit (EDC-EDRU); Fred Jamili, Justin Karlo Aliganga, and Chris De Villes.

Jamili and Aliganga are also part of EDC-EDRU while De Villes is a Singapore-based Filipino volunteer. The team’s mission was to conduct loss and damage assessment, provide medical assistance, trauma management, water filtration, and food distribution in the Solukhumbu region.

The team was fully and ably supported by sir Jo as they carried advanced life support kits from Project Michelangelo; communication gear from the Emergency Response Integration Center (ERIC Philippines); a solar-powered water filtration kit which can provide two gallons of water within a minute, donated by the Pureforce Rescue Corp – Philippines; medical supplies from Y’s Men and RAHA Rescue Philippines; solar lighting systems from Stiftung Solarenergie; and water straws from Mannasoft.

Books, teaching materials to a community

The Sitio Kinabuan Elementary School principal (in light blue barong) accepts 100 sets of donated curriculum books with complete teacher's manual. The books are to be used by students but left at school at the end of the school year for the next batch of students to use.

The Sitio Kinabuan Elementary School principal (in light blue barong) accepts 100 sets of donated curriculum books with complete teacher’s manual. The books are to be used by students but left at school at the end of the school year for the next batch of students to use.

Sir Jo has many other tales of helping others. After that rescue in Rizal, he found out that a certain village in the area, Sitio Kinabuan, was in dire need of educational materials for the children there. He immediately dispatched his team of volunteers from the Rosita Soliman Foundation and they brought the community a thousand sets of books, teaching manuals, and curriculum sets.

Relief efforts in Central Luzon

There was also the time his team did relief operations from the air in Central Luzon when massive floods inundated towns in Pampanga and Bulacan, where almost the only things visible were the rooftops of houses.

When his team thought that they were done with the job after distributing ready-to-eat meal packs, thermal blankets, and drinking water, they were surprised when sir Jo said, “What if they don’t have drinking water anymore? Should we not provide them with our water filtration system?”

And so back they went and potable water became readily available for the evacuees and victims of the flooding.

Eventually, snap rescues and relief operations became a staple, and sir Jo has not wavered, whether he needs to dispatch a chopper in Balesin to airlift another couple in distress, or to a difficult terrain, or even to the middle of the West Philippine Sea to assist in the search and rescue of missing fishermen.

Changing children’s lives

But more than saving a life from imminent danger, what makes his mission more amazing and breathtaking is how he is changing the lives of children.

Sir Jo is also dedicated to helping afflicted children with Hirschsprung disease (birth defect in the bowels), imperforated anus, and cleft palate.

When he was asked why these, he reflected and said, “Kasi nung minsan mag-birthday ako, bigla ko nakita, ano kaya ito… Then nag-research ako, then nalaman ko nga na mga kids na ganyan binu-bully din pala… ‘Baho baho, tae tae,’ ‘yan ang tawag sa kanila…

(Once on one of my birthdays, I suddenly came across this and wondered, what could this be? So I did some research, and learned that some kids suffering from these conditions are bullied – ‘Smelly, smelly, poo, poo,’ that’s what they’re called.)

“Hindi sila nakakapasok ng school lalo na pag mabaho ang amoy. Hindi rin sila makasakay ng eroplano kasi minsan malansa ang amoy lalo na pag nakalabas na ang bituka. So naisip ko sira na ang future ng bata… It makes them insecure…”

(They can’t go to school, especially when they smell. They can’t ride a plane either, also because of the smell, particularly if the intestines are exposed. So I thought, the children’s future is ruined.)

Sir Jo recently celebrated a Valentine milestone with 89 children that he has helped since 2016 through his Rosita Soliman Foundation that is dedicated to his beloved mother.

Eighty-nine children beneficiaries. Hundreds of lives saved and changed. All because of one man’s pure force of love and compassion for his fellowmen.

It is without a doubt heroism of the highest order, and deserving of recognition. But for Jo Soliman, it is all in a day’s work of helping others. Because for him, it is not about heroism and accolades, it is about paying forward and giving back.

Perhaps to appreciate what sir Jo has done, we can continue the song we started with:

“And then a hero comes along
With the strength to carry on
And you cast your fears aside
And you know you can survive
So when you feel like hope is gone
Look inside you and be strong
And you’ll finally see the truth
That a hero lies in you…”

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