/ / The Other Side


I am Gecile C Gonzales, Civil Defense Officer IV, designated as Operations Section Chief of Office of Civil Defense- Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (OCD-BARMM) in the Philippines. Since 2013, I have been employed at OCD BARMM. In addition, I assisted with other Disaster Risk Reduction Management (DRRM) trainings as a Resource Person and Facilitator.

Our area is home to both human-induced and natural risks. Among the most difficult disasters I experienced was the Marawi Siege in 2017. There was an armed struggle between violent extremist groups and Philippine government forces in Marawi, Lanao Del Sur, that lasted for five months. The armed conflict resulted in the massive displacement of people to neighbouring regions. OCD ARMM then led the consequence management by manning the National Emergency Operations Center (NEOC) supporting the National Incident Management Team (NIMT) to address the immediate needs of the Individually Displaced Persons (IDPs) and other affected individuals. For about a year, our regional office was also involved in Marawi’s early recovery and rehabilitation.

We also have the recent experience with the effects of STS Paeng in 2023, wherein the ASEAN – ERAT (Emergency Response and Assessment Team) conducted Rapid Damage and Needs Analysis (RDANA) to the severely affected areas brought about by the effects of typhoon in our region, and the AHA Centre augmented various Non-Food Items (NFIs).

Our ability to be strategic thinkers, goal-oriented, and imaginative young leaders who can adjust to the new normal and changing dynamics in disaster risk reduction and management has been enhanced by the life-altering AHA Centre Executive Leadership in Emergency and Disaster Management Programme (ACE LEDMP) Executive Level.

After roughly four (4) months of in-person and virtual instruction, we have expanded our knowledge base and had the chance to hear from facilitators and other participants from other ASEAN nations who shared their real-world experiences as well as their ideas. I have witnessed the highest level of collaboration and dedication from my fellow programme participants during the class sessions.

We learned about the system thinking model through the mental map exercise, participated in a simulated press conference, learned how to handle crisis communication, and developed strong project proposals.

The Study Visit to Japan in November 2023 gave us inspiration on how the government invests in technology and people. Disaster Risk Reduction and Management became their way of life even to younger generations. Additionally, they even have “Kataribe” or storytelling and museums in order to preserve the lessons from past disasters. The simple principle of self-reliance, mutual, and public assistance has made a deep impression to us that we can apply to our countries.

Mr. Elkan Rahimov, the IFRC Country Cluster Delegation in ASEAN, stressed the importance of key characteristics of effective leadership during our Leaders Talk, especially in the challenging context of disaster response. The central theme of his lecture was the unwavering importance of integrity, emphasising how leaders must uphold moral standards even in the face of hardship. He underlined how crucial it is for leaders to have problem-solving skills, demonstrating their ability to effectively complete organisational objectives and initiatives in the face of obstacles. Prioritising efficient human resource management was another key component of his leadership style. He counseled executives to recognise and capitalise on their teams’ strengths while fostering a collaborative work atmosphere.

Mr. Rahimov also talked on the important topic of stress management, emphasising the demanding nature of leadership roles and advocating for preventative measures to ensure the wellbeing of team members as well as leaders. Essentially, his talk made a strong case for the need for leaders in the tough emergency response industry to exhibit traits like integrity, tenacity, effective leadership, and a commitment to the general welfare of their teams.

The best part is that, despite our varied backgrounds, the ACE LEDMP programme provided a great platform for us to forge new relationships, foster camaraderie and collaboration, forge a sense of solidarity, and enhance our group’s capacity in the field of disaster risk reduction and management.

Returning to our home nations, we face the challenge of ensuring that all of the knowledge we have acquired will not be lost because we will continue to be change agents in our communities and organisations and because all of the ASEAN nations will continue to be connected and collaborate to create a region that is safer, more adaptable, and disaster-resilient.


Written by: Gecile C. Gonzales | Photos by: AHA Centre