Hillside PD saves lives from an ocean away

HILLSIDE, NJ — The Hillside Police Department was recently honored with a certificate of appreciation from a town in the Philippines after a large and ongoing donation of much-needed radio equipment.

Marfo Manibay, who has lived in Hillside since 1979 but is originally from the town of Buhi, located in the province of Camarines Sur, Philippines, approached HPD Sgt. Michael Gennaro several months ago about the department’s radio equipment that was no longer in use.

Manibay, who has family still living in the Philippines, told Gennaro that the equipment would be filling a void to the emergency services back in his native town of Buhi, whose emergency services infrastructure is in dire need of equipment.
Gennaro told LocalSource that he, along with the rest of the department, was more than happy to assist.

“He told us that his family still resides in the Philippines and how this would be a great asset to their emergency services infrastructure because the equipment they currently had was woefully inadequate,” Gennaro said. “Before our donation, the means of emergency communication was cell phone, motor scooter, or on foot.”

Indeed, Manibay, who is a retired engineer and who ran the Hillside municipal TV station for years, told LocalSource that his native town has no formal emergency communications system.

“The people is these towns just use cellphones or they go physically to the fire and police departments in case of emergency,” Manibay said.

After going through the proper channels and gaining official approval to donate the radio equipment, Manibay took the first shipment over to Buhi in October. He also sent a box of equipment via cargo mail.

“They were so ecstatic and excited,” Manibay said of Buhi emergency personnel and residents. “They were testing the radios and they would drive to far places to see if they could talk to each other on the radios. They’ve never had radios before. Now fire and police personnel can communicate with each other. Without this, the delay would be very long.”

The radios proved to be a lifesaver just two months later when, on December 25, super-typhoon Nina made landfall in the Philippines. The Category 4 weather event ravaged much of the area, directly hitting the town of Buhi. The donated radio equipment turned out to be the only equipment that did not fail during the catastrophic event and was instrumental in saving lives during the storm.

“They were celebrating Christmas, and the radio and television stations were warning everyone that a storm was coming,” said Manibay. “It was a very strong storm.”
Gennaro said that he was humbled by the news that the radios had, literally, saved lives.

“Having learned that our donation was the only equipment that did not fail during the devastating natural disaster for that country was quite a revelation,” Gennaro said. “The countless lives that would have potentially been in jeopardy, had it not been for these radios, was humbling.”

Manibay said that he will continue to send boxes of equipment to Buhi.
“It’s like starting a radio network down there,” Manibay said. “Whenever I see a chance to help, I want to. I like to send the equipment there for the sake of my town.

Gennaro said the entire department is grateful to have been instrumental in helping those who need it most. “Having been involved in emergency services since 1988 and with the Hillside police department since 1997, I have dedicated my life to helping others,” Gennaro said. “We, as a department, give our best and donate to many causes. Rarely is there an opportunity for an outcome of this magnitude to be reported back to us. We certainly do not do anything for the praise. That being said, we were humbled when we learned of what our donation had done for an entire community. This was a great example of how taking some equipment that was no longer usable to us made

a world of difference to the town of Buhi and surrounding areas of the Philippines. In the end, this is what we are
here for.”