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REACT History
In the summer of 1979 a small group of businessmen from Metro Manila and Central Luzon met to organize a team from the Task force Maharlika, a civilian volunteer organization then under the Office of Civil Relations-Philippine Information and Civic Action Group (PHILCAG) of the AFP.
Civilian and soldiers so often found themselves together in relief and rescue operations that pooling their efforts under one team was a logical step.

 On the recommendation of then Col. Honesto M. Isleta, then Deputy Chief of the newly-organized AFP Civil Relations Service, then CRS Chief Brig. Gen. Alexander L. Felix gave the green light for the information of an emergency communications team largely composed of civilian volunteers.

One of the founding fathers, businessman Manuel “Woodpecker” G. Maglaque, became the first REACT Group Chief on March 21, 1980. REACT-NCR became the first REACT region followed by Regions I, III, VI and VII.

On June 23, 1982 its Articles of Incorporation was approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission convention drew 200 delegates to the Covelandia Resort in Cavite. There, Woodpecker was elected as the first REACT National President.

Elected with him were Tomas “Bluebird’’ Joson III, Executive Vice President: Oscar “Bartlett’’ Nieves, VP for Operation; Froilan “Network’’ Villegas, VP Administration; Rodrigo “Invictus’’ Flores, Secretary; Amor  “Bingo’’ Tanjuakio, Treasurer; Jesus “Blockbuster’’ David, Auditor; Ruperto “Rockwood’’ Sanpoleo, Advocate; and Eduardo “EM’’ Montenejo, Public Information Officer.

Mercy missions, traffic-motorist assistance and disaster relief actions were launched even as the National Board fine tuned the Organization’s Constitution and By-Laws, and polished the rules and regulation’s that would guide a REACTor work.

The second national convention was set in scenic Baguio, the famed City of Pines. And then in 1984 the national presidency changed hands for the first time. Bluebird captured the top post and would serve for two years starting in January 1985. His stewardship attracted the cream of civic-minded professionals into the fold; Groups began to sprout in Mindanao. On November 28, 1986 the membership stood at 600.

Rapid expansions of Groups in Mindanao marked the presidency of Atty. Roy “Skyhawk” N. Tamparong, Jr. His term was marked by a strong accent on rationalization; the first ever REACT regional forum was held on September 16, 1987 IN Mindanao.

Dinagyang, one of the pioneer groups in the Visayas, brought the sixth National Convention to Iloilo City in November 1987. It was significant in that there were more delegates from the Visayas and Mindanao than from Luzon.

By 1988, REACT began to flex its corporate muscle. The campaign for membership took an intensified form and public and media recognition of REACT civic activities began to take shape. As Fourth National President (1987-1988), Johnny ”Commando” K. Ting correctly read, the need to create an administrative system that would cope with the needs of a growing organization is necessary and proceeded to set up a national secretariat.

A tie between re-electionist Commando and Noel “Latigo” Tan triggered a crisis in November 1988. It was resolved later with the proclamation of National EVP-elect Jonathan “Blue Diamond” Rivera as fifth National President.

Blue Diamond first served as National President in 1989 and would serve for two more years. While the REACT constitution and By-Laws only allows one reelection for its national president, Blue Diamond’s term was extended by the proverbial force majeure. An aborted military coup de’ etat staged in 1980 cancelled the national election scheduled in Cebu City maintaining the status quo on REACT leadership. He was given another mandate during the convention in 1990 held in Baguio City. REACT was the first organization to hold a convention in the city of Pines after devastating earthquake of July 1900 left the place and nearby areas in shambles. It can be recalled that REACT operatives were among those who provided instant communication when earthquake struck since other communications were disabled by the incident.

Since then the membership rose from 1,800 in 1998 to 3,000 by September 21, 1991. Mussah Group was formed in the Sulu Archipelago and Region 8 was activated with the chartering of Interlink in Tacloban City on August 25. 

As the Regions began to assume bigger roles the National Board defined more clearly the distinctive areas of competence of REACT: the promotion of public safety, disaster-preparedness and community service.

Training programs for both operatives and operators were institutionalized to give them opportunity to develop new skills and competencies, while a more participative structure for national decision-making was built with the regular holding of regional consultations and area conferences.

 Among the major decisions that came out of these for was the unanimous adoption of the amendments to the REACT Constitution and By-Laws, one of which was the election of National Board officers from among the regional representatives.

The pursuit for civic excellence drove Groups to launch projects beyond emergency communications assistance. Focus shifted from merely developing fellowship and teamwork to translating such esprit de corps and team play into active empathy for community development and well-being.

Among the projects adopted nationally were: Gamot Bayan, launched in 1989; Sumvac (for Summer Vacation), extending communications and public safety assistance to Lenten computers and motorist; livelihood training programs; linkages with local and foreign entities in the provision of socio-economic facilities to poor communities; SOLAS or safety of life at sea; reforestation; and environmental protection and conversation.

The year 1991 was significant for REACT. Its projects were now of national magnitude and impact. That same year, Blue Diamond  and then ABS-CBN  News & Public affairs Senior Vice President Rodolfo T. Reyes signed  a memorandum of agreement in Davao City for ABS-CBN  as the primary radio-TV network and REACT as the primary civic radio group for the national Halalan’ 92  project. REACT’s vast communications network and virtually every member, extension and alpha were thrown into the task of monitoring and tabulating the results of the country’s first synchronized election in May. It bore REACT’s commitment to non- partisanship political activity.

Atty. Anthony “Hunter” Dequiña, who won as congressman in that election, assumed as the sixth National President in January 1992. The membership by then rose to nearly 4,000 in 104 Groups. Significant National Board decisions during the period centered on guidelines in the formation on new Groups, creation a mortuary aid fund and a foundation, and the granting of broader powers to the Regional Boards.

Three years of patient planning and exhaustive negotiations for the legitimization of REACT’s radio network finally led to the promulgation in August 1993 by the National Telecommunications commission of the rules and regulations governing the installation, operation and maintenance of radio equipment and facilities of civic radio groups such as REACT.

The campaign to legitimize REACT operations went into high gear in 1993 under Jose “Xerox” V. Facultad as seventh National President. The National Board also adopted a policy of transparency under which every Region, Group and member would know what the National Board was doing and why.

Shifting energies toward national development was the pervasive area conference theme in 1993. The Organization forged working ties with the Commission on Elections for the ARMM election in western Mindanao, and with the Department of Health for the Polio Plus campaign. A memorandum of agreement was also signed with the Philippine Air Force.

Re-districting some Regions in Mindanao dominated discussions in 1993, gathering momentum in Regional and Group conferences and fora and finally erupting into a heated debate at the National Convention in Cagayan de Oro City. When the shouting was all over, the general membership turned its back and thumbed down the proposal.

Member contributions to the Special Project Fund reached the million-peso mark on June 23 of that year even as final touches were made on the REACT National Mortuary Aid Fund (RENMAF).

New groups emerged. Negros Oriental and the island province of Romblon savored their first taste of REACT service with formation of Dumaguete (later changed to Sidlakan) Group and Marble Group. The national leadership also prodded the Regions to form new groups in large territories such as Pangasinan, Panay and Negros Occidental.

Two National Board Officers from Mindanao vied for the presidency in the 1994 national convention – Atty. Edgar “Baccarat” L. Valdez, National Senior Vice- President for Operations, And REACT 9 Regional Representative and Perfecto “Firewalker” Yebes, the National Executive Vice President and REACT 12 Regional Representative Baccarat won.

Baccarat’s thrust was to bring about a leadership most responsive to the needs, aspiration and problems of the members.

A vital step in this direction was the creation of programs that would directly benefit the community, the Organization and the general membership. One plan was for the Groups to plant gemelina trees that could be harvested and sold for huge profits after three to five years. A service facility was also opened to interested and qualified members for the processing of their firearms licenses and permits-to-carry. A licensing campaign as also launched for all radio equipment and basis nationwide in preparation for January 1996 when all civic radio organization would only be allowed to use commercial radio equipment and facilities.

Mortuary aid checks were officially issued for the first time January 1, 1994.

For the second straight year, REACT was the PoliPlus communication arm but it was only 1994 when the organization earned its fair and much-deserved share of media and public recognition for the effort. It was the only local civic radio group among seven worldwide organizations awarded at the Heroes’ Hall in Malacañang.

REACT was still is the only non-governmental organization sitting as a member of the national panel of judges in the as annual Clean & Green Presidential Award.

A memo of agreement signed between the National President and DENR Secretary Angel C. Alcala once again tapped the communications network of the organization in monitoring the nationwide tree planting project of DENR on June 10, 1994. 

Two new groups were formed they Golden Cowry group in far-off Guiuan, Eastern Samar and the Mactan Group in Lapulapu City, bringing the total number of chartered groups to 130. The Sandugo Group based in San Jose Occidental Mindoro, was chartered on June 5,1994 Bulusan, another group created in the fertile Bicol Region, was organized in Sorsogon as the seventh Group in the region and the 132nd REACT Group nationwide.

Angel “Gypsy” E. Veloso Jr. of Alert Group ascended to the presidency in January 1995. Despite a deficit early on, the National Board saw to it that nationally mandated programs and project were implemented. The three areas conferences went on the schedule in the cities of Angeles, Dumaguete and General Santos.

A reprise of Halalan 1992 was launched under a memo of agreement with ABS-CBN, which extended P700, 000.00 to REACT as mobilization support fund. As in 1992, the activity showcased the communications capability of REACT.

A truly independent Commission on Elections (COMELEC) was constituted for the first time with Atty. Vispero “Sangkay” Mayor, Interlink Group Advocate representing the Visayas, as Chair; Past National President Jose “Xerox” V. Facultad as Senior Member representing Luzon; and Immediate Past National President Atty. Edgar “Baccarat” L. Valdez as representing in Mindanao. The commission presided over the new voting system of electing National Board Officer at the 1995 National Convention.

In 1995 the number of chartered Groups reached 145 Nationwide, a combined strength of 4,812 members. Only ten provinces were without REACT Group; Batanes, Kalinga-Apayao, Aurora, Palawan, Oriental Mindoro, for the first time on January 1, 1994.

Catanduanes, Guimaras, Biliran, Siquijor and Camiguin. Farm 77, the only sea borne civic radio group in the country composed of 77 members with a land base in Dawis Island in Bohol was organized in the same year.

Seven New Group emerged in 1995: Noah based in Narvacan, Ilocos Sur; Centerpoint, based in Cauayan, Esabela, Kagueban in Puerto Princesa City; Mt. Palpalan in Pagadian City; Quinine in Lantapan, Bukidnon, Humayanon in Tago, Surigao Del Sur; and Agong in Polloc Port, Maguindanao. 

A record-breaking landslide victory in Olongapo City catapulted Juanito “Shriner” T. Chio of Pineapple Group to the presidency in 1995. It was also in that City where Caraga gained full recognition as a REACT Region. Fifteen Groups, including the newly organized Buyawanon Group based in placer, Surigao Del Norte, comprised the new Region.

Green leaves Group was organized in Ipil, Zamboanga Del Sur less than a year after Reactor Plaridel “Bluepint” Macelo was waylaid and slain in cold blood by armed terrorists on his way home after assisting firemen put out the fire that razed Ipil to the ground in courage, its birth symbolizing the will of REACT to pursue its mission to serve even in the face of death.

The National Executive Committee began work in January1996, an innovation designed to trim down the rising cost of all national Board members having to meet every month. It was also in 1996 when the national Board stood on the threshold of an achieving two important goals: generating funds that could ease up member assessment and full legitimization of its radio operations.

The national mood in 1996 was one of non-nonsense work and personal sacrifice for the sake of the Organization. The national Board members were asked to work harder, particularly for Regions not represented in the National Executive Committee and to seriously consult with their Groups on a regular basis.

Shriner was seen as an unforgiving taskmaster and this was understandable: he was dangerously beginning to seep into the membership. Something drastic and decisive had to be done.

Very early in the year, REACT signed a working agreement with the PNP Traffic Management Command as traffic enforcer on a national scale. REACT-NCR took that credit for the spadework in getting the pact signed Oplan: Alis disease, a three-year Department of health project for which REACT had been the official communications arm, was extended into 1996 under a new project code: “Knock Out polio’’ Richard “Shining Star” D. Valdes, SVP for operations, was at the forefront in the two major undertakings.

 It was REACT-NCR’s year. And Shining Star’s both worked assiduously to fully activate the Region and succeeded well beyond expectations. In the same period another: full support to the PAL International marathon at the PICC grounds, hourly traffic updates and immediate response to the Ozone Disco tragedy which claimed more than 150 lives in March. To the last man, the National Board commended REACT-NCR for these accomplishments during its third regular meeting in Ormoc City.

Discussions with the NTC on the legalization problem continued unabated and options were explored within the amateur and commercial spectra even as efforts at seeking new sources of revenue for the Organizations and its Groups were intensified.

It was only a matter of time.

Meanwhile, the date of the 1996 National Convention was moved back to October to coincide with their families. Puerto Princesa was a fascinating tourist destination most of the delegates found too good to miss. Partnership with media paid off and the REACT convention was well announced through leading newspapers’ supplement. Shriner’s presidency was punctuated by another feather to its cap with the preference for REACT to provide communications back-up for the delegates during the APEC convention in November 1996. Again, REACT-NCR was at the helm of this achievement.

It was also in that city that saw the fulfillment of Shining Star’s dream to lead. Despite being a newcomer in the National Board, he ran and won the presidency unopposed. The victory meant work and more work even before the National Board sat down for its first regular meeting in January 1997. For the new president, the party was over only days after he won.

Faced with a steady decline in membership and a growing deficit, Shining Star stressed the need for the members to go back to the basics and re-learn everything that has made REACT what it is today. He proceeded to explore possible ties with private individuals and institutions and media, seeking their support for REACT’s plans and programs. He next called on the National Board to correct misconceptions about the true role of REACT in the face of modern communications technology such as the cellular phones. Then he called for a massive re-orientation effort to teach the fundamentals of member discipline, ethics and protocol. Shining Star sensed the urgency of restoring the sense of honor and pride among the members and for them to draw strength from past achievements and experiences. It was time to look back and to turn inward.

Shining Star hinged his administration on the B.R.A.I.N.S. principles that is; Building membership, Re-orientation of members, Awareness campaign, Integrating equipment and resources, Networking with various agencies and Sourcing of revenues other than members contributions.

The leadership of Shining Star brought the organization to new heights with relentless media exposure and vigorous membership campaign. More than a dozen new groups were chartered and more government and private agencies took recognition of the invaluable services of the Organization. Memoranda of Agreement were signed between these agencies and REACT members found their hands full of tasks in extending the assistance required. The apex perhaps of such recognition is the appointment of the organization to sit as regular members of the Task Force of Traffic Improvement, Monitoring and Management (TRAFIMM) created by Pres. Fidel V. Ramos to find solution to the worsening traffic situation of Metro Manila and its environments.

He also introduced a bold and unprecedented policy of adopting a singular uniform for the whole membership. The vest in fire red with the word REACT emblazoned at the back dominated the scene of the National Convention in Baguio City in November 1997. Seeing sea of members in one fiery color symbolized an organization united in their dreams. Shining Star was justified in instituting the directive.

At this convention, Enedina “Enzyme” G. Cacabelos, the National Executive President, succeeded Shining Star.  

Unprecedented in the history of REACT, Enzyme was the first woman member to be elected as National President. Ripe for the presidency, Enzyme held various national positions prior to her ascendancy to national leadership. She was the rallying figure of Region XII and the heart and soul of Midland Group. For years, she steered her group and region to prominence as evidenced by the numerous awards conferred to them every year. Region XII is the first region to covet the Hall of Fame award for having been declared outstanding for 6 consecutive years.

Enzyme pursued the campaign on public awareness and improved the cooperation with various agencies. Other than standing committees, she appointed individual chairman for each partner agency for a speedier disposition and coordination. As a true doting mother, she looked for the welfare of her REACT family through TRUST: “Towards React Unity, Solidarity and teamwork”.

Immediately upon assumption, she worked to reactivate the dying groups and visited all groups from the “Blue Book,” by the color of its cover saw its second reprint where updates of the Organization’s history and achievements were tediously chronicled. In this edition, the REACT Corporate Statements were spelled out to reflect the Mission and Vision of the Organization.

Austerity was at the center of Enzyme’s presidency. She put emphasis on the function of National Executive Committee as a consultative group that gathered regularly every month to plan and recommend national policies to the National Board that met only every quarter. This enabled the Organization to save supposed monthly travel expenditures of the members of the National Board. Enzymes help flagging groups hounded by various handicaps to come back on their knees. While Blue Diamond’s presidency of 3 years was brought by abnormal circumstance, Enzyme was the first National President who was re-elected. She ran for re-election during her national convention in Zamboanga unopposed and meant to continue to serve for another year. However, the REACT year was reverted to fiscal year instead of calendar year thus extending her term for another 6 months totaling her presidency to 2-1/2 years. It was in Enzyme’s term that the Bangkoro Group in Pangutaran, Jolo was chartered and in that year, perhaps one of REACT’s distinguished achievements was the timely alert of Manggis Group of the malaria outbreak in Laminusa Island in Sulu sometime in March of 1998. Through its network, the incident was relayed immediately to the Disaster Management Unit of the DOH. With the expeditious information, the DOH was able to send relief and medicines immediately averting a more calamitous situation. The organization was also cited for their assistance during tragic Cebu Pacific plane crash in Cagayan de Oro City in the early part of the year and to a wayward PAL plane that plowed to a residential area in Bacolod City. 

Alarmed by the annually increasing rental rates of its Headquarters’ space at the V.V Soliven Building, Enzyme, envisioned a plan for REACT to have its own building. She created and headed the National Headquarters Committee tasked to find ways and means to accumulate enough fund to finance the purchase of lot and construction of the building. The Committee opened a special fund   account and Enzyme put up the initial seed money and amount snowballed slowly but with promising results.

Recognizing the valuable contribution of Junior REACTors, Enzyme encouraged the creation of more Junior REACT groups. But perhaps, Enzyme can be remembered also as millennium crossover REACT president since she was the incumbent when the Y2K took over. REACT served as back-up communication for Pilipinas Shell as part of the oil firm’s Y2K computer glitch preparation.

Gregorio “Exor” Pacifico of NCR-East took over after Enzyme. He was elected during the convention at Iloilo City in 2000 unopposed and served the Organization until June 2001. Exor maintained the simplicity program of Enzyme and continued the quarterly meeting of the National Board and visited groups at much frugal means to save funds for more important activities of REACT. The Y2K partnership of Pilipinas Shell and REACT was carried on for the rest of the year when both firms tied up for motorists’ assistance during the Lenten season widely known as SUMVAC.

 Exor’s year was Halalan year. Again, ABS-CBN tapped the resources of REACT for the national election monitoring and speedy real time results. For this effort, the giant communication network pledged a donation of P1.5 million for REACT operations, however; only half of the promised had been fulfilled. On this year, REACT was also recipient of Presidential Award for its contributions to the Clean and Green and Health programs of the government.

 REACT performance during Exor was recapped during the convention in Cebu City where Angelo T. Reyes, a staunch supporter of REACT was the Guest of Honor and Speaker. Reyes was then the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. This time, Alexander “Apricot” Siladan was the unanimous choices to lead REACT.

 Like Enzyme, Apricot was also the nucleus of his group, Salinas based in Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya. He held various group, regional and national positions and among the most active national officers preceding his presidency. Mayon Volcano erupted on July 26, 2001 affecting a wide area surrounding the volcano. Apricot solicited donations for basics goods and sent relief assistance to evacuees the following month. Recognizing the capability of REACT in preparedness, the OCD-NRCC under MGen Melchor P. Rosales AFP (Ret) signed and Agreement of cooperation with REACT.

The administration of Apricot saw continuing partnership of REACT with the DOH, Clean and Green Program of DILG and the annual Alay Lalad. REACT was active in the Door-to-Door Anti-Polio campaign, national immunization, anti-rabies operations. During this period, the use of cellular phones has made a dent on REACT membership growth.

Durian Group played host to the convention of Apricot where Antonio “Sandpiper” Campos was elected. Faced with the serious problem of dying groups due to the advent of modern and convenient mobile phones, Sandpiper worked to re-activate the inactive groups. Team Building seminars were conducted during Area Conferences. Every possible mean were considered including the encouragement of hard-up groups to act as middlemen for institutions that required generic medicines entitling them to rebates and generate funds with Apricot providing the supplies.

On September 2002, Sandpiper organized relief operations for Filipino refugees from Sabah at the affected areas of Sulu, Bongao and Tawi-Tawi. The Clean and Green, Alay-Lakad, Pasig River marathon and other regular partnerships were maintained and the fire alarm licensing assistance was vigorously pursued. Meanwhile, the increasing monthly rental at V.V. Soliven building continues to drain the Organizations finances. The National Headquarters Committee kept on finding additional funds.

A younger blood in the person of Joel Noel, “JOC” Cabrega of Pansol Group, Region V, became the 16th president of REACT during the annual convention at Waterfront Hotel, Lahug City. JOC continued to revitalize dying groups and the partnership with various agencies. He re-activated the regional bases in Region 1 & 3 with the cooperation of the CRS-AFP of the Northern Luzon Command. His presidency saw the partnership of REACT with other non-governmental agencies such as the CTI Engineering for the Pasig-Marikina River Channel Improvement project and the PNRC-NHQ SID First Aide and Basic Life Support training. The Organization was also tapped by the DOWN Syndrome Association for its annual body walks in providing traffic control assistance.

Perhaps finding the headache of coping with monthly rental to much to handle, JOC made way for the approval of the decision to purchase a 20 footer container van converted to a field office using the National Headquarters fund. This generous move however, triggered another serious crisis in REACT leadership the following months that followed. The National Headquarters Committee, which ENZYME continued to chair, claimed that the reposition has no committee approval. REACT family nonetheless, settled at their own home at the AFP-CRS compound.

The leadership crisis became apparent during the elections of national officers at the annual convention of REACT at Cagayan de Oro City in April 2004. JOC pushed for the election of Josue “El Bacawan” Lee of Chavacano Group of Zamboanga City to succeed him. However, Enzyme filed her candidacy to contest El Bacawan. This led to hotly contested elections aggravated by the fact that no original members of the REACT COMELEC was present to preside in the process. Shriner, being a past national president and leader of the Host group was appointed as the COMELEC chair and supervised the affair.

The election was so close in Enzyme’s favor. But the crisis lingered. JOC did not endorse the result and instead questioned the conduct of elections. The leadership crisis however earned positive side to the problem. To avert further polarization, REACT Past National Presidents gathered in historic Club Filipino, San Juan and met with all concerned parties. With the founding president Woodpecker presiding, the PNPs heard all parties to resolve the issue and Enzyme once again was back to lead the frontline.

Enzyme continued the activities that she started and for the second time was re-elected for another term until June 30, 2006. Her dream for REACT to have its own headquarters was finally on November 12, 2005.

With the generous assistance from Hon Edgar “Baccarat” Valdez who became the party-list representatives for Association of Philippine Electric Cooperatives (APEC), REACT was able to construct the building right at the CRS compound in Camp Aguinaldo. The solicitation for the necessary fund proved to more easily than getting the approval of AFP leadership to grant the necessary permits for the construction.