We spotted him as his scooter was slowly coming to a halt on the intersection of Rizal Drive and 32nd Street. We read the words on his back first, written on brown cardboard: “Check on your friends,” it said. As we crossed the street to St. Luke’s BGC, the message completed itself: “Make sure they’re okay.” The guy saw us taking a picture and, since a mask and helmet covered much of his face, he gave us the shaka sign with his left hand.
We thought it was such a simple, kind gesture that needed to be shared, reminding the city’s drivers and passengers and passersby to drop their friends a line today and see how they are. We all need a ‘Hi!’ from our friends once in a while. We’ve all been cocooned inside our own homes for so long now, we might be forgetting some of the people close to us. Are they as fine as the last time we saw them? Are they dealing well with the unique stresses brought by these most unusual times?
We expected the post to get a few likes. But it turns out it touched more than a few people. By the time of this writing, the post has earned more than 4,000 likes and has been shared 6,600 times. Also, a lot of commenters have said hi to their friends over the course of the last 22 hours (we posted the pictures around 5PM Wednesday).
And the post has also somehow reached the guy in the photo. He messaged us last night saying, “Good evening. One of your correspondents took a snap and gave me a smile this morning. I didn’t get his name because I was on my scoot and he was crossing the street. Please extend my gratitude to him and I hope all is well with him and his family. Thank you for posting the photos also. This will really help me spread awareness.”
Well, kids, he is Alan Motus. But he prefers to be called Blue. “I am an artist and a nurse by profession,” says the 33 year old Negrense. He started his humanitarian career in 2013 when Yolanda hit the Philippines. He has worked for the United Nations and the United States Agency for International Development, or USAID. While born and raised in Bacolod, his work has taken him to different parts of the country, from Capiz to Aklan, Iloilo to Tacloban. He’s been based in Manila for three years now.
Blue says that every time he goes out of the house in his scooter, he wears the cardboard sign he says he made himself. “I just want to spread light, love and positivity especially at this time,” he says. “I have friends battling depression and I just want people to check on their friends and family too. Everybody needs everybody.” He says staying at home might be helping our Covid situation but it won’t help people with depression. “So I decided to go out with my sign but still practicing social distancing and Covid precautions.”
Yesterday was just another “scoot + sign day” for Blue, getting stopped by random people in the streets and making new friends. “I've been doing this for a month now and have travelled almost 800 kms ++ on my scooter wearing the sign. Almost every day,” he says. “There are times that I even go out at night when I receive a random message on FB from a random person thanking me for what I do and or asking for help.”
Blue was trapped in La Union for three months following the announcement of the lockdown. But being quarantined in a concrete jungle like Manila, he says, was a totally different experience. Clearly, it sparked some important questions. “I thought 2020 was the year that I would have everything I wanted, but then again, I realized that this year, because of the pandemic, I get to appreciate everything I had and I am really grateful and blessed,” says Blue.
We ask Blue a friend’s question: may pinagdaanan kaya siya that’s why he’s doing this? “Your friend is correct. I battled against depression,” he says. “I am this person who try to share positive vibes at the workplace or even on the streets. Having said that, I was also surprised that depression hit me. It hit me hard. This was quite recent.. Last week of September. I became ok, not fully ok but I was healing. I was in that dark corner and when I saw light, I needed to share that light.”
People have spotted Blue in Makati, in Pasig, in Quezon City and in Mandaluyong. He says his goal is basically just to spread awareness, for maybe one or two individuals to encounter his sign and feel inspired to actually reconnect with a friend. “As I go around the streets of the metro,” he says, “I am healing myself and want others to heal at the same time.”