Who do you think of when you hear the word superhero? Some might initially think of the well-known superheroes such as Superman and Wonderwoman or even a stereotypical picture of someone running around in brightly colored tights with a cape while saving the world from the evil forces. Nevertheless, a more realistic image of a hero that we can relate to is someone who is ordinary in actions and deeds. Some may be donned in uniforms, others in protective gears, or someone wearing just a simple shirt and jeans.

During this coronavirus pandemic, workers across a large array of industries have found themselves vital parts of the system that keep the world in motion. Doctors, nurses market and grocery employees, police officers, military personnel, delivery riders and other frontline staff expose themselves to risk of contracting the disease just to fulfill their duties. They ensure our health and safety during this pandemic, thus, making them more susceptible to contract the disease.

That is why, Mark David Cerezo, a 2014 Search for Outstanding Volunteer national youth awardee, has conceptualized an idea on how he can provide an extra layer of protection for the frontliners as they do their duties to make us safe. He creates washable facemasks which he calls as COVID-19 Gomang Sining Protection or simply put COVID GS Protection.

In Marikina City, Mark is also known as the ‘Rubberman’ siting his ingenuity and resourcefulness in turning scrap rubber into toys, sculptures, puppets and other types of decorative work. Together with his Pinoy Malikhain team, Mark regularly conducts various volunteer activities by creating innovative artworks and converting waste materials into something valuable to raise funds for the less fortunate.

In this time of pandemic, Mark thought of an ingenious idea to turn rubber sheets in his shop into something useful. The designs of his masks are usually inspired and patterned on different animated fictional characters, which in turn entertains and uplifts the mood of those who receive them.

Since the start of the enhanced community quarantine, he was able to hand out facemasks to around 800 individuals.

After giving the members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police their own set of rubber face masks, Mark sought their help in distributing the masks to other frontliners such as barangay officials, traffic enforcers, service crews, and pharmacists in Taytay, Rizal. Through partnership with the City Health Office of Marikina, he has also distributed individual sets to the City Health officers and other personnel.

In order to make this project sustainable, Mark decided to sell his masks online to interested buyers for him to be able to procure the materials needed and create more face masks. People may also opt to donate raw materials that he can use.

For Mark, an environment and youth empowerment advocate, the country’s Rubber Artist earnestly shares his God-given talent to inspire, most specially the Filipino youth, encouraging them to share their own creativity in creating something worthwhile.

We all have a remarkable range of abilities and skills. What the world needs are not those people with super powers, but those people who are capable of making amazing things happen.

For inquiries on the COVID-19 GS Protection masks you may call/text at 09091414686 and 09568667044, or visit the Facebook page (facebook.com/markdavidcerezo).

The author is currently the Program Officer, Volunteerism for Development Communication and Advocacy Program, Philippine National Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency.

(Visit PNVSCA website (www.pnvsca.gov.ph) and PNVSCA Facebook (facebook.com/PNVSCA) for other stories and information on volunteering in response to COVID-19).