If there’s a silver lining to this dark cloud that is the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19), it’s how quickly and spontaneously private companies, community organizations and ordinary Filipinos mobilized to help in the effort to stem the contagion.
It’s reassuring to know that the spirit of true citizenship is alive and well, if not always evident in our daily lives.
Just a few whose efforts deserve recognition:
Art Relief Mobile Kitchen (ARMK)
Founded in 2013 by documentary photographer Alex Baluyut and his partner Precious Leano in response to the massive natural and man-made calamities that periodically visit these islands, Art Relief Mobile Kitchen’s (ARMK) mission is to feed the multitudes whenever and wherever people find themselves displaced and hungry. From Yolanda to Marawi, ARMK’s volunteers have set up much-needed emergency feeding programs, relying mostly on donations and their own sweat.
From their base in Los Baños, Laguna, ARMK set up a field kitchen at the Redemptorist Church to feed 250 front-line health workers at the Batangas Medical Center in Lipa City.
They also set up a satellite kitchen for about 700 students in the University of the Philippines Los Baños dormitories stranded by the community quarantine.
In Quezon City, ARMK partnered up with the Gourmet Gypsy Art Cafe to help feed health workers at the Lung Center of the Philippines, the Philippine Heart Center, the National Kidney and Transplant Institute, East Avenue Medical Center and the Quirino Memorial Medical Center.
The group is also in the process of mobilizing its local chapters in Iligan, Davao, Cavite and Surigao to help feed front-line health workers.
In keeping with pandemic protocol, these are lockdown kitchens, where volunteers undergo health screening, wear protective gear and are required to stay on site.
For donations, look up the Art Relief Mobile Kitchen Facebook page.
Doctors Online Consultation for Filipinos (DOC)
Batch 2011 of the St. Luke’s Medical Center College of Medicine is offering free consultations (for non-COVID-19 related complaints) to help decongest hospitals which, understandably, have their hands full attending to the crisis.
The group includes general practitioners and specialists in internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics, urology, orthopedics, ophthalmology, surgery, neurology, obstetrics and EENT.
For more information, access the group on their Doctors Online Consultation for Filipinos (DOC) Facebook page.
The corporate sector
Jollibee Foods Corp. (JFC), which includes the brands Jollibee, Chowking, Mang Inasal, Red Ribbon, Greenwich, Burger King, Panda Express and PHO24, is donating P100 million worth of food for health care workers.
“Our front-liners are our real modern-day heroes during this time of a pandemic,” said JFC chief executive officer Ernesto Tanmantiong.
So many others restaurants and brands have stepped up, making sure the front-liners are eating well as they take care of patients. It’s a long, long list that includes McDonald’s, Rue Bourbon, Myron’s, Franco’s Friends, Gourmet Gypsy, Barrio Fiesta, Mimi & Bros, Yabu, Ippudo, Elephant Grounds, Via Mare, Marugame Philippines, Paul Philippines, Try Vegan, Kanto Freestyle Breakfast, 24 Chicken Delivery Manila, Baba Bake, Gardenia and more.
Chooks-to-Go handed out meals for health care workers and for the personnel manning the different checkpoints.
Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and Starbucks have been providing free coffee for front-liners as well. Tiger Sugar brought joy with their milk tea and donated 1,300 liters of farm fresh milk to different organizations to be used for donations. Fruitas is delivering 1,000 bottles of fresh buko juice for front-liners every day at the hospitals and checkpoints.
JFC has also allocated a P1 billion emergency fund for its employees to tide them over the quarantine period. Employees will be receiving their full salaries and their 13th month pay in advance. This covers the office, store, commissary and logistics center employees and also includes the senior citizens and PWD workers under the joint employment program the company has with local government units.
Elias Wicked Ales & Spirits used its two breweries to produce 70-percent ethyl alcohol and handed them out to customers for free and then they made more for hospitals.
When news that the antimalaria drug hydroxychloroquine could possibly be used to treat COVID-19 patients, a corporate foundation (who preferred to remain anonymous) donated 200,000 tablets to the Department of Health.
The Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation Philippines is addressing the extreme shortage in surgical masks and other protective gear being experienced by front-line health workers by launching a fundraising effort to purchase N95 masks, quarantine coats, protective goggles, caps and shoes, in coordination with its volunteers in China. Tzu Chi volunteer and member of the Tzu Chi International Medical Association Dr. Joe Qua has been doing the rounds of Metro Manila hospitals to distribute what they have acquired so far.
Front-line medical personnel, the organization said, are afraid to go home for fear of transmitting the virus to their family members. “We must now come together, urgently, to help protect them; they are our heroes, and deserve the best protection we can provide.”
A proud mother reported how each of her four children has been helping in the fight against COVID-19. One has been serving coffee and delivering sandwiches to front-line health workers at Manila Doctors Hospital and six other hospitals. Another has been shipping banh mi sandwiches to hospitals in Cebu, while remaining quarantined on a farm in Nueva Ecija. A third, also quarantined with his wife, is using their home delivery food service to send food packs to front-line health workers.
“My heart is full and am holding back tears even as I pray for God’s protection for my family and friends,” she wrote. —With reports from Alya B. Honasan, Pam Pastor and Thelma Sioson San Juan