On April 4, a staff nurse at the VRP Medical Center posted a photo on Facebook. It shows her face covered with two masks and a shield, her gloved hands holding up two pens and a sign that reads: “Ang COVID patient namin hindi basta-basta nauubos! Pero ang mga tinta ng ball pen namin konting-konti na lang!”
With many people focusing on making sure our health workers have access to personal protective equipment (PPE) and food, both absolutely essential in the fight against the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19), this was a neglected necessity. Yes, our front-liners need pens, too—red and black ones, to be specific.
Individuals and companies jumped into action, sending over boxes of pens to different hospitals. National Book Store (NBS) was one of them.
“Pens are essential for our health-care workers who have to write in charts and forms, and our policemen and soldiers who monitor checkpoints across the country,” said NBS managing director Xandra Ramos-Padilla. “We pooled from existing stock in the store and gave them to those in need of these supplies in Metro Manila and some nearby provinces, too.”A number of pen brands did the same thing.
Like most establishments, NBS’ branches have been closed since the enhanced community quarantine started last month.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected us, like everyone else. Our normal operations ceased and all our stores and online shopping platforms have been closed for the safety of our customers and employees,” said Ramos-Padilla.But they kept getting messages from customers who were searching for materials they could use to make face shields for front-liners. They needed acetate sheets, double-sided tape, garter, ribbons. And hospitals needed pens, glues, boxes and other supplies.
NBS coordinated with the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases.
“We requested permission to access one of our stores in Quezon City and to set up a team to help customers acquire these items,” said Ramos-Padilla.
Round the clock
The team is made up of NBS employees who work round the clock and often receive requests for supplies “late at night or in the wee hours.” “They facilitate the processing and delivery of orders across the country,” said Ramos-Padilla.
Another crucial member of the team? A security guard who walks to the store for more than an hour each day because of the lack of public transportation.
People have gotten creative with their use of the supplies. When acetate sheets ran out, they substituted laminating sheets for making face shields.
Bubble wrap is being used as alternative to foam in protecting the foreheads of those wearing face shields, while rubber bands and ribbons do the work of garters, too.
Plastic covers are no longer used just to wrap books; they’ve been used to cover surfaces in stores, hospitals and vehicles as well as for disinfection tents.
“We Filipinos have always been resourceful, and the spirit of bayanihan is strongest during times like this,” Ramos-Padilla said.