Ensuring that every person has sufficient to eat during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns has been a significant challenge for many governments, with not all managing to achieve that goal.
In the Philippines the March 15 lockdown of Metro Manila and subsequent expansion to cover the entire island of Luzon left hundreds of thousands of Filipinos with little capacity to prepare staring at a bleak future. No work, no money. No money, no food. No food, die.
While the lockdown was described as “a matter of national survival” by presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo, Luzon’s 57 million people no doubt feel that eating is a matter of personal survival, with many spending almost all that they earn in a day on food.
With a potential human tragedy of immense proportions staring them in the face, national and local government units (LGUs) across the Philippines began mobilising all available resources to ensure their citizens were fed, chief amongst them, the Filipino spirit of cooperative endeavour referred to as “Bayanihan”.
As bulk food supplies began to amass at government centres, in the Valenzuela City of Paso de Blas it was some of the cities poorest who answered the call to help ensure their neighbours receive a constant supply of food.
Comprising college and middle school students, housewives, professionals, and a few former drug victims/ addicts with no work, members of the Bagong Kaunlaran HOAI (Homeowners Assoc. Inc), an “informal settlers or slum area” have packed hundreds of thousands of food packages to date, with a personal best of 5,400 on one day.
Comprising a mix of tinned, and dry goods, the packs are made up almost daily, with the contents varying depending on what items are available, group member Merlan Nadera Cirera told AEC News Today by email.
While the Bagong Kaunlaran HOAI volunteers are assembling relief packages under the watchful eye of barangay chair Luciana Nolasco, members of the LGU are out seeking those most at need and handing out vouchers that can be exchanged for the packages.
Mr Cirera said there is no plans by members of the group to stop, provided the food supplies keep coming, with Mr Cirera saying some members of the group see it as attoning for things they have done in the past.
The editors at AEC News Today consider the spirit of displayed by the Bagong Kaunlaran HOAI to truly reflect the meaning of the “Asean Community”. Due to the values displayed we have therefore classified this story and its depiction of Filipino community spirit as a Best of the AEC.
- Bayan Bayanihan brings food and hope to the poorest of the poor (AEC News Today)
- Will we die hungry? A teeming Manila slum chafes under lockdown (The New York Times)
Bagong Kaunlaran HOAI slide gallery
Between November 2010 and February 2012 she was a staff writer at Daylight Online, Nigeria writing on health, fashion, and relationships. From 2010 – 2017 she worked as a freelance screen writer for ‘Nollywood’, Nigeria.
She joined AEC News Today in December 2016.
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