Nancy (51), a PSHF loan recipient, takes a ‘kumkum’ or a fistful of rice from her meagre supply and cooks it with plenty of water so that her whole family can eat. Rice is the staple food in the country and so is present in every typical Filipino meal. With the whole country under a partial lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a huge number of poor Filipino families are dependent on government aid for subsistence. The local barangay office has just last week given Nancy and her neighbours two kilos of rice, a can of sardines and a pack of noodles. They must stretch this food assistance for as long as they can as they do not know when the next one will come. When she and her husband Rizal (54) were still earning a living from selling balut (a fertilised duck egg), their consumption of rice was a kilo or so each day.
In another part of Bacolod, Jinky (45), another PSHF loan recipient, cooks noddles with flour to make a large serving so that her family will somehow have their fill. The pack of noodles, together with two kilos of rice and a can of sardines, came from the local barangay office. Before the COVID-19 quarantine, when Janril (Jinky’s husband) was still working, the family (parents and six children) consumed two kilos of rice each day.
Their stories, as well as their neighbours’, reached the ears of our provincial field workers Lester Joy and Warlita. Both of them live in densely populated communities, especially Warlita who lives in Barangay 10, one of the most densely packed areas of Bacolod.
Since the community quarantine started in all parts of the country, Warlita and Lester Joy have been updating me on the situation in Bacolod. (I happen to be on Guimaras island, a boat-ride away from Negros island where Bacolod city is). There are always accounts of food shortages among poor families in their neighbourhood. Last week they ventured to ask if the PSHF could by any chance provide assistance for these people in need. This is the reason why I am writing this proposal.
After consulting with PSHF Director Richard Foster and my fellow coordinator Ireen Ingles, it was decided that assistance, in the form of cash, should be extended to some 100 families recommended by our field workers. There will be two phases of distribution and providing free meals will be considered in the second phase, if circumstances permit. The amount of each cash gift isn’t really significant; what is more important is that we are making the lives of some of these families more comfortable and less distressing during these difficult times.
Bernadette G. Togado
On the 15th of April, field workers Lester Joy and Warlita set out to hand over to 200 pesos to each of the 100 families previously assessed by them to be deserving of a cash assistance. Here's how some of the families spent their money:
One of the recipients of our cash assistance, Rogelio (63), suffers from a prostate disorder and so uses a urinary catheter which has to be changed every two weeks. With the lockdown his wife Florentina was not able to work. The following day after the couple received the cash gift, they immediately went to the hospital to have Rogelio's catheter replaced.
Melanie had little rice left in her container and so when she received the cash gift, she was joyful because she would be able to buy rice and fish.
Other families were happy because they were able to buy vegetables and fish; their joints were aching from eating too much tinned sardines which have a high uric acid content. One family used the cash gift to buy a tray of eggs to have something different on their table.
Aside from cash, the two field workers also gave out detergent powder (200 to 250 grams) which they put into small bags made from old newspapers. As much as possible, we are keen to be environment friendly in every step of the way. As a ‘counterpart', each family was told to hand over 5 discarded PET bottles. Through this act, there were 500 less bottles littering the streets of Bacolod.