It was at exactly 2:14 p.m. on March 21, 2020 when I received this message: “Sir, baka naman pwede makahingi ng pangkain. Gutom na ako, Sir.” [Sir, can you spare me some money for food. I am hungry, Sir]

This heart-wrenching plea came from one of my students of Alternative Learning System (ALS) at Manila North Cemetery (MNC). Hours later, I began to receive similar messages from other scholars in MNC and Tondo.

I felt my heart bleeding yet I was so helpless because I could not physically go to them to extend any assistance I can extend. When it was announced that Metro Manila would be locked down, I hurriedly went to my hometown in Bataan to be with my family.

I knew I had to do something so I reached out to the Metro Manila-based leaders of the United Methodist Youth Fellowship (UMYF) and asked them to lend money to the scholars plus money from my parents.

“I will pay you back through mobile banking,” I promised my UMYF colleagues.

Coincidentally, the members of the UMYF of the Southwest District of the Philippines Annual Conference (PAC) (where my girlfriend Aminah Lucena is the president) and the United Methodist Young Adults Fellowship (UMYAF) of PAC initiated a fund-raising project for Barangay 654 of Intramuros, Manila.

Inspired by this initiative, I started asking for help from my close friends and churchmates through Messenger. That started the ball rolling. My friends endorsed people who were ready and willing to give.

The initial purpose of the campaign was to help out ALS scholars as well as the members of the Teatro Kapatiran living in the MNC compound. After all, the UMYF officers have met the young talents of Teatro Kapatiran when the latter performed during the 3rd National Youth Council Meeting (NYCM) so it was not hard for the former to donate financial aid.

It helped that Aminah came to know the Teatro kids and became close to them because both of us became very determined to help them.

After the donations arrived, the staff members of Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation Inc. (KKFI) helped out in repacking, led by Ate Flora Tatoy and Ate Anidel Villanueva.

Our modest target was to extend a lifeline for some 20-30 families only, but the support poured in allowed us to assist 45 families in total—33 in MNC, 10 in Tondo, and two in Navotas City. The goods were distributed by KKFI youth leaders.

Even after I stopped sending messages asking for donations, they kept coming. This allowed us to come up with the second phase of our fund-raising drive, which benefitted 17 more families in MNC.

We were already satisfied with the thought that we had done enough, but days after, the National UMYFP released a budget in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This included an aide for MNC, the “Bigas Para sa Intramuros,” and Small Hands, an organization composed of United Methodist Church (UMC) members who are helping those in the frontline of the fight against the dreaded coronavirus.

The total amount collected reached P46,000, surpassing the initial target that would have assisted 35 families only. Happily but quite unexpectedly, we were to extend the operation to Phases 3 and 4 that were able to serve 54 and 74 families, respectively.

I gave KKFI youth leaders the discretion to whom they can give the excess packs. All donations were properly liquidated and documented. Reports and documentations were sent to the donors as faithful agreement.

But KKFI did not stop there. It followed through with our initiative, which has assumed a life of its own. As a staff member of KKFI, I did my share of the overall effort by immediately sending social media posts to seek new donors.

My post read: “Samahan kami sa pagtugon sa mas malawak na pag-abot ng mga kababayan natin sa Tondo at Manila North Cemetery. [Join us in responding to our countrymen living in Tondo and Manila North Cemetery.] ❤️ P.s I had personal initiative regarding MNC. I’m personally no longer accepting donations, instead sa KKFI na po. Salamat po sa mga naunang nagbigay! Pagpapala. [PS, thanks to those who responded immediately. Blessings.]❤️”

Soon after, the National Council on Young People’s Ministries convened to help Mary Johnston Hospital (MJH). Hence, I likewise extended my individual effort to this initiative.

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