When it became clear to me that the much-talked-about coronavirus disease (Covid-19) has become a serious health issue on a global scale, I became agitated like never before.

My imagination went wild, plunging it to scenes of apocalyptic movies showing whole population decimated by an infectious disease or a chemical warfare. After all, the SARS and MERSCOV pandemics that brought fear, panic, and misery to the world, literally, were still fresh in my memory.

After the Philippine President declared the unprecedented Metro Manila-wide (and later on Luzon-wide) expanded community quarantine (ECQ), I knew something very wrong was happening.

I thought of my family in the suburb and the people in the Manila North Cemetery, who are among the beneficiaries of programs of the Kapatiran-Kaunluran Foundation Inc. (KKFI). I knew for a fact that they had limited resources and they were definitely not ready to what’s coming.

The lockdown caught everyone unaware that my daughter and I, along with 18 other KKFI staff members had to stay inside the KKFI compound on P. Paredes street in Sampaloc, Manila.

Most of the dorm residents were able to take advantage of the narrow window for them to pack up hastily and went home to their respective provinces. Some 50 others were not so lucky. They were left stranded inside the KKFI compound for the duration of the lockdown.

The government move was so swift in order to minimize the projected damage and unimaginable tragedy that awaited Metro Manila residents because of the worsening threat of Covid-19.

I had a premonition of it, perhaps. Four days before the lockdown declaration, I filed for a leave of absence to be with my family in case anything happens.

But I used up my leave so I returned to work immediately. I performed without a hitch my particular task at the time, which was to arrange the venue for four focused group discussions for Community Support Network for Manila North Cemetery (MNC) and invite MNC residents them. The activities were in partnership with the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC).

Then came March 16, a Monday. The day started normally enough. The transportation situation was normal (meaning, there were traffic jams and noises as usual). No checkpoints nor roadblocks were visible.

The situation changed when evening came. Shortly after President Rodrigo R. Duterte delivered his emergency speech, the operations of public transport vehicles grinded to a halt.

My daughter and I (we stay at KKFI on weekdays) went to a bus terminal, anyway, hoping to catch a ride. What awaited us was confusion among panicky commuters trying vainly to get a ride home. Left with no other option, we went back to KKFI compound.

The first few days of the lockdown were a nightmare. We felt so much anxiety and fear. I knew we had to contend with the emotional turmoil that has bedevilled us right at start throughout the lockdown that was scheduled to last for a month, at least.

I was so thankful when Ma’am Nancy C. Nicolas, our executive director, told us to be ready for a food distribution operation for our beneficiaries in MNC and Tondo.

It was a very welcome decision by the Board of Trustees of the KKFI. It tortured me to imagine the hunger our stakeholders have been enduring. Normal days were hard enough for them, since their daily incomes were barely enough to feed their respective families.

How much harder would it be if they had no work nor business for the whole duration of the one-month lockdown?

Indeed, the KKFI’s support was a lifeline for 150 or so families. I am hoping that there will be more assistance to come so that we can reach more people not only in MNC but to other KKFI mission areas.

My heart leaped for joy after receiving a call from Assisi Development Foundation Inc. in response to a call for donation I posted on Facebook. The Assisi Foundation has been a KKFI partner for a year, providing scholarship for some MNC students.

Alster Soriano of Assisi asked for details of KKFI’s effort and I explained our plan. He said his group wanted to give its share. I was expecting a donation of about P60,000 but Assisi, instead, offered P300,000. This is a huge addition to our relief budget!

Yes, we are giving food but, more importantly, we are giving hope to the people. We are also showing the love God has for us with much abundance without mentioning “church” and the name of our Lord, Jesus.

As Leviticus 25:35 says: “If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you.”

I took this as a personal challenge, so I volunteered to be on the frontline personally handing the food packs to the families in MNC and Tondo. I know I am exposing myself to the dangers of the virus by being on the ground, but I felt I was serving God and people by doing it.

In my own little way, I am helping in the rebuilding of our communities and in bringing back the normal life as we knew it. Perhaps, it was God’s will for me to miss a bus back to my hometown because there were tasks waiting for me at KKFI at this time of Covid-19 pandemic.

With all honesty, I say: “Here I am, Lord, send me. I am happy to serve.”

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