A group of Filipinos based in Thailand are helping their compatriots deal with the difficulties brought by the COVID-19 pandemic by giving them free groceries.
United Filipinos of Thailand (UFT) have been giving the groceries to hundreds of Filipinos since late March, the period when many Pinoys have been laid off from their jobs. It’s the perfect example of bayanihan, a Filipino practice where people come together to help their struggling compatriots, even those whom they barely know.
“We started [because we were] thinking that the problem of COVID here is getting serious,” said Jaycee Dilan, one of the leaders of the project. “We started talking about it and when the number [of cases] were getting high, we already prepared the team.”
Dilan spoke with the former president of UFT, Bing Arias, to get the project rolling, which they called COVID Food Pack Project. Many of the recipients were teachers who lost their jobs in March, the time when summer vacation started. School won’t start again until July, leaving the teachers struggling to make ends meet.
“Usually here when there are no classes, [a teacher] will not get paid,” Dilan explained in English and Filipino. “All they can get is an allowance and not a full salary. Most are on a no work, no pay [set-up]. They have nothing to pay their rent, they have nothing to eat.”
While some Filipinos want to go home, the Philippine embassy in Bangkok has yet to arrange for a repatriation flight, leaving the workers stuck in their predicament.
“Some of them have been allowed [by their landlords] to pay their rent much later. Others had to move out and share a place with their friends,” Dilan said. “A lot of them are thinking of resigning and going back to the Philippines because they cannot sustain their lives here anymore.”
Even Filipinos who are not working in schools have lost their jobs.
“The bars here have closed. Of course [during a lay off] they will choose their Thai workers over foreigners because foreigners get paid more. Some of them were laid off in the meantime because if that is not done, the company might end up closing,” he explained.
To help them cope, UFT solicited money from companies and other Filipinos in Thailand, which was then used to buy the food packs. Each pack consists of five kilos of rice, 10 chicken eggs, a bottle of cooking oil, a few cans of sardines, face masks, packs of noodles, and loaves of bread. At one point, they even handed out some puto (rice cakes) that were donated by a Filipino restaurant. Each pack can last for up to three weeks.
Dilan said that they will continue to help members of the community, and is currently speaking with organizations to ask for more donations.
“Now we are writing letters of appeal to sponsors, companies to provide donations. Not everyone who sends us messages [asking for help] will be given [food] We [will] prioritize people who have been laid off, terminated, whose companies have closed, with dependents, and indigents,” he said.
Good luck, Jaycee!
Have you heard of other Filipinos in Thailand who have been helping the community during the pandemic? Tell us by leaving a comment below or tweeting to @CoconutsManila.