Stranded Ifugao workers plead for assistance during Luzon lockdown
MANILA, Philippines– As the enhanced community quarantine continues in Luzon, several sectors have had to put their lives on hold due to the lockdown and the coronavirus outbreak in the Philippines.
Among them are some Ifugao workers who have been stranded in various areas, with others losing jobs and ending up displaced in the middle of the pandemic.
Nena Amejna, one of 9 Ifugao ladies living in a boarding house in San Juan, is among those who are struggling to make ends meet during this pandemic. She worked for a Chinese employer who owns a milk tea factory in New Manila
Like Nena, many Ifugao leave their province for the promise of jobs in Metro Manila and other parts of the country.
Most times, they become contractual workers, factory workers, security guards, cashiers, or supermarket employees. Some land jobs through manpower agencies where they are contracted for projects and paid the daily minimum wage with no benefits. Meanwhile, others are directly hired but follow the condition of “no work, no pay.”
In the wake of the lockdown, Nena shared how her employer didn’t provide any support to help tide them over after the milk tea factory where she worked closed shop.
“‘Yung amo naming kuripot, hindi kami binigyan ng tulong. Wala rin kami mabilhan ng pagkain na malapit dahil sa mga checkpoint,” she said.
(Our employer is stingy. He did not leave us any money, and it is hard to buy food nearby because of the checkpoints).
Another group, this time hailing from Kiangan, Ifugao, were hired to work as construction workers within the former Nayong Pilipino area in Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). They have co-workers from Nueva Vizcaya, too, and they live within the construction site – a makeshift shanty or what they call “kampo” (camp).
The NAIA boys, as they are now called, are afraid of the uncertainties they face in light of the lockdown. Two of them have not been feeling well.
While their co-workers from Nueva Vizcaya walked in slippers from NAIA to their home province for several days, the NAIA boys hailing from Ifugao opted to stay behind for their safety.
Mark Balanian, one of the 6 construction workers, said he worries about how they willl survive in the dismantled makeshift camp that was set up for them in NAIA.
“Subcontractors lang kami at gusto na sana naming umuwi. Binaklas na yung kalahati ng kampo namin at iniwan ‘yung para sa amin. Takot din po kami kung anong mangyayari sa mga susunod na araw,” he said.
(We are grateful for all the help. We are merely subcontractors and we want to go home. Half of the makeshift camp was already dismantled except for where we stay now. We are scared for what will happen in the coming days.)
Call for help
Across Luzon, similar stories of displaced and stranded Ifugaos have been reported as they plead to either go home or get assistance.
Since they are not registered as residents in the cities where they are staying, some local government units and barangays do not have protocols in place that will include them in the list of recipients for food packs.
Some employers of these Ifugaos, similar to Amejna, have not extended any assistance as well.
Answering the plea of stranded Ifugaos, the Ifugao Cyberspace Watchdog (ICW) – a Facebook group with over 40,000 members globally – came together and stepped up to help their kabobleyans (provincemates).
With cash and in-kind donations on hand, the volunteer group identified these stranded Ifugao workers and students who could not go back home. (READ: LIST: Groups help vulnerable sectors affected by coronavirus lockdown)
An allotment from Ifugao Representative Solomon Chungalao included them for food pack distribution as well.
With the help of ICW, cash assistance was given to those in difficult to reach areas, while volunteers sent and prepared hot meals, food items, medicines, and hygiene kits for the rest.
The ICW describes the initiative as Babaddangan, a community-led effort where groups assist and reach out to those in need. They added that for the Ifugao traditional society, “bibinnaddang” shows the strong sense of community where the whole village, as the main support system, looks out for each member.
The ICW shared that the spirit of Babaddang still continues, as donations pour in and volunteers distribute relief goods and check in on stranded Ifugaos in Luzon. (READ: Filipino bayanihan spirit shines through amid coronavirus outbreak)
However, the group worries how long they can sustain these stranded Ifugao workers throughout the lockdown.
“Like many minimum wage earners in the country, their immediate future is in peril. To what extent can the Babaddang help them? A food pack can only go a week, maybe stretched to two weeks. A few were able to get assistance from the LGUs they live in through the intercession of fellow Ifugaos. But again, until when can this sustain the strandeds?” they asked.
Thankful as they are for the initiatives of their fellow provincemates, stranded Ifugao workers have shared to Ifugao Cyberspace Watchdog that their wish for now is simple: “Pinhod mi ya abun umanamut ad boble (We just want to go home.)” – Rappler.com
Gina Lumauig is a writer, educator and volunteer whose parents were born and raised in Kiangan, Ifugao. She considers herself proudly Ifugao. She may be reached at email@example.com
For those wishing to help the stranded, please join Ifugao Cyberspace Watchdog on Facebook and leave a message there.