Filipino bayanihan spirit shines through amid coronavirus outbreak

As Filipinos experience fear and uncertainty during an ongoing coronavirus pandemic, several concerned citizens have taken it upon themselves to help others.

Students from the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Medicine led a donation drive to purchase personal protective equipment for the health workers at the state-run Philippine General Hospital (PGH).

As of March 17, UP Medicine Batch 2025 has already received more than P180,000 in donations which they used to buy face masks and alcohol for PGH frontliners. (READ: Staying compassionate in the time of coronavirus)

Maaaring state-sponsored ang PGH pero hindi nito natatanggal ang katotohanang may mga kakulangang kailangang punan (The PGH may be state-sponsored but it doesn't change the fact there are still neeeds that have to be addressed),” said batch president Arlyn Jave Adlawon.

As transportation woes hound health workers and hospital staff after the suspension of public transport in Luzon, free ride-sharing initiatives were also launched online with the hashtags #pickupCOVID19PH and #INeedARide.

Through the hashtags, citizens willing to volunteer to drive health workers and frontlines can browse tweets using the hashtag and reply to others to better coordinate.

Former Bayan Muna congressman Teddy Casiño even volunteered to pick up and drive health workers to their destinations.

Being thousands of kilometers away did not stop Dubai-based Rica Garcia from sharing her expertise and using artificial intelligence technology to develop a Facebook chatbot that responds to queries on the coronavirus disease.

“Nars Bot PH aims to ease access to information regarding COVID-19 and respond in both Tagalog and English, and soon even in Bisaya, Ilonggo, and other Philippine languages for a larger range in users,” said Garcia, who is still in the process of securing government approval for the chatbox.

Showing her thanks to frontliners, concerned citizen Rose Ann Rescobillo also heeded the call to help and gave out packed meals to security officers, health workers, and hospital staff in Pasig City.

In UP Visayas, around 100 students stranded in their dormitories used their newfound free time to make improvised face shields for health workers in Iloilo.

“We are concerned about our frontliners given the evident lack of facilities such as protective equipment,” said UP Visayas student council chair Adrian Camposagrado.

With funds and materials from a private hospital and the Philippine College of Physicians Visayas Chapter, the students were able to create more than 100 face shields out of acetate, foam, tape, and a stapler.

Meanwhile, staff at the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) in Davao City were touched when an Ateneo de Davao grade school student unexpectedly sent them gifts and a letter thanking them for their service.

A bakery in Davao City also pledged to supply the SPMC health workers with freshly baked bread until March 20.

While lauding these citizen-led initiatives, several netizens pointed out that if the government were doing its job properly, there wouldn’t be any need for these efforts in the first place.

“It's also nice to applaud the generosity of groups and individuals but the survival of the Filipino people cannot be dependent on this generosity,” quipped one Twitter user.

The Department of Health has already confirmed 202 cases of COVID-19 infections in the country with 17 fatalities, prompting President Rodrigo Duterte to declare a nationwide state of calamity, and place Luzon under lockdown from March 17 to April 12 in a bid to curb the numbers. – Rappler.com