The idea of Filipino resilience is admirable, but easy to abuse. The corrupt or negligent often invoke the virtue of resilience when it comes to Filipinos bouncing back from times of crisis, when really, our worth as a people shouldn’t be measured by how much punishment we can take. If anything, recognizing Filipino resilience should still come with the compulsion to help those in need.
That’s where acts of kindness and generosity come from, and we see it spades from Shawntel Nieto, who was recently featured in BBC World for the Cainta Food Program that she and her family have been organizing and working on over the course of the pandemic.
Nieto is 24 years old, and was featured on BBC World for her youth activism efforts. With her and her family’s help, and many people from the community who contributed to the donation fund, Nieto helped distribute over 200,000 pieces of food and relief to tens of thousands of Cainteños. (Shawntel is a niece of Cainta Mayor Kit Nieto. Her dad is Kit’s older brother) These efforts were specifically organized to help those who lost their jobs during the pandemic. The Cainta Food Program is even cognizant of providing for families with babies, who need milk and have specific nutritional needs, but can’t get them through the usual ayuda provisions.
Shawntel explains to ANCX that she and her family have been able to provide food and relief to their community members through three different ways: “First, we worked with different companies, NGOs, and civil groups that donated boxes upon boxes of relief goods. Second, we partnered with three different restaurant chains that provided constant number of packed meals everyday during the lockdown/ECQ period. Third, we manage a General Donor Fund. Anyone can donate any amount they wish to the Fund. Afterwards, we pool the donations into different ‘rounds’ and use the pooled amount to procure rice, canned goods, bread, and children's milk that we repack and provide both to our communities and to our frontliners.”
Shawntel adds that the local government has been assisting their family from the get go. “The members of the municipal team are the ones who distribute the relief goods, relief packs, and packed meals amongst other non-food items we likewise provide (i.e. disinfectants, PPEs, masks, sanitary napkins) to our Cainteños door-to-door.”
In the BBC feature, Nieto also mentions that Cainta is the “catch basin” of Manila, heavily affected by typhoons. That said, the Cainta community is no stranger to care and support.
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“In our language we have what we call the bayanihan spirit, which is basically a heroic spirit, but a type of heroism that is rooted not in, say, self-glory and strength, but in your ability to reach and help other people out,” Nieto says. “And over the course of the lockdown, we’ve seen this bayanihan spirit within our town. Thousands upon thousands of people donating what they can for our marginalised communities.”
The Philippines currently holds the record of undergoing the longest lockdown in the world, but it is good to know that on a local level, Filipinos are helping each other out in times of struggle, and are able to be resilient, because they know that others are reaching out.
You can watch the BBC World video here