Ayuda: How generous is your barangay?

The less people have, the more help they need, but geographic metrics alone don’t give a complete picture of residents within barangays. So we did a survey of 17 cities to see the kind of relief people have received.

Not all cities are created equal; barangays, even less so. You can be living in an upscale subdivision and just beyond your walls, a low-income area; you can be in a middle-class condo and a few streets away, a depressed neighborhood.

Common sense dictates the help or ayuda that local governments distribute is proportionate to people’s income — the less they have, the more help they need. Whether the metrics should be geographic or income tax or both is a debate for another place and time.

We all know it would be a waste of government resources to allocate rice and canned goods to barangay Forbes Park, where the values of homes are from hundreds of millions to one billion pesos. Unfortunately, it’s not as clear-cut in most areas of the country, especially Metro Manila, and that leads to people slipping between the cracks. There are middle-class subdivisions with homeowners that have no extra money because they’re paying for mortgage; wage earners who are renting a condo unit with six other people located in an expensive business district of Makati or Ortigas; upper-class families that have suddenly lost their only source of income because their business is shuttered during the lockdown.

So we did an informal survey of our writers and friends living in 17 cities — Manila, Makati, San Juan, Mandaluyong, Caloocan, Pasig, Quezon City, Muntinlupa, Marikina, Las Piñas, Pasay, Malabon, Taguig, Parañaque, Valenzuela, Antipolo and Meycauyan. These are stories from 27 barangays — both in and outside gated subdivisions — that show how well or how badly barangays are taking care of their people and how they restrict movement since the March 15 lockdown.

Tanya Lara, barangay BF Homes, Parañaque City: Ayuda came on the sixth week of lockdown — 10 kilos of rice. Two weeks later, a tray of eggs, followed by another 10 kg. rice. Non-residents are not allowed inside BF Homes, except for delivery riders, and each sub-subdivision’s guards (BF Homes is huge!) take your temperature before entering.       

Residents of barangay Central in Quezon City line up for the relief goods. Photo by Boy Santos

Giselle Kasilag, barangay Plainview, Mandaluyong: We received our first and only (so far) relief pack on May 7, containing rice, Skyflakes, coffee, soap, canned tuna and sardines.

Michelle See Lao, barangay Manresa, Quezon City: We’ve received relief goods four times since the lockdown. Each had five kilos of rice and a decent number of canned goods.

Maan D’Asis Pamaran, barangay Sucat, Muntinlupa: As of May 11, there are 24 positive cases in barangay Sucat, which runs the gamut of high-end subdivisions and a posh condo development to crowded settlements (called puroks), and even informal settlers living along the train tracks.

The village I live in and the high-end subdivision have already received our third wave of relief goods, and I was told that the boxes distributed at the high-end village during their “second wave” was thoughtfully marked “From The House of Representatives.” Some of my neighbors, on the other hand, found insects or bukbok in their rice packs in the second batch of relief goods. Their complaints may have reached higher-ups as the third wave of goods were bug-free.

In contrast, I have witnessed streams of people walking two or three kilometers towards the Miraculous Medal Shrine in my community from their purok in hopes of getting help. I had a short talk with one group from Upper Sucat on April 19, and they said that they had not received anything since March. They were also told that they did not qualify for the SAP for various reasons: two said they were disqualified because they were renters, another because her husband works at a security guard and it was the agency’s duty to give them help. Those living along the railroad tracks say they have not received any aid at all even up to now.

We are on strange pocket lockdowns with Muntinlupa’s number coding for barangay residents to head out to the market, compounded by barangay-mandated time limits set for stores. Unable to cross to the Parañaque side of the expressway, which has big supermarkets, because we have “too many Covid cases,” we are constrained to traveling further south for groceries, along with long lines at the Alabang market and the crush of crowds at the barangay talipapa, along with small sari-sari stores that are only allowed to be open until 12 noon for our produce and other necessities. Thank goodness for “pabili services,” where one can book a rider to do your marketing/groceries for a fee.

They had a mobile soup kitchen that went around several parts of the barangay on May 8, an initiative by one of the councilors. One of the guys ladling out the soup to waiting containers brought by residents had his nose out of his mask. Erm, thank you, sir.

Liza Ilarde, barangay 701, Manila: On the first week of April, our barangay in Malate sent each household in our apartment building a bag with rice, two canned sardines, and instant coffee. Second week of April, they sent P1,000 cash. On the third week, they sent rice only. On the first week of May they again sent rice, two sardines and instant coffee. Each bag of rice was about two kilos, and each time the relief packs were delivered to our building by barangay reps.

Ching Alano, New Zaniga, Mandaluyong: My family was surprised — “shocked” is probably a more apt word — when we heard somebody shouting outside our gate one quiet quarantine afternoon, “Vegetables, vegetables!” Grabbing her mask, my mom’s yaya stepped out of our gate to look. Men on board a delivery vehicle were handing out plastic bags to residents on our street. This was towards the end of the second week of the lockdown and it was our first time to finally receive a bag of relief goods from our barangay. It would also be the last time we would get relief goods.

Our shock turned to disgust when we learned that some of our neighbors have not been getting anything at all since the start of the lockdown. A friend, a senior citizen, who lives by herself in another barangay in Mandaluyong has not seen any relief goods to this day.

The loot bag we received contained six kilos of rice, some vegetables (tomatoes, string beans, okra, onions, eggplants), eight small cans of corned beef, a small packet of iodized salt, four small packets of noodles, and a small bottle of alcohol. These we divided between two families (whose breadwinners include a jeepney driver and a carpenter) who have yet to see the shadow of these relief goods. Thanks to the church and generous neighbors, they have managed to survive.  And to think Mandaluyong Mayor Menchie Abalos even went on the air to say that she would give fresh produce to every Mandalenyo every week, but she could only do so much because there are just so many informal settlers in Mandaluyong. She said that some vegetables couldn’t be delivered because of the checkpoints. And that municipal funds are fast dwindling. Surely, Mandaluyong, one of the most important business and financial areas in Metro Manila, did not go bankrupt so early in the lockdown! These relief goods, sent through the barangays, don’t even come regularly and some really poor Mandaluyong residents don’t get anything at all. For the daily wagers (like the jeepney and pedicab drivers), putting food on the table can be a matter of life and death. There are too many tragic stories around here, like that of a pedicab driver who was almost driven to commit suicide because he just couldn’t bear to see his family die not of COVID-19 but of hunger.

Distribution of food packs in General Trias City, Cavite Photo by EDD GUMBAN

Susan A. De Guzman, barangay Novaliches Proper, Quezon City: Quarantine passes were distributed door to door on March 20.   On the third week of ECQ, we learned from our nephew who lived next door that the barangay had distributed relief packs the previous week — three kilos of rice, two packs of noodles and some canned goods (based on a  photo he sent us). He assumed we were also given. Apparently, whoever distributed the packs didn’t think of using our doorbell. So we missed out on that. The following week (April 9), barangay representatives went around the subdivision on a vehicle to announce that relief goods would be given out so residents should put out a seat at the gate and put their quarantine pass on it. No quarantine pass, no relief pack. Two bags were left on the seat, each one containing seven kilos of rice and 14 pieces of canned goods (chili sardines, meat loaf, corned beef). I think they countercheck the quarantine pass with a barangay list.

On April 13, another announcement came. This time, they were giving out packs to seniors, so on the seat by the gate, we placed Mommy’s senior citizen ID as instructed. They left a bag with another seven kilos of rice and 14 assorted canned goods.

Because of extreme enhanced community quarantine in Novaliches Proper, the barangay announced on April 19 that market days would be limited. Residents could only go out Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays starting April 20. On April 23, instead of a general announcement on a loudspeaker, someone went door to door informing us that relief goods would be given again. Same routine, leave a chair by the gate and your quarantine pass. Another pack arrived.

Lucky us, the neighborhood association’s vice president also distributed a bag of rice to member-households. Since we received quite a lot of goods, we were able to share these with our kasambahay Precy, who lives with her family in another barangay, and the garbage collectors who are still going about their thrice-a-week pick-up schedule.

Angela Ureta, barangay Concepcion Uno, Marikina: We received five kilos of rice twice, and dressed chicken once.

Che Alday, barangay Pio Del Pilar, Makati City: Ayuda in the first six weeks of lockdown was given on the third week (two kilos of rice, six coffee sachets, three canned goods, four instant noodles, one cooking oil, two eggs). P1,000 Puregold gift certificate was given on the 5th week. Quarantine passes were given on the secod week. By the second week, curfew was strictly imposed between 5 a.m. and 8 p.m., On the third week, convenience and sari-sari stores only allowed customers during these times; the wet market operates from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., 5 to 7 p.m. On the fourth week police/military set up roadblocks and checkpoints. To get to the nearest supermarket, I have to pass through two checkpoints.

Paola V. Tucay, barangay Western Bicutan, Taguig: We’ve received ayuda twice so far. Relief goods included vegetables, four canned goods, three packs of noodles, five kg. of rice, coffee and biscuits.

Antonio Bartolome, barangay Veintereales, Valenzuela: We received five kg. rice, five sardines and three instant noodles in April from the barangay. From Mayor Rex Gatchalian, we received on April 24 and May 13 a box with five kg. rice, 14 assorted canned goods, five instant noodles and one-half kilo sugar.

Roberto Sumera, barangay Rizal, Pembo, Makati: On the first week of the lockdown, my family got seven kilos of quality rice, then five kilos on the second week, and another five kilos on the third. We’ve also been getting assorted canned goods every week, without fail, from the barangay. On top of that, being a senior citizen, I received an early P5,000 cash gift for my birthday from the Office of Makati Mayor Abby Binay.

Aliyya Sawadjaan, barangay Talon Dos, Las Piñas: We’ve received food packs twice, each containing two kilos of rice and some canned goods. Before, spraying was done in the major roads and other streets within our village and there was a misting tent for pedestrians before entering the main gate. Now, there is a checkpoint near the main gate of our village. Barangay officials with members of the police check if drivers have their quarantine pass and other IDs with them before allowing them to pass through. Only one person per vehicle is allowed.

Ross See Tan, barangay Katipunan, Quezon City: We received our ayuda on the first week of May, which was three kilos of rice and 12 canned goods. Our neighbors said we will also get financial assistance.

Natividad Chua Uy, barangay 55-58, Caloocan: Our first ayuda was two kilos of rice, four sardines; second was rice and 10 eggs; third was rice, one chicken and P1,000. We’ve received relief packs four times since the lockdown.

Abner Oquendo, barangay 41-Zone 6, Pasay: We’ve received three packs of relief goods so far, starting on the second week of the lockdown. The first was from DSWD; the succeeding ones from the barangay. Each contained rice, noodles and eight canned goods.

Relief goods in barangay Rivera, San Juan Photo by RAYMUND MARTELINO

Linda Bolido, barangay 744, Singalong, Manila: Since my birthday coincided with the first week of the lockdown, I received a P500 cash gift from the barangay. Every week since the lockdown, I’ve gotten two kilos of rice. The Mayor’s Office (under Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso) also sent me a box with rice and canned goods. There was a week when the barangay sent me a kilo of fresh galunggong. I also got facemasks and a tray of eggs. The mayor also sent senior residents of Manila a 400-gram can of Ensure Gold Powdered Milk, which must cost a lot because it’s a very popular brand of adult milk supplement.

Malou Francisco, barangay Muzon, Malabon: On the second week of ECQ we received three kilos of rice, sardines and coffee. On the third and fourth weeks, only rice.

Gian Carlo G. Martelino, barangay Rivera, San Juan: Relief goods consistently arrive every two weeks since the lockdown. Quarantine passes are checked and issued one bag per quarantine pass.

I don’t think representatives from the barangay level completely understand the gravity of the situation. Residents don’t seem to take the pandemic seriously. People roam around the streets like it was some regular holiday using their quarantine passes as an excuse to move about. On C. Olazo St. alone, family members of kagawads and the kapitan violate ECQ guidelines. Non-essentials like one vape store still operates under the barangay’s nose, making the lockdown useless since customers from other barangays cross over to buy. On occasion, vapers flock the street or gather in front of the store to “tamvape” (“tambay” term), violating social distancing measures.

The barangay is divided among kagawads’ sections of the area, making communication selective because when asked for certain things, kagawads reply “Hindi namin sakop yung street niyo.” Playing favorites by barangay officials has become a problem; certain streets are neglected. Assigned kagawads  skip residences that they do not favor. We cannot say where the barangay is in the DSWD SAP process but there is a general feeling of abandonment and failure to perform their duties.

Ranie de Guzman, barangay Kapitolyo, Pasig City: We received relief goods first on the week ending March 27, with two kilos of rice, two canned sardines and one noodle pack. Another batch arrived after May 1. The neighborhood association got quarantine passes for us and distributed these to households. We’ve had no problem with grocery runs, just a slowdown at checkpoints.

Packed goods for distribution in barangay Sucat, Muntinlupa Photo by MAAN PAMARAN

Marga Manlapig, barangay Putatan, Muntinlupa City: While Muntinlupa City, in general, has been busy distributing aid to its citizens, many have noted that there has been a delay in the delivery of said aid. To begin with, we received our quarantine passes just a day prior to the lockdown. The first “care package” — courtesy of the barangay chairman — came towards the end of the first week of quarantine: a few kilos of rice and three tins of sardines. The municipal care package arrived in the middle of the second week and contained a few kilos of rice, five single-serve packets of 3-in-1 coffee mix, a bag of coffee creamer, and six assorted canned goods (sardines and meat). To date, these were the only packages that have been distributed to communities within the barangay.

It is interesting to note that forms for the Social Amelioration Program were also distributed and collected around the same time that the municipal package arrived. However, families within the community say that, to date, no one has yet received any of the financial aid. It should also be noted that several communities, particularly those occupied by informal settlers, were placed under hard and guarded lockdown well before the city-wide general lockdown which took effect on April 20.

Karmina De Ungria, barangay San Lorenzo, Makati: Our only ayuda came on the seventh week: oatmeal, champorado, corned beef, tuna, milk, rice and eggs. I’m lucky that I live near supermarkets, so supplies are relatively easy to get and lines are not that long. There is also a Ministop in my building. It’s very quiet and orderly in my area.

Binky Ocaya-Tan, barangay Sta. Lucia, San Juan: We received relief goods only once. It had three kg. rice, three sardines, two corned beef, one mask and vitamin C.

Jason Buensalido, barangay Bambang, Taguig: Our village received 150 food packs and 150 hygiene kits. The relief package consisted of food and hygiene packs. The hygiene kit had one long bar detergent, three body soap, one pack of sanitary napkin, six sachets of toothpaste, six sachets of shampoo. The food pack had five kg. rice, coffee, four canned goods, five pieces of Energen, two noodles, one Richoco wafer.  We opted to donate to the village staff (housekeeping and security).

Marianne Go, barangay Bambang, Taguig: Our village received 150 packs of relief goods, but since there are 338 households, the association decided to hold an electronic raffle among residents. They said that those who did not win, like our household, would receive the second batch if any.

Joyce Reyes-Aguila, barangay Bagong Lipunan ng Crame, Quezon City: We’ve received relief goods twice so far. The first was on April 14, which had about 3 kg. rice and two sardines, one corned beef and one meat loaf. The second, delivered on May 14,  had more — 7.5 kg. rice and seven cans of Argentina corned beef and six meat loaf.

Vangie Espino, barangay Lawa, Meycauyan, Bulacan: We’ve received ayuda thrice so far. Each pack was different. The first had three kg. rice and sardines; second and third had pancit canton; the third had more canned goods and five Birch Tree sachets,

Owen Cammayo, barangay Mayamot, Antipolo City: Ayuda in six weeks of lockdown: five kilos of rice and five canned goods were given through the Town and Country clubhouse on the third week. They also issued quarantine passes, limited to one person per household on the second week of lockdown. For people without private vehicles, making supply runs is challenging. Fortunately, the village folks are quite active via the Town and Country FB group — selling all sorts of food items with majority offering delivery options.

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Visit the author’s travel blog at www.findingmyway.net. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @iamtanyalara.