Braving the seas: The effort to bring relief goods to remote PH islands

The fight against the further spread and reduce the tragic effects of the new coronavirus continues.

Every single day, we hope that all of us are trying their best to stay home, stay safe, and flatten the curve.

With the enhanced community quarantine extended for another two weeks, marking the tentative end to be on April 30, more and more Filipino households are struggling to provide food on their table as certain sources of income are still paused as of the moment. There are households that greatly rely on food packs given by government authorities and the private sector. But, how about those remote islands whose food supply chain may have been affected by the lockdown?

Lest we forget, the Philippines has over 7,000 islands. There are far-flung islands that have residents who need to be taken care of.

This is the situation in Tawi-Tawi, an island province in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

This group is braving the seas to bring food and other necessities to remote islands of the province.

Here’s their story according to Jaro Ajik II who is part of the group Ideas Positive: Team3i, a youth leadership group who volunteered to do relief operations in the provincial government ng Tawi-Tawi.

coronavirus relief goods tawi tawi

“Reaching the unreached islands.” Photo by Jaro Ajik II.

As we continue venturing through this virus that is plaguing the world, tomorrow is not so close to see.

Everyone is affected, from the National Government, down to the Barangay officials. Most of the regular works both in public and private sectors are disrupted and at rest. Residing in a remote province like Tawi-Tawi is challenging due to some considerable factors: transportation, proximity, internet connection and limited access to the outside world.

With the recent outbreak of COVID-19 all around the globe including Philippines, the country is being forced to implement Community Quarantine and even upgraded to Enhance Community Quarantine in order to stop and prevent the spread of COVID-19. The situation is getting a little bit tight to be honest, with limited number of people are only allowed to access basic needs and other equally important goods.

On our end, as hope or youth of this province, we can still help in so many ways. One, we can just stay at home, if we don’t have something important in our plate, let’s just stay home. Second, we can volunteer to different agencies / offices who are preparing the relief packs. Third, we can use our social media to share factual and validated news and so many other productive things. As to our group, we volunteered in repackaging of the relief goods of the Provincial Government of Tawi-Tawi. Days we spent just to repack and prepare those relief goods. Eventually, we were included in giving the relief packs house to house to the community. We endured the scorching heat of the sun, the flapping of the waves in able reach out the communities. Still, it’s not enough. We have so many areas to cover given the limited number of volunteers. Besides, we cannot invite more volunteers to avoid having really large crowds. The challenge is really tough. It’s really stressful just to think of it, but the smiles and thank yous of the people we encountered in delivering the goods are priceless and fulfilling.

Eventually, the boat that carried us around directly went to the Quarantine Site at Sangay Siapu Island. Then, the Governor, Hon. Mang Sali and Bangsamoro Transition Authority Member, MP Al-syed A. Sali who shared their vision and aspirations for the people of Tawi-Tawi. After the exchange of conversations, our team was really mesmerized as to how these two personalities reacted to negative feedbacks of the relief activities: “Subay ta kawaun in mga e tilu nila katu, bat ta mahinang dan pa karayawan iban kapamikilan ha supaya katabangan.” (Rough translation: Kailangan natin pagtuunan ng pansin yung mga pinupuna nila satin upang mabigyan solusyon at matulungan natin sila.) Well, their thoughts and reactions inspired us that there’s really hope in our province, that indeed whether your are lefties, righties, upsies, downties, you’re included. Truly Gobyernong KaSALI ang lahat. The inclusiveness of their approach to deal with the problems that is already upon us is still unwavering.

Such an inspiring words in this time of hate and disrespect to the Government. As youth, we must really look up and follow such ideals, aspirations, and wisdom. And also to spare a little bit of understanding and understanding how things work. We have the numbers, but we need to work as one. May the force be with us, LET’S STAND TOGETHER, as hope of this land.

Are you doing your part in flattening the curve? What measures are you taking to combat COVID-19?

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