Here’s to 2021, but first 2020’s bright spots

Published December 25, 2020, 8:30 AM

by Manila Bulletin

Last year has been tougher than most, but it was also full of moments and milestones for our country that have been the pinpoints of light and hope. It would be nice to remember them on the first day of this new year. Here are our top picks of 2020’s most inspiring events, from the momentous to the magical.

When a group of Igorots turned down relief packs from the government…

Sadanga Mayor Gabino Ganggangan waives the relief packs for his municipality for the more needy communities (Photo from MPDRRMO)

So others who need it may benefit from it. An indigenous peoples group from a small community in the Mountain Province, in a town called Sadanga, decided not to accept relief packs from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Its mayor, Gabino Ganggangan, announced the community’s decision to not get their share of food packs in favor of the more vulnerable communities. “Let those food packs be given to others, so no one will complain anymore and no one will hate the government because everyone is taken care of,” he said. “As for us here in Sadanga, we will survive without those. We’ve been surviving for centuries because we have been producing our own rice.” 

When Narra, Palawan’s fishermen bartered with vegetable farmers…

Mayor Gerandy Danao of Narra, Palawan shared that, due to the generosity of their citizens, he was able to apply a kind of barter system when it came to giving food packs. Fishing is one of the industries not directly hit by the coronavirus crisis. Narra fishermen can still freely go and catch fresh fish. “We have fishermen who donate fish every day, we also give those to people,” said Mayor Gerandy. “When I go up to the mountains, people there give me vegetables and fruits that I then give to our fishermen. Through that, I am implementing a barter exchange here.”

When ordinary Filipinos came together for those affected by the Taal volcano eruption in February

MASK ON Rosalinda Mantauano and her family working together to sew fabric masks

When 61-year-old Rosalinda Mantuano heard about the Taal volcano eruption, she couldn’t help but cry out of guilt. The news about the face masks, because of their enormous price hike or scarcity, provided Rosalinda an opportunity to help. A dressmaker by profession, she thought it would be good to sew fabric masks and give these away for free. She was able to make 500 masks made of cotton fabric for the first batch. What was even more heartwarming was the participation of Harvey Fadera, Rosalinda’s son-in-law, the husband of her daughter Maryann, who is head of the Batangas Alpha Riders Club (BARC). “They would distribute what we made. We included our masks with the donations they would deliver,” added Maryann.

Her Facebook post about her mom’s efforts became viral, garnering thousands of hits that led to TV and radio interviews. Little did they know that this was just the start of her mom’s humble home project. A lot of viewers, followers, and listeners found ways to get in touch with the Mantuano family, who is based in Barangay Sto. Toribio Marawoy, Lipa City. Inquiries poured in, asking where they could send more materials and cash donations so that the family could make more masks for distribution.

When a product of destruction is helping rebuild homes

Workers at the Binan City Materials and Recovery Facility (MRF) monitor the brick making process from collected volcanic ash from the Taal volcano eruption to turn them into cement bricks (Photo by Maria Tan)

What has always been considered as a threat and health hazard has been put into good use.

The Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) of Biñan, Laguna has used the volcanic ash spewed by Taal Volcano to produce bricks. To make this happen, City Mayor Arman Dimaguila, through the Biñan City Information Office, said he ordered residents all over the city to collect ash inside and outside their homes.

“[The] clean-up drive collected almost two dump trucks of volcanic ashes on the first day,” said Mayor Dimaguila. “These were then transferred to the MRF along with other plastic wastes. Seeing the amount of ash that came in, we thought of creating bricks out of it.”

For two years now, the city has been producing eco-bricks out of plastic waste, white sand, and cement, which they use for pathways in public schools. This time, using the same machine, MRF employees added volcanic ash—about 40 percent of the mix—in the production of bricks. On average, Biñan City’s MRF produces around 5,000 to 7,000 bricks per day.

 “Residents in Batangas whose houses were directly affected by the disaster will be the recipients of the bricks,” said the mayor. “We are also willing to donate it to other LGUs and organizations that will be needing it.”

When Mindanao’s coffee won an award in Paris…

A Mindanao blend was awarded the “Gourmet Agent” (Silver) award in the “Puissant Doux” category of the contest recently held in Paris. The competition featured 150 coffee selection coming from 25 different countries, competing for the various awards in eight categories. The South Mindanao Upi Coffee is cultivated with tender-loving care by coffee farmers from North and South Mindanao. These are then processed by the Malibacao Agricultural Cooperative and North Star Upi Coffee. 

When young mayor became one of his small town’s frontliners, too…

San Jose, Camarines Sur Mayor Marco Chavez, 33, not only runs his town of 42,000 people, he is also a physician, having passed the medical licensure examinations in 2018. At the height of the pandemic, the mayor donned his PPEs to help his constituents, leading the rapid testing and contact tracing efforts after his town’s health system was overwhelmed.

When this Filipina presented the art of dyeing in an international show…

Filipina fashion designer Mariton Villanueva incorporated the country’s vibrant heritage of plant-based textile dyeing to her works to promote a more natural way of coloring fabric. This initiative eventually became the backbone of her brand Himaya, which in Bisaya means praise or glory. This year, Mariton became one of among the many designers all over the world to showcase at the prestigious International Festival of Extraordinary Textiles (FITE) at the Musée Bargoin in France. The festival features 80 works from five continents, all are finding the very definition of love through global textile. With her collection “Ritmo ng Paglikha,” Mariton is proving that love can be defined through a spectrum of natural shades.

When celebrity chefs pitched in for emergency food assistance…

CHARITY CHEFS Chef Tatung’s team feeding evacuees at Kalumpang Elementary School in Marikina City

During the aftermath of Typhoons Rolly and Ulysses, celebrity chef Myke “Tatung” Sarthou was one of the early respondents to do emergency food assistance. He admitted that feeding hundreds of people that day was unplanned. “I received a call from a chef friend, Edward Mateo, who was asking for some ingredients for the food he was preparing for the affected people in Marikina. On my way to deliver the ingredients, I saw how bad the situation was outside, so I felt obligated to help too,” he narrated. Realizing that usual relief items like noodles, canned goods, and uncooked rice would not be directly useful at that moment since typhoon victims would not be able to cook, chef Tatung prepared a large pot of arroz caldo at his restaurant Pandan Asian Cafe in Tomas Morato, Quezon City. While his team was cooking, Relish, the restaurant beside theirs, noticed what they were doing and followed suit by adding another pot to the relief operation.

Chef Jam Melchor of the Slow Food Network also paired up with Red Cross so he could provide food to the centers.

When a farmer taught soldiers to farm…

Aside from empowering the country’s frontliners in agriculture and fisheries, another way of keeping the food chain alive is by conducting projects that will boost domestic food and agricultural production. With this in mind, almost two hectares of an army camp in Tanay, Rizal will be converted to farmlands to prevent a looming food crisis. 

PROTECT AND PLANT Owner of DV Boer Farms, Dexter Villamin, has been teaching soldiers essential farming techniques

This initiative will be done in partnership with DV Boer International Farms Corporation, a commercial stud farm company, which has 20 farms located across Region 4A.

Under the partnership, the farms will provide technical assistance in livestock raising, crop production, and food processing to the soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Division.

“This crisis highlights the vulnerability of our food system and I believe that food security should be ensured so that greater problems such as hunger and civil disobedience can be prevented,” said Dexter Villamin, the president and chief executive officer of DV Boer Farms. “Now, we feel that it is our social responsibility to provide healthy food and give our people a means of living while most of the industries are shut down.” He said the group of farms would provide free board and lodging to the soldiers while training them in actual food production. Volunteers from the community and paramilitary forces, he said, would be tapped to augment the manpower of private farms that would be converted into quarantine farm camps, which are projected to produce 32 tons of farm-fresh food in eight to 10 months. About 65 percent of the total food production will be donated to the needy to serve as one of the local government’s sources of relief for the constituents,

When Tacloban’s vice mayor set up a museum from bartering food with “old things…”

BARTER MUSEUM Tacloban’s local museum which proceeds were given to cash-strapped families and individuals amid the pandemic

The barters were fun at first—the swaps were of things that had little value like plantsa de uling and broken cameras. Then came the old vinyl players and records and typewriters. Later, some WW 2 items like cups and utensils used by the US soldiers slowly surfaced. Three-termer vice Mayor Jerry Yaokasin has been busy this pandemic, among other things, bartering basic goods with Taclobanons. They would go to his office and ask him to take a look at the items they came bearing—and they would leave with rice, milk, eggs, and other necessities. Some had items that were so precious they went home with cellular phones and bikes. “During the early days of the global pandemic, most people were affected by the lockdown.  Many lost their jobs. With no more cash to buy necessities, the barter allowed people to trade their unused/used items,” he told Manila Bulletin. “It was a welcome relief for cash-strapped individuals and families.”

When Sambo started getting really precious items, the vice mayor realized that his dream of putting up a local museum might just become a reality. Now he is in the process of putting up one.

When a national sports champion used his skills to rescue trapped citizens…

CHAMPION OUTSIDE OF SPORTS Elly Jan Nituda braved flood waters three persons deep during Typhoon Ulysses to help the victims of the storm

Elly Jan Nituda, a 2019 Southeast Asian Games sepak takraw bronze medalist, proved his skills could come in handy outside sports. He also proved to be a champion outside of sports. The national athlete braved flood waters “three persons deep” during Typhoon Ulysses. Amid the onslaught, he pulled people out of submerging second floor windows to help them get to rooftops. When he got news of Pilipinas Sepak Takraw Federation secretary-general Irene Tanchanco being trapped in her home, he tried to rescue her and her neighbors. In a video, the champion can be seen climbing up rooftops and, with nothing but an orange life ring, he jumped from roof to roof to get to the right house.

When fashion accessory designer Zarah Juan launched Byaheng Pag-asa to help displaced jeepney drivers…

BAGS FOR A CAUSE Zarah Juan’s iconic Jeepney Tote Bag

Her jeepney bag is iconic, so it was only appropriate for Zarah Juan to lend a hand to displaced drivers. Known to uplift indigenous communities through collaborative partnerships with local artisans and weavers, Juan echoes the very essence of Filipino culture through her symbolic accessories, as carried by the likes of actress Heart Evangelista and Department of Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat.

Jeepney drivers of Alyansa ng mga Tsuper at Small Operator ng Maynila

“We have been selling our iconic Jeepney bags for several years now. Among all the bags I have designed, the Jeepney Tote Bag is what I am most proud of,” the designer says told Manila Bulletin. “In this pandemic we believe that we should prioritize people versus profits. Each and every action we do to uplift others—no matter how small—will create an impact that will help our nation survive this crisis.”

When Filipinos came together for Typhoon Ulysses’ victims…

Snapshots of helping hands dominated the stories in the days after Typhoon Ulysses slammed into the northern part of the Philippines: Netizens offered stranded citizens in Cagayan and Marikina free load. Celebrities Kim and Jericho Rosales used their surfboards to help rescuers at a private village adjacent to the Marikina River. Dr. Ted Esguerra, founder of the Wilderness Search and Rescue Philippines, joined forces with a group of emergency rescuers like React Ready, Project Michaelangelo Foundation, and the Emergency Management Unit of the Energy Development Corporation went into areas submerged in flood waters. Heartwarming photos showed owners risking life and limb to make sure their loyal friends are rescued alongside them. Small businesses like Tribu Babaylan and Kape & Co, located in Tomas Morato, QC, offered not just free food and warm coffee for those whose homes had been damaged by the typhoon, but also a place to stay, and the Dunkin team went around Metro Manila to hand out donuts to different communities. One photo showed a lady putting up a lugawan in front of her house so people could avail of her free arroz caldo.

When CITEM elevated Filipino craftsmanship by launching FAME+, the digital platform…

A SITE TO BEHOLD The Manila Fame website gives local brands a wider reach

Fame+, which went live on Oct. 22, is a single mighty stride into a new frontier, into a bigger world. Representing the digital shift and evolution of Manila Fame as a champion of Filipino creativity, the new site transforms the once bi-annual physical event, in which designers, artisans, and entrepreneurs would interact with buyers and enthusiasts, into a platform accessible anytime (24/7!), anywhere on the planet. And because it is a borderless space, there is so much more room for Filipino creatives and manufacturers and their crafts to showcase themselves to a much wider online community.