Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro
At five o’clock in the morning, Joemar Agbing is already at work. Joemar has been with Ayala Foundation for five years and is assigned in Oriental Mindoro, where he is originally from. Today, he is getting ready to repack relief goods that will be given to communities in the Municipalities of Puerto Galera, and Naujan. A total of 800 Iraya-Mangyan and Alangan Mangyan families will be receiving food packs from Ayala Foundation’s Project #BuyAni. The initiative is funded by a grant from the Macquarie Group Foundation and aims to provide direct relief to those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
By midnight, Joemar and the rest of the team have finally finished preparing the bayongs filled with rice, eggs, dried fish, monggo beans, and MannaPack—a blend of fortified rice and soy. He is exhausted but excited to reach out to the recipients tomorrow.
Getting to the distribution point is no easy feat. The journey begins in Talipanan, on the northern coast of the island, where the goods are stored. The team loads the relief packs onto a dump truck—the only vehicle that can take on the rugged roads. “The truck is very tall, it is hard to place the goods in it,” says Joemar.
It is then a two-hour trip on the back of the truck through rough terrain, winding paths, and the occasional rain. Because of the number of personnel and food packs, the excursion is standing room only.
The recipients of the project include the Iraya-Mangyan, an indigenous people known for their expertise in weaving. Some of the men of the community found jobs in construction and road maintenance on the island. When the pandemic hit, many of these workers were left jobless and had to return to their villages in the highlands.
The team stops at the distribution point; they cannot travel any further by truck. “We ask the driver to take the vehicle as far as we can,” Joemar says. Still, some recipients must travel an hour and a half on foot, crossing up to five rivers on the way to pick up the relief goods. A few men bring their carabaos with them to pull carts with the food packs of residents unable to travel to the lowlands.
A few hours later, the team is finally done for the day. There are four more days until the Mindoro distribution is complete.
Despite the challenges he encounters on the job, Joemar is happy with what he does. “When you see the smiles of those you help, you no longer feel tired,” he says. This project was especially meaningful to him because the grant enabled them to reach those they hadn’t before. “We were able to provide not only for the village, but for the other barangays as well.”
At the end of the day, Joemar wants to rest. He shares that sometimes, he doesn’t have time to eat dinner. Yet, he faces every morning with a positive attitude.
“You need to wake up because there are people in need.”