JOBLESS, idle and forced to stay at home.
In poor communities across Cebu City, a growing number of Cebuanos have begun to feel actual hunger amid the Covid-19 pandemic and the government-imposed lockdowns.
Reports of people going hungry have trickled into the Commission on the Laity (COL) of the Cebu Archdiocese, prompting COL chairperson Fe Mantuhac-Barino to seek guidance from Archbishop Jose Palma.
“Contrary to what others think, the Church responds to the needs of the poor. From the start of the pandemic, it has been very active in helping poor communities though silently and without fanfare,” Barino said.
In Alaska, Mambaling, considered “worst hit” in Cebu with the highest number of Covid-19 cases reported in a single barangay, donations were gathered by COL and Cebu Caritas Inc., the charitable arm of the Catholic Church, to set up food stations in 14 sitios: Alaska Proper, Alaska Sentro, Huyong-Huyong, San Juan, Pagatpat, Wangyu, Lawis, Kahuyan, Ipil-Ipil, Abbya, Puntod 1, Puntod 2, Badjao A and Badjao B.
The first of the Church-initiated food stations in Mambaling opened on June 21, 2020 -- six days after Cebu City reverted to enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) due to rising Covid-19 infections.
Since then, a flood of clients, mostly children, show up in small alleys and vacant lots where the ambulatory kitchens are set for the day.
The feeding stations, run by volunteer-residents, also give food daily to a community of Muslim Badjaos.
Barino said the Church-backed feeding program is inspired by Matthew 25:35 -- “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.”
Supplies like rice, chicken and assorted vegetables are regularly sent to Mambaling by the COL; while volunteers draw up creative, healthy menus to give their hungry neighbors a good fighting stance against the coronavirus.
“Social distancing is a challenge because of the small houses and alleys, but the people are always reminded to wear masks to get their share of the food. Sometimes, the meal packs are delivered house to house,” said Barino.
Each station in Mambaling feeds around 150 to 200 residents, or a total of about 2,000 people a day.
Meanwhile, in nearby Barangay San Nicolas, another feeding program was launched by the Catholic Church to help the hungry and the newly unemployed as jobs become scarce.
At a gym beside the Taboan Public Market, where about a hundred seek shelter to avoid breaking the City’s quarantine rules, COL also assumed a feeding schedule in July to help San Nicolas Barangay Captain Clifford Niñal feed the homeless for a day.
“Times are very hard and we can’t feed every person who goes hungry. But as Mother Teresa has said, ‘If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.’ That is what COL aims to do -- inspire people to feed even just one person each day,” Barino said.