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Manila barangay residents get weekly ‘mahiwagang timba,’ daily merienda amid lockdown

By: - Reporter / @kocampoINQ
/ 05:44 PM April 29, 2020

Photo courtesy of Brgy 362 Zone 36 District 3

MANILA, Philippines — Every afternoon, the peace in Brgy. 362 Zone 36 District 3 in Sta. Cruz, Manila is disturbed by a rousing noise.

It is not the sound of blaring sirens that usually signal the curfew, but the clanging of ladles onto bowls and of residents shouting “Merienda!”

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The barangay’s chairman, 33-year-old Ann Christine Abella, has made it a point to bring meals to their constituents every 3 p.m. since the lockdown began as part of their efforts to keep people inside their homes.

On top of that, residents also receive a so-called “mahiwagang timba” every Saturday which is enough to feed the household for a week.

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The relief in the barangay is reminiscent of a Christmas basket. While other local government units only distribute rice and canned goods to their residents at uncertain intervals, the people in Abella’s district receive a weekly ration of rice, frozen goods, vegetables, milk, cheese spread, pasta and tomato sauce, egg noodles, soft drinks, bread, canned tuna and sausages, pineapple juice, biscuits, and to people’s surprise – dog food.

Each household is also given water jugs, which are refilled every weekend when the barangay is also set to restock the famous “timba.”

The dignified packages of food and assistance have transformed the district into a peaceful community without the use force, sirens, or any propaganda. Curfews are being followed on the dot, and residents and officials alike are proud of the way their barangay is handling the pandemic.

Photo from Tet Ocampo

Only barangay officials could be seen outside as they continue to tend to the needs of their community, be it scrubbing the asphalts, misting the streets, or running errands for senior citizens who are in need of medicines.

Since the quarantine, the district has not recorded any case of the new coronavirus disease in their area.

“We are doing everything that we can to ensure that our residents would not need to go outside. We want to lessen the risk of any infection so that means ensuring that they stay away from wet markets, grocery stores, etc.,” Abella said.

“I also want our people to receive the kind of aid that they would be happy to receive. I like to put myself in their position and I often ask myself, ‘If I will be the one who will be receiving the aid, what do I want to receive? What will I feel if I receive this kind of package?’ It may not be very lavish but at least it’s enough to convince them that they don’t need to go out during the lockdown,” she added.

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Even when the quarantine began, the barangay also distributed face masks, face shields, tablets of vitamin C, bleach, and even gloves.

“We are proud of our community and we don’t have any complaints at all,” said Lester Mingi, a resident of the barangay. “The relief has been consistent and the items they distribute are really food that you can eat, food that you will be proud to share with your family.”

Photo courtesy of Brgy 362 Zone 36 District 3

Including the daily merienda and the weekly food relief, the barangay has already distributed relief 56 times since the lockdown, and with the community funds still fairly intact.

With only 150 registered households, the barangay’s budget for the entire 2020 was only pegged at P2.5 million. Of that funding, records showed that the officials only shelled out P250,000 from their calamity fund. The rest of the money that was used to sustain the distribution of relief came from donations from family, friends, concerned citizens, and city officials.

Some of the barangay officials also waived their salaries for the time being, including the chairman.

Overall, the barangay has spent P750,000 since the start of the quarantine, including the vitamin drips that are given to their frontliners.

“There is really bayanihan in our community. We share everything. We have the poorest of the poor here and those who belong in the middle class but all of them here receive the same quality and amount of goods. Even if you are not a voter, you are entitled to the relief,” said Abella.

Even boarders and tenants are being taken care of by the barangay, including voters who do not reside in the barangay anymore but are near enough to be reached by the team.

Photo courtesy of Brgy 362 Zone 36 District 3

The barangay officials’ daily routine begins at 6 a.m. to plan the next day’s merienda. After lunch, they would start with cooking the meals. By 3 p.m., the team would knock door-to-door to bring the meals. It could be anything from champorado, ginataang bilo-bilo, or lugaw. Residents would only have to bring out their bowls. By 10 p.m., Abella, together with other tanods, would head to Divisoria and Blumentritt to buy the ingredients for tomorrow’s meals.

Abella’s sister, while not in politics, is in charge of shopping for grocery items.

“It can be really tiring but this is our job as officials. We have to make sure that no one will get sick, and that while we are waiting for the lockdown to end, everyone is being fed properly,” said Abella.

“When we talk to our residents they are really happy, and they tell us that they don’t really go out anymore. For us, that’s good enough,” she added.

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