Batangas couple feeds health workers amid ‘donor fatigue’
Without regular dives due to community quarantines, diving instructors Penn delos Santos and Marivic Maramot spend most of their time doing what they also loved most — cooking.
The couple’s kitchen in Batangas City has been busy since January, serving cooked meals to residents displaced by the steam-driven eruption of Taal Volcano.
In March, they shifted gear and started feeding health-care workers and community frontliners, too, at the onset of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
The couple started the Batangas Dive Association, or “BaDAss,” Community Kitchen in an evacuation center at the Batangas provincial capitol in January.
From 60 people, they ended up serving 57,090 meals to evacuees in more than a month after the eruption, Maramot said.
Things seemed to be taking a turn for the better, but the pandemic came and forced Batangas to lock down communities and restrict people to their homes. Without tourists and the limited movement, this only means having to put off their diving activities.
Delos Santos and Maramot deliver their meals—400 to 500 a day—to health-care workers at Batangas Medical Center, a regional Department of Health hospital in Batangas City. They also fed hospital frontliners in Lipa City, as well as village watchmen, police officers and soldiers manning road checkpoints.
“At the start, there were a lot of people helping us out,” Delos Santos said in a recent phone interview. “But recently, it was just mainly us,” he said.
Delos Santos said donor fatigue might have started to set in, given how the pandemic had stretched far beyond a natural disaster like a volcanic eruption.
During the early months of the lockdown, donations poured in, including 15,000 packs of in-flight meals from an airline company.
A Japanese sports drink manufacturer also sent bottles of health beverage “meant to help [frontliners] hydrate” throughout their duty, Delos Santos said.
BaDAss also delivered relief packs to tour guides and boatmen who were displaced by the tourism slump in the village of Anilao in Mabini town.
But as months passed, less help came, Delos Santos said.
To sustain the initiative, the couple repurposed the community kitchen into a food delivery service and sold pasta, sushi bake and other meals.
“The earnings [from food delivery] we use to buy the ingredients for the community kitchen,” Delos Santos said.
Scuba divers and some individuals kept giving out goods, rice, eggs, vegetables and chicken to keep the “kitchen” running.
Others donated face masks and face shields, which the couple delivered to hospitals and to passengers stranded at the Batangas port because of the lockdown.
“This is not much, but we want to continue helping our front-liners to fight this virus,” Delos Santos said.
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