By Ian Raphael Lopez
Amid the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Serve the People Brigade (STPB – UPLB) has mounted daily relief efforts for students stranded in Los Baños.
STPB named its task force as Community Unit Response (CURE), a student-led initiative for a community-centered response to aid in the prevention of the pandemic and give relief to constituents and frontliners.
The task force is spearheaded by the UPLB University Student Council (USC), along with allied organizations such as Samahan ng Kabataan Para sa Bayan (SAKBAYAN) and Youth Advocates for Peace with Justice (YAPJUST).
Daily donation drives
TF CURE has been busy receiving and ferrying donations to almost 700 stranded students, in coordination with pertinent offices under the UPLB administration and Barangay Batong Malake.
According to Noreen Flores, TF CURE spokesperson, they have already sent out hundreds of relief packs and almost a thousand items of meals and sandwiches. Through Facebook, the task force announces the delivery route of these items.
Yesterday, March 23, 50 rice meals and 50 burgers were handed out to residents of Taal St.
Last March 17, the first day of the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon, it was 120 CURE bags containing canned goods, hygiene kits, and protective masks and alcohol bottles.
For March 18, students staying in outside dorms received 450 rice balls and sandwiches; for March 19, another 500 sandwiches; and for March 20, 100 packed meals and 150 loaves of bread.
During the weekend, TF CURE sent out burgers, packed dinner, loaves of bread and another 45 CURE Bags to dormers inside and outside the campus.
Angelo Aurigue, USC Councilor and another spokesperson, said that the task force has P66,630 cash on hand, all sourced from cash donations.
The task force, aside from its usual call of volunteers to prepare donations and meals, is now also looking for materials for makeshift personal protective equipment (PPEs) for the health workers at St. Jude Family Hospital here in Los Baños.
As of this writing, 27 are under investigation in Los Baños after exhibiting symptoms of the disease while 166 are under monitoring.
The onset of the coronavirus pandemic led to what students say was a spotty response from the UPLB administration. Many students stayed in Los Baños in anticipation of online classes, when other constituent units have already suspended theirs.
When the UPLB administration did suspend online classes, it was too late to go home because of the lockdown.
Amid the backlash, Flores noted the administration’s assistance in transporting the donations, while Aurigue cited the University Housing Office (UHO) and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs (OVCSA) as the offices who coordinated with the task force.
But so far, the central administration has given the “bare minimum”, says Aurigue.
“None of us were expecting all of these to happen, but I am much more disappointed by their whole response, from their late suspension to having no response in these relief efforts, and not crediting STPB TF CURE,” he told [P].
However “angering” it may be for Aurigue, the spirit of volunteerism shown by the students, coupled with the gratitude sent by those stranded, was “reaffirming” enough.
“Receiving these, us volunteers are relieved of the exhaustion,” he said.
For Flores, who headed the STPB’s operations for those displaced by the Taal volcano eruption, spearheading relief operations under the government’s strict quarantine guidelines is challenging.
“Many things should be checked, especially without a physical center like the SU Building,” she said.
TF CURE’s operations are headquartered at the Batong Malake covered court. Finding volunteers is also another problem, with the prohibition of mass gatherings.
“Even though there’s a crisis at hand, there’s still people who are willing to make sacrifices for others, notwithstanding the risks,” says Flores.
“Though there are many problems being faced right now, it is fulfilling to help.” [P]
For individuals willing to offer meals and other donations, contact Jianred Faustino at 09176266589. For questions and clarifications on TF CURE please contact Noreen Flores at 09663292694 or Gelo Aurigue at 09491840261.
Photo from Serve the People Brigade – UPLB