Filipino couple in US raises P200K for Manila's sanitation workers hit by COVID-19 crisis

Jauhn Etienne Villaruel, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 06 2020 05:07 PM | Updated as of Apr 07 2020 12:35 AM

Meet Josie Tegistegis, a streetsweeper with the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority’s (MMDA) “Oyster” or Out-of-School Youth Serving Towards Economic Recovery. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA (UPDATED) — When US-based photographer Geloy Concepcion and his wife Bea launched their crowdfunding campaign for Manila's sanitation workers from their San Francisco home, they were not expecting to reach the target amount as fast as it did.

The Concepcions sought help from their online friends on Satuday, and 2 days later, they had already pooled $4,587 (P232,706) in funds from over 150 donors.

"Shotgun lang ito nagulat lang ako na buo na 'yung pondo bigla dahil ang daming nag-donate sa Instagram... Di naman namin iniisip na maaabot namin yung target," Geloy told ABS-CBN News in an online interview. 

Geloy said the fund was intended for the "often overlooked" garbage collectors of Manila, whom he considers "unsung heroes" and frontliners, too, in this COVID-19 crisis. 

"Kasi sa lahat ng frontliners sila ang may pinakamababang suweldo, kulang sa protective gear (before COVID-19 pa) at hazardous environment din. Madalas na-o-overlook natin pero isa sila sa pinaka-essential part ng community," he said. 

(These frontliners have the lowest pay, have the least protective gear, and are working in a hazardous environment. They are usually overlooked but they are an essential part of the community).

Geloy revealed that ABS-CBN News' photo essay entitled "They are frontliners, too"—a story on the different faces of COVID-19 frontliners—served as an inspiration for their donation drive. 

The fund will be used to purchase protective equipment for the sanitation workers, and to feed their families during the crisis, Geloy said. 

Since the couple already exceeded their target amount, the challenge for them now is how to distribute the funds, to ensure that these end up with the right beneficiaries.

"Ang balak ko talaga dyan is $3,000 naka-focus sa mga basurero/sanitation workers. 'Yung $2,000, hati-hati ido-donate ko sa iba-ibang small groups... Hangga't maaari, ang gusto ko sana is mga small groups lang para mas direct," Geloy said. 

"Meron na akong nakausap [na] young feminist collective. Nagdi-distribute sila ng mga protective gears sa mga sanitation workers. Sila pa lang actually nakausap ko," he added. 

The National Economic Development Authority had projected that the pandemic will impact 1.8 million Filipino workers.

Informal sector workers or those working under the "no work, no pay" scheme are expected to be hardly-hit. 

The Concepcions' donation drive is still open until it reaches the $5,000 mark. Those who may have information about a potential beneficiary may reach out to Gelo on @geloyconcepcion.