MANILA - The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has upended livelihoods, and the transport sector is among those bearing the brunt of the crisis.
Since mass transit in Luzon has been suspended, public utility drivers are not able to make a living, putting their lives hanging precariously in the balance.
But a group of University of the Philippines (UP) alumnae and students has come to the rescue of out-of-work drivers, through the Facebook group "SuperTsuper."
"It's just so heartbreaking to see the hardworking people who bring us to where we need to be everyday immobilized by the lockdown, so we wanted to help even in just a small way," Mariel Cunanan, one of the group's administrators, told ABS-CBN News on Thursday.
Cunanan and her friends created the Facebook group on March 31, and since then nearly 35,000 joined to help.
"What prompted this whole thing is seeing a lot of drivers on social media asking for even just 1 or 2 pesos from people on GCash to help them survive this lockdown," she said.
Through "SuperTsuper," drivers of jeepneys, tricycles and transportation network vehicle service (TNVS) could ask for donation from group members coursed through Globe's e-wallet service GCash.
Cunanan and other administrators strictly screen the PUV drivers to ensure their call for help are legitimate. They will be asked to provide their names, photos, addresses and name of their respective associations.
"Once posted, donors are free to donate to whoever they like, regardless of amount and how many people they want to give to," she said.
She added, "So the money doesn't really go through us -- the whole selling point of SuperTsuper is direct donations. No more middlemen so you know 100% of your money is going to someone in need. And it's also an avenue for donors and the tsupers to interact, humanizing the donation process because the donors will see the people whose lives they're touching talaga."
The donation varies from P20 to P2,000, Cunanan said.
One story that stuck with her was that of 63-year-old jeepney driver Eduardo Solis.
"He has 3 children and 6 dogs to feed, and it was a true testament to how sometimes those who have less have the most love to give," she said.
Since most seniors are not tech-savvy, Cunanan said she had to guide Solis on using social media.
"A lot of drivers are like this, very grateful to the donors and extremely kind. All of their stories are worth hearing talaga," she added.
In nearly 2 weeks, "SuperTsuper" has helped some 700 to 900 drivers all over the Philippines and will continue to do so as long as people are willing to donate.
"Give what you can because "not much" to us can mean everything to them," Cunanan said.
The Philippine government imposed an enhanced community quarantine in the entire Luzon, home to more than 50 million people, to arrest the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The same measure was imposed in many other areas in the Visayas and Mindanao.
Transport group Piston earlier said there were 500,000 jeepney drivers and 200,000 small jeepney operators affected by the lockdown.