Seeing angst and a whole lot of self-exertion online isn't new. We're three months into the new decade and it's becoming increasingly clear that this is a season of hard lessons for the whole world. And given the enhanced community quarantine, we've had to watch the wreckage unfold on our screens.
Even with the free-flowing information and relative connectivity afforded by the internet, this state of confinement is frustrating. It can even be argued that it's frustrating because of the internet: The information available to us on the dire consequences of COVID-19 dwarfs what we can actually do in response, making us feel helpless and defeated.
That's why hearing about actress Bela Padilla's successful fund drive for street vendors felt like an emergence from the gloom. Despite the moral haze of our times, she has demonstrated that we will never run out of opportunities to chase after kindness. It's an urgent and hard-hitting reminder of what can always be done, even when concrete aid appears to have flatlined in the face of calamity. She, along with her fund drive team, are prime models of how we can highlight and maximize our elaborate technology for social good, instead of getting ensnared in its many weaknesses.
On March 16, Bela set up a GoGetFunding page named "Pagkain Para Sa Pinoy," aiming to help feed street vendors during this nationwide crisis. Her initial target was to hopefully raise one million pesos over the course of a week. In just two short days, she raised a whopping 3.3 million. Having surpassed its target, the fund stopped receiving donations. Bela moved on to the next step. On March 19, she stepped out to personally oversee the distribution of the food bundles.
In this exclusive Preview conversation, we got to ask Bela about what drove her to lend a hand, her plans to reach those in need, and what keeps her going.
Why did you decide to kickstart the "Pagkain Para Sa Pinoy" fund drive?
I go to [University of the Philippines] a lot on Sundays to run. And one of my favorite things to do is buy taho after my workout. On the last Sunday before the community quarantine was implemented, only 1/10th of the usual crowd was there. The vendors were still jolly but you could see that they were worried. I couldn’t buy taho from all of them. Or karyoka. Or fish balls. I knew that there would be a problem.
How did you reach the vendors who are benefitting from the drive?
I haven’t yet. I first contacted suppliers. For rice. For canned goods. Groceries willing to give discounts so more could be given out. And transportation to deliver everything.
How are the donations being delivered to them?
The first batch is going out today. I’m being picked up at 11 a.m. so we can check on the food first before splitting it up for different cities. I personally want to go to Manila Bay after watching the interview of the man saying he was forgotten. I want him to know he wasn’t forgotten. The money we raised will hardly make a dent, but if it makes the hunger of a few people go away for a few days and if it makes them feel good enough to pay the kindness forward in any way possible, then that’s good enough.
Have specific areas been targetted?
Today is QC and Manila. I’m waiting to hear back now for suggestions in helping out in Pasay.
How has the response been so far?
Overwhelming. To see the community move towards one goal, while in isolation...that’s what’s overwhelming.
Is this the beginning of a series of fund drives you hope to continue working on?
I’m always just around. There are things I do on my own that I chose not to post or speak of because I didn’t feel the need to then. I never had to speak up...and I don’t like to talk about things if it concerns matters I don’t know much about, but food is a basic necessity and I know what hunger feels like. Nobody deserves to [worry about] where they should get their next meal while worrying about a pandemic. More than anything, I wanted to share the experience with many people. That help helps you more than persons that will receive it. So if there’s a need for that reminder again, then yes.
As an influencer, what does using your platform for good mean to you?
I’m not an influencer, I’m an actress that people recognize. The word “influencer” should not be thrown around lightly. Because times like these will ask you to use that influence you have, and, now, what do you have to show for it? [Ask yourself] if there’s anything at all that you have done that influences anything but kindness, especially now.
How can our readers take part in the initiative?
In this particular case? Follow what is being asked of you at this time of crisis. And in all situations, choose kindness. Because kindness helps you think, speak, and act more clearly.
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