BUKIDNON VIEWS: 'Bayanihan' at work in COVID-time Kuwait
By Joy E.
KUWAIT (BukidnonNews.Net/27 September 2021) I received a message from "Welmar" this morning while I was amused looking at a black cat climbing a dates tree in the parking lot of my workplace.
I met "Welmar" last year outside a supermarket while my area in Kuwait was on lockdown. I was meeting a coworker’s contact for barter trading (that’s another story for another day) and he was selling kakanin (Filipino sweets) near the exit door of the supermarket where we agreed to meet.
I ended up buying from him. He shared his number so I can tell my co-workers to also buy from him. Welmar, you see, works at a high-end restaurant. Even though I wasn’t working, I was still receiving my salary on a regular basis, but he wasn't. His restaurant was among those affected by the governments’ directives that all restaurants should closed. That means no work/no pay for him.
To compensate for that situation, he started cooking and selling kakanins. I met him that hot June day last year selling kakanins (Filipino sweets).
The government has placed two areas under full lockdown on April 6,2020, as an extreme measure to contain the spread of Covid in Kuwait. One of those areas is where I live. This full lockdown has extended to four months, and we've seen and experienced partial curfews and timed deliveries from stores during that period.
We kept a 16-hour curfew and celebrated the holy month of Ramadan inside the confines of our flats. As we approached Eid, we experienced full curfews. Full curfews were gradually reduced to partial curfews, and eventually to shortened curfew hours as the months passed.
The daily challenge of hearing and receiving news of increased Covid cases and deaths as opposed to low recovery rates has placed us in hopes for breakthroughs in Covid medicines and vaccines. Finally, on July 9, 2020, we all received the joyous news that the full lockdown in our area has been lifted.
During the four-month full lockdown, I have seen and experienced my fellow Filipinos’ sense of bayanihan in full swing.
Google defines Bayanihan Spirit as a spirit of civic unity and cooperation among Filipinos. Regardless if we know each other personally or not, the question when we see Filipinos anytime or anywhere is “Kumusta po kayo? May kinakain pa po ba? May sinasaahod pa ba? Ano po ang need natin ngayon?” (“How are you? Do you still have food to eat? Are you still receiving a salary? What are your needs now?”). For those who have something to spare, it was extended to those who needed it.
Connections were made for individuals who knew someone who could help a fellow Filipino with a particular need. We did not only share basic needs like food, medicine, clothing, and so on; we also provided emotional and spiritual support. During this time, there was a rise in suicide cases, and individuals who opened up and needed support were connected to church groups in our area.
“Hi Manang good morning! Nag-back read lang ko sa Messenger nako. Pasalamat sa mga suki nako sa una.” (“Good morning older sister! I reviewed my messages on Messenger now to thank my regular customers before.”). When asked how he is and if he is still selling kakanins, he replied “Ok lang Manang, naka-survive jud tawon. Wala na ko namaligya kay busy na sa work.” (I’m ok older sister. I survived! I’m busy working now so I don’t sell anymore.”).
Not only was "Welmar" able to sell to my co-workers but he was also connected to my nurse and church friends in another building and they bought from him. A co-worker also introduced him to her friends which in turn ordered and bought from him. Every one of us had the same experience of shock/awe the first time he made deliveries because he was carrying his products on a backpack, riding his bike in the middle of day in the heat.
Kuwait is gearing up to fully open up in the next weeks, having fully vaccinated 77.8% of its population. Malls, restaurants, and cinemas have reopened, the airport too has reopened recently and is slowly returning to normal operations. Schools have reopened and welcomed back their students this week. Restrictions are slowly easing up. "Welmar" and I promised to meet and catch up soon, probably at the affordable Indian restaurant in my neighborhood.
A simple ‘thank you’ message, memories of uncertain times, reminders of countless Bayanihan encounters among fellow Filipinos, a ray of hope for the future – thank you "Welmar" for sparking all this today!
The author, originally from Malaybalay City, Bukidnon, is a dental X-ray technologist based in Kuwait. FROM BUKIDNON TO THE WORLD is a sub-section of BUKIDNON VIEWS, the opinion section of BukidnonNews.Net dedicated to Bukidnon citizens who now live abroad. To contribute, email your piece and a personal profile to firstname.lastname@example.org.