'Tributes' lend a hand: How a group raised funds for Metro Manila jeepney drivers
MANILA, Philippines – For this thriving Facebook group, the odds were definitely in their favor as they raised over P136,000 in just a few days to help struggling jeepney drivers in Metro Manila.
The initiative had started when a member of Facebook group Quarantine Tribute Tips called for donations after spotting a viral post of an old jeepney driver begging for help along Rizal Avenue, Manila, on Father's Day. The drivers have stopped operations ever since Manila was placed under community quarantine, leading to loss of livelihood.
Ayla Conda, 22, shared how the viral post was enough to make her go last June 23 from Bulacan to Manila with her aunt and cousin to find the old jeepney driver named Tatay Alberto.
It was easy to find Tatay Alberto, she said. When they arrived at Rizal Avenue near LRT 1 Blumentritt station, they found several jeepneys that lined the street. After a while, they spotted Tatay Alberto.
Hoping to help the jeepney drivers, Conda talked to Tatay Alberto and the other drivers parked along the street to ask about their needs.
Due to quarantine restrictions, jeepney drivers are unsure when they can go back on the road. Tatay Alberto is only one of the hundred jeepney drivers in that area who lost their source of income and livelihood due to the coronavirus. They used to ply the Blumentritt-Sta. Cruz route.
Since the quarantine started, Tatay Alberto has been living inside his jeep alone, without his family. During her talks with Tatay Alberto, Conda found out he was a former hinete or horseman, and was more known by his alias "Jockey." He was separated from his wife, and did not talk about any children.
Arrest of Tatay Alberto, other drivers
Aside from their struggle in finding a livelihood during lockdown, Tatay Alberto and other drivers were also arrested by the police while they were eating lunch around the last week of May. The police knocked down their door and arrested them without warrant.
They were detained for a few days in Sta. Cruz Police Station 3, unable to post bail.
According to documents, the drivers were arrested for violating Section 9 of Republic Act No. 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act. It is still unclear for the drivers what exactly their violation was.
When they were freed from prison, the police warned them that there will be a hearing on their case. A month has passed and they still have not heard back.
Help is on the way
Not wanting to stand idly by, Conda posted on the Quarantine Tribute Tips' Facebook group to start an initiative seeking to provide food packs to Tatay Alberto and other affected jeepney drivers.
Each food pack contains 10 kilos of rice, vegetables, eggs, canned goods, face masks, alcohol, and toiletries.
While the Quarantine Tribute Tips was made for "tributes" who share tips on running errands during quarantine, the Facebook group has become a platform for initiatives as well. It was in the group where funds were pooled to buy the customized Voltes V cake for the Independence Day grand mañanita held at the University of the Philippines-Diliman – a jab at Metro Manila police chief Major General Debold Sinas, who had a birthday get-together during quarantine.
Conda had also previously turned to the Facebook group to gather donations to help dialysis patients in Caloocan. Having seen the tributes' unrelenting support to help others during quarantine, she knew they can pull in donations for affected jeepney drivers like Tatay Alberto.
A day after Rappler posted about Tatay Alberto, Conda and the Quarantine Tribute Tips' Facebook group were able to raise over P136,000.
On June 25, Conda, her aunt, uncle, and cousin went back to Manila to give Tatay Alberto solar panels, lights, and a fan for his jeep, as well as groceries and some clothes. The relief also included Tatay Alberto's favorites and special request: tinapay (bread) and palaman (stuffing).
A member of the Quarantine Tribute Tips' Facebook group lent her truck for the initiative, which made the handling and delivery of relief easier. Around a hundred jeepney drivers received groceries and toiletry kits that day. They were "super happy, thankful," Conda remarked, for the help that came from concerned citizens.
After photos of the Quarantine Tribute Tips' initiative made rounds on social media, the Department of Social Welfare and Development also reached out to Tatay Alberto and gave him a food pack. The other drivers, however, did not receive any.
Helping Metro Manila jeepney drivers
There are still many jeepney drivers like Tatay Alberto who need help. (READ: How to help jeepney drivers affected by the coronavirus lockdown)
The group has continued the initiative, having recently distributed food packs at the University of the Philippines Diliman for SM North drivers. Donations are coming in from people outside the Facebook group as well.
Conda shared how they plan to cover C3 Caloocan, Monumento, Divisoria, and Sangandaan soon.
Asked what prompted them to act for the jeepney drivers, Conda gave a simple answer: "Kami po may makakain, sila wala. Kung 'di kami gagalaw ngayon, paano po sila? (We have food on the table, they do not. If we're not going to act now, what will happen to them?)"
If you are interested to donate for the jeepney drivers, you may do so via the following:
- BDO - Jotham Russel C. Campo, 0044 5066 4801
- GCash - Ayla Conda 0916 761 3095; Jonathan Campo 0961 769 2456