Rochelle: Hello, everyone! Welcome to the second episode of Kumusta, Kumare!, NAPIESV - Bersama-sama Project Philippine Team’s podcast.
Mira: Kumusta, mga kumare! I’m Mira Yusef, based here in Iowa and can’t wait to do a lot of stuff when we can safely travel and be with other folks!
Rochelle: I’m Rochelle Aguilar, literally hot and bothered here in Angeles City.
Emma: And I’m Emma, locked down but my mind, heart and spirit still roam wild and free here in South Luzon.
Mira: NAPIESV or the National Asian & Pacific Islander Ending Sexual Violence is a U.S.-based organization and our mission is to end sexual violence in the Asian and Pacific Islander (API) communities and build healthy communities through transformative justice and social change.
Last year, we started the Bersama-sama Project in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Guam in order for immigrant/refugee/settler communities from Asia and the Pacific to connect to their home countries.
By building this relationship, communities will be able to both reconnect with traditional/cultural practices and share movement-building strategies.
Rochelle: In this episode, we’re diving deep into the nuts and bolts of organizing women-led community kitchens while in lockdown, bayanihan style.
Emma, our in-house food historian (sorta) will share with us how they’re able to operate community kitchens in several workers communities surrounding the export processing zones in Laguna.
Emma: Joining us also is women and children’s rights activist, Dimple Paz, of Lingap Gabriela and a volunteer of Bayanihang Marikenya Marikenyo and who, together with nine others volunteers, were arrested and detained on May 1, Labor Day, for supposedly violating the lockdown orders while serving food for public utility jeepney and pedicab drivers who are not able to work due to the lockdown. More about their story later.
Mira: Before we proceed with the main segment of this episode, a brief update on the latest news in the Philippines.
Rochelle: As of May 23rd, the Department of Health of the Philippines has reported that there are 13,777 confirmed COVID-19 cases, roughly 7,000 more cases, and 401 more deaths from last month, April 23rd, despite the hard lockdown in Luzon. The death toll is now at 863 with over 50 percent declared posthumously. There are also 25,048 suspected and 803 probable cases.
Meanwhile, an independent local COVID-19 monitor, covid19stats.ph, which gets their data from the Johns Hopkins Corona Resource Center and the DOH NCov tracker shows that there are 20,264 reported positive cases with a discrepancy of over 6,000 due to laboratory case validation and processing backlogs.
The tracker also noted that there are 9.87 average days of delays in the DOH reporting on the number of deaths.
Earlier this month, a team of experts from the University of the Philippines -- UP COVID-19 Pandemic Response Team -- pointed out “alarming errors” and “inconsistencies” in DOH reports and called on the government to make COVID-19 data more accessible to stakeholders for cross-validation.
"The availability of accurate, relevant, and timely data is a basic requirement in managing a pandemic," the team said. "Data issues must be resolved as soon as possible to secure public trust in the plans, decisions, and pronouncements of the government and its private partners," the team added.
Despite the 2 months' government-imposed lockdown, the extent of actual COVID-19 infection among the general population continues to be a guessing game as no national-level mass testing has been conducted or even in the works.
And as President Duterte ordered the lifting of the enhanced community quarantine for most of Luzon on May 15th, easing restrictions on the operations of some non-essential industries, millions of workers with mounting debts and unpaid bills started reporting to work on Monday, May 17th, despite health and safety concerns and burden in work commute as public transport remains suspended.
The DOH remains firm on the policy of performing tests only on those with symptoms and does not require employers to have their employees undergo testing. To date, there are only 39 accredited COVID-19 testing laboratories in the Philippines and only 0.25% of the population have been tested for the deadly virus.
Meanwhile, Rappler earlier this week ran a story on how women working in the sex trade were forced by some police officers to perform sexual acts and get a share of their income in exchange for quarantine passes and transportation to get to their customers.
To make matters worse, their customers have begun paying less than their usual rate, from $40 to now $5. The same report narrated how more and more women and men are now forced into prostitution to survive the lockdown. In 2018, an estimated 800,000 Filipino women, men, and children were in the sex trade.
Mira: At our first podcast, we discussed how Covid-19 had affected women and girls in the Philippines and we also raised money in the U.S. to distribute food and sanitation packages to women who are heads of households and most affected by COVID-19. And with this effort, Emma organized a community kitchen as a way to share food and also to build community.
But Emma’s work is not new - there are other individuals and organizations who have been hosting community kitchens across the National Capital Region or Metro Manila/Quezon City area and also across the Philippines. So, for our second podcast, we thought that we should highlight this “bayanihan” spirit of community kitchen and highlighting Filipino traditions that we need to continue and support.
When folks here in the United States talk about “mutual aid” - we Filipinos, have been practicing this prior to colonization and it is deeply embedded in our soul and spirit. And it is also just good to talk about the positive in these difficult times.
Rochelle: What is our version of community kitchen and how is it different from a US or Western-style soup kitchen? What are its roots and objectives?
Mira: I think the big difference between what I know about "soup kitchens" in the West and the Filipino "community kitchen" is “soup kitchens” are seen as for homeless people, to me very charity-based. But as I research about the history of soup kitchens - I found out that:
First, it’s called soup kitchen because what was served was soup and bread, because it was easier and cheaper, right?
And then, second, the so-called first soup kitchen was during the Depression in the United States and that the notorious gangster Al Capone, to so-called clean up his image, started the first soup kitchen in the United States. But in general, churches and private charities ran the first soup kitchens in the U.S. and this continues until today.
But then “feeding the people” but specifically children was also organized by the Black Panthers in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Feeding children in the morning then became a practice in the United States' public school system. So, this practice from a radical Black liberation organization called Black Panthers and then all of a sudden, it became mainstream that even the public system in the United States implemented it because it works.
Then in the late 1980s, I remember Food not Bombs in San Francisco when I was living in San Francisco where vegan or vegetarian food is served as a protest against war and poverty. I think I remember going to those kitchens hosted by Food not Bombs members in the Mission District in San Francisco.
So, the Black Panther and Food not Bombs method in serving the people by feeding healthy food and not based on charity -- a strategy for community organizing. And this is how I see what you are all doing in the community. It is not charity-based but it's community building.
Emma, what do you think?
Emma: Yes, I totally agree with you, Mira. It is not charity. Community kitchen is an integral part in community building, and from my experience, it assumed an important role in organizing communities. Unfortunately not much is written or said about community kitchens: How and when did it really start, what is its role in shaping our history, what is its role in the struggle of our people.
Food production and appropriation, preparation and consumption prehistorically has been communal. Our ancestors gather fruits, hunt wild animals in groups for their safety. whatever food they have, they share.
But when private households and communal appropriation is no longer practiced, the least-appropriated members of the villages have to cook and share whatever little food they have.
The encomienda system enforced by the Spanish colonizers during the 16th century made rice our staple food as the form of tax to the colonial government. Encomiendas were soon transformed into haciendas to meet the needs of the global market, then farming of rice and vegetables were prohibited, only sugar, tobacco and other export goods were allowed.
The natives have to secretly plant tomatoes, eggplants, bitter gourd, string beans, okra and spinach in small patches of land in their backyards or in between the acres of tobacco plantations. This is how pakbet a native Ilocano dish which is stew of these vegetables was born.
Villagers, at the end of back breaking work in the haciendas share meals they collectively produced and cooked. After cooking paella, caldereta and chicken galantina for the colonizers during fiestas, natives gather to cook whatever parts of animals that are left to them. We can safely guess that it was during these meals that the possibility of revolting against the colonizers were secretly discussed and debated on.
When the Americans came, the Western concept of hygiene was rammed down our throats. They gave names to germs and bugs causing the illnesses of US troops and officials but do not seem to be bothering the natives, of course.
Processed food, refrigerators and stoves and every surplus product in the U.S. became a symbol of cleanliness and modernity, and a woman who has these things is an example of an ideal housewife. On the contrary, a woman who is too poor to own them is as unclean as the food that she prepares.
And now, here we are: a divided, starving nation ironically known for our love for food and fiestas.
But are communal kitchens a thing of the past? No. Community kitchens are gaining popularity among communities devastated by natural calamities and man-made disasters. As different social movements in the country are gaining strength, they are rediscovering community kitchens as an essential aspect in building and strengthening communities to face or overcome a common difficulty or in some cases a common adversary.
If you visit workers picket lines or peasant protest camps, they have communal kitchens. Many stories about individual or collective struggles and triumphs are shared and passed on in these kitchens. You may have sharp knives and bolos, crackling wood fire in the kitchen, but it is always a safe place to express your thoughts or share your secrets.
I can say that community kitchens is a must and a means to survive. Historically and up to a certain extent, it is an act of dissent.
During this time of lockdown, when physical distancing can be easily misconstrued as social distancing, it became a venue for social solidarity. When everyone is told to wait in silence for the government to get its acts together, it has become and claimed open spaces literally and figuratively.
Mira: The way that you are sharing that story about precolonial, about communal kitchen, it's so wonderful that I'm wondering, can anyone just start a community kitchen, and what are the requirements if they are interested in continuing this really wonderful liberatory practice?
Emma: Well, it's not that complicated. First, you just need to identify your community and through your initial contacts, you can set up a meeting with the people who might be interested to participate. It is very important, though, that they understand the concept of community kitchen, its general and particular objectives, long-term as well as the short-term goals.
From our experience with our community kitchens, it is equally important to listen to their inputs and comments. Once you have discussed the objectives and goals, listening to them will play a crucial part in the success or failure of your kitchen. The mechanics and technicalities should be left for them to decide: what food they want to cook, the scheduling. So, you should leave these things up to them.
So, we had a meeting with our contacts in the community. We discussed the concept of community kitchen, that it's not charity. It is basically how to build stronger relationships in the community through the community kitchen. It solves so many problems, like the immediate need for food. It should be a venue for listening to other people, sharing stories.
Once we have explained to them the concept and the goals and the objectives of the community kitchen, so then the discussion about the technicalities and the mechanics for running the community kitchen was discussed.
We talked about what are the most available vegetables, available in the community. You should also discuss diet. Culturally-identifiable diet I think is very important.
Because I remember a few years ago, someone donated Italian-style spaghetti sauce for our community kitchen. So, we cooked the Italian-style spaghetti. Well, you know Filipinos they love their sweet spaghetti, and, of course the people in the community were very polite, but we heard so many feedback that they don't really like Italian-style spaghetti.
So, I think culturally-identifiable food is very important. It's one lesson learned.
Rochelle: We love our sweet spaghetti. [laughs]
Emma: Yes, sweet spaghetti.
Emma: Jollibee. Yeah, and hotdog.
Rochelle: Jollibee spaghetti.
Mira: With sugar.
Emma: [laughs] And evaporated milk.
Emma: Our volunteers, I cooked spaghetti for them and I just gave them the money to buy the ingredients for the the spaghetti, and then they bought evaporated milk and condensed milk.
Rochelle: For the spaghetti?
Emma: Yeah, for the spaghetti.
Rochelle: Hmm. So, it's not only carb-loaded, it's sugar-loaded...
Emma: We just live it to them what they want to cook, what they want to serve, and since public or communal kitchens here in the Philippines is really very common, you can see them during fiestas, birthdays, wake, wedding, any occasion. It is a natural thing for our communities here in Laguna to hold public kitchens so they know who owns the biggest cauldron, or who has all the utensils that we need to have for our community kitchen.
In these times during pandemic, we should remind them to always observe physical distancing. Because it is the only way that the local government units is letting us hold our community kitchens, is we assured them that there will be no mass gatherings, physical distancing will be observed.
So, what we do is we just look for big, open space. We set up tables, which is also very common here because of the fiesta culture. That is where we prepare our food and that is where we cook them.
Because we are trying to minimize the use of plastic, that's why we need a lot of volunteers to carry the big pots from house-to-house, and then we just knock on the doors and then ask for their big bowls so that we can give them their share.
We also provide relevant information of course regarding COVID-19, the update on the government's action or inaction in solving the crisis. Right now we are flooded with so many complaints of workers who haven't received their aid from the government yet, or since we are now under the modified enhanced community quarantine where workers are now asked to report for work, we've received so many complaints of having no transportation because there's no...Jeepneys and tricycles are not yet allowed to travel. So, sometimes the workers walk two or three kilometers just to be able to go to the nearest shuttle pick up.
And then companies who previously do not provide shuttle services but are now obliged by the IATF to provide shuttle services, they collect Php 70 a day for the shuttle service. And the minimum wage here in our community is only Php 373, minus Php 70, your take home pay is roughly Php 300.
So, our community kitchen, aside from providing immediate relief, also serves as a venue for airing out of grievances. So, we are currently upgrading the skills of our volunteers. We had a discussion yesterday regarding mass testing and the different programs of the government, the guidelines released by the Department of Labor and the Department of Trade and Industry.
We need to provide more skills and knowledge to our volunteers as well because they are ones who receive the complaints because they go door-to-door. We receive a lot of questions about the guidelines because the guidelines says one thing but their companies, they say other things. So there's a confusion so they need someone to explain to them what is really is on the guidelines and what is to be done if their companies do not comply with the guidelines.
We are trying to set up like a occupational heath and safety committees in our communities because it is a workers' community and we see that occupational health and safety should not stop in the workplace. It should continue and it is very connected to their communities. So, we are trying to bridge the gap, the occupational health and safety situation in the workplace and in the community.
But we're having difficulties meeting people up because most of them are reporting for work already. So, maybe on Sunday, on their rest day we can have a meeting to discuss the possibility of setting up like a community-based occupational health and safety committees. Maybe start with monitoring if their companies are compliant and what can they do.
Mira: So, Emma, I'm thinking that the whole process is not only about community building but it's also about sharing information to the community that you're working with. It reminds me of like if you go to a Filipino party, so instead of gossiping, you basically sharing info, instead of like gossip.
Mira: Right, yeah?
Emma: Of course, we are still gossiping.
Mira: That's part of it.
Emma: Yeah, it's the favorite pastime of the Filipinos -- gossip.
Rochelle: Yeah, but you know sometimes we would think it's gossiping but actually but it's a way for people to release stresses of their day, of their lives. So, like, another role of community kitchen is to address, not just hunger, but also the mental stress, right, induced by the lockdown? Like, do you gather, or while you're cooking or...How would you say it helps release the mental stress?
Emma: Usually, these discussions happen when we are preparing food, while chopping the onions and garlic [laughs] for our pancit, it usually happens during those times. Sometimes because their husbands are also helping, chopping firewood, sometimes they would ask their husbands to gather more firewood just so that they can talk about their husbands.
Emma: So, yeah, it usually happens when we are preparing food, or sometimes, because we also hold like short assessments of how did the operation of the kitchen went, and then during these sessions, that's the time that they share the stories, or that's the time that they forward the complaints to us and ask us what needs to be done.
So, actually, the resolution for discussion on the released guidelines by the Department of Labor came out from these assessments. Because they said that when they are distributing food, the workers are asking them regarding the guidelines and they say that it's very hard to say I don't know all the time. You can say, "I don't know" the first time, but it's hard to say, "I don't know" the second or the third time. So they requested for a thorough discussion on the guidelines and how can they explain it better to the workers.
Mira: Emma, thank you so much for those information. I've learned to much on how to create community kitchen and how it's related to community building.
Emma: Yeah, personally, I learned so many things as well. I thought community kitchen is just cooking food and feeding people but our experience in our community kitchens here during the time of pandemic is really different. I learned so many things.
But also things don't run smoothly all the time, there's also challenges along the way. But I think as long as we are willing to learn from the people, the people believe in the objectives and goals of the community kitchen, no problem will be left unsolved.
Rochelle: So far, we have discussed a lot of gains and positive and wonderful experiences that we have through our community kitchens. But, this is not always the case for all the community kitchens.
Of course, we are sharing all the wonderful experiences, but there are also the not-so-wonderful and even, for some, traumatic experience about the way that the government looks at these initiatives by different organizations and volunteer groups.
We will be interviewing one of the Marikina 10 because of their own experience with the way the they were handled by the police when they were doing their community kitchen. We will be hearing from one of their volunteers at the next part of our podcast.
[music] -- Ano ang Aming Kasalanan? -- The Axel Pinpin and the Propaganda Machine
Dimple: I am Dimple Paz of the women's group, GABRIELA National Office in the Philippines and one of the Marikina 10 illegally arrested, charged and detained by the police last May 1, International Working Class Day. So, thank you for this opportunity and for having me here in your podcast, guys.
Rochelle: We're so happy you're here, Dimple. We have so many stuff to learn from you. OK, so tell us about yourself, Dimple. What do you do and how did you end up doing it?
Dimple: Actually, before the pandemic, I was in the campaign committee of the GABRIELA National Office campaigning different issues of the women, the people, and the economic issues, depending on the situation. Then, when the enhanced community quarantine in Manila [was] implemented by the government, we are all in the same communities. I live in Marikina.
So, March 17, beginning of the implementation of enhanced community quarantine, on of our friends in Babae Ako Network which is Zena has been communicate [ing] with us to help and conduct a relief operation. So, we talked right away and chose the sectors of our society who are affected and lost their livelihood, low family income, and the daily wage earners such as pedicab or bike drivers, tricycle and jeepney drivers in our barangay (village) in Industrial Valley Complex, Sitio Olandes, Marikina City.
Then, March 19, the first beneficiary are the pedicab or the bike drivers who stopped pedaling because of the ECQ. So, on, we realized that we don't want dole out culture or to give money, food, or something else that can [be] divided only to several people. We want them also to join the bayanihan and be a volunteer to their neighbors or fellow drivers.
So, they are the ones who wrap and distribute the relief packs to their fellow drivers then we were able to share information and giving flyers of Citizen's Urgent Response to End Covid-19 or the CURE Covid Network. The flyers contains on what is COVID-19, what is the importance of wearing the face mask, and sharing basic information on how they can protect themselves to COVID-19.
The distribution continued to the tricycle drivers and jeepney drivers. Same concept of the earlier wrapping and distributing of the relief goods. The community develops the concept of unity in times of disaster. The advantage of this community, every time that there is a flood due to the typhoon, they are helping each other. But this pandemic shows how fortified the unity of the communities.
At the same time, when we give relief packs to the pedicab drivers, we also launched the community kitchen while distributing the relief packs for the drivers. And this is in partnership with Bayanihang Marikenyo at Marikenya. The network are the ones who solicit and distribute the ingredients for the feeding in different barangays in Marikina wherein our women organizers, leaders and chapters lead.
As of now, we have 30 kitchens. The whole Bayanihang Marikenyo, Marikenya, they have Bayanihang Kusina for almost 30 kitchens then 18 of the kitchens are from Gabriela Women's Party chapters.
Through this community kitchen or collective efforts of the people in the community we are breaking the culture of selfishness and developing community discussions, even if it's personal problem, a community problem, economic problem, or human rights violations during pandemic.
The advantage of the community kitchen also is the community feed their neighbors who lost their jobs during the pandemic and the concept of community kitchen is a good example which should be developed by the society.
We develop in time of crisis there is social solidarity and cooperation play a vital role in making the lives of those who are greatly burdened to be somehow easier.
In response to the pandemic, the relief operation lead by the Lingap Gabriela and Gabriela Women's Party aside from community kitchens, distributing relief goods or packs, it is composed of public information campaign, and of course community kitchens in partnership with the Bayanihang Marikenyo at Marikenya.
Rochelle: I can imagine that we are doing a lot of things in the community. You said we're having community discussions and it breaks the culture of individualism, and it encourages social solidarity. Now, the concerns when it comes to the pandemic is the issue of social or physical distancing. So, how are we able to do that while doing everything that we want within the community? Like, what measures do we follow or ensure that we are all doing, just so we won't be the source of infection or we won't put added burden to our community?
Dimple: In the community, when we are giving relief packs or food, they have one meter social distancing. They are also bringing their own bowls. We are knocking their doors and we are getting their bowls. We are ensuring that all the people are given information before they get relief packs or food so we are ensuring that.
Emma: Based on the sharing of Dimple, I am very impressed because the Philippine government or everybody else is telling us to observe social distancing and I know it has taken a toll on most people. Imagine being locked up in your own homes, the usual social activities that you do are not allowed during the time of the enhanced community quarantine.
But one thing or one beautiful thing that I see in the practice of community kitchens is social solidarity. While everybody is screaming social distancing, we are doing social solidarity while observing and while making it sure that physical distancing is observed.
And also one more thing, you're distributing food, you go around door-to-door, no? You go around knocking on houses so the use of plastic is also minimized because instead of individually packing them using plastics you just ask for their big bowls and that's the time that you distribute the...
Dimple: Because the plastic here in Marikina is strictly prohibited.
Rochelle: Oh, that's right.
Emma: Which is a very good because I can imagine if you have 30 kitchens and you would individually put them or pack them in individual plastics, and I can only imagine how many plastics. But it's good that plastic use in Marikina is banned. So, while doing...
Dimple: It's additional expenses if you have plastics. It's another thing to buy.
Emma: Yeah. It's another expense if we use plastic.
Dimple: The Bayanihang Marikenya, Marikenyo have 30 kitchens in I think 7 barangays in the Marikina but 18 of their kitchens are areas where the organizers, leaders, and chapters of Gabriela Women's Party live. They implement the discussions, the orientations, and of course they manage the kitchens.
Actually, for example, here in Industrial Valley Complex, the nanays or the mothers, when they are cooking breakfast, example champorado, or lugaw, they are cooking early in the morning, 6am, then they are using wood burning stove and by 8am they are going to knock on the houses, they are giving breakfast.
Or if they are going to cook lunch, so they are going to cook for example misua or monggo, they are going to also cook by 10:30am then they will serve it by 12:00 noon. It's not whole day but at least every other day, they feed their neighbors.
Three nanays and the distributors are the drivers. some drivers are mobilizing for cooking in the community kitchen, or to cook some food or whatever food that is available in Bayanihang Marikenyo, Marikenya, or the donations that we receive from the different individuals and organizations.
Emma: So, usually it is the women who do the cooking and then the men would help them and these drivers who are out of work usually do the distribution of the food packs?
Dimple: Yes. The food can serve at least 50 families per feeding. Here in industrial valley complex, in one day, we have 6 kitchens. so, the communities are helping each other how to feed their neighbors, the drivers who lost their jobs, [inaudible]. The essence of the social solidarity and cooperation really play a vital role in feeding those who are greatly burdened.
Emma: It's really interesting that not only these community kitchens provide immediate relief to the people in the community but also they play the role of providing much needed information regarding the pandemic. These kitchens also share to the people what needs to be done or what has been the effort of the government or the lack of effort of the government.
So not only we are feeding them, these kitchens also give them much needed information where we are right now -- are we flattening really the curve, or are we really in the second wave of the pandemic or the spread of the virus? So, that's really impressive.
Dimple: Actually, while providing services, we are active in the communities in demanding the government to lay down comprehensive medical solutions by responding to the economic needs of the Filipino families.
Specifically, we demand for free and systematic mass testing, enhanced contact tracing and disease surveillance, protection for health workers and front liners. Another one is sustainable sanitation and disinfection drive in the communities.
And then, of course, it is very important to sustain public information campaign about the disease and ways on how to prevent it. Then the communities are also demanding for the immediate emergency relief.
Another thing also, expanding the public health system and providing universal social protection. Then, uphold and protect and defend people's human rights.
Rochelle: Because we want all of these things from the government, is it why you guys were arrested?
Dimple: Yeah, I think so. But when we got arrested it's a different thing because when they caught us we are feeding. I think this is not the reason why.
Before May 1, they are saying that they going to secure the areas, even Marikina, so I think this is the reason. But we know that all of the oppositions or the people who demand the demands of the people, they are going to harass or arrest or everything.
Rochelle: Can you tell us what happened? Like, did you expect this at all? What were the charges against you?
Dimple: Illegal assembly and violation of the public assembly act and Article 15 Revised Penal Code in relation to the Bayanihan Heal as One Act.
We know that May 1 is the commemoration of International Workers Class Day so we wake up early in the morning...
This is in partnership and cooperation with Bayanihang Marikenyo at Marikenya, Batibot Early Learning Center, and Lingap Gabriela together with jeepney drivers of our community.
So, we were cooking and feeding in the streets, one of the drivers wrote, in Tagalog, the exact word that they wrote there is, "Ayuda, Ibigay na sa Amin, Pambili ng Gatas ng Anak Ko!" so, "Release the cash aids for the milk of my daughter!"
And, of course, and as a support to the Marikina City Local Government and our call for free mass testing, we also wrote, "We support Marikina City Free Mass Testing."
While we are distributing and eating macaroni soup, the drivers are also bringing their own bowl for the macaroni soup for their families. We have orientation and discussion for the requirements of cash aids of the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) in the jeepney drivers.
Teacher Lita and the two drivers and I are eating the macaroni soup with social distancing, so we were surprised that we were surrounded by about 15 to 20 police officers shouting and asking us what we do. So, we tell them that we have a feeding to the drivers. We responded respectfully and calmly but they are shouting and they are asking for our IDs and permit to conduct a relief operation.
So, we provided all of the things that they need. Even our permit for the distribution of the relief. We provided all of the things. But the arresting officer insist that we need to go with them in the barangay. So, we are still asking what is our violations to go with them. We assert our rights but they insist on us. My soup was thrown away while Teacher Lita carrying the bowl of her soup.
We are about to ride, the 10 of us, in one police mobile. I said to the police officer that, "Sir, you will lead us all in one mobile? We even don't have social distancing?" I'm talking to the arresting officer.
Suddenly the arresting officer called another mobile then we ride in anticipation that they will bring us in the barangay only. When we ride to the mobile, then police officer on the police mobile that we rode is asking why we were arrested. I answered,"Why you don't know?" Then he told us that they are clueless.
Then someone called him and said that we would be taken to Marikina City Head Quarters. They are interrogating our accompanying drivers and asking them to write their names in blank paper. Then I told the drivers not to write anything because no one is answering what is our violations for one and a half hours.
The arresting officer appeared and he told us that we are violating enhanced community quarantine but there is no particular things in law discussing what we have violated.
Arresting officer are calling me to stand because they are going to put on the handcuffs to me and Teacher Lita.
So, without social distancing because we were in one handcuff only. While they are putting the handcuff on us, I started to cry and telling them that it is not a crime to feed hungry people. So, they respond, they laugh at us and said that, "All of you, you are going to jail. Continue your feeding there," they told us.
After that, we have handcuff, Teacher Lita and I and other Marikina 10. They took us to the hospital, Amang Rodriguez, which are so many cases of COVID-19. We told them that Teacher Lita is a cancer patient and she is prone easily to COVID but they are not listening to us. They insist to have x-ray without disinfecting those machines. In short, we were exposed to the hospital.
After that the media, the TVs are continue to come to us and have an interview. The police are saying to us that, "Don't make interview to the tv media." We are still waiting for our lawyer that time. 3:00 pm, the lawyer told us that they are going to inquest us because our case is illegal assembly and disobedience to public authority. That is the first time that we hear our violations that the police did not answer us earlier before they took us.
Rochelle: From the police headquarters you were taken to a COVID hospital?
Dimple: Actually, we don't understand that time because they are not telling us what is our violations that they even not reading our Miranda rights.
Emma: Yeah, the Amang Rodriguez Hospital was identified as a COVID hospital. So, despite of that and despite you telling them that Teacher Lita is a a cancer patient, and therefore is very prone to not only COVID but other types of infection, they still insisted on doing the medico legal procedures in that hospital.
Dimple: Because before that we are asking, "Are we really going to Amang?" They said that we are just going outside but later on we are going inside to have an x-ray.
So, we observed different violations on our rights especially in time of COVID, we are really feel that they are not sincere on implementing the ECQ for health concern. We feel that it's nothing for them.
After that, they took mugshots of us. They are forcing us to wear dirty yellow shirts worn by the accused. The 10 of us are wearing the dirty yellow shirt. It shows that they are not concerned to the health of the arrested people like us.
Emma: You were arrested before 10 am and you only were informed of the charges by 3 pm.
Dimple: Yes. Oo. We were just informed of our charges of illegal assembly and the lawyer are the one who's telling us not the arresting officers or other police. We stayed for one night. We are waiting for the online transaction of the PNP to the prosecutor but the prosecutor said they are not going to have a result for the same day. They need to read and it is very late for the prosecutor to decide. When they filed the case, it's already I think 5 or 4:30 then we stayed for a long night.
Emma: I can only imagine because we also were operating our community kitchens on that day. We are simultaneously operating our three community kitchens when we heard the news that 10 people feeding, doing community kitchen were arrested.
And I can only imagine because you wake up in the morning, you're planning how to manage the kitchens, thinking about how to improve the operation of the community kitchen, you were eating macaroni soup when you were arrested, and you were taken to a COVID hospital, handcuffed, and you were not informed of your charges, they did not read to you your Miranda rights.
The problem is our president is really crazy and it's really very brave of all of you that despite what happened, you're still continuing the operation of the community kitchen, right?
Rochelle: After the arrest, after the charges were filed, how has it affected the community? How did the people react to this, and did it sow fear as I would say as the objective of the police for arresting you guys? Did it create that fear that, OK, let's not do this anymore because they might go to jail as well? What was it like after the arrest?
Dimple: Actually, May 2, we're released for further investigation. So we still have, supposedly, May 20 and 27 hearing for us to explain everything, to provide a sworn statement and affidavit. May 2, actually, the drivers are welcoming us.
All of the drivers that...They are excited to see us and they are crying actually because they are so guilty because some of them are running that time so feel guilt and everything.
But it shows that they are very angry on what happened. So, there's fear but the feeding continued. After we were arrested they cooked immediately for their neighbors and fellow drivers. Fear is not the primary concerns of the drivers.
Actually, the drivers shows that they are very brave on what is happening. The discussions and orientation, actually, organizing to them is very important to cover the fear. They continued the services that we are providing.
Dimple: To the people who are listening right now, do not be afraid of doing the right thing. Do not be afraid to defend our rights. And, of course, do not be afraid to provide services especially when you are doing like community kitchens or doing relief operations.
So, of course, we are also encouraging all of the people to have a vital role in our society and explore and develop the community efforts. Please be reminded that "hindi krimen and magpakain ng kapwa mo taong nagugutom." So, thank you and God bless to all of you.
Mira: Maraming salamat, Dimple, for taking the time to chat with us and to share your experiences.
But I really just want to highlight what you have said that in times of any calamities or disaster or challenge and struggle, people are still uniting, we still build communities because this is how we survive, right? So, I really appreciated that.
And, also, Emma, you know a lot about food, the Filipino experience, the community building through food, so I really cannot wait to keep on building with all of you.
Emma: I hope everyone enjoyed our podcast for today. I can't wait for our next podcast.
Rochelle: You've been listening to the second episode of Kumusta, Kumare!, the monthly podcast of NAPIESV's Bersama-sama Project Philippine Team.
We hope that you've had as much fun listening as we did in making this episode for you, and that you've learned more about our work, our experiences, and current situation.
By persisting in our efforts in building strong and meaningful relationships and communities, we will definitely overcome whatever challenges that are before us in this pandemic, and bersama-sama, we shall prevail and will continue to gain victories big and small.
For more information about NAPIESV and the Bersama-sama Project, please visit our website at napiesv.org.
See you all in our next episode.
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