‘BalikBAHAY’ COVID-19 care packages bring LA Filipino community together

Fil-Am businesses contributed to the care package project, which delivered healthy food and information to Fil-Am essential workers and seniors. | Contributed photo
by Antonio Moya, MD, MPH, Melanie Sabado-Liwag, PhD, MPH, and Yey Coronel

LOS ANGELES – Essential workers of the Filipino Community in Los Angeles recently received a bit of the bayanihan spirit through the form of care packages.

The Filipino American Service Group Inc. (FASGI) implemented the first phase of its “BalikBAHAY” Project on July 20-25 by distributing 150 care packages to Filipino Americans in Los Angeles County.

This project was created in partnership with Dr. Antonio Moya and Dr. Melanie Sabado-Liwag, who were instrumental in developing the concept for the program, as well as the Filipino Young Leaders Program (FYLPRO), UCLA Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Equity, the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, UCLA National Clinician Scholars Program, and California State University in Los Angeles (CSULA). The project logo was created by Celina Taganas-Duffy/Tagline Communications, Inc.

The BalikBAHAY boxes contained items suggested by a Filipino dietician to promote health and boost immunity, like fresh lemons and ginger; dried noodles, beans and fruits; canned fish; vinegar; Vita no-sugar oolong tea, and guyabano juice; as well as LACDMH stress balls and COVID-19 brochures, FASGI brochure on immune-boosting strategies, cloth masks, gloves, alcohol spray bottle and a COVID19 pamphlet developed by Sabado-Liwag and her students.

The BalikBAHAY Project was developed as the organization’s way of helping Filipino Americans most affected by COVID-19 and to show gratitude to those essential workers who are often overlooked but play an important role in providing needed services.

We decided to focus on workers in Filipino food establishments – those who continue to work and risk their lives to provide meals for others – with priority to those that have already given back to medical front-liners and seniors. These are unsung heroes of community for their courage, time and sacrifice. We want to publicly thank and recognize their efforts in trying to preserve the essence of community during this pandemic by providing comfort and unity in the most simplistic and recognizable way – being a common nexus for people through food.

In addition to food workers, we were also able to provide for those who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19, as well as the most vulnerable seniors who were not able to avail of COVID-19 government programs.

In light of recent news articles highlighting poor health outcomes among Filipino Americans during this pandemic, it was time to show our community and the world that we have the resilience to attend to our own community’s needs. We have the power to change the course of this disease by wearing masks and washing our hands, eating healthy food and exercising, and as the project implies, returning home and staying safer at home, a message we want to share with our loved ones most at risk of COVID-19 complications.

Dr. Antonio Moya (left) and Fil-Am-owned Big Boi assemble ‘BalikBAHAY’ COVID-19 care packages. | Contributed photo

More than 20 volunteers from UCLA, CSULA and ML Tax & Insurance helped to assemble these boxes. Volunteers delivered the boxes to several Los Angeles area restaurants and bakeries including Fiesta Fastfood, Neri’s, HiFi Kitchen, Park’s Finest, Big Boi/B Sweet, Open Roads, Lilian’s Bread and Sweets, Ninong’s Café, Titas of Manila, and Native Fields. Our volunteers were overjoyed to see the smiles emanating from the recipients’ faces, and considered these as priceless fruits from their labors of love.

“During a time when the world is full of uncertainty, the BalikBAHAY team brought COVID-19 care packages to my awesome staff. It meant a lot to them to be recognized that they are here daily to prepare the food that is made in mind with safety first, along with love and comfort. Thank you for including B Sweet and Big Boi in bringing light to our community,” said Chef Barb Batiste of Big Boi.

Rhea Rachelle Espino of Neri’s and Open Roads Commissary, likewise, said, “Your generosity to those hearts you have touched is a real treasure. Real treasure is not what is outside but what is inside each and every one of you…When this pandemic is over, we will know that everything happens for a reason and everything happens for a mission. FASGI and the BalikBAHAY Team have done their part.”

“Special thanks to the #balikbahay project for stopping by and hooking up our team with care packages. Thanks for supporting essential workers during these times and giving them a voice,” said Cat Castaneda of Native Fields in Walnut.

Additional boxes were provided to Westin Enterprises, Inc./Carson Adult Day Health Care Center. Westin owner Evelyn Andamo said, “The BalikBAHAY care packages are vital to our participants, who average 75 years in age and have multiple diagnoses that make them more vulnerable to COVID-19 infection. Those who have received their boxes are very pleased, stating that the PPE and food items are exactly what they need during this stay-at-home order.”

Phase 2 of the BalikBAHAY Project will feature a series of webinars on COVID-19; and a survey conducted by Sabado-Liwag in collaboration with UCLA to understand the impacts of COVID-19 to Filipinos. Please visit BalikBAHAY.fasgi.org for more information.

If you are interested in helping the BalikBAHAY Program of LA or would like more information on program operations and implementation, please feel free to email BalikBAHAY@fasgi.org.

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