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When we welcomed the Year 2020 with eruptions from Mt. Taal, little did we know that even more explosive events would send shock waves around the world in the months to come.  As we write, we are still in the midst of a pandemic, still figuring out how we can function safely and responsibly.

Volunteer Rhemz and Rex donate and deliver supplies on behalf of Woods and Books to frontliners of health care units in the town of Pototan. (Photo courtesy of iAmUPHi.)


Our first response: We linked up with an organization working with Ilonggo frontliners–iAmUPHi, an alumni association of the University of the Philippines in the Visayas. (Photo courtesy of iAmUPHi.)


Our initial response was to follow health protocols to keep ourselves and our communities safe: we sheltered in place, sought ways to be of help to others. In the Philippines, whole regions, islands, provinces, and towns, were—and as of this writing, still are–at different levels of quarantine. As the rest of humankind found ways to deal with the danger, the isolation, the pain, and the grief brought about by the pandemic, everyone sought solace wherever they could find it. Most of us stayed in place and made do with whatever was available, with whomever we were sheltered or quarantined. Social distancing, then a new concept, now a familiar reality in our 2020 lexicon, has rendered us seemingly immobile and powerless to do what we have always done.

Filipino teachers in Davao de Oro had to find a novel way to access wifi signals and attend webinar meetings of the Department of Education–get to the highest point in town and camp out. (Photo by Jeson Aria Mangca Celebre)

The good news is, “the new normal” has given us the time, the space, and the silence to rethink, reimagine, and recreate. We have paused, but we are not paralyzed. Our work, whether it be quietly personal, determinedly professional, or passionately political, continues. Perseverance and endurance define the manner in which we choose to meet this crisis. We are inspired to soldier on, not only by first-responders and frontliners, but by Juan and Juana de la Cruz, Filipino “ordinary folks,” who do extraordinary things in these extraordinary times.

Ilonggo health workers and frontliners model PPEs designed and made locally, from materials available locally. For example, plastic tablecloths and raincoats. (Photo courtesy of iAmUPHi.)

Our own volunteers, faced with reenvisioning, restructuring, rediscovering, and relearning, focused on their diverse fields of interest, the most notable of whom, is Akim, our youngest volunteer. Next week, on August 25th, “Quiet Joy” opens at the Little Theater of the University of the Philippines in the Visayas. Akim, together with Dr. Cynthia Ticao, will exhibit their paintings. All of Akim’s paintings were done during what we now term as The COVID Period. For a virtual look at the exhibit, please visit the Facebook page of the UPV Office of Culture Initiatives and the Arts at https://www/facebook.com/upv.oica


Volunteer Akim, hard at work, sometimes for 3 hours every day.

Congratulations, Akim!

Meanwhile, another book box is on its way to Iloilo City from California. We’re hoping that by the time it arrives, another volunteer group will be ready to pick it up and distribute the books to the children who need them most, especially in these difficult times. As a popular Filipino rallying cry goes, in times of crisis—or, because of crisis—“Tuloy ang laban!” (We fight on!)

May we all stay safe and strong!


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