In these trying times, a new breed of heroes is helping turn the tide of the COVID-19 crisis in their communities through their own special ways.
For Roseanne Villanueva, a 32-year-old single mother from Laguna, giving is caring despite your circumstances. At the onset of the pandemic, Roseanne decided to put up a small business at home using her last earnings from her gourmet food venture. She was blessed to have a source of income, she realized, but she couldn’t bear seeing the people in their community struggling. So to help her community, she decided to give out free food especially to the youth.
“Naging lingkod ako sa simbahan kaya malapit ako sa mga kabataan. ‘Yun na din ‘yung inspirasyon ko bilang isang single mother at saka nakikita ko rin ‘yung mga kapitbahay ko na hirap talaga sila sa buhay. Alam mo naman tayong mga Pilipino, madaling maawa sa mga nangangailangan,” Roseanne narrated.
(I used to be a church servant that is why the youth is close to my heart. Seeing them and their families struggle during the pandemic has motivated me to do this. Of course, as Filipinos, we’re compassionate to those who are needy.)
Whenever she’d set out to give free food, Roseanne would feel a sense of fulfillment knowing that she’s able to help them in her own little way. However, when a fire broke out in their neighborhood last June 2, Roseanne’s passion project had to be put on hold.
Roseanne recounted how the fire burned down everything they had. Thankfully, all her family members were safe as they got out immediately. But even though she lost all her belongings in the fire, the incident wasn’t able to crush her spirit. On July 4, she started giving out food again to the ones who need it most.
“Birthday ‘yun ng anak ko kaya nagbahagi kami ng food sa mga bata at sa mga gumagawa dito [sa evacuation center]. Tapos nitong July 27, namahagi kami ng biscuit at juice. Halos 40 na kabataan yung nabigyan namin,” she recounted.
(It was my son’s birthday so I decided to give out food to the kids and workers here in the evacuation center. Then on July 27, we gave free biscuits and juice packs to almost 40 youth in our neighborhood.)
Meanwhile, for incoming Grade 7 student Ella Perol, the shift to distance learning due to the pandemic did not hinder her from being of help to others. Instead, this created an opportunity for her to extend help to those who need her the most.
Bothered by her classmates’ absences and late submissions of modules, the young girl volunteered to tutor her classmates on school days. “Tinutulungan ko po yung mga kaklase ko sa module nila. Nag-uusap po kami sa Messenger kung may kulang po sila o kaya hindi maintindihan na lesson sa module namin. Marami po kasi sa kanila yung walang gadget kaya nahihirapan po sila sa modules nila,” Ella narrated.
(I help my classmates with their modules. We talk via Facebook Messenger and I ask them if they have incomplete modules or if there are lessons that they cannot understand. A lot of them don’t have gadgets or access to the Internet so they are having difficulties with their modules.)
Going the extra mile for her classmates, Ella didn’t mind how challenging it was for her as a child and as a student. She only had one goal: for them to graduate altogether.
On being ‘Tunay na Bayani’ in time for National Heroes Day
For Roseanne and Ella, anyone can be a Tunay na Bayani as long as they put their heart and soul into what they are doing.
“Wala po ‘yun sa edad o kaya po kung mayaman po o mahirap ka. Ang mahalaga po kasi gusto mo yung ginagawa mo at nakakatulong ka sa mga tao,” closed Ella. (Regardless of your age or your status in life, what’s important is that you love what you are doing and that you are helping people.)
Despite the seemingly overwhelming odds, community heroes like Roseanne and Ella were able to share goodwill with people around them. Their stories have inspired Mekeni Food Corporation to continue honoring ordinary Filipinos all year round through the Tunay na Bayani Awards. The program aims to recognize Filipinos who had contributed to the development of the community in their little way.
“The heroism of Filipinos is truly magnificent. It is such an honor to witness their grit, perseverance, and magnanimity in everything they do to uplift their communities. We are hopeful that despite the anxiety and uncertainties brought by the pandemic, we will see more inspiring Filipinos who are spreading positivity and initiating goodwill in their own unique ways,” said Prudencio Garcia, president of Mekeni Food Corporation.
Tunay na Bayani, inspired by Mekeni’s product line Bayani, is the company’s way of celebrating and giving back to individuals who are creating positive change in their communities. Mekeni continues to look for inspiring stories of Filipinos who have done exceptional things, may it be big or small, within and beyond their community.