Simple acts of kindness give light and hope in Siargao amid COVID-19 threat

GENERAL LUNA, Siargao Island (MindaNews / 18 Mar) – Some offer accommodation to stranded tourists, others give out food, one offers professional service, while an accused hoarder turns out to be a giver to the poor.

Health workers of Siargao Island examine incoming tourists for the coronavirus disease. (COVID-19) MindaNews file photo by ROEL N. CATOTO

These are a few of the uplifting stories in Siargao in these trying times, where authorities reported 176 persons under monitoring (PUMs) for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in this municipality as of Wednesday, according to the General Luna Rural Health Unit.

Thankfully, there is no confirmed case yet, said Mayor Cecilia Rusillon.

With a number of foreign tourists here stranded because of the community quarantine and the cancellation of domestic flights, some resort owners posted on Facebook, in the community’s “Siargao Classifieds” page, that they are offering rooms for free.

One of them is Payag Suites.

“For humanitarian consideration, we can’t shoo them away just like that. They help give us better lives and I think it’s time to give back,” said lawyer John Cubillan, Payag’s chief operating officer.

“What we can do is to extend a little help and secure them,” he added.

Cubillan said they also offer full refund to guests who booked but failed to come. They have option to rebook at a later date, too.

A restaurant owner along Tourism Road has been giving free food to locals hard hit by the downturn in business and to some tourists as well.

Local surfers who are mostly surf instructors, now disallowed to teach surfing as ordered by General Luna government as part of the campaign to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, have nothing to feed their families.

Fortunately, a local businessman who helps manage properties here, has been playing Santa to the surfers.

Daryl Sevilla, who used to work for the World Health Organization, has been distributing canned goods to the surfers and other poor people. He said sacks of rice are coming, too. (Sevilla didn’t want to be named at first, but MindaNews coaxed him to.)

Danny Sevilla and his box of canned goods he distributes to the poor in Siargao Island as the downturn in business has affected locals. Photographed 16 March 2020. MindaNews photo by ROEL N. CATOTO

This he is doing even if he was vilified at the grocery store for buying several boxes of canned goods.

“I was accused of being a hoarder. Some raised eyebrows at me but I’m unfazed. I simply smiled and made some jokes to make them laugh,” he said.

“What’s important is that when we offer help, we should be aware that we cannot transmit COVID-19. As suggested by experts, I assume that I have it so I have to plan the distribution well and do it carefully,” Sevilla said.

He sanitizes the canned goods, wears a mask as he goes around, then puts his gifts at the doorsteps of his lucky beneficiaries. He does not even engage them in small talk, he just leaves even without meeting them. Like Santa.

Dr. Terence Kua, who was previously assigned as a municipal doctor in Burgos town but now enjoying surfing here with the minimal crowd, offered his medical services for free to those who cannot afford.

Vice Mayor Marlon Coro of Dapa municipality said a youth leader in his town has been distributing sanitizer soap for everyone.

“She uses her own money, not government funds. I’m so surprised and touched by her good deeds,” said Coro, referring to Joreza Maurice Jamero, president of the Sangguniang Kabataan.

Several sari-sari stores are offering their goods for “utang” (loan) to their neighbors.

“It’s part of our culture. Now that we see our neighbors have nothing, we offer our goods,” said sari-sari store owner Den Forcadilla Calapre of Poblacion 1. (Roel N. Catoto / MindaNews)