The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented changes to our lives, with the wearing of masks and social distancing becoming the new norm. As most economic activities grounded to a halt due to the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), the majority started to feel the difference.

However, different does not always mean bad. With the lockdown in place, things ran a different course for the leaders and members of the Centennial 1-B Homeowners Association, Inc. (HOAI) in Pinagbuhatan, Pasig City. Irene Rodriguez Guiquing, the HOAI president, recalled their apprehension at the start of the ECQ. “Sa napanood po naming balita, medyo kinabahan kami dahil nga ‘yung virus lumalaganap po,” she said.

Their fears became real as the lockdown dragged on, with most of the members forced to stop working due to the restrictions. To make ends meet, some decided to take the entrepreneurial route of selling ready-to-eat meals within the HOA. “Humingi sila ng permiso kung pwede silang mag-post sa group chat namin para magbenta. Pumayag naman ako kasi malaking tulong ’yun sa kanila para makaraos sa araw-araw,” Guiquing said. This eventually addressed two problems in the community-making a living and minimizing physical interactions to prevent the spread of the virus.

Volunteerism and community involvement

As the government tightened lockdown measures, the HOAI established a systematic security approach to protect the health and safety of its members. Frontline “security volunteers” were called to guard the entrances and exits of the association, monitor curfew hours, and maintain peace and order. A group of 13 volunteers, on the other hand, was formed to be “street leaders.” They were tasked to monitor families residing within their street, assure the organized delivery of announcements, and record the immediate needs of members.

Before the pandemic, some of these “security volunteers” were employed as construction workers while others are housewives, both of whom are used to putting the health and welfare of their families before theirs. For them, the risks and inconveniences attached to being a frontliner are outweighed by the honor and fulfillment in securing the welfare of more than 700 people residing within the HOAI. “Nakakatakot po talaga ang COVID-19. Pero ang naisip po namin mas maraming buhay ngayon ang dapat naming iligtas at ingatan,” Guiquing said.

The systematic approach of the whole community eased the flow of relief goods from the local government to its intended recipients. “Naka-ready na po ‘yung mga listahan ng pamilya sa bawat street kaya ‘pag dumating na ang ayuda galing sa government, mabilis siyang naiaabot,” Guiquing said.

Concerned that the quarantine will last longer than the supply of relief goods they received, Guiquing and her family decided to alleviate the situation themselves. “Napagdesisyunan namin na magcontribute para sa ayuda. Nagkanya-kanyang assignment ang lima kong anak kung ano ang bibilhin para sa ayudang iaabot sa aking members,” she shared.

This gesture inspired some members to follow suit. “Noong nakita po ng mga members na maganda ‘yung naging resulta ng ginawa ko, natuwa sila at nagbigay rin ng pera. Nilikom ko po ‘yun,” Guiquing said. The funds collected were used to provide allowances to HOAI frontliners as an appreciation for their sacrifices.

The collective efforts made by the officers and members of Centennial 1-B HOAI yielded positive results: to date, the community remains COVID-free. As the pandemic shifts the way of life of many Filipinos, the association took the circumstance as a unique opportunity to shape a resilient community. Armed by their bayanihan spirit, transparent and systematic leadership, they have proven that their community is strong enough to overcome anything.

Centennial HOAI is composed of 172 partner-homeowners and is mobilized by the Makawili Jay C. Foundation, Inc. Its loan of P14.3 million financed under the Community Mortgage Program was approved on July 28, 2015.