It is unusual to hear stories of good deeds during a crisis especially that the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVD-19) pandemic has affected each and every one of us.

Many have lost their livelihood and some died due to hunger.

However, with millions of Filipinos receiving cash aid from the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) of various national government agencies (NGA), we are able to hear stories of honesty and kindness, which involves ordinary citizens.

The SAP of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), which targets low-income families who have been identified as most affected by the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), has been causing a stir lately not because some households have not benefited from this but because thousands of beneficiaries return their cash aid to their local government units (LGU).

This is due to duplication of assistance received from other NGA or ineligibility.

In Candon City, according to Vice Mayor Kristelle Singson, a total of 9,662 Non-4Ps informal and low income families received P5,500 cash aid from this program, and 33 of these have returned their cash aid to the LGU.

Top photo: Aldrin G. Bautista (left) and Jake Boy B. Villalobos (right) return their cash aid from the Social Amelioration Program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development to the local government unit of Candon City. (Photo courtesy: Official Facebook Page of Candon City Mayor Ericson G. Singson)

Aldrin G. Bautista, sisig online seller and deliveryman from barangay Calaoa-an, returned his SAP because his wife, who works as a cashier at a lending company in the city, has already received cash aid from another NGA.

They have a daughter to raise and they still live with his parents, with his mother being a stroke survivor.

“Ibinalik ko yung SAP na nakuha ko kasi may nakuha ‘yung asawa ko sa mula sa trabaho niya at naisip namin na mas marami pang pamilya ang mas nangangailangan ng ayuda. Kaya ko pa namang magtrabaho, regalo na lang po namin ito sa pamilya na mas nangangailangan,” he said.

For him, what is more important is that his family is able to eat thrice a day and that nobody gets sick.

“Kontento na kami na makakain ng tatlong beses sa isang araw at walang nagkakasakit sa amin. Ibinalik namin ang SAP ng buong puso,” he added.

During the ECQ and the general community quarantine (GCQ), Bautista’s online business was their only source of income.

“Noong ECQ at GCQ, tumigil sa trabaho ang asawa ko buti na lang at may mga nag-oorder pa rin ng sisig sa akin. Bale pino-post ko ito sa Facebook, ako mismo ang nagluluto at ako na rin ang nagde-deliver ng libre,” he said.

He delivers within Candon City, Santiago and Sta. Cruz town and even at Lidlidda town, which is over 21 kilometers away from the city for free.

From this, he earns from P250.00 to P350.00 a day but sometimes he doesn’t earn much because customers seldom order sisig especially during the ECQ.

“Minsan po walang income kasi pare-pareho naman ang lahat na walang mapagkukunan lalo noong ECQ pero buti na lang at may naipon kami para sa gatas ng aming anak at pangkain sa araw-araw,” he added.

To help survive the COVID-19 crisis, Bautista pointed out the importance of honesty and kindness among all of us.

“Nakikita ng Dios ang ating mga ginagawa, kung talagang gusto nating makatulong sa ating kapwa, dapat totoo tayo sa ating mga kinikilos at sinasabi. Huwag sana tayo manlamang ng ibang tao lalong-lalo ngayon panahon ng pandemia, sana magtulungan tayo para malagpasan natin ang pagsubok na ito,” he said.

Another SAP beneficiary who returned his cash aid is Jake Boy B. Villalobos, a 32-year-old barista and sari-sari store owner from Barangay San Isidro.

He returned his cash aid because they have already received assistance from the Small Business Wage Subsidy of the Social Security System (SSS).

Villalobos is also a father of two and works as a tanod in their barangay.

“Since temporary closed po ang coffee shop na pinagta-trabahuan ko, naging abala ako sa mga responsibilidad namin bilang tanod lalo noong ECQ at GCQ na kailangan naming makipagtulungan para sa barangay checkpoint,” he said.

As a public servant, he said that it wasn’t a factor for what he has done because anyone can be of help to everybody especially with the COVID-19 crisis.

“Sa sitwasyon natin ngayon, kahit gaano kahirap ang pinagdadaanan natin, kahit sino sa atin ay kayang tumulong sa kahit anong paraan. Malasakit lamang sa isa’t-isa ang kailangan,” he added.

During the ECQ and GCQ, their only source of income was their sari-sari store and his honorarium as tanod worth P1,100.

“Higit isang libo po ang natatanggap ko buwan-buwan bilang tanod at malaki ang pasasamalat namin kasi nakapundar kami ng maliit na sari-sari store at ito ang naging source of income naming para sa araw-araw na pamumuhay naming mag-anak,” he said.

And even if it wasn’t that much, he never hesitated to return the cash aid as he thought that it was the best way to do it.

Bautista and Villalobos thanked the national government and the LGU Candon for their unending assistance.

“Maraming salamat po sa DSWD gayun din sa aming LGU dahil sa mga benepisyo na aming natatanggap. Lubos kayong nakakatulong sa aming mga nangangailangan,” they said.

Vice Mayor Singson praised the honesty of these beneficiaries as they have shown that kindness still prevails even with the COVID-19 crisis.

“Nakakatuwa na maraming nagkusang magbalik ng ayuda na natanggap mula sa SAP. Ito ay isang patunay na nangingibabaw pa din sa mga tao ang pagiging tapat at pagmamalasakit sa kapwa tao,” she said.

This simple act done by 33 SAP beneficiaries in Candon City is a proof that kindness is still more contagious than the COVID-19 pandemic. (Joyah Mae Quimoyog, PIA Ilocos Sur)