VSU students and alumni organized an initiative to raise funds to produce alternative personal protective equipment for frontliners and other vulnerable groups.

Tabang PH, a civic engagement group formed by Viscans Jamie Faith De Veyra, Felix John Amestoso, Allen Glenn Gil, Kit Felian Tenio, Trishia Jade Acilo, and Weneline Balena initiated fundraising to produce alternative PPEs.

This is to cover for the shortage of PPEs as the world battles to stem the spread of novel coronavirus.

“The mortality rate of healthcare workers in the Philippines is very high. We feel like a factor for this is the shortage of PPEs. You see in the news that a lot of nurses and doctors are making use of trash bags as alternative protection. This is why we wanted to focus on making PPEs like masks, face shields, and sanitizers,” Amestoso said.

Felix John Amestoso, a science research assistant in VSU ITEEM - Marine Laboratory, leads the team in Baybay City.

“There are also plenty of people who do not have the privilege to stay in their homes. There is also the skeleton workforce, for example, who are called to go out of the safety of their own homes to keep the economy going. We saw a lot of them did not even have face masks. Providing these people with makeshift protective gear, we are slowing down or preventing the spread of the virus.”

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He emphasized the word “makeshift” to acknowledge that the PPEs will not necessarily be on-par with medical-grade protective gear but in the words of healthcare workers themselves: it’s better than nothing.

The makeshift PPE is the best, if not only, option for many people.

“The sanitizer, face mask, and shield are deliberate. The face mask is meant to be paired with a face shield so as to be an additional layer of protection and with that the sanitizers to keep your hands clean.”

“You can go around with a face mask and shield but it seems utterly useless if your hands are dirty.”

Tabang PH has teams in Tacloban City, Baybay City, Ormoc City, Matalom, and Albuera in Leyte, as well as the towns of Libagon and Sogod in Southern Leyte. Each team functions independently of the other with the common goal: help protect frontliners, protect the community.

The team struggled to put themselves together in the beginning. The community quarantine limited their mobility. With many establishments closing, delaying procurement of materials in towns like Tacloban City. There is also the group being unofficial.

“Overseeing and coordinating with all the clusters, particularly in Team VSU-Baybay was difficult when we first operated because the clusters are located in the upper campus, lower campus, and in Brgy. Guadalupe, and we weren't recognized by the VSU frontliners.”

VSU and Sangguniang Kabataan in Baybay later partnered with the group to produce a total of 170 face shields for the former and 676 face masks for the latter.

“It got me on the edge. I feel like, the longer we get delayed the higher the chances our frontliners were in danger,” Amestoso said.

As of writing, Tabang PH raised more than P100,000 and produced more than 2,871 face masks, 1,062 face shields, 1,606 disinfectants and soaps, including 33 PPE suits.

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Asked if the group will continue to function even after successfully stemming the disease, Amestoso said yes.

“Personally, I am more inclined to environmental conservation. Mainly on hands-on activities (application). I prefer this type of work rather than talking or speaking.”

He added that the core members have discussed reaching to farmers once the pandemic has been contained.

“We’re still looking for another source of funds besides donations though. We can’t keep on soliciting from people. People are barely holding themselves together with the economy on a halt,” Amestoso ended.