by Jamil T. Creado
It is March 11, 2020, and the World Health Organization has just declared COVID-19 as a pandemic. And not long after, on March 17, the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 have made their way to Philippine borders, promoting the government to declare the Luzon Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ). Just after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, people are uncertain about the effects of the disease. The lockdowns have been declared. People are panic-buying in the markets. Frontliners are out of PPEs and the health system is crashing. No more masks, no more alcohol. “Chaos” cannot begin to describe the condition that the ill-prepared Philippines is experiencing.
Enter two students, Mirriam Torres and Denese Que, who saw a problem that needed to be addressed, an opportunity to do so much more than what is already being done—or what is not being done. They are the founders of Bangon, a non-profit, student-led organization that aims to serve as a platform to discuss social issues among the youth, as well as taking proactive steps to address these problems through public service.
Frustrated with government inaction on the COVID-19 response in the country, the pair launched their passion project and unleashed the voice of the youth. Mirriam and Denese started a fundraising initiative to provide the Philippine Heart Center (PHC) with much-needed PPE sets. This initiative, their passion project, eventually led to the foundation of Bangon.
Passion project turned organization
What started as a small PPE donation drive for the Philippine Heart Center is now a big effort involving a diverse group of youth.
So, what is Bangon? Current Vice-chairperson, Denese Que, says that Bangon is a non-profit organization that aims to help people as well as a platform for education on what is happening regarding issues in the Philippines.
“From the name itself: Bangon—to help people rise up from challenges,” explained Denese. She also said that the principle of Bangon is serving the needs of the people and that the Filipino word, “Bangon”, is ultimately for the people. Thus, this is the image that they wanted to have for their grassroots initiative.
As a youth-led organization founded in May 2020, Bangon is made up of students from different institutions. At the moment, Bangon has around 40 members on its roster. Bangon’s members are not only limited to college students.
The organization has members from different universities like the University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU), De La Salle University (DLSU), Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP). They also have secondary school students, such as members from the Las Piñas Science High School and St. Theresa’s College.
But, how does Bangon get things done, considering its diverse membership and the challenges of the ongoing pandemic? According to Denese, the only challenge is time management.
The challenge is that varying schedules of people from different institutions call for the early setting of dates for meetings. Denese said that proper adjustment, compromise, and rest are key.
Bangon tries not to overload its members with work and strives for its members to be driven by their passion for public service.
As Bangon is made up of like-minded individuals with the same goals, working with youths from other schools is not a problem, Denese clarified. Another Bangon officer, Tansi Gabriel, said that Bangon members treat each other as a family and that every member’s opinion is accounted for in their activities and decision-making.
Since its inception in May 2020, Bangon has conducted multiple activities. The organization’s activities are anchored on its core principle: helping people while being socially relevant.
Due to the pandemic, most of the organization’s activities have been done online, but this setup has not hindered them from making an impact in the community.
Their genesis activity, BANGON: An Online Workshop Series for a Cause, raised funds from ticket sales for the benefit of the PHC frontliners.
Secondly, they also conducted Mulat—a webinar tackling interrelated issues of COVID-19, the Anti-Terror Law, and the ABS-CBN shutdown. They invited relevant personalities like Jeff Canoy, Chel Diokno, and Raoul Manuel.
Their third activity started because of the typhoons that hit Cagayan last year, they conducted TINDIG CAGAYAN, an online fundraiser for the victims. And most recently, Bangon held an online benefit concert for high school scholars.
With so many of Bangon’s activities mainly being fundraisers, how does Bangon keep its members safe? Denese revealed that Bangon has not done a face-to-face activity since their first donation of PPEs for the PHC.
Mirriam Torres, the current Chairperson for Bangon, was the only one from Bangon who did the face-to-face donation, after which Bangon kept all its activities—even facilitating the delivery of donations—online. Mirriam’s donation made the least amount of contact possible and made sure the PPEs were going to someone trusted.
All of the succeeding donation drives initiated by Bangon were no longer done face-to-face. Bangon does not want to risk the health of its members, Denese said.
To ensure physical distancing, Bangon’s donations are now all strictly monetary, and they triple-check everything they will send out through donations, according to Tansi.
Little people with big goals
But what motivates Bangon, as a student-led organization, to engage in public service? This is despite the struggles of online learning which usually takes up their time. Not to mention the threat of COVID-19 for their health.
Usually, students are just expected to study and not much else besides that. Tansi said that Bangon is motivated to impact social change in their own little way. They want to be proactive members of society despite their youth.
Denese adds that students are idealistic. Students can make difficult things possible with their passion for service. Being called a youth does not limit them. They believe that, despite being young people, they can contribute big things if they combine all their individual efforts by working together. That through this combination—going beyond lip service—they can effect change in society.