The Covid-19 pandemic has turned the world upside down, wreaking havoc on everyone’s daily lives, especially Filipinos already facing struggles before the health crisis hit.
On the other hand, this situation has brought out the best in many Pinoys who are rising to all of today’s challenges—and are putting in the extra effort to uplift the lives of their fellow Filipinos. We call this the Cobra Mentality: The mindset that each Filipino should help his or her neighbor by being the bigger man as we all face one of the greatest challenges in history. A year in the pandemic, and the bayanihan efforts continue to put in effect as evidenced by the several community pantries that emerged from different parts of the country.
And it is this mentality that the “Bangon Campaign,” launched by the Philippines’ leading local energy drink brand Cobra, wants to instill in all Filipinos no matter their status in life, they will rise above their circumstances to empower themselves and the others.
Renz Abelita, for example, highlights the essence of Cobra Mentality through his efforts to nourish the minds of the youth. The security guard at a pawnshop in Manila conducted informal tutorial sessions on reading and writing for neighborhood kids amid the pandemic. Abelita has taken it upon himself to assume the role of educator to these children roaming the streets near his place of work and is using his downtime to improve their literacy.
“I thought of teaching the kids living nearby the basics of writing, so that they would learn how to write their own names. I also taught them how to count properly,” Abelita says.
The desire to teach comes from Abelita’s unfulfilled dream of becoming a teacher.
“There was a time in my life when I wanted to be a teacher. However, because life in the province was hard, I decided to find any job that would enable me to help my family first,” says the 23-year-old Masbate native.
Abelita’s act of kindness went viral on the internet after someone took a video of him conducting his “classes” during lean hours at the pawnshop. He says this has inspired him to simply continue teaching his “students,” as doing so has helped him maintain a positive outlook despite the hardships brought about by the pandemic.
“Helping my family and these children keep me motivated to stay positive,” says Abelita. Now, he looks forward to teaching his students every day—and this good deed serves as inspiration, too.
“Helping others is the least I can do, especially children who now find it hard to continue their education,” he says.
Food for the body–and soul
Photographer Mau Aguasin is also a shining example of one with Cobra Mentality. She established Project Food Trunk LP in Las Piñas City during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) after seeing how the lockdown badly affected people living in the streets.
“In April, as I went around to finish essential errands, I saw homeless people exhausted and uncertain about where to get their next meal. I told my housemate, who is an amazing cook, about it and we decided to cook healthy meals for them,” Aguasin says. “My thinking was, if we can secure their meals, they would be better equipped to respond to the crisis.”
Despite her finding herself badly affected by the crisis, too, since the arts and media industry bore—and continues to bear—the economic brunt of the crisis, Aguasin did not think twice about extending help to her fellow Filipinos. She gives credit to the bayanihan spirit of the people who have donated to her cause, as she says these are the individuals who keep Project Food Trunk LP alive.
“Since Day 1, we have been operating on donations, sponsorships, and deliveries from our community. We maintain an ‘open model’—however people feel like giving, we simply openly receive,” Aguasin says. “It’s people’s desire to help that made this project possible.”
Project Food Trunk LP continues to be a daily task for Aguasin and her roommate—and their dream is that their actions also inspire others to open other food trunks in other parts of the country. “It would be amazing to raise funds for more families and give away more healthy grocery bags for them. We hope to provide for new moms, households with recently unemployed individuals or those with PWD members, and senior citizens for at least another month as they figure out how to adjust to the economical consequences of this pandemic,” Aguasin says.
Aguasin and Abelita show us how Filipinos are rising to the challenges posed by Covid-19—all while helping others bounce back, too. Because of their kindness, they have been recognized by Cobra as heroes, as they embody the Cobra Mentality, a mindset that reminds hardworking Pinoys to choose to survive and rise-up from their struggles.