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From its kick-off last February 11, 2021 to celebrate Chinese New Year, GT Foundation, Inc. (GTFI), together with Metrobank Foundation, Inc. (MBFI), successfully completed this year’s Bags of Blessing (BOB) through a series of distribution across 33 sites nationwide. Following health and safety protocols and physical distancing measures, a total of 18,000 families exchanged their issued vouchers into goods at select supermarkets in their localities and organized distribution activities in select parishes.

GT Foundation, Inc. and Metrobank Foundation, Inc. kept the tradition of gift-giving alive with Bags of Blessing even amid the pandemic. In the photos are beneficiaries receiving their food packages at supermarket in the City of Manila which served as one of the distribution sites in NCR.

These beneficiaries were carefully chosen in partnership with the National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA)/Caritas Philippines to contribute to the national goal to curb hunger and alleviate the impact of the pandemic on people’s lives. Through these specially packaged goods, the 9th year of the program saw an increase in the number of underprivileged Filipino families assisted. To date, BOB has assisted almost 100,000 families or approximately 500,000 individuals in 182 sites nationwide.

“Masayang masaya ako sa natanggap ko bilang isa sa mga benepisyaryo. Sa mga sponsor po nagpapasalamat kami. Ang masasabi ko sa kanila, sana hindi sila magsawang tumulong at magbigay ng kasiyahan sa tao (I’m very happy with what I received as one of the beneficiaries. We are grateful to the sponsors. What I want to say is that I hope they will not tire of helping and bringing joy to people),” said Cecilia Suguitan, beneficiary from City of Manila.

Some teachers, police officers, and soldiers, in partnership with the Department Education, Philippine National Police, and Armed Forces of the Philippines, also received goods as a fitting tribute to recognize their efforts during the crisis.

One of the teacher beneficiaries expressed her gratitude for receiving a food package. “Maraming salamat po sa biyayang ipinagkaloob ninyo sa aming mga kaguruan. Making tulong ito sa aking pamilya lalo na’t mag-isa lang akong naghahanapbuhay sa aming pamilya. Sana marami pa kayong matulungan at mabigyan ng Bags of Blessing (Thank you very much for the blessing that you’ve given to us teachers. This is a huge help to my family especially since I’m the only one working in our household. I hope that you’ll be able to help and give Bags of Blessing to more people,” shared Mary Joy De Vera.

The network of Metrobank branches from the identified sites made the distribution possible with branch managers acting as action officers, ensuring on-time claiming of goods, implementation of safety measures, and accounting of beneficiaries together with NASSA/Caritas Philippines local coordinators.

Marlon Lazaro Antolin NASSA/Caritas Philippines Coordinator, emphasized the significance of sustaining a culture of reaching out and paying-it-forward. “I feel humbled to be part of this endeavor. I believe that its success goes beyond the last day of distribution. We should take this opportunity to engage our beneficiaries and impart with them, in our brief encounters, the values of gratefulness and giving forward. We are all gifted to give. It will not stop from receiving the Bags of Blessing but we should be part of a fruitful cycle of giving,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ellen Reyes, Head of Metrobank Biñan Branch, revealed what this initiative means to her as one of this year’s Bags of Blessing Metrobank action officers. “Me and my colleagues are always excited to serve and participate in this activity. This is one of the many ways for us to give to our community, a simple way of sharing our service for these worthy activities. This year, I’m grateful to be chosen as one of the Metrobank action officers who will assist in the coordination, turnover of vouchers, monitoring of BOB activities,” she said.

The sites this year were: Manila; San Juan; Caloocan; Quezon City; Parañaque; Navotas; Valenzuela; Makati; Taguig; Malabon; Pasay; Pasig; Mandaluyong; Muntinlupa; Las Piñas; Marikina; Pateros in NCR including Baguio City; Antipolo City; Balanga City, Bataan; San Jose del Monte City, Bulacan; Batangas City; the cities of Bacoor, General Trias, and Imus in Cavite; the cities of Biñan, San Pedro, Santa Rosa in Laguna; Iloilo City; Cebu City; Mandaue City; Lapu-Lapu City; and Davao City.

The Bags of Blessing is the brainchild of the late Metrobank Group founder and chairman Dr. George Ty Siao Kian. It is inspired by the traditional exchange of ang-pao, a red packet containing cash meant to deliver best wishes, favorable fortune, and good energy. Instead of cash-giving, specially designed red bags containing P1,000 worth of food packages are distributed to indigent families.

The program received an Award of Excellence in the recent 18th Philippine Quill Awards by the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Philippines and a Silver Anvil in the 56th Anvil Awards by the Public Relations Society of the Philippines.

Metrobank Foundation, Inc. (MBFI), together with the League of Corporate Foundations (LCF) and Manila Water Foundation, Inc. (MWF), turnover a Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) facility to Subay Elementary School at Talim Island, Cardona, Rizal on Feb. 17. This is part of MBFI’s PhP2.7 million donation to the “#LCFWinS: Lingap Eskwela sa Pandemya” program that aims to construct 10 WASH facilities and distribute 2,000 hygiene kits to 20 schools nationwide.

To protect the health, safety, and well-being of students, teachers, and personnel in this time of pandemic, the Metrobank Foundation, Inc. (MBFI) has partnered with the League of Corporate Foundations (LCF) for its #LCFWinS: Lingap Eskwela sa Pandemya Program. Through, a PhP2.7 million donation, 10 WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) facilities were constructed in select public schools made possible through the efforts of Manila Water Foundation.

From December 2020 to February 2021, 10-faucet hygiene facilities were turned over to Mataas na Paaralang Neptali A. Gonzales and Addition Hills Integrated School in Mandaluyong City; Fortune Elementary School and Fortune High School in Marikina City; Kapitolyo High School in Pasig City; Quezon City Science High School and Ramon Magsaysay (Cubao) High School in Quezon City; Dita Elementary School in Sta. Rosa City, Laguna; and Subay Elementary School and Sampad Elementary School in Cardona, Rizal. An estimated 31,000 learners shall benefit from these facilities including teachers and school personnel.

For ease of access for small children and PWDs, each hand hygiene facility comes with 10 faucets distanced at one-meter and can be operated with a foot pedal. Signages about COVID-19 precautionary measures, proper handwashing, and proper toothbrushing are also posted in the facility.

“Investing in proper hand hygiene facilities that is modified in compliance with the government health and safety protocols is a valuable intervention for increasing pandemic preparedness for the safe return of the students as well as the school personnel and the parents,” said MBFI president Aniceto Sobrepeña.

“Proper handwashing and hygiene habits will indeed be a key in ensuring the health and safety of our children, not just in schools but even in our homes. We hope to make that valuable contribution in promoting a sustainable proper hand hygiene culture in the Philippines even beyond the COVID-19 pandemic,” he added.

With the new facility, Addition Hills Integrated School Principal Gigi Bullanday said that this prompted their school to improve on their health and safety protocols. “Babaguhin po natin ang aming protocol. Hindi lang po magse-spray ng alcohol ang aming visitors, parents and stakeholders—lahat po ng aming guests, ire-require po naming maghugas ng mga kamay bago pumasok sa school. Para naman po safe tayong lahat (We will change our protocol. We will not only require our visitors, parents, and stakeholders to sanitize with alcohol but to also wash their hands before entering the school. This is so we can all be safe.),” she said.

Apart from sponsoring the constructions of the hygiene facilities, 2,000 hygiene kits were also distributed to another 10 schools namely Manggahan Elementary School in Pasig City; Bulihan Elementary School in Malolos, Bulacan; Tawiran Elementary School in Obando, Bulacan; San Nicolas Elementary School in Agoo, La Union; Caingin Elementary School in Sta. Rosa City, Laguna; Ayala Central School and Catalina Vda. de Jalon Memorial School in Zamboanga City; and Bayanihan Elementary School, Luyan Elementary School, and Sixto Babao Elementary School all in Davao City.

The kits contain items such as soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, washable face mask, vitamin C pads, and disinfecting alcohol. These will be distributed to school children from low-income families.

“Despite the fact that there are no face-to-face classes today and probably until the end of the school year, we chose to forge ahead with a future in mind. Hand washing needs to be the new norm. And if you want to encourage and drive this behavior, we need to provide the means to make this happen,” said LCF Chairperson and Aboitiz Foundation President and COO Maribeth Marasigan.

“LCFWinS: Lingap Eskwela sa Pandemya is a demonstration of our collective effort and impact – working together to create the enabling environment and the right conditions for good hand hygiene in schools. Let us continue advancing WASH for all communities for a healthier and safer Philippines,” MWF Executive Director Reginald Andal added.

Said donation is part of the consolidated almost PhP322 million contribution of Metrobank and GT Capital Holdings to fund and support efforts to combat the pandemic and help those in need under its “Helping Hands” program. To date, the financial assistance has covered the purchase of personal protective equipment for healthcare and security frontliners; donation of RT-PRC testing kits to select government hospitals; facilitation of antibody rapid testing and pooled testing to local government units; construction of 10 molecular laboratories; support for “Project Ugnayan” led by the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation; distribution of meals and food packs to underprivileged families; creation of an amelioration program for visual artists; in-kind donations of learning materials and equipment to geographically-isolated schools; provision of laptops and tablets for students; and donation of 30 units of Toyota Vios to Department of Health, among others.

The Metrobank Foundation, Inc. (MBFI) bagged the Top Division Award for its 40th anniversary celebration “Puso at Sigasig” in the recent 18th Philippine Quill Awards. The Top Division Award was chosen among entries which received the Quill Award of Excellence under the Communication Skills Category. Under this category, awardees are recognized for their demonstrated technical skills such as writing, editing, design, and multimedia production, combined with innovation and creativity.” Organized by the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Philippines, the Philippine Quill Awards is a showcase of bright ideas, groundbreaking concepts, marvelous executions, and resounding results. The 18th Philippine Quill Awards was held virtually last March 25, 2021.


“Puso at Sigasig” is a milestone occasion that highlights the corporate social responsibility fetes of MBFI. The anniversary celebration was also an expression of MBFI’s gratitude to the people and institutions that have turned its vision and mission into a successful organization that contributes a significant impact on social development.


Two other communication tools— “Service with a Heart: Metrobank Foundation 2018 Annual Report” and “Beyond Excellence” 2019 Metrobank Foundation Outstanding Filipinos Souvenir Program”—received the Quill Awards of Excellence. “Service with a Heart” highlights inspirational and empowering stories of ordinary individuals who share its goal of nation-building. The 2018 edition is a fitting tribute to every person who devote their heart to serve others and put emphasis on the untamable Filipino character that enables us to rise again to the challenges of turbulent times. It was also nominated for the Top Division Award.

“Beyond Excellence,” on the other hand, is a publication that features a creative collection of the professional narratives and life stories of the 10 awardees of the 2019 Metrobank Foundation Outstanding Filipinos. Going beyond the basics of a traditional post-event brochure, the souvenir program seeks to uphold the prestige of the recognition program by creating a timeless keepsake for its intended audiences, something they can turn to as a reminder that public service exemplars are not a dying breed.


Other recipients of the Quill Award of Excellence are “2019 Metrobank Foundation Outstanding Filipinos” and “COVID Comms 2020: The Metrobank Group and GT Capital Holdings Response to Contribute to Combating COVID-19.”

The “2019 Metrobank Foundation Outstanding Filipinos” is a career-service award for exemplary public servants in the academe, military, and police sectors. In 2019, 10 exemplary Filipinos consisting of four teachers, three soldiers, and three police officers were hailed as Metrobank Foundation Outstanding Filipinos. They join the distinguished roster of 665 awardees honored by MBFI since 1985.

“COVID Comms 2020” showcases the Metrobank Group’s and GT Capital Holdings’ response in addressing the identified needs on the ground by targeting the most vulnerable sectors affected by COVID-19. The response also complements the efforts of the government and other stakeholders.

Meanwhile, GT Foundation, Inc. (GTFI)’s “Bags of Blessing 2020: #BeyondFestivityGenerosity” also won the Quill Award of Excellence. This annual gift-giving program initiated in 2011 by the late Metrobank Founder Dr. George Ty Siao Kian is held in celebration of the Chinese New Year. Php 10 million worth of food items was distributed to 10,000 identified beneficiaries in 25 cities and municipalities across the country.


Two other programs— “UNLEASH: 2019 Metrobank Art and Design Excellence (MADE)’s 35th Anniversary Celebration” and “Metrobank Foundation Fellowship in Public Service (FPS)”—received the Quill Award of Merit. “UNLEASH” is a two-day celebration of artistic excellence. It also highlighted the role of MADE as a key player in the arts scene through the MADE Awarding and Exhibition and Art Exploration Lecture Series, as well as showcase its appreciation for its patrons through the Vernissage 2019.

The Metrobank Foundation Fellowship in Public Service, on the other hand, is a program created in 2017 to provide a platform for the Metrobank Foundation Outstanding Filipinos to share and propagate their best practices and innovations. These achievements must have resulted to positive change or addressed sectoral or societal issues.

MBFI has been winning the Philippine Quill Awards since 1985. To date, it has won 71 Quill Awards of Excellence and Merit for its various public relations programs and tools. In 2015, MBFI has received the Top Communication Management Award for its relief and rehabilitation response for survivors of Typhoon Yolanda.

Cabinet Secretary and Task Force Zero Hunger (TFZH) chairman Karlo Nograles led the turnover of 1,000 meals to Municipality of Guiguinto, Bulacan Mayor Ambrosio “Boy Cruz and Vice Mayor Eliseo Santos. Joining them are representatives from the Metrobank Foundation, Inc. and McDonald’s Philippines.

Metrobank, through its corporate social responsibility arm Metrobank Foundation, Inc. (MBFI), joins the Task Force Zero Hunger’s Pilipinas Kontra Gutom (PKG), aimed at ending massive hunger by 2030. Sustaining previous donations made to provide food for underprivileged families most affected by the pandemic, Metrobank contributed additional 50,000 meals to provide sustenance for the average-earners and poorest of poor.

An amount of more than PhP 2.5 million was coursed through Ronald McDonald’s House Charities (RMHC) Philippines for its McDonald’s Kindness Kitchen (MKK) program. The donation completes the target to provide over 100,000 meals to 50 cities and municipalities in the National Capital Region(NCR), Regions I, II, III, IV-A, V, VI, VIII, XI, and XII, including the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

To date, Metrobank, together with PKG and MKK has turned over almost 105,000 meals since November 2020. The distribution of meals will continue this month in Davao City, Tacloban and Palo, Leyte, and Antipolo, Rizal.

Led by Cabinet Secretary and Task Force Zero Hunger Chairman Karlo Nograles, PKG aims to address the problems on hunger and food security in the country especially during these times of crisis. A multi-sectoral movement, PKG is also committed to respond to the needs of communities during calamities and disasters through an efficient, systematic, and resilient relief operations. With the support of partner private institutions and non-government organizations, PKG shall ensure the availability and accessibility of food supplies, distribution of adequate nutrition to beneficiaries, and prompt assistance during crisis.




Photos above show the distribution of meals to the Municipalities of Mexico, Sta. Ana, and Arayat Pampanga; Municipalities of San Pedro and Biñan, Laguna; and Malabon City.

As one of PKG’s founding private sector members, MBFI president Aniceto Sobrepeña said, “We in the Metrobank Group seek to carry on our mission to uplift the lives of underprivileged Filipinos, especially now as our nation faces a long-drawn pandemic. Along with our partners from RMHC Philippines and Task Force Zero Hunger, we have made it our target to feed over 100,000 individuals in 50 cities and municipalities nationwide. Indeed, challenging times call for acts for solidarity and compassion. We are in the middle of a difficult period that demands kind thoughts and caring actions in equal measure.”

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Metrobank has been in the front lines in feeding poor families in the country. An amount of PhP 2 million was first donated to RMHC during the height of the enhanced community quarantine in March 2020. While another PhP 2 million was turned over during Metrobank’s Anniversary Grants Turnover in September last year. Through these donations, 80,000 meals were provided to individuals living in NCR as well as in Cebu and Davao provinces.

GT Foundation, Inc. and Metrobank Foundation, Inc. virtually kicked off the 2021 Bags of Blessing. The kickoff ceremony was led by (L-R) Metrobank Group chairman Arthur Ty, GTFI honorary chair Mary Ty, Federal Land chairman and GTFI president Alfred Ty, MBFI president Aniceto Sobrepeña, GTFI vice president Anjanette Dy-Buncio, and NASSA/Caritas Philippines executive secretary Fr. Antonio Labiao. Their hand gesture in the photo signifies “Hope for Prosperity.”.

As part of its Chinese New Year celebrations, the GT Foundation, Inc. (GTFI), together with Metrobank Foundation, Inc. (MBFI), virtually kicked off their gift-giving tradition called ‘Bags of Blessing’ on February 11, 2021.

In partnership with the National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA)/Caritas Philippines, through the assistance of select Metrobank branches, 18,000 families from 33 sites and 3 sectors will receive food packages by presenting their issued vouchers in identified supermarkets from February 12 to February 26. The priority beneficiaries chosen this year are families whose source of living and income was affected by the ongoing pandemic, survivors of recent natural calamities, members of indigenous peoples (IPs) tribes, and select teachers, soldiers, and police officers.

The kickoff ceremony was led by Metrobank Group chairman Arthur Ty, Federal Land chairman and GTFI president Alfred Ty, GTFI honorary chair Mary Ty, GTFI vice president Anjanette Dy-Buncio and MBFI president Aniceto Sobrepeña. Joining them were National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA)/Caritas Philippines executive secretary Fr. Antonio Labiao, NASSA/Caritas Philippines communications and partnership development coordinator Jing Henderson, and NASSA/Caritas Philippines head of resource generation and mobilization officer Analyn Julian.

“Today marks yet another milestone for us at the GT Foundation as we embark to widen the reach of the Bags of Blessing targeting an increased number of beneficiaries, from the usual 10,000 families to 18,000 families in 33 sites this time,” shared GTFI president Alfred V. Ty. “The sharing of Bags of Blessing is not only about gift-giving and keeping Chinese traditions alive but also to contribute to the national goal to curb hunger. Through our little contribution, we aim to bring food to the tables for the nutritional needs of the average Filipino earner,” he added.

“Nang nabalitaan ko na isa ako sa makakatanggap ng Bags of Blessing, labis akong nagalak kasi sa panahon ngayon napakahirap nang maghanap ng trabaho, Ngayong nahinto ako sa pagtatrabaho, malaking tulong ito para sa pamilya ko (When I heard that I will be one of the recipients of the Bags of Blessing, I was filled with joy since it’s difficult to find a job during this period. Now that I’ve stopped working, this is a big help for my family),” said Reynaldo Baria, a beneficiary from Iloilo City.

To this, MBFI president Aniceto Sobrepeña cites the jubilee year for Christianity in the country, the theme of which reflects the Bags of Blessings’ aspiration. “This year, we’re commemorating the 500th year of Christianity in the Philippines with the theme, “Gifted to Give.” Bags of Blessing is the brainchild of the late Metrobank Group founder and chairman Dr. George Ty Siao Kian. It is inspired by the traditional ang pao, a red envelope containing cash used to deliver best wishes and luck. Instead of cash-giving, specially designed red bags containing P1,000 worth of grocery items are distributed to indigent families. Bags of Blessing carries the same message: that the language of giving transcends differences and prevails even over tough situations,” he said.

Meanwhile, Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo mentions NASSA/Caritas Philippines’ Alay Kapwa program whose mission strongly identifies with the purpose of Bags of Blessing. “Nagpapasalamat kami sapagkat ang GT Foundation ay aming naging partner sa gawaing ito, at ating maisakatuparan at maisabuhay muli ang isa sa mga hangarin ng Alay Kapwa program: ang makatulong sa ating mga kababayan lalung-lalo na ngayon sa panahon ng pandemya. Isang inspirasyon ito para sa maraming may kakayanang makatulong sa ating kapwa. (We’re grateful that GT Foundation became our partner in this initiative, and we’ll be able to fulfill and live out the aspiration of the Alay Kapwa program: to help our fellowmen especially during this time of pandemic. This is an inspiration to those who have the capacity to help).”

Sites chosen this year are the City of Manila, City of San Juan, Caloocan City, Quezon City, Parañaque City, Navotas City, Valenzuela City, Makati City, Taguig City, Malabon City, Pasay City, Pasig City, Mandaluyong City, Muntinlupa City, Las Piñas City, Marikina City, and Pateros for the National Capital Region (NCR). Balanga City, Bataan; City of San Jose del Monte, Bulacan; Batangas City; Bacoor City; General Trias City; Imus City; Biñan City; City of San Pedro; City of Santa Rosa; Iloilo City; Baguio City; Antipolo City; Cebu City; Mandaue City; Lapu-Lapu City; and Davao City will comprise the countryside.

Thousands of students, faculty and staff from five public schools in Metro Manila can now look forward to new handwashing facilities installed in strategic locations in their schools that will help them fight COVID-19 and other communicable diseases.

League of Corporate Foundations (LCF) member and project sponsor, Metrobank Foundation, Inc. (MBFI), formally turned over five new 10-faucet hygiene facilities to Mataas na Paaralang Neptali A. Gonzales and Addition Hills Integrated School in Mandaluyong City, Kapitolyo High School in Pasig City, and Quezon City Science High School and Ramon Magsaysay (Cubao) High School in Quezon City on December 17, and on a virtual ceremony on December 29.

This is under LCF’s initiative, LCFWinS: Lingap Eskwela sa Pandemya, implemented by Manila Water Foundation, which aims to support the Department of Education (DepEd)’s WASH in Schools (WinS) program.

In a message, Metrobank Foundation President Aniceto Sobrepeña shared that MBFI has been working hard to support the fight against COVID-19 and is delighted to support DepEd’s WASH in Schools program. “We at the Metrobank Foundation, together with our sister foundation GT Foundation, have recognized the need to contribute to the Philippine nation’s fight against COVID-19, by creating a multi-million-peso COVID fund to support our partners in their respective sectors,” he said. “The LCFWinS: Lingap Eskwela sa Pandemya program is one of the significant partnerships that we in the MBFI have for this year as we continuously support the WASH in Schools program of DepEd,” he further added.

Gigi Bullanday, Principal III of Addition Hills Integrated School, recalled the school’s transformation since the facility was constructed. “’Yung area na ito ay tambakan ng mga sirang upuan. Dito rin po nilalagay ang mga basura noon (This area used to be a dump site of broken chairs and trash,” she said. “This is the best place to build the WASH facility—something beautiful and useful,” she added.

With the new facility, Bullanday said that this prompted their school to improve on their health and safety protocols. “Babaguhin po natin ang aming protocol. Hindi lang po magse-spray ng alcohol ang aming visitors, parents and stakeholders—lahat po ng aming guests, ire-require po naming maghugas ng mga kamay bago pumasok sa school. Para naman po safe tayong lahat (We will change our protocol. We will not only require our visitors, parents, and stakeholders to sanitize with alcohol, but to also wash their hands before entering the school. This is so we can all be safe.),” she said.

“Thank you so much, League of Corporate Foundations, Metrobank Foundation, and Manila Water Foundation for giving us this facility. Iingatan po namin ito dahil malaking tulong po ito sa aming paaralan (We will take care of this as this is a huge help for our school),” Principal Bullanday said in a closing message.

The handwashing facilities under the LCFWinS program can be operated by a pedal, and has a one-meter distance between faucets, to observe physical distancing. It also has a lowered sink which can be easily used by children.

Upholding health and safety above all, the handwashing facilities under the LCFWinS program can be operated by a pedal. There is a one-meter distance between faucets, to observe physical distancing. It also has a lowered sink which can be easily used by children. Each facility is built with ten faucets with soap containers and installed with signages about COVID-19 precautionary measures, proper handwashing, and the responsible use of water. The turnover last December 29 is the first of many projects with MBFI under LCFWinS. Under the program, MBFI will be donating a total of 10 hygiene facilities and 2,000 pieces of hygiene kits to another 10 schools.

To date, the LCFWinS program has benefitted more than 96,000 individuals.

GT Foundation, Inc. (GTFI) and Metrobank Foundation, Inc. (MBFI) reached out to thousands of families affected by the onslaught of recent typhoons Rolly and Ulysses. Implemented under its disaster relief and response program “Helping Hands,” the donation amounted to PhP 6 million.

GT Foundation and Metrobank Foundation, through its disaster response program “Helping Hands,” donate relief assistance worth PhP6 million to 60,000 individuals hardly affected by typhoons Rolly and Ulysses. Photo shows Metrobankers in South Luzon branches distributing food, water and hygiene kits to residents of Lopez, Quezon on November 19, 2020.

It is expected that a total of 60,000 individuals from hardly hit-provinces of Albay, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Quezon, Batangas, Rizal, Isabela, and Cagayan, including Marikina City were to be given packed meals and relief goods.

From November 19 to 26, Metrobank branches in South Luzon were mobilized to distribute relief composed of rice, noodles, canned goods, water and hygiene kits—all packaged in reusable pails. They were able to assist 400 families from Lopez, Quezon and Lucena, City; 400 families from Lobo, Batangas and Batangas City; and 800 families from Guinobatan, Albay. Relief distribution will take place in the coming days to assist 700 families in Camarines Norte and 500 families in Camarines Sur.

On the other hand, the same assistance was rolled-out by the Metrobank North Luzon Branches from November 20 to 25 assisting 600 families in Cauayan City and Ilagan City, Isabela, and 600 families in Tuguegarao City, Cagayan.

GTFI and MBFI also provided financial support for a soup kitchen implemented by Manila Broadcasting Company DZRH’s Operation Tulong. The first round of the feeding activity was conducted in Virac and Bato, Catanduanes from November 10 to 16.

Portions of the donation were also coursed through Philippine STAR’s corporate social responsibility arm Operation Damayan, Alagang Kapatid Foundation, RMN Foundation, Operating Blessing Foundation Philippines and the Philippines National Police’s food bank.

Metrobank and GT Capital Holdings sustain support in curbing COVID-19 cases through a renewed partnership with GoNegosyo’s Project ARK, now focused on running pooled Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) testing. Coursed through Metrobank Foundation (MBFI), the companies’ corporate social responsibility arm, and the Ty family’s GT Foundation (GTFI), PhP4.5 million was donated to implement at least 3,000 runs of pooled testing for select individuals in Pasay City. GTFI president Alfred Ty led a virtual coordination meeting with GoNegosyo founder and Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion and Pasay City mayor Imelda Calixto-Rubiano on October 13 to discuss the initiative.

The pooled testing will compliment the local government’s efforts to screen micro and small entrepreneurs like carinderia and sari-sari store owners, public wet market tenants, and tricycle and jeepney drivers.

Earlier this year, MBFI and GTFI donated PhP10 million to purchase and distribute 22,220 antibody rapid test kits to the cities of Pasig, San Juan, Santa Rosa in Laguna, General Trias and Imus in Cavite and Lucban in Quezon. The kits were used to identify active COVID-19 cases and to determine recovered patients as potential donors for plasma therapy.

The donation is part of the consolidated PhP270 million contribution of the group to fund and support efforts to combat the pandemic and help those in need. The financial assistance has covered the following: construction of 10 molecular laboratories; purchase of personal protective equipment for healthcare and security frontliners; donation of RT-PRC testing kits to select government hospitals; support for Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation’s “Project Ugnayan;” implementation of feeding interventions to underprivileged families; installation of handwashing facilities to schools; provision of laptops and tablets to educators and learners; distribution of equipment for the reproduction of modules and learning materials; support the livelihoods of various communities and donation of 30 units of Toyota Vios to DOH for the mobility of healthcare frontliners and local government hospitals, among others.

Metrobank Foundation donated PhP18 million to Southern Philippines Medical Center through Ateneo de Davao University for the establishment of a molecular laboratory in Davao City. Photo above shows the proposed design of the facility. Once constructed and equipped, it will be able to run 200 samples per day with a turn-around time of three operating days.

Sustaining its mission to aid the government in responding to the need for expanded testing for COVID-19 and for other emerging and re-emerging infections, the Metrobank Foundation, Inc. (MBFI) signs a memorandum of agreement with Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU) for the construction of a fully equipped molecular laboratory with negative pressure at the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) in Davao City. MBFI donated an amount of PhP 18 million to construct the laboratory, capable of testing 200 samples per day for an 8-hour shift and with a result turn-around time of three operating days.

A virtual signing ceremony was held on October 1 with the presence of MBFI president Aniceto Sobrepeña, Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega, AdDU president Fr. Joel Tabora, SJ, and SPMC OIC Medical Center Chief Dr. Ricardo Audan.

The facility will be established and operated in accordance with all applicable laws, including the standards of the DOH, Food and Drug Administration, and other applicable regulatory agencies and shall be accredited by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) as a COVID-19 laboratory facility.

To date, MBFI has supported the construction and equipping of 10 molecular laboratories in the country amounting to a total of PhP61 million. These include the largest molecular laboratory capable of detecting COVID-19 and other contagious diseases at the former Philippine Red Cross Headquarters in Port Area Manila. MBFI also supported the “Test, Trace, and Treat” Network through the Ayala Healthcare Holdings, Inc., the healthcare arm of the Ayala Group, in building seven Biosafety Level 2 modular laboratories in Qualimed hospitals. Another molecular laboratory will soon be inaugurated at the Manila Doctors Hospital through a donation from GT Foundation—the Ty family foundation.

Said donation is part of the consolidated PhP220 million contribution of Metrobank and GT Capital Holdings to fund and support efforts to combat the pandemic and help those in need. The financial assistance has covered the following: purchase of personal protective equipment for healthcare and security frontliners; donation of RT-PRC testing kits, through Manila HealthTek, to select government hospitals; support for “Project Ugnayan” led by the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation; distribution of meals and food packs to underprivileged families; donation of antibody rapid test kits through GoNegosyo’s Project ARK; construction of molecular laboratories; and donation of 30 units of Toyota Vios to DOH for the mobility of healthcare frontliners and local government hospitals, among others.

“Serving the people, securing the land.” Such is the byword of the uniformed men and women who are in the frontlines safeguarding the nation from all forms of threats.

It is the same rallying cry that continues to inspire Secretary Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. as he takes on, perhaps, one of the biggest responsibilities in his storied career. He was appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte as the Chief Implementer of the National Task Force (NTF) in charge of overseeing the country’s National Action Plan (NAP) against the COVID-19 pandemic.

This role also entails enforcing the policies issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases. This puts Sec. Galvez at the helm of the government’s operational arm in confronting and mitigating the impacts of the long-drawn health crisis.

Sec. Carlito Galvez heads the National Task Force in implementing the country’s action plan to combat the COVID-19.

A retired Chief of Staff, he is no stranger to daunting tasks that come with leadership roles. Galvez was the Commander of the Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) where he led the liberation of Marawi City from the hands of the ISIS-inspired Maute group. He was also the Chairman of the Government of the Philippines Coordinating Committees on the Cessation of Hostilities (GPH-CCCH), a mechanism under the GPH and Moro Islamic Liberation Front peace process that ensures potential situations of conflict between the two parties are resolved immediately. In 2018, his name made headlines again upon being selected as the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity.

In a crisis where critical elements are at play, Sec. Galvez’s duty as the Chief Implementer involves prioritizing the welfare of millions of Filipinos, particularly in protecting their health and safety. This job, he admits, is a challenging one, as there are times when he feels the weight of the job on his shoulders given its scope and magnitude.

Despite these, what prevails is his drive to serve his countrymen. Sec. Galvez recalled how he did not have second thoughts when the President offered him the post of Presidential Peace Adviser and, later, as Chief Implementer.

Sec. Galvez addresses the public and the media

“I knew that the position would give me another opportunity to serve our fellow Filipinos after my stint with the military. This was the same feeling I had when the President appointed me to be the NAP’s Chief Implementer. I knew that the job would be a very challenging one, but I wholeheartedly accepted it,” he shared.

Game Plan Towards a Better Normal for Filipinos

Filipinos from all walks of life have grappled with the impact of the pandemic over the past months. The NTF thus set in motion a multi-pronged plan to address issues across all fronts.

According to Sec. Galvez, one of the key steps undertaken by the task force is to ensure the NAP’s effective implementation at the national level, and cascading it to the local level. This involves engaging the public and obtaining their full support.

The NAP is anchored on the End-to-End “T3” Strategy which means trace, test, and treat. It is divided into various lines of effort, namely prevention, detection, isolation, treatment, and reintegration, which will enable the nation to adapt to the new normal.

Now on its second phase, the NAP seeks to strike a balance between ensuring the health and safety of the people and reviving the nation’s economy.

Working closely with partners and relevant institutions to carry out necessary interventions to address the health crisis

While the road to recovery might seem elusive, Sec. Galvez stated that the strong collaboration among stakeholders brings the Philippines closer to its goal. Case in point, the task force’s partnership with the private sector and local government units paved the way for the donation of more than two million personal protective equipment to frontliners, and the establishment of testing laboratories, swabbing centers, and quarantine facilities across the regions.

“We are focused on further strengthening the government’s partnership with the private sector, whose invaluable contribution has enabled us to provide better protection for our front liners and establish more health quarantine facilities nationwide,” he said.

Monitoring the situation and putting in place measures to curb the spread of the virus

He emphasized how the government continues to ramp up the country’s testing and contact tracing capabilities, provide support to local businesses, and encourage greater public participation in the government’s COVID-19 response efforts.

Further, Sec. Galvez understands the plight of Filipinos as they face an unseen, formidable enemy. He recognizes that everyone’s lives have been altered one way or another in the transition to a new normal.

With the many challenges the nation is facing, he stressed that he, along with his colleagues in the National Task Force, are allies of the people. Most of all, he, too, is a Filipino who must face the day-to-day challenges brought about by the global health crisis.

“Aside from being a former soldier and peace worker, I am also a husband, father, and brother. This is also what motivates me to do my job to the best of my ability. I know that what I am doing will not only have an impact on the people that I serve, but also on my family. I always ask myself the question ‘Will this measure or policy protect my family?” Sec. Galvez said.

Amidst all the challenges, his message to all Filipinos is one of optimism and encouragement.

The fight is far from over but he believes that people must not lose hope—the Philippines can get back on its feet if everyone continues to unite and help each other.

This is the reason, Galvez said, why the government is now focused on addressing the situation of the nation’s most vulnerable sectors, especially locally stranded individuals (LSIs) and returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs) who have been infected with the disease.

“The government is doing its best to help our LSIs and ROFs. They have gone through a lot. It is our responsibility not only to ensure their safe return to their home provinces, but also to help them recover from the trauma they have experienced,” he pointed out.

According to the chief implementer, aside from addressing the health conditions of these LSIs and ROFs, there is also a need to put equal importance on the state of their mental health which has also been affected by the health crisis.

“We must not only help them recover physically, but also assist them in coping with the psychological impact of the disease. The physical and mental well-being of patients should go hand in hand,” he stressed.

Galvez noted that LGUs will play a crucial role in this effort, as they will have to help create an environment where LSIs and ROFs will feel secure upon their return to their communities and not feel discriminated upon.

He said that it is through this integrated and holistic strategy that the government hopes to contain the spread of the disease, identify, isolate and treat patients as quickly as possible, and prevent the further loss of lives.

Sec. Galvez has this to say, “Our nation and the rest of the world are facing a crisis like we have never seen before. It has not only impacted our health, but also our social order, economy, peace and security. All aspects of our life as citizens have been upended, as we undergo the difficult process of coping with these changes. I have no doubt, however, that we shall overcome this pandemic, and emerge better, stronger and more resilient than before. We can do this by working together and looking out for each other. Tapang. Malasakit. Bayanihan. Together, we heal as one, we recover as one.”

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