By Sol Vanzi
Agroup of artists has been preparing hot meals for thousands of Taal Volcano evacuees since the start. Led by Alex Baluyut and Precious Leano, the Art Relief Mobile Kitchen (ARMK), through trial and error, is becoming a model on mass feeding during times of crisis.
ARMK started in 2013 in the wake of Typhoon Yolanda. It has since fed hundreds of thousands of evacuees from war-torn Marawi to the Cordillera landslides, training the locals, and establishing mobile kitchens in disaster-prone communities.
Volunteerism is awakened
At the ARMK field kitchens at the Redemptorist Church in Lipa and at Luntiang Republika in Alfonso, Cavite, organizers are warmed by the overwhelming response of evacuees and out-of-towners who continue to line up to volunteer as cooks, kitchen helpers, clean-up crew, and delivery men.
Art Relief Mobile Kitchen (ARMK) whips up supersized meals to feed the thousands
Many of the young students are volunteering for the first time and have vowed to do more in the future. The evacuees consider work in the kitchen as a way to repay ARMK for its invaluable service. It also improves their self-esteem.
Working from dawn to evening, the army of volunteers faces daily challenges like water supply, the sudden increase in the number of evacuees, supply shortages, power outages, as well as limited refrigerated storage.
More help pours in
Filipinos around the country and from many parts of the world responded to the Taal Volcano crisis in true bayanihan fashion. Caravans of vegetable-laden trucks came from northern Luzon, delivering tons of freshly harvested vegetables and thousands of sacks of rice. Financial assistance was also sent by Local Government Units (LGUs) from Mindanao.
During the first week, thousands of families, non-government organizations (NGOs), and individuals motored the areas where evacuees were waiting for any kind of assistance. But with the crisis continuing and with thousands to feed several times a day, ARMK and other feeding centers are now facing problems. Their food stocks are running thin.
Food supplies that are needed
Cooking for hundreds or thousands is a very special task that calls for specific ingredients and dishes.
The dish must be familiar to and liked by the evacuees. It must be kept well at room temperature and must not involve complicated steps. It should also be easy to consume.
Mobile kitchens have been set up at Redemptorist Church in Lipa City and Luntian Republika Eco Farm in Alfonso, Cavite
Recommended items that are most useful and needed are monggo, dried white kidney beans, dried red kidney beans, dried fish (tuyo, dilis, labahita, or alumahan), dry noodles (bihon, canton, miswa, or egg noodles), macaroni, salted eggs, canned sardines, canned meat, smoked fish (tinapa), and sinaing na tulingan.
With their new brick oven, ARMK needs baking supplies such as flour, sugar, baking powder, and yeast. The non-profit organization is also running out of cooking oil, soy sauce, patis, salt, bagoong alamang, mayonnaise, tomatoes, siling haba, garlic, onions, ginger, bay leaves, and whole black pepper.
Here’s an excerpt from Precious’s personal diary.
Jan. 23, 2020
“Lipa City–The number of evacuees in the Redemptorist Church in Lipa city has quadrupled since we arrived here last Jan. 14.. There are also more evacuees in other evacuation centers after the lockdown on Mataas na Kahoy yesterday. To feed the thousands who left their homes with only the clothes on their backs is a logistical nightmare.
At the ARMK Field Kitchens at the Redemptorist Church in Lipa and at the Luntiang Republika Ecofarms in Alfonso, Batangas, our teams have been cooking thousands of meals a day. Today, we delivered 1,000 meals for those at the Redemptorist compound and another batch of 630 meals for an evacuation center in Malvar, Batangas.
Ipat, Luna is raising funds to purchase kitchen equipment—stoves, big pots, and cauldrons for the evacuees to be able to help themselves.
Batangas has a tradition of community cooks. Today, the evacuees of Barangay Malinis, Lemery cooked four cauldrons of sinaing na tamban, complete with dried kamias, pork fat, and banana leaves for their fellow evacuees. This barangay has been cooking rice, chopping, and preparing ingredients for more than five days now. They wake up before the sun rises, clean their surroundings, and start helping in the kitchen.
It will take all of us—evacuees, farmers, students, volunteers, associations, companies, etc. to feed a multitude.”
Jan. 25, 2020
“Oh my gulay! The number of evacuees that we are serving has quadrupled! Our kitchen cooks more than 3,000 hot meals daily. We are the Art Relief Mobile Kitchen (ARMK). We can and we will feed the hungry in times of distress. This is our creed.”
Art Relief Mobile Kitchen is on Facebook at @artreliefmobilekitchen. For inquiries, donations, and those who wish to volunteer, you may contact Precious Leano at 09178288690.