Iba Yan Angel food mission volunteers

Bayanihan is considered as one of the most remarkable cultural values of Filipinos that validates our sense of selflessness and compassion in times of great need.  The bayanihan spirit allowed Filipinos to have that sense of urgency and passion to help the less fortunate, as we see in the season finale of Iba ‘Yan on June 27.

Art Relief Mobile Kitchen (ARMK) is a charitable organization that provides emergency food aid to calamity-stricken families. Host Angel Locsin first got to talk to Alex Baluyut, the founder and executive director of the group. Alex comes from a well-off family who grew up in Manila. When he studied in Pampanga, Alex realized that he lived a far more comfortable and privileged life than many others in school. Alex also became interested in photojournalism and even became a sports photojournalist when he was still a student. He also became fond of taking pictures of the farmers in their province. Since then, Alex felt the need and responsibility to help the unfortunate. 

Back in 2013 when supertyphoon Yolanda hit the country, Alex thought of cooking and distributing rice porridge or lugaw to the people affected by the calamity. He shared his efforts on social media and shortly after posting it, many people volunteered to help. They went to Villamor Air Base and they stayed there for 22 days, providing typhoon victims breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals, thereby forming the Art Relief Mobile Kitchen. Since then, Alex’s Art Relief Mobile Kitchen expanded to four chapters in Mindanao and in a span of eight years, the group was able to conduct 60 missions and distribute one million meals. One of the most unforgettable and risky missions that the Alex’s organization conducted was during the Marawi siege. There were gunshots and bombs all over the city but Alex and his team still went to the war zone to help the people affected.

The co-founder of ARMK and Alex’s partner in life, Precious Leaño, is a writer, curator and theater artist. Precious has always had a special interest and love for the performing arts. And as a theater artist, it’s very important for Precious to have empathy towards other people and to understand their culture and their life. One of her most unforgettable moments from their mission was when they distributed meals in Albay province in Bicol. One of the residents asked how they were going to feed almost a thousand people when there were only four of them who were there to do that. Precious was very fulfilled to have shown to everyone in that mission how something impossible could become possible.

One of the many people ARMK helped was Frederick Casipong, a tricycle driver in Los Baños, Laguna. In March 2020, a fire razed the house of Fred and his family and ARMK provided them food after the terrible tragedy. After ARMK helped them, Fred decided to become a volunteer in the organization himself. Theresa Barera was another one who received huge help from ARMK. She shared that ever since she was young, her parents have taught her and her siblings the value of helping others especially when they’re in need. In fact, prior to her charitable work in ARMK, she was a volunteer medical assistant in Pansol, Laguna. Theresa had a small canteen business, however, when the pandemic came she was forced to close it.

Iba ‘Yan gave support to ARMK by giving them a cash donation for their next feeding operation. They also volunteered to help the group in their next mission, which was in a community beneficiary in Laguna. Iba ‘Yan also donated relief goods for the residents. They were able to prepare and distribute chicken afritada, macaroni soup, and bread to 100 families in the community.

In Iba ‘Yan’s one year of airing, viewers witnessed ordinary people’s incredible acts of selfless service and genuine kindness that became the inspiration for Angel and the Iba ‘Yan team to continue passing on the bayanihan spirit.