The 'Payroll Masters' During Pandemic

Text and photos by Basilio Sepe

"Payroll masters" bring money to those in need during the pandemic. They go where others do not dare to go because of the distance.

Maidy Pahati, 49, is an officer of the government's Department of Social Welfare and Development. It is her task to lead the distribution of financial assistance to poor communities in town.

As authorities imposed a strict community quarantine, preventing people from leaving their homes, Pahati and her team had to double their efforts to reach out to remote villages.

The cash aid ranges from a minimum of Php1,000, or about US$20, to a maximum of Php4,000 (US$80), depending on the needs of the household.

The team took a small boat, an outrigger, waded on knee-deep floodwaters, and knocked on doors to bring help to the people on the island village of Tibaguin, one of the 26 villages they have to visit.

“I'm happy that we could help and that we still have work to do despite what is happening," said Pahati. "It is physically tiring," she added.

The team is escorted by police officers for their safety and to ensure order in the villages where the cash is to be distributed.

"It’s also for the safety of everyone," said Rogelio Suico, 52, who calls the island village a "virgin island" because of the absence of the coronavirus disease.

Tibaguin is a small coastal village located on an island that submerges to knee-deep flood waters during high-tide in the town of Hagonoy, Bulacan province north of Manila, Philippines.

We are strict to people who go in and out,” said Suico, who is the village chief.

He said he feels "sad" because not everyone can get financial assistance.

"Although, I am also happy because somehow there are still those who are able to receive assistance from the government,” he said.

The Philippine government has earlier announced about 10.8 billion-pesos in financial assistance for families most affected by the pandemic, especially low-income households.

Despite inoculation programs against COVID-19, the Philippines continues to suffer from rising coronavirus infections with over 10,000 daily cases in the past two weeks.

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