By Julie Nieva
 
It was not a regular day.
 
The streets that were usually busy with cars driving by and with people frolicking have become empty. What visible instead were military personnel manning the borders, checking vehicles and IDs of passengers to make sure that only authorized individuals can get in and out of Marawi City.
 
The easy choice was to stay at home, but Salika Maguindanao, who experienced hardship during the Marawi siege, decided to do something different. Together with her husband, Jardin Samad, and with proper documentation at hand, the couple braved the empty streets and crossed the border from Marawi City to extend their help to the community and deliver the first batch of alternative face masks to Iligan City.
 
The couple, together with a group of weavers and through the Marawi-based Maranao Collectible Services Cooperative, has committed to produce 20,000 alternative face masks per month to counter the limited supply of disposable face masks in the market.
 
While sewing was an easy task for the members of the Cooperative, Salika wanted to make sure that they were producing alternative face masks with acceptable designs and made of quality materials.
 

A weaver from the Maranao Collectible Services Cooperative sews the alternative face masks for distribution to private institutions and government agencies.

Through the help of Task Force Bangon Marawi Shared Service Facility (SSF), in constant consultation with the Department of Health (DOH) Region 10 over the idea of producing alternative face masks, the specifications, design and materials for the face masks were finalized and soon production began.
 
Equipped with 35 high-end sewing machines and handloom equipment provided by DTI’s SSF-Bangon Marawi project, the Cooperative can easily produce an estimate of 1,600 alternative face masks per day.
 
On March 23, 2020, the first batch with 2,400 alternative face masks were delivered to DTI Lanao del Norte for distribution to other offices.
 
As the Cooperative prepares for the production and delivery of the next batch, Salika expressed her gratitude for the continuous support provided to them by DTI from recovering their lives from the Marawi siege down to helping the community combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
“Ang paghimo namo sa masks dili lang makalipay kay naa mi matabangan og panginabuhi but more happy nga nakatabang mi gamay paghatag og protection sa mga tao (Producing the masks brings us joy not only because we are able to provide jobs but we are more than happy that we are able to provide protection to the people),” Salika shared.
 
“Gamay ra siya pero we hope nga daghan matabangan ana ug daghan ang masave nga kinabuhi tungod ana (It’s just a small thing but we hope that we can help a lot of people and more lives can be saved because of it),” said Salika.
 
“Dili gyud mawala atong pagdahom nga naay mga ingon ani nga project ang government para mutabang sa mga tao (We never lose our hope that there are projects like this from the government that is intended in helping people). Thank you, DTI,” Salika expressed her gratitude towards DTI from changing their lives to helping them in the fight against COVID-19 threat. (JN/ DTI Region 10)