Dubai: A Filipina expat in Dubai has been offering free food to people in her community during the coronavirus pandemic.
Feby Cacher Baguisa-Dela Peña, a mother of three, is helping 200 people a day with her efforts.
What started as an initiative to help the needy over the Eid holidays has turned into a daily affair, with many people facing tough times due to the pandemic.
“During Ramadan I used to watch many Filipinos lining up for a free meal,” said Dela Pena.
“People belonging to various non-profit organisations would drop off food packets for the needy in Deira’s Al Muraqqabat street. My heart broke watching my fellow country men and women lining up in a queque for a free meal. Tears broke out one day and I decided to make food for them. My husband had given me an allowance for home groceries. It was for a month. I spent it all in one day and cooked for about 40 people on the first day of Eid. The word spread fast and the same day I had a demand from 150 people.
“My husband was unaware that I had taken the allowance to prepare these free meals. He knows now and understands why I did it. I am so grateful for his loving support and for letting me do this for our fellow Filipinos,” she added.
The 34-year-old expat prepares two popular Filipino dishes; chicken afritada and chicken adobo.
“A minimum of 25-kg rice, 30-kg chicken and 150 eggs among other ingredients go into preparing the dishes,” said Dela Pena.
Her daily spend for groceries works out to about Dh500.
“During Eid I paid for the ingredients from the allowance my husband gave me. But now help has been pouring in from my friends and acquaintances,” she said.
Dela Pena’s husband Esperidion Jr. Artillaga Dela Peña, 35, cuts the chicken the previous night. The couple’s friends then help with chopping vegetables and cooking the rice in five to six separate cookers.
“I don’t have a big rice cooker. So I distribute the work among friends,” said Dela Pena. “We cook the rice at the same time and mix it up with the sauce and ingredients that we prepare on the side. At the end of the day it is a collective team effort,” she added.
Dela Pena added that hopefully her children - Felix, aged six, and Faustine, aged three, will learn to share when they grown up, using their parents as good examples.
“My eight month old - Flynn - is still too small to see the effort we are taking,” said Dela Pena.
Packing the meals and delivering it
Dela Pena’s friends gather everyday at her house to do the packing.
“People pick up the food from my apartment as we want to maintain social distance. Next weekend however we are driving down to Satwa to deliver the food as there are plenty people looking for free meals there,” she added.