Gasa sa Gugma: A ‘gift of love’ from Cebuano New Yorkers to needy families

CEBU, Inc. members all geared up for the cold. Photos by Boyet Loverita

By Lindy Rosales

Last year, amid a raging pandemic, the members of the Cebuanos Engaging in Building Unity (CEBU, Inc.) have been racking their brains on what they could do to be of service to the community. The coronavirus was out of control, people have lost their jobs and grieved the death of friends and family. They wanted to make a difference in people’s lives.

They tossed a variety of ideas via Zoom and emails. Until they realized they have a friend who is a board member of a food bank. 

Last week, with snow still blanketing the ground, CEBU, Inc.  officially launched “Gasa sa Gugma” in East Elmhurst. The name, translated as “Gift of Love,” is appropriate. It gave birth and life to a community food outreach serving low-income families in East Elmhurst in Queens.

CEBU, Inc. partnered with MidWest Food Bank of Pennsylvania which committed to providing bags of groceries every month to families in Queens. The officers and members made a site visit to the food bank where they were asked what food items they would like to distribute. MidWest also offered to shoulder the cost of transporting the food items from Pennsylvania to New York.

“Gasa sa Gugma” was also in partnership with the Church of the Ascension in East Elmhurst, which provided a list of the low-income parishioners who should qualify as recipients.  The families were not only Filipino Americans but come from diverse communities.

Busy packing food for loading and distribution to low-income families.
Edynne Baclay, RN, the president of CEBU, Inc., is a COVID survivor.

“It’s a really good feeling that we have come up with this great idea where we can help a lot of people,” said Edynne Baclay, CEBU, Inc. president. “Probably, hopefully in the near future, we will also extend to other churches.”

Before the food drive, the club did a Thanksgiving outreach in November, a Christmas outreach the following month, and a Sinulog outreach in January in honor of the Santo Nino. With the formal launch of “Gasa sa Gugma,” CEBU, Inc. has committed to continue this program every month for one year. The contract with Midwest Food Bank states that the service will continue until December 2021.

Baclay spoke with excitement about what her  organization has accomplished so far. From 30 families served in  November 2020, the recipients appear to be growing with  about a hundred families comprised of 450 people receiving food donations.

CEBU, Inc. is a non-profit organization that seeks to unite all Cebuanos in New York and to share the culture of Cebu through their different performances of the Sinulog festival. Now on its 10th year, its membership has expanded to include also Filipinos who are non-Cebuanos but share a love and appreciation for the island-province.

Baclay, the current president, is a Registered Nurse at Elmhurst Hospital. She is a COVID-19 survivor. 

“New Yorkers lead very busy lives and people have priorities. Some people are scared (to go out and join the outreach) because of the pandemic,” she said, citing one of the challenges faced by the group.

Eva Ordiz, a member of the board of directors, came all the way from the Bronx. She recounted how the group started packing the food bags at 7:30 p.m. and did not finish until 1 a.m. Then they had to wake up early to get ready for the distribution. Throughout the morning, families came and picked up their grocery bags that came with  a box of cupcakes.

“It’s great talaga,” said Baclay. “Every time you ask something from the Lord, binibigay niya talaga. It’s truly a gift of love.”

NaFFAA continues to update its list of newly elected, re-elected Filipino American officials in 2020. Email for information.

© The FilAm 2021

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