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Ibajay, Aklan is still Covid-19-free


Where did it truly originate? What triggered its spread? Is there a cure? 

These are some of the questions we are all asking as we continue to fight Covid-19. Our heads are full of questions and our future is filled with uncertainty. But in the small Visayan town of Ibajay in Aklan, residents didn’t let this uncertainty slow them down. Instead, it became the local government unit’s (LGU) inspiration to conduct a town-wide campaign to educate its people about Covid-19. And they did it all even before the national government imposed an enhanced community quarantine in Luzon. 

In a conversation with Manila Bulletin Lifestyle, Ibajay Mayor Joen Miraflores talks about this campaign and their efforts to reach even those living in the far side of the town.

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In a language they can understand

According to Mayor Joen, weeks before an ECQ was implemented in Ibajay, they’ve already set up an information board dedicated to Covid-19. They posted everything about the novel coronavirus that they got from the Department of Health (DOH). To make sure that everyone would understand, every post and material were printed and written in Akalanon, the island’s local language. 

“We really want to educate people, so we put up LGU Ibajay Info Board. It’s our way to inform them what Covid-19 is and why we are going through this crisis,” says the 37-year-old mayor. “We translated it into Akalanon so that people will understand in our own language what really is going on—all relevant information, from what Covid-19 is to LGU’s action plans, are posted there.”


Officers delivering relief packs to 12,000 households in Ibajay, Aklan

He adds that this is also their way of protecting people from all the misinformation about the virus and the disease on social media. “For me, what matters most is educating people about Covid-19,” he explains. “We took an oath to be transparent with our people. We post on the bulletin the number of PUIs and PUMs from every barangay, so they are aware.”

Knowing that not all of his constituents have access to internet and social media, Mayor Joen together with other local officials printed out information pamphlets. These leaflets are also written in Aklanon. 

“I also recorded an information message,” he continues. “We gave copies of it to every barangay, and it’s played in their areas so every Ibajay will know what to do in this time of crisis.”

Weekly relief food distribution

As a third-class municipality with a population of 55,000 people, Mayor Joen is working on a tight budget of P12 million. But he makes sure to provide for his people, especially for those who are badly hit by this pandemic.

In partnership with barangay officials, the municipal government came up with an alternate relief operation system. Every week, they distribute food packs to 12,000 households and the funding either comes from the barangay or the LGU.


Mayor Joen Miraflores leading the distribution of relief packs

“We came up with that system early on,” he says. “[The barangays] were the first ones to give out relief goods then after a week, it was the LGU’s turn. The cycle continues. As much as possible, we want to give out supplies on a weekly basis.”

Ibajay was put under ECQ on March 28, and this system is now rolling on its third week. The relief pack includes three kilos of rice, canned goods, instant noodles, and anti-bacterial soap.

Crossing the river

For a change and to put a smile on people’s faces even though they have limited budget, Ibajay LGU distributed two Magnolia chickens to every household last week. “I asked my finance team if we could give out chicken and they gave a go signal,” he says. “It was an easy decision because people would get tired of eating canned goods. Chicken gives different nutrition and it also has a different impact, especially for indigent families who can rarely eat chicken.”

Distributing goods is not an easy task in Ibajay. Surrounded by a river and uphill areas, some officials would need to walk for almost three hours and cross Ibajay River just to make sure everyone receives their relief packs.


LGU officers use bamboo, cross a river to relief packs to residents living in the far side (IMAGES FROM IBAJAY LGU FILE)

Their generosity and dedication for their people didn’t end here. The LGU also distributed food packs to some vendors from Pandan, Antique who cross their roads on a regular basis to sell their goods in the market.

This LGU unit also mobilized their version of a mobile market and called it “Libod Ibajay.” This mobile market goes to different barangays that are far from the town proper. “We created this to avoid people flocking to the public market,” he said. “We see to it that the prices are the same.”

With transparency, active information dissemination, and proper education of the people, Ibajay remains Covid-19-free. But Mayor Joen believes they can’t be complacent because they are fighting an invisible enemy.

He then thanked his constituents for their continuous support for all of the LGU’s efforts. “Let’s pray. This is the best weapon we have. Continue to pray for the frontliners, continue to pray for Ibajay. We can get through this,” he says. “It’s everybody’s job to make our town better. We are one Ibajay. I am thankful for their loyalty and support. And for me, that means everything.”

Source: Manila Bulletin (

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