It was reported that in the shoot for the USA for Africa video of “We Are the World,” a sign was placed on the entrance to the studio, saying “check your ego at the door.” That was exactly what stars Antonette and Tom Taus did on October 1, when they completely lost their celebrity (but not their charm and cheeriness) in the room of volunteers for the Philippine chapter of #HashtagLunchbag, a non-profit movement that started in Los Angeles, USA in December 2012.
Fittingly, this writer first heard about the movement on social media. A Facebook friend posted a poster of the group’s October feeding program and not even a second passed before I asked to be allowed to cover it. Not many seconds passed before he said yes.
Salu Restaurant, owned by Romnick and Harlene Bautista and growing popular for its authentic menu from different Philippine regions, was the original sponsor of #HashtagLunchbag Philippines. A lively crowd of young volunteers was already sorting out the goodies from new sponsor ABI Pascual—Vitamilk Double Choco soymilk, Absolute mineral water, Pascual Creamy Delight Yogurt and Rebisco crackers—so Antonette patiently attended to this non-millennial writer who did not even recognize her at first.
The volunteers asked me if I wanted to experience their work firsthand and gave me a pile of paper bags on which I was to draw hearts and hashtags using red and black markers. With my hands thus occupied, Ms. Taus felt safe enough to tell me about the movement. She said she and her brother have been with it since it started in the Philippines in July. Cheska Kramer and her family joined the movement and when her fan Mina Cruz, Salu’s publicist, heard about it, a tie-up with the restaurant was firmly knotted. Antonette said that it was also through Cheska that they got the support of ABI Pascual, whose Creamy Delight Yogurt, the Kramer family endorses.
After our talk, Antonette helped pack the rice and ground pork dish in styropor boxes, which they put in the paper bags with our high-art doodles together with the ABI Pascual products. Tom took pictures of the volunteers and helped load the loot bags on their vehicle, which will take them to 300 poor children in Cubao, Antonette said. The beneficiaries were selected by the Musmos Org of the Ateneo de Manila University, she added. Then Mina took me off her hands and sat me down to a Salu lunch. But first I offered to add my little widow’s mite to the jar on the registration table for donations.
Sighing, I let go of the chance to go with the convoy to Cubao.
I pieced together what Antonette and Mina told me, enhanced by information from the Facebook pages of the US and Philippine chapters of the movement, and Mina’s e-mail.
HTLB started in the Christmas season of 2012. The US chapter’s FB page narrates: “We are a group of friends who aim to inspire others to pay it forward by incorporating random acts of kindness in our daily lives. We started #HashtagLunchbag on Christmas Day 2012 with the intention to provide a hearty and balanced meal to those in need.”
HTLB PH on their FB page posted: “The goal is to help end hunger, spread love and to inspire others to do the same. We CAN change the world if we do it together!?”
They posted what they did on the social media and soon it was replicated in major US cities and was emulated by generous hearts in Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines. Some of the celebrities who supported the US efforts were Kim Kardashian and the Atlanta Braves.
A feeding program is also scheduled in Angeles City today, October 9, sponsored by Angeles Fried Chicken in Balibago.
But what HTLB PH is excited about is what they will do for poor children on their favorite season—Christmas! Mina said: “We’re trying to partner with some organizations so we can launch Salu’s Treat Feast. We’ll be giving our customers an option to treat families who cannot celebrate Christmas merrily, i. e. indigenous communities, poor farmers and fishermen villages. The idea is something similar to notebooks sold for P35 by National Bookstore. A customer may for a few extra bucks buy a family or community a feast this Christmas. We’ll create a compilation of video greetings from both donors and beneficiaries which we’ll upload online as well for everyone to hear and enjoy. Details are still being sorted out but we’ll reveal all the mechanics soon.”