In Cebu City, professional chefs have joined hands with private individuals and businesses to combat the COVID-19 crisis in their own way: Through nourishing frontliners with good, clean and fairly priced food.

However, with the Enhanced Community Quarantine in place, they have been unable to meet physically. But this has not stopped the Cebuano group from continuing their advocacy. Instead, they have harnessed the Internet and wireless connectivity to gather more partners for their campaign.

With the support of Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart), Cocina Collective’s campaign #FoodForFrontliners has been able to nourish Cebu’s COVID-19 frontliners with nutritious and delicious meals prepared by volunteer chefs.

Nutritious food

“Nutritious food is definitely part of the arsenal that will defeat the disease. And this is especially true for our frontliners. This is where our group can help,” said Joselito “Boboi” Costas, founding member of Cocina Collective and founder of Grassroots Travel.

The idea of forming Cocina Collective has been in Costas’ mind since 2016. According to him, the formation of the group was initially anchored upon the concept of “collectivism,” or putting the good of society over the welfare of the individual. “Today’s global health crisis calls for this kind of philosophy,” he added.

Chef June Fernandez and his team in Cebu Parklane International Hotel.
Chef June Fernandez and his team in Cebu Parklane International Hotel.

Thus, Cocina Collective—a group of Sugbuanons exhibiting the culture of “bayanihan” for the benefit of Cebu’s COVID-19 frontliners—was born.

The campaign #FoodForFrontliners is guided by three values: To provide frontliners with food that are 1) good (quality and flavorsome); 2) clean (grown naturally) and 3) fairly priced (affordable for consumers and acquired at a fair price from producers).

Work with local farmers

With Cebu having many farming communities and farmer groups, Cocina Collective has always wanted to work with local farmers in order to make their products more accessible to more people. Hence, the meals they prepare for frontliners are not only nutritious and energy-boosting; they are also representative of Cebu’s rich roster of local and natural ingredients.

Initially, the collective wanted to buy their ingredients from their suppliers; their suppliers, however, insisted on giving them for free—a remarkable show of the ‘bayanihan’ spirit in the face of COVID-19 in Cebu. Local bakeshops sent their freshest bread, while other food suppliers also shared their respective specialties.

And despite the logistical challenge presented by community quarantine, Cocina Collective still managed to pull it off, thanks to the combined efforts of the veteran volunteer chefs, suppliers, partners and other volunteers.

The meals have been thoroughly prepared by professional chefs in Cebu Parklane International Hotel’s kitchen, one of Cocina Collective’s partners.

“There are 8 professional chefs from Parklane, including myself, who prepare the meals for our frontliners. As a firm believer in championing local cuisine and food sustainability, we also looked at it as an opportunity to advocate for our culture through the food we serve,” shares Chef June Fernandez, Corporate Executive Chef of Cebu Parklane International Hotel. “We also pack these meals using environment-friendly materials such as brown paper bags,” he adds.

Technology aids campaign

Given the community quarantine, mobility is a big challenge. According to Costas, the group has relied greatly on the Internet and wireless connectivity to communicate with each other, raise funds and collect goods.

“Gathering funds and donations from partners has been made easy with internet connectivity, smartphones, and online financial services like Paymaya and online banking,” says Costas.

To date, Cocina Collective has partnered with various companies, including Smart, Diff Camotes, Catmon Deli Vendors Association, Cebu City Hall PIO, Boodotz Grill, Bread Hut, Stoke Burger, Mobile Banquet, Isla LPG Solane, Grassroots Travel and others, in order to feed Cebu’s COVID-19 frontliners.

With many working from home amid the community quarantine, the Internet and technology have proved to be vital tools for groups like Cocina Collective who have used these to communicate with each other, connect with donors, and pool resources together to make sure things are done at the end of the day.

“COVID-19 is a great disruptor; it has changed reality forever. But digital technology is also a great disruptor. It has decentralized everything. It has given humanity the courage to come together and fight the disease,” shared Costas. works with the top brands in the country to reach out to the Cebu market. For inquiries, please send an email to [email protected].

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