A rather unlikely call for donations popped up on social networking sites last Friday: an appeal for lipsticks and makeup for teachers and female volunteers in Marawi, which has been under siege from a terrorist group for the past several weeks.
“In our experience, during Supertyphoon ‘Yolanda,’ we found that aside from physical nourishment, it is important to also help uplift [the public school teachers’] spirits and give dignity,” said the letter, attributed to Rey Laguda, executive director of Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP).
“One effective way to do this was to help teachers feel beautiful by giving them lipstick and makeup. Consequently, the smile on teachers’ faces can infect thousands of students and provide hope… We hope you can be part of this simple but effective gesture of solidarity by providing dignity through beauty.”
PBSP is described as “the largest corporate-led, nonprofit social development foundation in the Philippines,” and has been active in relief efforts in Marawi.
While netizens mostly responded with enthusiasm to Laguda’s call, some were critical. They said the people on the ground had more important needs during the ongoing crisis than frivolous things like makeup.
But other individuals quickly defended the lipstick drive, citing that it’s not a long-term solution, but just a move to show solidarity with those affected on the ground.
This isn’t the first time that PBSP held a lipstick drive. It first came about in the aftermath of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” in 2013, according to writer Nash Tysmans, who worked as a communications consultant in the Department of Education during the tenure of Bro. Armin Luistro, FSC, and who describes herself as a “friend of PBSP.”
“When ‘Yolanda’ struck, DepEd was among the agencies providing frontline services and checking on teachers’ and students’ welfare in the affected communities,” she said. “When Brother Armin was going around, he met a teacher who inspired him because she had lost everything and still continued to do her duties. The secret was in the lipstick! She wore it to feel confident, as a boost to her morale. So, this was a story that he would tell on many occasions in honor of this lady’s courage and strength under stress.”
In Marawi, Luistro was again on the ground with the PBSP team. He brought up the lipstick story to a volunteer and was surprised that the teachers remembered.
“If you’ve ever worked with Brother Armin, you’ll know that he’s relentless,” Tysmans said. “He’ll really go after what he thinks is right.”