The world is battling a crisis. Health workers in the frontlines are restless. Healthcare facilities are overwhelmed and have insufficient capability to cater to the increasing number of COVID-19 patients.
While we hear a lot of devastating news about COVID-19, these difficult times have brought families, communities, private organizations and individuals to come together and extend a helping hand.
Emergency Quarantine Facilities
In the face of this reality in such an unprecedented pandemic, an architectural and design firm went to great lengths in addressing this tragic situation.
Architect William Ti, Jr. of WTA Architectural and Design Studio conceptualized, designed, and rolled out Emergency Quarantine Facilities (EQFs) in Mega Manila to be temporary structures that augment and increase the capacity of hospitals to admit COVID-19 PUIs.
Prim Paypon, a community development luminary behind The Dream Project PH—a hybrid non-government organization that builds and supports collective Filipino dreams amongst underprivileged communities, and executes them using tools of technology, innovation and entrepreneurship—is among the key leads invited by Architect Will to be part of the initiative.
With just an initial target of building six (6) facilities, the EQF Team has expanded its reach over 60 units built in different hospitals in Mega Manila. Prim shares, “We were overwhelmed with letters of request for EQFs from hospitals within and outside Mega Manila. When we actually set the completion date of the EQFs, the target for the first two batches are 40 to 45 facilities. Currently, we have reached 62 facilities already.”
Given the example set by the EQF Project Lead, Architect William Ti Jr., private organizations and architects across the country have followed through and adapted the designs. “As we speak, there are groups of architects and private sectors who are also implementing the same EQF design in Cebu, Davao, and even in Singapore, which is led by their government. It’s not part of our actual list of EQFs but we’re just very happy that people outside Mega Manila are sharing our vision to serve people through EQFs,” Prim said.
Prim, who handles partnerships, funding, donation monitoring, site relationship, letters, documentation, communications and systems for the EQF Team, relates his “painful position” in the project.
“I accept in behalf of the EQF Team the letters of request from various hospitals and government units. I get to read actual numbers from the ground that hospitals write in their letters of request. I even receive SMS and calls from them to assert the painful urgency of their requests. Believe it or not, the numbers from the ground haunt me in my sleep. They don’t make me sleep,” Prim said.
Despite the hardship of balancing a full-time job as the Executive Director of the Asian institute of Management-Dado Banatao Incubator that requires him to create and execute innovative business continuity plans with startups and co-leading other COVID-19 related initiatives, Prim believes that they must go on and fulfill their mission. He adds, “We are grounded by the scale of the crisis. While we cannot solve all the problems related to it, we also do not want to miss an opportune invitation to help and respond appropriately,” he added.
The Heart for Service
Prim’s dedication to serve is rooted deep down even as a kid when his parents would teach him by example this valuable, life-directing tenet: “You give not because you have excess in things. You give because you have the capacity to give.”
“Such upbringing became my foundation for service and humbled me to always respond to opportunities where I can be of help,” he pointed out.
Raised in Bacolod City, Prim would finish his BS Biology degree at the University of St. La Salle (USLS), summa cum laude, and while working for one of the biggest companies in the Philippines as a corporate executive, he later on quit to become an NGO worker and helped underprivileged communities.
“Growing up, I wanted to become a community doctor someday,” Prim noted. “Apparently, not a lot of people appreciate that dream, even my college professors. Because for most of them, the best and the brightest belong to top companies and deserve huge paychecks.”
But Prim held on to the great lesson he learned from the late USLS President Bro. Rolando Dizon: “Excellence is not being best from others but being best with others.”
He may not ended up as a community doctor, but Prim persevered to become an effective community development practitioner. “This is the reason why I really wanted to be an exceptional student when I was in school, because I strongly feel that the communities that I would eventually work with deserve that from me,” he said.
After quitting his lucrative corporate job to pursue what he considers his “life calling” as an NGO worker, he would establish The Dream Project PH—a volunteer-based organization based in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental whose scope of programs, interventions, and projects are located in 10 regions in the Philippines—using superior strategies with zero to inferior resources.
He calls himself a “Filipino Dreamagineer,” which he said consists of three words: “Dream” because we work on the collective dreams of undeserved communities; “Imagine” because we immerse our communities in creative imaginations to realize possibilities; and “Engineer” because we create and develop problem-solving solutions to make things.
Concurrently, Prim also runs the Asian Institute of Management-Dado Banatao Incubator, a hybrid incubator-accelerator program for startups that aims to be “a nation-building platform where technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship would blend to create tangible impact that contributes to total human economic development,” he said.
Prim also writes for contemporary art galleries, mentors young artists and helps them showcase their work in art shows. “Development practice is truly multi-sectorial. I am grateful that I am able to extend it to the art sector and be given the opportunity to work with top contemporary galleries to hopefully co-discover and co-mentor the next big Filipino artists,” he said.
He also finds special time to collaborate with young entrepreneurs to design and develop new product lines that make use of local materials, especially our handwoven textiles.
Prim further said: “One of the many things I learned is that, when you want to become excellent in what you do, you have to make sure that transparency, honesty, and consistency are also your defining characteristics. Otherwise, you lose your social credibility if you move from one ecosystem to another.”
Starting the EQF project
Prim became involved in the EQF project led by WTA Architecture and Design Studio through Arch. William’s childhood friend, Dr. Glenn Angeles, who is a fellow art collector and a current AIM-Masters of Science and Innovation and Business student. Prim said that Arch. Ti and Dr. Angeles “started the entire conversation of ‘how can we help – as a doctor and as an architect – the authorities to flatten the curve’ or address specifically the infrastructure issues that our hospitals don’t have capacity and resources to provide.”
Being involved in the AIM-MSIB program, he and Dr. Angeles would engage in a number of initiatives, including “Art Rocks,” a Viber-based group led by Dr. Steve Lim that successfully raised PHP14,325,500 to procure testing kits for hospitals. He and three other classmates of Dr. Angeles, namely Maj. Carmelo Jaluague, Maj. Banjo Torres Badayos, and Engr. Dan Quiaoit, would then become part of the EQF project.
With his vast knowledge in strategic innovation, people development, and community organization, and of course, his indefatigable dedication to serve, Prim was the perfect match to be part of the EQF Team.
“When I was on-boarded to be part of the EQF Main Team, I sought the permission of Architect Will if I can create at least 10 Viber groups. Each group is highly specialized—there is EQF Main where the founding members are, Letter, Fundraising, Certification, Photo, Video, Facebook, Builders, Payments, Food, In-Kind Donations, PR,” Prim explained.
Using the free convenience of Viber, he is able to efficiently assist Architect Will while overseeing and orchestrating operations across multiple groups.
No Amount of Help is Too Small in Community Building
His most memorable encounter while on board in the EQF project was when he was tasked to create, systematize and ease donation channels. Prim said he would never forget the first donor who forwarded his donation slip via Twitter.
“I do not know our first young donor. But since he messaged me to ask for our bank details, I forwarded him our digital poster which explains and guides interested individuals, like him, on how to donate properly,” Prim recalled. “Our first donor – with all his generosity and humility – apologized for the very small amount that he could give us. He deposited what he felt was his only spare money at that time. He donated Php 720. And up until this day, after successfully raising more than PHP26,000,000, that donation of Php 720 would always remind me how my parents taught me about generosity: ‘that you give not because you have in excess of things, but you give because you have the capacity to give,’” he stated.
Prim said that amount from a humble donor “has always been a personal motivation for me”.
Internet-powered Quarantine Facilities
But one comforting and strengthening feature of these EQFs is that each of them, wherever they are constructed and placed, has high-speed Internet access.
Such connectivity, which PLDT Home Wi-Fi provides the project with the deployment of two routers per EQF, is an essential and important facet of the temporary facility.
“We intended already that in each completed site, there would be 2 PLDT Home Wi-Fi devices. Currently, almost all completed EQFs have the Wi-Fi already,” Prim declared. “The PLDT Home Wifi will be used by the patients. Even the hospital management would tell us how important it is to provide internet in each facility, because most hospitals also don’t have internet connections. Second is, it would be easier for them now, after we do the turnover, for them to raise certain in-kind donations that they need for their respective hospitals, on-site.”
Moreover, it provides PUIs a way to communicate to their loved ones, give themselves a little entertainment, or contemplate while they are recuperating.
“The architectural design of Architect William was all about creating a conducive place for contemplation. That is where the social purpose of internet is best affirmed–that in our patient’s fight for their lives and fragile phase of contemplation, technologies allow them to be virtually or digitally connected to their loved ones, and receive love, prayers and support from everyone,” he further said.
Prim disclosed that when PLDT offered internet access for the EQFs, he and the entire EQF Team considered it an “answered prayer”.
“When the idea of having internet was given to us, we couldn’t be more ecstatic,” Prim underscored.
Here, Prim highlighted the significance of EQFs, which more than just merely extending a hospital’s capacity to serve PUIs.
“Each EQF is really a makeshift home where people who are unsafe to live with their families at this moment can recuperate and be well again. That way, they are well and no longer at risk, they can be welcomed back again by their families to their true homes. Perhaps, this is one of the more personal reasons why I do what I can and need to do always,” he concluded.
Since then, the actual rationale of EQFs drives Prim and his team: “We personally do this EQF project to make sure that we are able to help Filipino families survive this crisis, whole and together. At this point of our build journey, we all know that it takes a village to treat a sick and heal the wounded. It also takes a village to sustain what we have started. It also takes a village to accomplish all these worthy acts. As a service to the nation, we hope that through our EQFs, we help flatten the curve and engage everyone to participate because each participation mattes and each help can truly help build a village that will save lives and bring families together again. Because in our darkest hours as a nation, we should build as one.”
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