In Memory of a Three-Year-Old Boy, Franco's Friends Serve Thousands of Frontliners
Franco Eugenio would’ve been 14 years old today.
To commemorate his birthday, his parents Ramon and Monique Eugenio, and their group, Franco’s Friends, are sharing 750 birthday meals with doctors and other frontliners.
Franco lost his life in 2009 when an overloaded ferry boat the family was riding capsized in the middle of the sea. Franco’s little cousin Anton, his Lola Daisy, and Anton’s yaya, also perished in the accident.
Franco was three years old.
“We were incredulous that in our time of need, boats passed us by and did not help. It was a horrible feeling,” said Ramon.
“That same year, Ondoy hit. Seeing the helplessness of those affected then, we felt a strong, natural urge to help. My wife and I asked for donations from friends and family, and strangers also started to chip in. We made buckets of lugaw, and baked bread out of our small commissary. These were sent to the families who most needed them in Marikina, and other areas," says Ramon.
Thus, Franco's Friends was born. In the aftermath of that calamity, the couple and their friends prepared 20,000 meals. Since then, the group has mobilized after other such disasters.
When the lockdown was announced on March 12, Franco’s Friends sprung into action. Restaurateurs Ramon and Monique began prepping their kitchen at Myron’s, and they began making calls to family and friends for donations. Ramon’s fellow U.P. alumni in the Nowhere to Go but U.P. group stepped in as well.
“For those who know us, our disaster responses were very familiar to them. On March 14th, we started distributing meals to five hospitals, a total of 250 meals,” said Ramon.
A few days later, Jay and Aui Tamayo of Barrio Fiesta Greenhills joined them, as did Waya Araos-Wijangco of Gourmet Gypsy. Together, they now serve 750 meals a day. By the time the quarantine is lifted on April 30, the team will have served a total of 30,000 meals to 23 differerent hospitals.
“Franco’s Friends philosophy is to provide delicious, safe, and well-prepared meals for our frontliners,” says Ramon, who said the idea came to him when he saw a photo of the emergency room of the Makati Medical Center. “I’ve been to that ER many times, and I could only imagine the toxicity going on there right now. They had hardly any time to eat. I thought that in the time they could sneak in a bite, it should be worth their while. We want to nourish their body and spirit. Let them know we are behind them.”
The meals prepared by Franco’s Friends are definitely eye and palate pleasers. Ramon says their team at Myron’s hasn’t repeated a dish since they started, and they are inspired to create different meals every day to encourage medical workers to take much needed meal breaks.
“The main idea is to just be able to help in our own little way, the idea that we were able to help when it was needed,” says Ramon. “When Franco was alive, whenever he saw me talking to someone, he would ask, 'Daddy, is he your friend? You have so many friends.' Today, anyone who wants to help can be Franco’s Friend, too.”
To help, visit Franco’s Friends PH on Facebook. Donations of cash, ingredients, and food containers (12 oz. soup containers with tight lids), are gratefully accepted.