CALGARY -- Southern Alberta’s Filipino community came together to support Cargill workers diagnosed with Covid-19 when 200 bags of groceries were delivered to Filipino families in High River Thursday morning, containing  food and messages of support.

Erik Duque says when he heard about what was happening to friends and community members at the Cargill meat processing plant he immediately wanted to do something. “I quietly started making calls to friends and families and businesses and I only had to ask once.” Duque says, “I’m very grateful for all those donors.”

Duque started Alay Sa Manggagawang Pilipino-Canada in 2016 with the hope of bringing a little joy to temporary foreign workers (TFW) in Canada. At the time he hired a popular comedian from the Philippines to come tour Canada and put on shows for the community.

Now with this same community facing one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in Alberta Duque says he knew he could leverage the group to help support those who were sick with the virus and under quarantine orders. “We want to recognize all those TFW workers that are here away from their families back home, we want to make sure that they know we are here for them.”

Lara Mitchell, one of the donors Duque had contacted says she sees these Filipino families as “modern day heroes of the Philippines.” Mitchell says, “Apart from being away from their family, which I think is a great sacrifice that they’re doing, they are also a big booster of the Philippines economy.”


Many Filipino workers at the Cargill plant are employed under the temporary foreign workers program who come to Canada from overseas to work, in order to send money back to their families in the Philippines. “All the remittances being sent are paying for the households, education and food.” Mitchell says, adding “These people don’t make a lot but they risk their lives everyday to make sure we have meats on our table, that’s very important I think.”

'The Filipino staples'

The 200 bags of groceries were purchased and sorted in Calgary and then driven to families in need. They contain some of what Mitchell calls “the Filipino staples.” She says “We have pasta, rice, corn beef, spam and all the sausages that most Filipinos love.”

A Cargill worker and representative of the Filipino community, Jocelyn Ruiz was contacted in order to obtain a list of families who could use the aid. Ruiz works at Cargill and is a recently recovered COVID-19 victim herself. Ruiz says battling the virus was the hardest experience of her life, even walking up the stairs of her home left her struggling to breath. “The breathlessness, I haven’t experienced that in my entire life.” Ruiz says.

Ruiz explains that even though she and her family are healthy now, they minimize going out for fear of contracting the virus again. “The fear is always there that am I gonna get the virus again, that’s my fear.” she says.

As Ruiz directs the volunteers to each of the homes on the growing list, she thanks them for their service. “We are overwhelmed with the support and help, we felt that we are loved, we in the Filipino community have felt that we are united in this time of the pandemic.”

Duque says “Filipinos are like this: we have this thing called bayanihan, when someone cries out for help you help, it's as simple as that.”

Alay Sa Manggagawang Pilipino-Canada is looking for additional donations to help these families, visit for more information.