LONG BEACH, Calif. — Back in July, when Peterson Gonzaga got sick with COVID-19, he got a lot of advice from family and friends on how to beat it.
“Take Vitamin C, drink supplements, drink a lot of water, sleep on your stomach,” Gongaza said. “So it’s one of those things where like a lot of Filipinos are used to doing, helping each other out."
Gonzaga took suggestions to heart, trying homeopathic remedies that family members and others in the Filipino community suggested.
“It could be just hearsay from, well, my friend, 'my tita - my aunt - said this or that' or 'my uncle or my friend’s grandmother said this is what you should do,' and sometimes you go, OK, I believe that, maybe that does work,” he said. “But then that’s where, could you be doing stuff that could be actually harmful to yourself?”
Gonzaga also scoured the internet for information but he wasn’t so sure he could rely on that either.
“There are so many things. Every time you search stuff on the internet, how do you know what is true and what is a bogus website?” he said.
Ultimately, he followed the advice of his doctor and information from the Centers for Disease Control during his recovery. But not knowing where to look for reliable information and hearing misinformation passed around, especially among senior citizens, in the Filipino community is common according to Leezel Tanglao.
She is part of the Filipino Young Leaders Program, which found community members wanted a source of information they could trust, so they created an online resource called TAYO, which means “us” in the Filipino language of Tagalog.
“Our community has been disproportionately impacted by this virus, by nature of our involvement in the health care industry and essential industries as well,” said Tanglao, who serves as TAYO’s program director.
She says there are four million Filipinos in the U.S. and a quarter of them are disproportionately at risk for getting COVID-19 because they are either health care workers or they are senior citizens. TAYO provides facts about the virus in a language-friendly manner and offers a virtual help desk.
The website also helps multi-generational households talk about ways to stay safe, which isn’t always easy.
“Part of it is these cultural barriers that exist in our community,” she said. “There is something called ‘hiya’ which means shame so often times, we are not the person that is going to admit we are sick. For example, we are not going to admit that we need help. But you know what? They probably do need help."
It's a resource Gonzaga says is much needed in a community slammed by the pandemic, especially its nurses, which account for almost a third of registered nurse deaths due to COVID-19 but make up only 4% of the workforce according to data from National Nurses United.
“Even if I’m not a health care worker, I have so many relatives that are health care workers,” he said. “I mean, I don’t think any other Asian group has that many where you can say, 'oh, my cousin works there, my brother, my sister,'” Gonzaga said. But he’s hoping the new online resource will help those in the community take care of their own.