Filipino young leaders create COVID hotline to help older relatives and community

Written by Rebekah Ludman and Amy Ta

Filipinos receive the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at Immaculate Heart of Mary parish in Quezon City, Philippines, August 13, 2021. Photo by Dante Diosina JR/Medialys Images/Sipa USA.

Access to reliable coronavirus information has been a big obstacle for underrepresented communities. So one group is here to help. The Filipino Young Leaders Program (FYLPRO) has created an online COVID-19 help desk that all Filipinos nationwide can use. It’s called the Tayo Help Desk, and it launched in October 2020.

“The virtual help desk was really a response to try to figure out how do we help our older relatives who, at the beginning of the pandemic, were just not listening to us. They were not social distancing, they were still going out when we were still in lockdown,” says Leezel Tanglao, president of the Filipino Young Leaders Program. 

She continues, “We saw a lot of our … aunties and uncles share these memes … [saying] ‘gargle hot water, you'll get rid of COVID.’ And we felt like … is there a way we can combat that by giving them something else that's also trusted? …  That's really some of the things that we've been working on at Tayo, whether it's graphics or PSAs, we are really trying to hone in on just making sure it's culturally tailored.”

The project’s core mission is to connect the Filipino community with vital resources, combat false information, and improve data collection, she explains.

“With the lack of disaggregated data in the Filipino community, that often masks a lot of the problems that we may not even be aware of, because we get lumped into the larger APA [Asian Pacific Americans] group out there,” she says.

“[In] greater LA, there's about a little over half a million Filipinos here. … Nationwide, we're the third largest Asian Pacific Islander group … at 4 million,” Tanglao points out. 

When sharing info, Tanglao and her team focus on storytelling. “Facts are facts, which is great. But if you can't approach it in a way that will be enticing, somewhat entertaining, that would resonate — it doesn't really stick.”

After the online Tayo Help Desk launched, many seniors said they wanted a phone number they could call and speak to someone. That hotline (800-899-5090) launched this month as a pilot thanks to funding from the Booz Allen Foundation. The line is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific time. 

The hotline will only be available through the end of summer.  Tanglao says they hope to extend the program, but at the very least, they want to share their findings with other communities who may be struggling with the same issue. 

“It's not just within the Filipino community alone. I think that it's all different communities that are trying to address that problem,” Tanglao says.



  • Leezel Tanglao - project director at Tayo, and president of the Filipino Young Leaders Program