A makeshift setup that captured the hearts of Filipinos


Thirteen months after the Covid-19 epidemic in the Philippines and as cases increased, a new kind of morning greeted a middle-class neighborhood in Teachers Village, Quezon City on April 14, which pleasantly surprised a mix of drivers. tricycles, construction workers and other passers-by. and gave a glimmer of hope to thousands more near and far in the days that followed.

Photo credit: Ana Patricia No – Community Pantry FB Page

It was then that Ana Patricia Non, a 26-year-old resident, set up a bamboo cart of vegetables, fruit, rice, eggs, canned and packaged foods and protective products on the sidewalk. from Maginhawa, a street lined with lively restaurants from noon to late. nights before the pandemic. More intriguing was the cardboard nestled on the lamppost next to the cart, bearing a message scribbled in native Filipino that translates to “Take as you need, give as you can.” Maginhawa Community Pantry the makeshift space has been named after this street of Maginhawa (name derived from an adjective that suggests having comfort and ease of living), an irony in this time of depressed economy.

Almost anyone, presumed to be from destitute families, could line up to get necessary daily supplies, following basic covid safety protocols (wear face mask and face shield, observe social distancing of 1 meter and disinfect with alcohol before approaching the food cart). Free of charge, no form to fill out, no proof of economic status to present. To ensure continuity of supplies, the lady affectionately known as Patreng, planned to bring together friends, relatives and other Facebook contacts to donate things that families need but are struggling to buy due to the loss. jobs and income. Finally, it would also count on strangers among those who witness or appreciate the benefit of such activity.

The idea of ​​the community pantry went viral from the end of the day and spread like wildfire, with a tally of some 300 stalls set up in Metro Manila in less than a week. and over a thousand across the country as a month approaches. Some of the organizers are ordinary people with a good heart and a lot of free time during the lockdown, with a number having lost their jobs or businesses themselves. Some have organizations much larger than Patreng’s and have just created a community pantry out of their existing charitable projects, such as the Catholic Church which runs kindness stations and other activities under its umbrella. social arm, Caritas Philippines. The queues of “takers” have grown much longer to fill entire blocks at the morning rush hour, the happiest to be spared by missing meals. Donors, individuals and institutions, have also multiplied, even giving rise to donation drop-off points. All this to ensure sustainability during the pandemic.

Photo credit: Ana Patricia No – Community Pantry FB Page

Ana Patricia Non, a visual communications graduate from the University of the Philippines, says the desire to help her community became intense when after temporarily shutting down her small furniture refurbishment business, she worried not only loss of income, but felt more stress and suffering. others who survive only with little government aid and aid from other institutions. It helped him more that community service was in his system – raised by a social worker mother, guided by an older sister working in Washington DC who, in her spare time, volunteers to help with some community projects like a babysitter. -community eating, and on his own initiative participated in social projects of his university as a member of the student council. The instant celebrity status and respect that the kind Patreng has earned for this seed of charity in his heart should be an enviable reward for the time being, with many expecting the name not to be forgotten by the public and the public. groups watching it.

The people also saw the Filipino heart shine in this initiative. It clearly reflects the Bayanihan the spirit and practice of the Filipinos also known to many foreigners who have experienced it themselves during a stay in the country. Bayanihan (buy-uh-nee-hun) refers to an aspect of Filipino culture, that of working together as a community to achieve a common goal. In the beginning, when houses were made of lighter materials like coconut leaves, Bayanihan also meant helping neighbors move their house to another location. Till today, Bayanihan is invoked during times of disasters and calamities. Deep down, Filipinos have the hope that they will not be alone in difficult times, there will always be relatives, friends, neighbors even kind-hearted strangers who can reach out.

The community pantry is meant to be in the short term, perhaps at the same time as the pandemic, or as soon as the government program to help affected, displaced and battered families becomes adequate and effective to get them through time. better. ###

(Part 2 – Takers and Donors in Community Pantry Lines – Their Stories)
(Part 3 – Bitter Notes on the Community Pantry)

Norma P. Rex

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