MANILA—A switch to branding Ana Patricia Non, the founder of the Maginhawa Community Pantry in Quezon City, a communist led to an unintended consequence—more than half a million pesos in donations to a PayPal page that was set up to help the pantry.
Speaking to ABS-CBN News, Non’s mother, Zena Bernardo, said Patricia’s sister, Jenny, set up the PayPal page to help Patricia raise more funds for the community pantry that was set up. on Maginhawa Street on April 14.
“What happened was Patreng told us about the Community Food Pantry, tagged us and asked us to like his post. And then his sister said, ‘Pwede akong gumawa ng PayPal. Baka can iba pang gustong tumulong.’ Kasi, his sister, also cooks for a community kitchen in the United States, which is 200 people every Friday or Saturday,” Bernardo said.
“So she started PayPal and set a goal of $5,000, which is enough money for a pantry.”
Patricia, 26, first thought of giving away free food after seeing how many people were struggling to put food on the table amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
She had just completed 21 days of quarantine when she decided to put fresh fruits and vegetables in a bamboo cart on the corner of Maginhawa Street in the Teachers’ Village.
As more people visited the pantry, donations to the PayPal account also poured in – one dollar, 5 dollars, 10, 100.
Within five days, the money soared to more than $4,000, even as hundreds of community food pantries – modeled after the Maginhawa food pantry – opened up across the country.
Then came the reviews. Less than a week after the Maginhawa Community Food Pantry was launched, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) posted graphics on its Facebook page apparently linking community pantry initiatives to the communist movement.
It was not an empty threat, said Patricia, because many people who had been labeled as communists by the government ended up dead.
Fearing for her life, Patricia was forced to close the Maginhawa community food pantry for a day after 3 police officers began questioning her and her contact details.
It would take the assurances of Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte and the head of the Department of the Interior and Local Government to convince her that she could continue the pantry without interference.
It was at the height of the red tagging against Patricia that donations for Community Pantry PH’s PayPal page skyrocketed, her mother said.
“Nag viral siya before pa nag-announce if Patreng ng press con,” Bernardo said. “Dahil diyan sa NTF-ELCAC, dumoble ‘yung donations to $10,000. Kaya para sa kanila, labyumats!
Bernardo said Jenny is always consulting with other community pantries on how best to use donations. As of press time, the PayPal page has already raised over $14,000 (about P677,000) in funds, including a $2,000 donation from a well-known restaurateur/vlogger.
“Hindi ito mapupunta sa Maginhawa but to more than 300 community pantries across the country,” she said.
Bernardo said the Maginhawa Community Pantry receives so many donations that it now distributes the surplus to other pantries.
“’Yung Maginhawa, masyado na maraming dons. At 3 p.m., any overflow of goods containing 15-20 pantries with malalapit. “Yung mga ate in kuya, mga orgs nagtayo ng pantry, we told them that we will do our best to help them get more people to support their pantry,” she said.
Bernardo said she is now contacting a group of farmers who are willing to sell her 4 tonnes of vegetables initially, which will then be repackaged into 40 kilos per pantry. The shipment of 4 tons of vegetables is expected to arrive in Quezon City today, while another 2 shipments are expected to arrive this weekend.
Bernardo said she was proud of what her daughter has accomplished, with a bamboo cart full of vegetables sparking a movement of hundreds of community pantries in just one week.
She also noted that community food pantries are not meant to last, likening them to the government’s conditional cash transfer (4P) program that helps indigent families.
“Gutom kasi ‘yung mga tao, ‘yun ang nakita ni Patreng. Pero ang community pantry, hindi ito masu-sustain, possibly mauubos din. Parang 4Ps, pantawid lang ito. I think the government should take advantage of the situation. Kahit papaano has never been busy with people having fun, and they are always there. Find a solution,” she said.