By Jonathan Hicap, Allysa Nievera, Jaleen Ramos, Carla Bauto Deña, Andrea Kate Aro, Minka Klaudia Tiangco, and Joseph Pedrajas
Inspired by the Maginhawa Street, Quezon City community food drive, community pantries have sprouted in Metro Manila and in the provinces with the aim of giving food and supplies to everyone in need.
“Magbigay ayon sa kakayahan, kumuha batay sa pangangailangan (Give what you can, take what you need)” is the main mission of the community pantry.
Data from the Community Pantry Pilipinas Facebook page showed that there are at least 196 community pantries in cities and towns in the National Capital Region, Tarlac, Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna, Pampanga, Palawan, Cavite, Occidental Mindoro, Leyte, Nueva Vizcaya, Davao del Sur, Quezon province, Cagayan, Bataan, Pangasinan, Iloilo, Camarines Sur, Lanao del Norte, Ilocos Sur, Cebu and Benguet.
Each community pantry offers different items such as vegetables, canned goods, noodles, coffee, rice, water, fruits and clothes.
These community pantries all aim to give to those in need amid the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, which has left many without jobs, putting their families at risk.
A community pantry that was first launched by a resident in Quezon City six days ago highlights the Filipino solidarity (bayanihan) amid the lingering COVID-19 crisis.
Farmers, fishermen, teachers, youth leaders, members of the church, among other sectors of the society, started chipping in to follow the initiative of Ana Patricia Non, the woman who started it all by setting up a bamboo rack packed with basic necessities on Maginhawa Street last week.
“I’m glad that people are continuing the community pantry and I appreciate the response from the public,” Non said in a CNN interview Monday.
“At the same time, I felt a bit sad because perhaps, they set up their own pantries because of the needs of their fellow in their communities,” she added. “Hunger and poverty are not an isolated case in the Philippines.”
Randy Calumag, a farmer from Paniqui, Tarlac, earned praises after donating some of his sweet potato produce to pantries on Maginhawa St. and other parts of Metro Manila.
Fishermen from Binangonan, Rizal also donated more than 50 kilos of their freshly-caught fish to another pantry in Quezon City despite their own struggles to survive the pandemic.
“Bagama’t kailangan ding kumita, hindi bigat, kundi pakikipagkaisa sa kapwa naghihirap ang nangibabaw sa isipan ng mga mangingisdang nagbahagi ng kanilang huli sa mga community pantry (Although they also need to earn money, those fishermen who shared their catch still thought of helping others),” Pamalakaya, the fishermen’s group, said in a statement.
In Muntinlupa, there are three community pantries in Barangays Putatan, Sucat and Tunasan.
The Muntinlupa Food Drive group, headed by Isay Yason, opened a community pantry on April 17 at Jaysons Building along National Road in Bgy. Putatan, Muntinlupa.
“It was inspired by the one in Maginhawa. Before putting it up, I said ‘there is none yet in Muntinlupa’ over the weekend,” said Yason. Her group started a food drive last year when the pandemic started.
She and her friends chipped in money and called for donations for the community pantry.
“Thankfully within the same night, the next morning, we had enough money to purchase goods to start the pantry. We are blessed because there are so many people in Muntinlupa who are willing,” she said.
Yason said when they put up the community pantry, no one was giving it any attention but just after one hour, all the items on the table were already taken.
She said the point of the community pantry is that it is not regulated, saying, “there is no judgment. Just get what you need from the table.”
Residents of Narra Street in Quezon City put up the Tulong Obrero Community Pantry for jeepney drivers and other residents who lost their jobs amid the pandemic.
The “Tulong Obrero Community Pantry” is packed with vegetables, rice, canned goods, and packs of instant noodles that can help displaced workers feed their family.
Tatay “Elmer” Corder, one of the jeepney drivers from transport group Piston arrested in June last year for allegedly violating quarantine measures during a protest rally, also participated in the community pantry set up.
“Noong mangailangan ako, napakaraming tumulong at nagbigay. Panahon namin ngayon para tumulong at magbigay dahil napakarami pa ring nangangailangan,” he said.
Two public school teachers also partnered with youth group Caloocan Young Leaders Initiative (CYLI) to launch their own pantry in Caloocan City that will run until April 30.
They got the support of the Catholic Church, which offered the vicinity of San Roque Cathedral to set up their pantry starting Sunday, which has since accommodated more than 100 individuals.
“It’s very important that we have the support of different sectors in setting up community pantries… At the end of the day, these initiatives run with the support of different members of our communities, regardless of what our beliefs are,” the proponents of CYLI said.
Tally made by some social media users showed there are already at least 145 community pantries in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
Photos on social media on Monday showed some individuals lining up as early 6 a.m. for the Maginhawa pantry, which has since never run out of stocks thanks to pouring donations.
“Lawakan po yung pag intindi buksan po yung puso at isipan kasi iba iba po ang struggle ng mga tao. Hindi natin alam sino nawalan ng trabaho (Let’s open our hearts and minds and understand that people have different struggles),” Non said.
While there are signs encouraging the public to “give based on capacity and get based on necessity (magbigay ayon sa kakayahan, kumuha batay sa pangangailangan),” some might still look at getting more than what they needed. But CYLI said, “At the end of the day, it wouldn’t defeat the purpose of getting more because they would still eat them. Perhaps, for people who are doing it, they just don’t know when they will receive it again.”
“But you can still reason with them. And they would understand,” the group added.
The pantry, located on A. Mabini St. near 10th Avenue, has vegetables, rice, canned goods, bread, and packs of instant noodles for residents in need.
For those who are interested to donate, they can drop off items at the San Roque Cathedral. They may also send cash donations through GCASH number 09356284637 under Ronald Quita Fortaliza.
In Sampaloc, Manila, the labor group Defend Jobs Philippines created their own version of a community pantry on Matimyas Street called “Matimyas Workers Pantry.,
“The project was also held to send their message across to the national government to be sensitive and compassionate enough to the sufferings of our poor Filipinos and workers who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the administration’s continuing lockdown and community quarantine impositions,” the group said in a statement.
The table was packed with vitamins, rice, vegetables, canned goods, instant noodles, and other grocery items.
A Manila resident also set up a community pantry on P. Noval Street near the University of Santos Tomas (UST).
The table, dubbed as the “P. Noval Community Pantry,” is packed with vegetables, rice, canned goods, and packs of instant noodles.
Toots Vergara, one of the managers of Mang Tootz Food House, said he was inspired by the community pantry set up along Maginhawa Street in Quezon City.
“Huwag mahiyang kumuha, nandoon lang po iyon (Do not be shy to get some items, they’ll just be there),” he said in his Facebook post.
The Most Holy Trinity Parish also has its own “Pantry of Blessings” in Sampaloc, Manila where individuals can get grocery items that they need and give away what they can spare.
Another community pantry has opened at Plaza Roma in Intramuros, Manila. The community pantry will be open daily, the Intramuros Administration said in its official Facebook account.
In Pacita Complex in San Pedro, Laguna, actor Jun Sabayton has established a community pantry with friends.
“Ang dami kong nababasa na kesyo baka ganito gawin ng masa diyan kukuha lang ng marami (I read a lot of comments saying the masses might take more and deprive others),” Sabayton told the Manila Bulletin Monday (April 19).
Sabayton set up the community pantry with his friends Franco Mamaril, Carvin Oliver, Rafael Garcia, and Aloha Ferrer.
According to Mamaril, people seemed timid and were hesitant to approach the stall at first but later on, many of them mustered enough courage to get what they needed.
“Merong mga batang homeless na dumaan kanina kumuha sila ng bigas, sardinas at saka itlog at meron din isang pamilya na dumaan kumuha ng gatas, bigas, saging na saba at saka ampalaya (There were homeless children who passed by and got rice, sardines, and egg, and there was a family who got milk, rice, plantains, and bitter gourd),” Mamaril said.
Aside from the stall in San Pedro, community pantries have also been established in Calamba, Los Baños, Magdalena, Nagcarlan, Paete, San Pablo, and Victoria, according to the Philippine Information Agency Laguna.
In Los Baños, Laguna, two community pantries popped up on Lopez Avenue. The pantries have kitchen staples like bread, noodles, and canned goods.
“Unang daan ko po may mga nagkukumpulan na tao, noong pabalik ko lang nalaman na community pantry pala siya (When I first passed by, there were people huddled together, and when I went back, I learned that it was a community pantry),” said Charlon Kim, a Los Baños resident.
In Barangay San Ignacio, San Pablo City, Laguna, John Harvey Calabia set up a community pantry and was overwhelmed by the support it got from residents who were willing to replenish stocks for those in need.
“Kasi maliit na budget lang po ang naumpisahan ko since sariling gastos ko po (The initial budget was small because it came from my own pocket),” Calabia told the Manila Bulletin. “Pero bigla po talagang dumami ang nakakita at nag-share sa FB hanggang sa marami na po bigla ang gusto tumulong (But many saw it and shared it through Facebook, and they were willing to help).”
But out of everyone who helped, one donor stood out to Calabia — a person who initially pretended to be in need of food himself.
Since the barangay that the man mentioned was far from where the stall is set up, Calabia saved some pantry items for his expected visitor.
“Nag-chat siya sa akin, malapit na daw po siya sa pantry. Tapos nagulat ako nung dumating si sir, ang dami niya pong dalang donations para sa pantry, umabot po siguro sa P7,000-8,000 ang donations na binigay niya… Nakailang balik pa po siya para magbigay ulit. (He sent me a chat message saying they’re already near the pantry. I was dumbfounded when he arrived, he brought donations amounting to P7,000-P8,000 in value. He came back a few more times to bring more goods),” Calabia said.
The good samaritan didn’t want to be photographed with the goods that he brought, which included rice, dried fish, vegetables, fruits, noodles, canned goods, eggs, bread, and toiletries.
Aside from basic needs, the stall also offers books that parents could take home to their kids. Authors Peter Jairron Cruz, Ferdie L. Eusebio, and Jairene Calabia Cruz-Eusebio donated copies of their book, Hiling Sa Bituin, to children in need.