On April 14, 2021, 26-year-old Ana Patricia Non, a furniture designer, took out a bamboo cart and installed two signs on a tree in front of a shuttered food park along Maginhawa street in Quezon City. The first sign read: Maginhawa Community Pantry. The second sign pleaded: “Magbigay ayon sa kakayahan, kumuha batay sa pangangailangan (From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs). From the initial supply of vegetables, eggs, rice and canned goods, donors have poured in biscuits, drinks, medicines and other essential items.
After she posted a note on this initiative on social media, the simple idea was emulated elsewhere in Metro Manila and in so many other parts of the country.
Mang Tootz of P. Noval followed suit; then Mara de Guzman also set up a pantry in Parang, Marikina, saying Anna and Mang Tootz inspired her. The same phenomenon spread to Caloocan where it was set up in San Roque Cathedral; this was duplicated in Manila’s Plaza Roma in front of the Manila Cathedral. From Pampanga, Bulacan and Laguna, the idea leapt to Mindoro Occidental, to Boracay, and all the way south to Purok 5, Canumay, Iligan City.
On Sunday, she shared her views with Vice President Leni Robredo on the latter’s weekly radio program. “Malapit po sa sikmura,” (It’s a gut issue) she told her, in answer to the query on why she thought the movement has spread far and wide so quickly.
As she expressed happiness about the phenomenon, she also said she was saddened “kasi evident na talaga na kulang ang mga nakukuha ng mga tao” (It is evident that people are not getting enough), perhaps alluding to the ayuda or financial aid coming from the government.
Senators Juan Edgardo Angara and Panfilo Lacson and Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque commended the Filipinos’ demonstration of bayanihan, or community solidarity. Angara urged the national government, local government units and private businesses “to replicate and even scale up these community pantries to cater to even more people.”
But Lacson was less upbeat, saying that he sensed people were getting “desperate” on the government’s ability to help them, a sentiment echoed by former Vice President Jejomar Binay who said: “When the situation seems hopeless, we can lift each other’s spirit. Magtulungan, magtiwala sa isa’t-isa, at manalig sa Maykapal.” (Let’s help and trust each other and in God.)
Non observed that many people want to help but could not find a suitable venue for channeling their assistance. “Hindi naman kailangan magarbong effort para makatulong,” she said, “kahit sa simpleng paraan lang.” (There’s no need for a grand program, a simple way would do.) Mindful that this initiative would not solve hunger and poverty, she said that the pantry would at least spare people from having to beg or borrow.
She also envisioned a post-pandemic scenario when people could again meet and eat at Maginhawa (a place of ease, comfort and relief).