- From a bamboo cart on Maginhawa Street, Patricia Non has inspired many Filipinos to open community pantries and share what they can to feed the poor.
The woman behind this remarkable initiative is only 26 years old, a graduate of UP College of Fine Arts, and an entrepreneur running a small furniture making shop whose operations stopped due to the pandemic.
Before the community pantry, many knew Patricia as a volunteer or organizer of activities to help the poor.
Fifteen months after the first lockdown in the whole island of Luzon, it took a 26-year-old woman to start the spread of kindness through an act of concern and generosity.
By now the name Ana Patricia Non has become a household name. She had set up a bamboo cart packed with vegetables and food products on Maginhawa Street in Quezon City on April 14, 2021 – and opened a community pantry where the poor who needed food could get some for free.
There was no mob action that greeted that first opportunity to get free food. The people waited in line for hours and followed the rule which Patricia had written on a cardboard sheet –”Magbigay ayon sa kakayahan, kumuha batay sa pangangailangan (Give what you can, take what you need).”
Little did Patricia Non know that her small act of kindness would create a ripple effect. In a few days, other community pantries sprouted around Metro Manila; in a week, more opened in the provinces. Today, the community pantries have become too many to count.
Who is Ana Patricia Non? Her friends call her “Patreng,” and she is a graduate in Visual Communication from University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts.. Before she pushed that bamboo cart to that corner at Maginhawa Street, she was an entrepreneur, running a small furniture shop which had closed due to the pandemic.
But there is still little about Patricia that is known today. When asked personal questions, she was always reported to reply: “It’s not about me. It’s about the community pantry.”
During her interviews with the media, Patricia’s generosity extended from sharing food to the poor to sharing information on how to start a pantry. She hopes that would add another action to temporarily address hunger and poverty that many experience.
Her youth and anonymity before the Maginhawa community pantry had baffled authorities and government leaders. A spokesperson from a government agency had implied that Patricia had links with the communists. It was a statement that caused the Maginhawa Community Pantry to close for a day. The community pantry organizer had felt threatened by the red-tag remark.
Many voices that came to her defense revealed the answers to the question on ‘who is Patricia Non’?
Among them was Rev. Fr. Richie Ramos Fortus who said in a Facebook post that he had witnessed Patricia’s dedication to helping others while he was still a seminarian in Bay, Laguna.
“Isa na siguro ako sa mapalad na nakakilala sa kabataang ito na si Ana Patricia “Patreng” Non…Bakit? Kasi personal kong nasaksihan ang dedikasyon nya sa pagtulong at pagmamalasakit sa mga pangangailangan o kalagayan ng iba’t ibang mga tao, lalong higit sa mga nangangailangan noong ako ay naka-assign pa bilang seminarista sa simbahan ng Bay, Laguna (I may be one of those fortunate enough to know Patreng. Why? Because I have personally witnessed her dedication to helping others in need, especially when I was I still a seminarian at a parish in Bay, Laguna),” Fortus said.
According to him, Patricia, who resides in Quezon City, would go to Laguna before the Holy Week to “serve the Church.” He said Patricia would also visit the Summer Children’s Camp in the same area.
“Sinisigurado naming mga nakakakilala sa kanya na ang kanyang pagkakawanggawa sa pamamagitan ng ‘Community Pantry’ ay may dalisay na hangarin at may tamang motibasyon. Ito ang paraan ng kanyang pagpapahayag ng lubos nyang pagmamahal sa Diyos at pagmamalasakit sa kanyang mga kababayan (We, the people who know her, assure the public that her volunteerism through the community pantry is done with good faith and intention),” he added.
A friend of Patricia, Patte Aldefolio, who had been with her in other community kitchens and relief missions, posted in Facebook that Patricia “is true” to her alma mater’s (Paco Catholic School) mission of “nurturing within the community an atmosphere of service and genuine concern for the upliftment of the deprived, depressed and underprivileged.”
Erren Elizalde, one of the volunteers at the Maginhawa community pantry, described Patricia as “down to earth, wise and close to the people.”
He said that Patricia is shy when facing a camera. But when she speaks to volunteers, she “speaks from the heart,” Elizalde told Manila Bulletin.
What others don’t know is that Patricia Non would give student volunteers “some allowance and mobile data to support their studies.” “She also provides vitamins and PPEs (personal protective equipment) to the volunteers,” Elizalde said.
“She takes time to get to know people around her,” he added.
The UP Artists’ Circle Sorority said Patricia, said that even before the Maginhawa community pantry, Patricia had participated in a “bigas (rice) drive” for jeepney drivers displaced by the lockdown which was initiated by the sorority.
She had also been involved in projects that provided healthy meals to lactating mothers and children amid the pandemic,
In an interview with PolitikoTV, Patricia described herself as a “naughty 26-year-old woman” who takes care of her “mental and physical health.”
If there is one word that describes Patricia, it is “compassionate,” her friends said, and this is proven by her engagement in various relief efforts.
Before the media found her, Patricia said she led a “simple” life, following a routine of exercise, work, cooking, watching Netflix, and playing mobile games.
But after setting up the Maginhawa community pantry that sparked the spirit of kindness, Non said she now feels tiredness. That’s the result of getting up before 5 a.m to start another day of coordinating donations, physically carrying items to set them up on the cart, and answering questions from the media, then planning for the next day.
But there is no hint of regret in her saying that she can now feel her body getting tired.
“Wala po akong pagsisisi kasi ang dami pong natulungan. Ang dami pong tumutulong…. Pagod po ako talaga ngayon, pero masayang masaya po ako (I have no regrets because I have helped a lot of people. Many are also extending assistance. I’m just tired now but I’m really happy),” she said in PolitikoTV interview.
“Napapagod po ako, gusto kong matulong, minsan naiinis ako sa mga reporters kasi tawag kayo nang tawag (I’m really tired. Sometimes, I want to sleep. Sometimes, I’m also annoyed as reporters keep on calling me),” she added in jest.
Meanwhile, Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte had compared Patricia to Noble Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai and Noble Prize nominee Greta Thunberg.
“Change begins because of people like you,” Mayor Belmonte said to Patricia during an interview with ANC. “In your case, you fought for the alleviation of poverty and for food security.”
Patricia’s mother, Zena Bernardo, said in recent TeleRadyo interview she didn’t expect her daughter’s initiative would turn out to be “this magnitude,” making her feel really proud of her.
Despite threats to her safety following the red-tagging, Patricia said she would not stop helping the poor.
With her small furniture business also affected by the pandemic, she understands that people, particularly those who lost their jobs, need help.
“Tingin ko hindi sapat ‘yung nakukuha ng mga Pilipino sa government. So kailangan talaga gumawa ng action ‘yung private citizen lalo na kung may means (I believe that what the people are getting from the government is not enough. So, private citizens need to take action, especially if they have the means),” she said.
On April 27, about two weeks after that bamboo cart started the community pantry that sparked the fire of kindness around the country, and became an icon of Filipino bayanihan (solidarity), Patricia is no longer managing a wooden cart.
She is already supervising a hub at 108 Maginhawa St. where goods from anonymous donors are dropped off and then distributed to community pantries situated in different barangays in Diliman, where most recipients come from.
Organizers call that a “decentralized pantry system.” The bayanihan spirit continues.