Community pantries breed variants, spread to E. Timor

From community pantries for humans and fur babies to “pan-tree” seedlings aimed at boosting food security, the spirit of bayanihan has reached the shores of East Timor after a Filipino vice consul broached the idea to Timorese friends and fellow diplomats.

What began as a simple act of giving to the needy in Maginhawa village has spread to as far away as East Timor and spawned variations such as ‘pan-tree’ and roving pantry, with the total number of local community pantries growing to 350.

The Bairro Farol community pantry in the Timorese capital of Dili was set up Wednesday to help residents affected by the pandemic and the recent flash floods that hit the country, Philippine Vice Consul to Timor Leste Laser Blitz Sumagaysay said in a Facebook post.

“I took the opportunity to discuss with some Timorese friends and diplomats about the concept of bayanihan and particularly showed them photos of #communitypantry set-ups in PH to which they gained much interest,” Sumagaysay said.

“In my perspective, as both a private individual and diplomat, being in Timor Leste provides the opportunity to live and serve in a nation that is quite less developed but whose people are not in any way less spirited or determined than us Filipinos,” he added.

In the Philippines, the community pantry movement began with a small bamboo cart filled with canned goods and vegetables and even face masks along Maginhawa Street in Quezon City on April 14, an initiative of 26-year-old Ana Patricia Non.

The principle is simple: Give according to one’s capacity and take according to one’s need.

The motto, according to Antonio La Viña, a law teacher and a former dean of the Ateneo School of Government, is well known to social activists as it was popularized by German philosopher, who wrote “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” in 1875.

But La Viña, in a think piece he co-wrote with Joy Reyes, said it was an idea Marx borrowed from French Utopian socialists. The principle can also be traced to early Christians as written in the Acts of the Apostles (“they gave to anyone as he had need” and “they shared everything they had.”)

The initiative has since sprouted over 350 community pantries across the country.

In Makati City, residents set up a community pantry dedicated to feeding stray dogs and cats. In Quezon City, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources is giving away free seedlings of fruit-bearing trees and vegetables through its own version of a community “pan-tree” as a “humble contribution to efforts addressing the issue of food security in the region.”

“Efforts like these give us hope that we can come together and help each other out. This initiative does not discriminate against gender, class, affiliation, religion, or anything else. It’s just based on our capacity to help. There is freedom in that,” Non said.

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