Kindness chain links all Filipinos

One afternoon on my way to work, I passed by a table filled with canned goods, vegetables and hygiene essentials at the Monumento LRT station. It was one of the community pantries that sprouted across the metro, this one initiated by the LRT employees themselves. Earlier that day, I heard about another one in a nearby church I want to visit and help out.

The simple table also had its sign, inspired by the Maginhawa Community Pantry: “Magbigay ayon sa kakayahan, kumuha batay sa pangangailangan (Give what you can, get what you need).”

Coming across that community pantry, I had sudden thoughts about how they are a lot like flowers sprouting on barren land.

It’s just been a week since 26-year-old Ana Patricia “Patreng” Non put up the pantry to help feed the hungry.

The Maginhawa Community Pantry was a seed planted by Patreng that blossomed into a symbol of hope, camaraderie and bayanihan among Filipinos amid uncertain times.

Since the pandemic began, the hunger rate has notably doubled in the country. From the 8.8 percent recorded in December 2019, data from the Social Weather Stations show 16 percent of the population in May 2020 experienced involuntary hunger. It peaked in September at 30.7 percent.

An immediate solution to feed the hungry it may be, but community pantries can only help to a certain extent. According to Jomar Fleras, executive director of non-profit organization Rise Against Hunger, in an article in The Straits Times, for community pantries to scale up, they “would eventually have to be run together with an established charity group or with the government itself.”

THE community pantry that started it all. / PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF FB.COM/AP NON

Patreng started with a small, bamboo cart and a modest amount of vegetables, canned goods, rice and other essentials parked along Maginhawa grew into something bigger. In less than 24 hours after her Facebook post, Patreng’s initiative had sent a ripple effect across the country, empowering thousands of Filipinos in different areas and communities to do the same.

True enough, community pantries continue to sprout all over the country, crossing even neighboring countries, specifically in Timor Leste. In fact, a site was created to track the said local community pantries, which are now over 300 in just a week.

The ( site is from the developers of “Saan May Delivery.”

“The community pantry is the unity that we’ve all been waiting and hoping for,” said Patreng in a press conference last 20 April. “We have this usual thinking, ‘Ah, these Filipinos don’t unite, they’re all pasaways (unruly).’ So, this community pantry gave us hope that we can help each other and get along.”

Uniting people across different religions, beliefs, social class or affiliations — there has been no big or small in the name of helping amid uncertain times, whether by donating or volunteering, said Patreng. In the past week, kindhearted volunteers and donors flooded social media timelines.

Some farmers who have also benefitted from the community pantries which purchased their produce gave away extra vegetables and fruits for free. There were fisherfolk who donated 50 kilograms of fresh tilapia. Some students put time and effort into volunteering at their respective community pantries under the scorching sun.

Tricycle drivers, according to Patreng, help out by offering to distribute the goods. A taho vendor touched the hearts of netizens for giving out his wares to a community pantry in Cavite. There are fans of K-Pop groups and small organizations who put up their own pantries.

Just recently, celebrities Erwan Heussaf and Isabelle Daza donated to the cause amid the red-tagging issue vs. Patreng and the community pantries. Also, there have been other incidents that have elicited reactions, such as when people took too much from the pantries: case in point, the hoarding of goods by a group of women in Pasig that went viral just a couple of days ago.

“The community pantry isn’t judgmental. No matter how big or small you can give or get, we’ll accept it. If you get one canned good (from the pantry), that’s okay. If you get five, that’s okay, too, because you need it,” Patreng said.

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