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Community pantry: The power of an idea

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - April 25, 2021 - 12:00am

The community pantry came at a time when people were feeling depressed because the pandemic did not seem to be disappearing and there were even government reports that said millions had lost their jobs and billions of pesos had been lost due to economic lockdowns.

Then came a story, a ray of sunshine amidst the stories of gloom. A young woman, Ana Patricia Non, had set up a small stall on Maginhawa Street offering free food to anyone with one appeal – give what you can and take only what you need. It literally spread like wildfire, with so many following the example of that one story.

There are of course controversies. Here is a letter from the De La Salle Brothers on their stand regarding the red tagging charge by some government agencies.

“The De La Salle Brothers of the Philippines denounce the harassment and red-tagging of the PNP and NTF-ELCAC on community pantries. The seminal idea of a community pantry is profoundly connected to us both as Christians and Filipinos. The Biblical narrative of Jesus miraculously feeding the multitude with a boy’s offering of five loaves and two fish has been replicated more than a hundred times this past week in community pantries that have mushroomed every where.

“Mula sa kagandahang-loob ni Patreeng Non, dumaloy ang ginhawa sa marami pang mga hapag ng bayan. The People Power Revolution of 1986 brought out the best in the Filipino, with hundreds of ordinary citizens showing their courage and conviction in a true spirit of bayanihan and kabayanihan to flush out the strongman.

“Such selfless acts of patriotism by its citizens during the worst of times have defined the Filipino soul and are imbedded in our history.

“Community pantries and other private-sector initiatives should be supported, applauded and replicated. The NTF-ELCAC budget of P19 billion should instead be used to feed the hungry during this time of the pandemic. The Bayanihan to Heal as One Act calls on everyone to facilitate distribution and minimize disruption of food and other essential goods. Government agencies should support and not hinder services to our people, especially during the pandemic.”  – Bro. Armin Luistro, FSC, De La Salle Brothers, Philippines

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DLSU has set up a Lasallian community pantry located at Agno Street right outside the university premises on Taft Avenue. The landmark is the Brother Andrew Hall where the community pantry is located behind the building to make it more accessible to the people living in the surrounding areas. Donations will be accepted on the Taft Avenue side of Bro. Andrew Hall. The brothers are suggesting donations of fresh produce, rice repacked into 1 kg., ready to cook food, health items, vitamins and medicines. For those who want to give monetary donations you can send to BPI 4849 0118 34 ( Andrew P. ); GCash 0917 329 1400 ( Andrew P.) PayPal – paypal. me/ martincervantes712. Send proof of transfer for tracking purposes to: bit.ly/DLSU Community Pantry.

Tahanan Village community pantry

Each of the community pantries has basically the same experiences; but there is a feel that each party has a sense of identity that makes its own story unique. Maginhawa Community and its founder Ana Patricia Non has rightfully received the most publicity. This was the original community pantry and its fame has been increased because its founder has been the victim of red tagging.

There are now an estimated 350 community pantries all over the Philippines. Its eventual success or failure will ultimately depend on the commitment and dedication of other pantries.

Here is the story of one of those community pantries that has not received any publicity, but whose volunteers are just as committed. This is a group of residents from Tahanan Village, Parañaque. Here is a report on one of its days from one of its founders, Au Mar Magtalas:

“Here’s what happened today at our community pantry. As of 6:45 a.m., the line is up to Caltex station and it went as far as Conti’s as of 8 a.m.

Our volunteers were at the site as early as 7 a.m. We collected donations from the Tahanan Village office, unloaded at the site, displayed the items, conducted quick safety reminders to all and started operations at 7:45 a.m.

“Aside from the resident volunteers, we’ve got 10 more volunteers today: traffic aides and Superstore security were in charge of the people lining up, three girls served as pantry assistant to ensure everybody gets just the right amount, three Superstore men helped in unloading goods, refilling the pantry, mainly runners. Donations kept on coming during the day. We were forced to cut off the line at around 9:30 a.m. The three-hour operation served approximately 550 people.

“I am forever grateful and proud being part of Tahanan community where people are so generous and kind and compassionate. Everyone is doing their part, from sharing treasures and resources in giving and talent. If I may borrow the lines of Michael Reyes, ‘May this serve as an example for the next generation, that when it is their turn to serve the community – make it happen despite challenges.’

May God continue to keep us under His mantle of protection. Tomorrow again!”

Victor Hugo once said: “There is one thing stronger than all the armies of the world and that is an idea whose time has come.”

The community pantry is an idea whose time has come. It is an idea that has made us proud to be Filipino.

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Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com

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