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Images of hope from a photographerâs âroving pantryâ
Photographer Mau Aguasin’s ‘roving pantry.’ She searches for the last, the least and the lost on the streets.

Images of hope from a photographer’s ‘roving pantry’

PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez (The Philippine Star) - May 14, 2021 - 12:00am

Maria Aurora “Mau” Aguasin’s work as a photographer is in many ways like her name shining and soft like the dawn. PeopleAsia’s last two covers Doctors Aivee and Z Teo and before them, Derek Ramsay were captured by the lens of Mau.

But few know that Mau makes the sun rise as well on dark corners of the city that she visits with her “roving pantry” or “food trunk” every Sunday.

She has been doing this from the start of the pandemic, and intensified her efforts in recent months.

Mau’s “goods” are in the trunk of her SUV — canned goods, trays of eggs, vegetables, coffee and other powdered drinks. Last Sunday, her roving pantry consisted of 100 kilos of rice and 50 kilos of vegetables. These supplies she buys with money from her own pocket, and donations from friends.

Mau and her ‘suki,’ who took her mask out briefly to smile at the camera.

The difference between other nourishing community pantries and Mau’s pantry is that she goes to the scene. She approaches the needy.

“I just drive around,” Mau tells me, “looking for mothers on the streets, ‘kariton kuyas,’ homeless children, children who sell face shields and sampaguitas, PWDs, and the elderly.”

Naturally, once Mau is spotted handing out ayuda, people flock to her car.

“If ever we attract a line, I keep a deadline. I stay for only 10 to 15 minutes,” she says. Then off she goes to her next destination, which, after having done this outreach project for over a year know, she is pretty familiar with.

She reminds everyone, “No face mask, no groceries!”

Mau’s “regulars” help her police the line, and so do the barangay tanods.

Mau says this photo is the reason she does what she does drive a roving pantry.
Photos courtesy of Mau Aguasin

***

We all want to do good, especially during these difficult times. But to go out of the comfort of our homes, and even expose oneself to some risk, is something many of us are understandably reluctant to do. But just like a medical frontliner, the PPE-garbed Mau feels she has to invade the battlefield of poverty.

“We have all the resources. We have been provided with more than we need. We are able to continue with our hobbies, and chill even while on lockdown,” she explains in a light-hearted way, as if what she is doing is no big deal. “It’s not about feeling guilty with what we have, it’s more like being able to share a piece of the many good moments we have been blessed with.”

She says that for us it’s a chance to do good, whereas for the recipients, “it’s food!”

When people ask her, “How can I help?”, she simply says, “In whatever way you like. We have different problems in life, and as for me, I’m just more of the delivery girl.”

Sandee Masigan with her late dad, Sonny Siytangco, her inspiration for her community pantry.

Anyone who has worked with Mau is familiar with her sense of humor, and she finds that during her “rondas,” she brings a smile to a lot of mothers by engaging them in small talk even while keeping a safe distance.

“Most of them, the mothers especially, they need someone to talk to. And they are shocked that we actually like to share a conversation with them. It’s always a good few seconds of interaction with them,” shares Mau.

Mau drives around with her food trunk for some two hours, but the preparation takes four to six hours. A friend, and a helper who helps her load and unload supplies, accompany her during her “rounds.”

“It’s simply because we have been enabled (to help) in life,” concludes Mau. “Grateful for times such as these.”

Times that she is able to capture in her heart’s lens the many images of joy and hope from the people she trains her light on.

(Mau may be reached both on Facebook and Instagram for donations.)

***

Restaurateur Sandee Siytangco Masigan and her husband Andrew Masigan, the power couple behind XO Heritage Bistro and Arroz Ecija, among others, have been sponsoring and spearheading a community pantry in Bangkal, Makati for three weekends now. They are helped by Sandee’s first cousin, lawyer Starr Weigand.

“Unfortunately, most of the residents in Bangkal have really fallen on hard times. A lot of people have lost their livelihood. On our own, Andrew and I have been helping a few in our circle, and this was a chance to widen it a bit.”

“Restaurants are having a hard time, too, like us. But what do you do? Nothing we can do but try and survive this,” says Sandee, who shares that her late father Sonny would have wanted her to do this. “This is for Daddy. If he were alive today, I know he’d do all he can to help in any way.”

“We get to help about 50 or so families a day. That’s more than enough reason for us to do this,” she adds.

The Bangkal weekend community pantry set up by restaurateur Sandee Masigan and her cousin Atty. Starr Weigand.

Sandee says proudly that Patricia Non, who inspired all these community pantries with her Maginhawa community property, is also an alumna of Paco Catholic School, like she is. “Maybe something in what they taught us in school was compelling enough to do this. In my heart, it is the Christian thing to do.”

“Knowing that we’ve helped others somehow makes the crisis we are in more bearable,” concludes Sandee.

(Sandee may be reached through her Facebook and Instagram accounts, should you wish to donate to her pantry.)

(You may e-mail me at joanneraeramirez@yahoo.com. Follow me on Instagram @joanneraeramirez.)

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