Citizens, labor groups create community pantries all over the Philippines

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  • Ana Patricia Non had to temporarily close down her small business in Quezon City due to the lockdowns imposed in the city, but what started as a small gesture for others who are in need and are suffering because of the pandemic created a ripple effect that surprised her.

    “The idea is to donate only what you can and take only what you need,” according to Non, the young woman who set up the Maginhawa Community Pantry. Now, her efforts have mushroomed into many others all over the country. Other makeshift community pantries inside and outside Metro Manila have also popped up in days that followed. Some residents in Quezon City, Marikina City, Manila and Rizal, and even as far as Laguna and Boracay, and as far away as Timor-Leste are seeing tables of produce and food items put out on the sidewalks. These places have allotted a small space within their barangays to allow others to take or drop off basic items such as canned goods, rice and vegetables. People are reminded to follow their simple reminder: “Magbigay ayon sa kakayahan, kumuha ayon sa pangangailangan” (Give what you can, take only what you need).

    The community pantry idea started in Maginhawa, with a single wooden cart of fresh food and essential goods being left out in the middle of April but with so many in need, the idea quickly caught on and spread like wildfire across the Philippines. Just a couple of weeks later, around 400 pantries were operating around the country. Non said that this might just be a small step, but action was needed, because government aid has not been enough.

    nal government to be sensitive and compassionate enough to the sufferings of our poor Filipinos and workers who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the administration’s continuing lockdown and community quarantine impositions,” the group said in a statement.

    While there is no indication that community pantries will stop despite the harassment of police and red-tagging Non and other organizers as ‘communists’, there is a threat from many and she had to stop her pantry operations temporarily. Some government officials have cast doubts over the intentions of organizers.

    “Why are these community pantries sprouting all over all of a sudden? Why do they have a single theme?” Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade, spokesperson of the government’s anti-communist task force, said in an interview. He then compared Non to Satan.

    “Patricia is one person, right? Same with Satan. Satan gave Eve an apple. That’s how it all started.”

    Parlade has since explained himself that what he meant was that Non was part of an organization that is like Satan, and that he has no personal ire against Non.

    Politicians have decried the harassment of Non, and mayors Isko Moreno and Vico Sotto both said that they fully support the efforts of these citizens who are doing this out of the goodness of their hearts. Sotto even refused to issue permits to operate for these pantries as being called by the government and the police, saying that there is no such thing as a “Permit to Help.” Malacanang also issued a statement to leave these pantries alone and allow them to operate.



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