The spark of hope was first ignited somewhere along Maginhawa St., Quezon City—particularly in front of a MiniStop branch and a Romantic Baboy. A lady named Ana Patricia Non, set up an unassuming bamboo cart beside a tree and filled it with basic groceries and fresh produce. On top of the cart, a sign read, “Magbigay ayon sa kakayahan, kumuha batay sa pangangailangan.”
To everyone’s surprise—especially the naysayers—the gesture would cause a ripple effect, inspiring others in different parts of the country to follow suit. The community pantry was just what a great fraction of Filipinos hit badly by the pandemic needed. Every day, for the past week, throngs of people from nearby barangays would queue towards Ana Patricia’s cart of goodies hoping to bring something to their family table for the day.
On Day 7, however, the lady decided to temporarily put a stop to the project due to alleged red-tagging.
In a Facebook post Monday, she informed the public that she feared for her safety and the safety of the pantry volunteers. This came after the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) and the National Task Force Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) shared posts linking community pantries to communist groups.
The 26-year-old University of the Philippines alumna held an online media conference Tuesday, hoping to settle the issue. She said she put up the pantry simply because she wanted to help. She was admittedly pushed by government’s inadequate response to the problems brought on by the pandemic.
“Sa totoo lang po, kung iisipin ko lang ang interes ko, madali lang po sa akin na i-stop ang community pantry,” Ana Patricia said in the online conference. “Pero hindi ko po gagawin yun dahil may nangangailangan. Kung gusto nilang ipatigil ang community pantry, ipagpatuloy ang red tagging, sige po gawin nyo. Pero kaya nyo po bang pakainin at bigyan ng sapat na tulong ang mga tao? Kasi kung hindi po kayo tutulong, kung wala po kayong maiaambag sa mga tao, hindi nyo sila kikilalanin, mas mabuti pong wag na lang tayong magsalita ng mga ganitong bagay.”
Who is Ana Patricia Non? Who is this lady who reignited the Filipino bayanihan spirit with a cart of vegetables—and a sign that says, essentially, if those who are supposed to take care of us have failed to, we have each other’s backs?
Anna Patricia Non, or Patreng to her friends, is from the University of the Philippines’ College of Fine Arts. Michael “Selo” Joselo, a brother at the UP Artists' Circle Fraternity and Sorority, tells ANCX he’s always known Patreng for being service-oriented. They’ve been friends for eight years and were Visual Communication majors in UP CFA.
Even in college, Patreng would often initiate or join projects that would serve different communities, says Selo. He’s lost track of the number of times they gave free art workshops to young people in different barangays. What she may lack in terms of financial resources, says Selo, she would make up for in terms of her gift to unite people for a cause. “Ine-enjoin nya ang community para magtulungan.”
The Maginhawa community pantry is not the first time Patreng organized a project to help out people affected by the pandemic, notes Selo. July of last year, she organized a “bigas drive” along with other members of their fraternity and sorority. “Hindi sya mag-isa, meron syang mga ibang kasama. Pero isa sya sa mga nagko-convene,” Selo shares. The effort benefited jeepney drivers who lost their livelihood due to the lockdowns.
Beata Carolino, also Patreng’s friend from UP, recalls to ANCX the times she and the latter worked on projects, two of which were related to political prisoners and Lumads.
“I’m not surprised that she mounted [the Maginhawa Pantry] project because natural talaga sa kanya na maghanap ng way how she could be of help to other people,” says Beata.
Mike (not his real name), who became one of Patreng’s closest friends in UP’s University Student Council (USC), echoes Beata’s words. The woman is inherently good-natured, the type who would go out of her comfort zone to help others, Mike says.
He remembers one instance when the student council members were discussing the sprucing up of the council office. “It was already getting late and there was a long discussion on whether to put an aquarium inside the office. She sort of called everyone out.” Mike recalls his friend saying, “What are we doing? Bakit natin sinasayang ang oras natin sa bagay na ‘to, samantalang yung manininda sa labas ng campus tinatanggalan sila ng stalls?”
As mentioned by Selo, one of Patreng’s best qualities is her passion to unite people. She wasn’t the type to exclude anybody—whatever organizations they belonged to or whatever their beliefs are. If one is to consider her recent statement about understanding the needs of those who get more than they should from the community pantries—“Iba-iba po talaga ang struggle ng mga tao. Iba-iba rin ang environment na kinalakihan natin. I-delay po natin ang judgment. Instead na magalit tayo, ang magandang reaction is maging curious... Buksan po ang puso at isip, yun po ang pinakamahalaga”—she has remained the same Patreng.
“Ang point ng lahat ng ginagawa nya ever since ay tulungan tayo, kasi may nagugutom, may nahihirapan,” offers Selo.
Ben Opinion, Patreng’s friend since 2012, says his friend is blessed with a charismatic personality, which allows her to inspire and stir people to action. “Kahit sino kaya nyang pakisamahan. Kaya nyang mag-adjust. Kahit hindi kayo magkapareho ng mga pananaw sa mga bagay-bagay. Hindi ka makakaramdam na hindi ka belong.”
The people we interviewed are one in saying their friend is genuinely caring. “Likas sa kanya ang pagiging maalaga,” says Ben. “Siya yung pag nakita mo, magtatanong genuinely ng ‘kamusta ka?’ Yung hihingi talaga ng update sa life mo—kung ano ang nararamdaman mo, kung stressed ka or may pinagdadaanan ka. Innate sa kanya to really look out for other people.”
For the past months, Mike says Patreng would check up on their circle of friends, asking if they are eating right, if they’re doing their exercises. When they were neighbors in UP Village, Patreng would drop by Mike’s place to share some pandesal she had bought from a nearby bakery.
“She never forgets to make others feel na she’s there for them. We’re all struggling, but she’d always send me a message, inviting us to go for a walk or a jog on the academic oval [when it was still open]. She was also the one who taught us to do yoga,” says Mike. Patreng is athletic and is a member of the UP Mountaineers.
“Ganyan naman sya kahit before,” Beata says of their friend’s sincere concern for others. “Kapag meron sa aming may problema or may pinagdadaanan, lalapitan ka nya talaga. She’ll make sure na you’re doing okay, or if she could do anything to make you feel better. She’s been through a lot of problems, but she always finds a way to be of help to other people.”
Selo referred to Patreng as Miss Congeniality back in college. “Hindi sya yung mahirap lapitan. Parang sya ang ice breaker sa klase.” Ben says, “Funny syang tao. She can crack up jokes. Sobrang magaan syang kasama. Playful. Very spontaneous, kaya di ako nagtataka na nangyari itong Maginhawa Pantry.”
‘She’s not one to back down’
Underneath the sweet-faced, bedimpled lady who faced the media over Zoom Tuesday afternoon, is a woman with strong convictions. This is because she’s always aware of what’s happening around her, says her friends. She’s also not the type to force her ideas or opinions on people, but she would definitely try to find a way to prove something she believes is right.
“When we were still in the USC, Patreng would get into these impassioned debates and arguments,” Mike recalls. “She doesn’t shy away from questioning things. Hindi sya basag ulo, but she’s not one to back down when she feels that there’s a reason to question the rules, the system, or the authority. I’ve seen her talk to administration officials, professors, people in position or power, and she doesn’t lose her cool. There’s an inner resolve.”
With the Maginhawa Community Pantry, Selo thinks his friend is trying to prove a point. “Ang gustong sabihin ni Patreng dito ay pwede naman tayong magtiwala sa isa’t isa at magtulungan. Meron mang mangilan-ngilang nagsasamantala sa pantry, pero di naman ibig sabihin failure ang idea. Ang point nya, magtiwala lang sa kakayahan ng masa, sa disiplina nila,” says Selo.
Patreng is one of the bravest people Ben knows, he says, and putting together the community pantry was very much “on brand” with the woman of the hour. “This is her protest against the inaction. It speaks volumes of how dedicated and committed she is to help others, na gusto niya ng pagbabago.” And where again did they say change should start?