MANILA -- Unless one were looking for it, this bamboo kart near an intersection of Maginhawa Street in Teacher’s Village, Quezon City might not easily attract attention.
The unguarded stall, perched beside a lamppost and tree, is identified only by a small cardboard inscribed with “Maginhawa Community Pantry.”
But its stock of fruits and vegetables from the nearby produce stand (and previously, rice and canned goods) are a blessing in disguise to some passersby — often ordinary workers or homeless people worrying about their next meal.
There is an accompanying reminder written on another piece of cardboard: “Magbigay ayon sa kakayahan, kumuha ayon sa kailangan (Give according to ability, take according to need).”
It’s an invitation to both survival and generosity amid a pandemic that has cost much to so many.
Street sweeper Juliet Reyes stopped there during her cleaning rounds to bag one head each of cabbage, singkamas, sayote, and an orange.
After her shift, she plans to mix the vegetables with sardines for her 6 children.
She said she last brought home produce at the start of the month when she last got her salary.
“Napakahirap po talaga,” Reyes said. “Imbes na pambili na lang e, titipid mo sobra sa sobrang dami kong anak.”
(It’s really been difficult these days. Instead of buying what we want, we have to squeeze it because I have so many children.)
A laborer from the neighboring construction site picked out other veggies his co-workers would share for lunch.
An elderly couple foraging garbage with a cart took bananas, some greens, and a couple of vitamin capsules.
“Talagang wala na ako, walang pag-asa (I really have nothing, no hope),” said the man, who was in crutches.
“Malaking tulong sa amin ito, lalo sa iba rin (This is a big help to us, especially to others as well).”
USING PRIVILEGE TO HELP
Ana Patricia Non, 26, put up the “pan-tree” only on Wednesday hoping to share some of that hope.
She had just come from a 21-day quarantine.
Non’s furniture-making business suffered during the pandemic, making her reflect on the plight of both her workers and other less-fortunate.
“Laging nasa isip ko, may privilege ako maski wala akong kita, may pumapasok na kita. Kaya kong kumain ng 3 beses sa isang araw, pero pa’no kaya ang mga taong nakadepende ang hanapbuhay nila sa pang-araw-araw?“ she told ABS-CBN News.
(I kept thinking that I was privileged even if I wasn’t earning money during that time. I can still eat 3 times a day, but what about the people who depend their livelihood on day-to-day work?)
The first batch of rice and canned goods placed on the cart (a prototype model she had made before) spawned from the relief aid that had piled up during her lockdown.
After posting on Facebook and calling on others in her community, Non was able to get a stream of supplies to replenish the cart during the day.
She used money sent to her to buy both fresh produce from the stand as well as its old stock.
Others pledged to drop off groceries on the stall to replenish it during the day.
Non prefers people leave donations in kind and remove them from bags or containers to allow more people to benefit.
EACH ACCORDING TO…
Based on the first 2 days of the stall, Non found that many ordinary Filipinos do not always conform to others’ expectations of them.
“Online lagi pong nasasabi na ‘Pag sa ’min ‘yan, kukuhanin ng mga tao’, ‘Hindi pwede ‘yan sa mga Pinoy,’ ‘’Yong ibang Pinoy ‘di na magtatrabaho, papakyawin ‘yan’,” she shared.
(Online they would always say ‘If that happened in our place, people would just take’, ‘That won’t fit here among Filipinos’, ‘Other Filipinos will no longer work and just rely on that.)
Instead, she saw sweeper-moms who take home just a head of cabbage for the day’s meal, or the labandera who needed rice when she saw the cart.
“Kukuhanin lang talaga nila ‘‘yong kailangan nila, so kailangan tanggalin ng mga tao ‘yong ideya na mga simpleng mamamayan ay gahaman. Tiwala din sa masa.”
(They will only get what they need. So people need to get rid of the idea that simple citizens are greedy. Let’s trust the masses more.)
But through it all, Non said there was no judgment on how much one gave or took from the stall.
Her signboard, after all, reflects the Marxist slogan “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”
She hopes that despite the current crisis, their effort would not only flourish, but inspire other Filipinos to do the same for their communities.
“Sa panahon kasi ngayon na mahirap ang buhay, hindi sapat ‘yong nasa bahay ka lang, nagla-like ka sa Facebook, nagse-share,” Non said in an interview on TeleRadyo’s “Sakto.”
(During these tough times, it is not enough that you are at home, liking or sharing on Facebook.)
“Minsan kailangan talaga ng direct action kasi nga mahirap mag-aral, magtrabaho, mag-isip habang kumakalam ang tiyan natin.”
(We sometimes do need direct action since it is difficult to study, work, or even think when you are hungry.)
From her end, it takes a village to raise this “pan-tree”.