MANILA (UPDATED) — It’s the power of a good deed begetting others.
Just two days after a bamboo cart project dubbed the “Maginhawa community pantry” sprouted beside a tree in the known Quezon City foodie hub, its idea of “freely given, freely taken” food has not only spread inspiration online but on the ground.
On Friday, residents of Matiyaga Street in neighboring Barangay Pinyahan pitched in for a pantry of their own, near the Urology Center of the Philippines, offering root crops and other vegetables bought from farmers in Central Luzon.
The first batch that morning was given away in only 2 hours.
Organizer Elijah San Fernando of Social Watch Philippines said that while their community has been partnering with farmers to distribute produce to workers and poor communities elsewhere during the pandemic, this is the first time they offered it much closer to home.
“Ito, pagha-highlight sa kung paano mapapakita ang pagkakapatiran ng komunidad kung nasaan kami (This effort highlights how we can show our solidarity with the community we are in),” he told ABS-CBN News in an online chat.
San Fernando said most of the people who lined up were tricycle drivers, mothers, and other workers from Matiyaga and neighboring streets.
"Hopefully we can establish more linkages with farmers' groups and cause-oriented organizations para ma-sustain at mapalawak pa (to sustain and expand this).”
Meanwhile, restaurant owner Toots Vergara set up a table in front of his establishment in P. Noval Street in Sampaloc, Manila with vegetables, canned goods, rice, and instant noodles.
While few availed on the first day, Vergara's online call-out resulted in other people dropping by with goods or sending donations.
"Siguro na-catch lang namin ang vision. Imagine if bawat street or barangay or village may community pantry? (Maybe we just caught the vision. Imagine if every street or village had a community pantry?),” he said.
"It encourages everyone to help kahit sa maliit na paraan (even in small ways).”
Vergara said 2 contacts reached out to him about putting up pantries in Tondo and Bambang, also in Manila.
He echoed Maginhawa “pan-tree” pioneer Ana Patricia Non’s sentiment that while their efforts may not solve the root cause of poverty, at least it would help the truly needy to survive.
Following the popularity of her posts about the pantry, Non welcomed people’s interest in donating but said she hoped they would set up versions in their neighborhoods.
She is now part of a group chat with people from areas such as Bulacan, Fairview, and Laguna who approached her for advice on putting up pantries.
For her, these up-and-coming “recreations” show how the cart project has struck a chord.
“Kaya naman siya nag-trending kasi nga nakaka-relate ang tao kasi malapit sa sikmura literal ang issue (The reason it has been trending is people can relate to it, being a literal gut issue),” Non said.
“The fact na nakaka-relate ‘yong mga tao, ibig sabihin nandoon ang pangangailangan ng mga ganitong efforts para magkaroon ng food security.”
(The fact that people can relate to it means there is a need for these efforts to assure food security.)
Non's Maginhawa “pan-tree” has blossomed to truly include its community.
From a cache of canned goods and fresh fruits refilled a handful of times during its first day, the pantry saw more people come and go with contributions the next.
On Friday, the pantry overflowed with rice and other goods that the tricycle drivers parked nearby helped repack these into smaller bags for more to receive.
The line of people waiting to get a pack stretched onto the next street, with those same tricycle drivers volunteering to ensure order and physical distancing.
“Masaya ako na natutuloy siya. Nabubuo ang unity and na-e-empower ang mga tao,” Non said.
(I’m glad that it’s being carried on. Unity is formed and people are empowered.)
She admits it’s an imperfect system they are exploring with trial and error, but hopes they would eventually perfect it with practice and time.
Their goal is to sustain the pantry and give needy people in their area reassurance they won’t be gone.
“Magkakaroon din ng security sa mga tao na ‘pag nagugutom, nandiyan ‘yong pantry.
“Eventually, masasanay silang ‘di na nila kailangang kumuha ng sobra. Hoping ako na mangyayari ‘yon at alam kong mangyayari ‘yon.”
(People will have the security that when they are hungry, the pantry is there. Eventually, they would be used to it that they would no longer need to get more food than they need. I am hoping that would happen, and I know it will.)
OTHER PLACES IN THE METRO
A community pantry was also put up in Pasig and in Project 3, Quezon City.
Residents from Lexington Village in Pasig made the initiative, making the supplies of face masks, face shields, vegetables, and water jogs available to those who were in need.
In Narra Street, Project 3, Elmer Cordero of PISTON were among those who led the community pantry, saying it was time to give back to the people who are in need.
Cordero was one of the jeepney drivers who were jailed after staging a protest in 2020.
He said in a post by labor group Tulong Obrero: “Noong ako ang nangailangan, andaming tumulong sa akin. Ako naman ngayon ang tutulong sa iba pang nangangailangan.”
(When I was in need, a lot of people helped me. It is time for me to help others.)
A community pan-tree also sprouted in Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya, established by graduating college students.
The students said they were inspired by the original in Maginhawa, citing how it helped a lot of people who are hard-hit by the pandemic.
Called the "Bayombong Community Pantry," the initiative also aims to serve as an inspiration to other residents in their province, and provide hope amid the lingering health crisis.
"Kami po ay college students na pa-graduate na at nawawalan na ng pag-asa sa bansa. Karamihan sa amin ay gusto nang mag-ibang bansa after grumadweyt pero itong mga ganitong movements na nakikita namin na nagsusupultan sa ibat ibang parte ng bansa ang isa sa mga rason kung bakit nagkakalakas pa kami upang magserbisyo sa ating bansa," the group said.
(We are college students who are losing hope with what is happening in our country. Many of us wanted to go outside the country after we graduate but these movements around the country is inspiring us to serve the Filipino people.)
Members of the group also hoped that more community pantries would sprout.
"Nakakatuwa po kasi kahit na nakakaawa ang lagay ngayon ng Pilipinas ay meron pa rin pala talagang mga tao na magpapasabi sayo na may pag-asa pa ang Pilipinas. Gusto po namin na ganun din ang maging epekto namin sa mga ibang tao," they said.
(We are happy with what is happening but we also pity the country's situation. There are still a lot of people out there who will say there is still hope. We want to spread this statement of hope through the initiative.)
The Bayombong Community Pantry is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Malacañang in a statement on Saturday said the emergence of community pantries "is laudable"
This, Palace spokesperson Harry Roque said, "exemplifies the Filipino bayanihan spirit during this challenging time of COVID-19."
"As we have said in numerous occasions, we cannot defeat the COVID-19 pandemic alone. We need the support and cooperation of everyone. "
Roque added that the social amelioration programs and the "services" of the government would aid in the "provision of basic necessities" to those people affected by the pandemic.
The Philippines is still placed under lockdown for more than a year now but cases continue to spike.
Metro Manila and 4 nearby provinces Laguna, Rizal, Bulacan, and Cavite — NCR Plus — were placed under strict lockdown in late March to stem the growth of the virus, but this was eased last weekend to modified enhanced community quarantine.
On Saturday, the health department announced more than 11,000 COVID-19 cases, taking the country's total number of cases to 926,000.
The remaining active infections, meanwhile, breached 200,000 — a record-high for the country and in Southeast Asia.
— With reports from Jamaine Punzalan, Job Manahan, Rose Carmelle Lacuata, and Harris Julio, ABS-CBN News