MANILA - What started out as a bamboo cart laden with food in Quezon City exactly a month ago has now sprung into thousands of so-called community pantries throughout the country.
The community pantry movement also inspired the creativity of some—in particular, an ailing OFW husband, a police officer, and a life coach.
All residing in the provinces, these men’s guitar-driven songs capture the hope stirred up by the pantries that began in the capital.
Their lyrics also pick up on one common hook—the pantry’s motto “Magbigay ayon sa kakayahan, kumuha batay sa pangangailangan (Give what you can, take what you need).”
Some of the songwriters have also donated and volunteered in their local pantries, but all 3 see their songs as their best contribution to what has become the modern symbol for “bayanihan”.
By Orleyboy Nabelon
“Nagsimula ka lang sa kariton
Laman mo’y pag-asa at tugon
Sa mga kapwa nating nagugutom ngayon.”
Behind the folksy acoustic spirit of this tune—named after the now-iconic first community pantry cart—is its composer and singer’s own desire to help despite his personal struggles.
Orleyboy Nabelon, 38, from San Jose Del Monte City in Bulacan has had difficulty urinating due to an injury from falling off a tree in 2019.
Taking care of his 3 children, with his wife working in the Middle East, Nabelon previously made a living as a wall mural painter but is now out of work.
He is trying to raise funds for medical needs, such as catheters connected to his abdomen that need to be replaced every month, as well as for an operation to reconstruct or replace his urethra.
“Ang hirap mula nang mag-umpisang magtrabaho ang asawa ko sa ibang bansa, siyempre malayo siya. Nakakaiyak po sobra. Kasi hindi ko maintindihan ang nararanasan namin ngayon, napakahirap,” he told ABS-CBN News in an online interview.
“‘Yong paggawa ko ng kanta, parang nandito na po sa akin ‘yan. Song lover po talaga ako, mahilig kasi ako mag-gitara at dahil wala akong ibang libangan, nakakagawa ako ng sariling kanta.”
Nabelon’s first and only recording of his song was made through his cellphone and snuck in between noises from his neighbor’s roosters.
The pandemic has led him to compose songs dedicated to frontliners and to ordinary people trying to survive.
“Ang pagtulong po hindi lang naman po sa materyal na bagay, hindi rin lang sa pinansyal na bagay. Kahit sa pamamagitan ng ganitong paraan na pag-awit na may mga mensahe, malaking tulong iyon sa mga taong gumaan pa ang kanilang puso na tumulong sa kapwa nating Pilipino na naghihirap sa panahong ito,” he said.
His composition for the community pantries adds a “thank you” to the organizers for their initiative and selflessness.
“Hindi ito ang panahon na susuko tayo. Matatapos din ang lahat. Magtulungan tayo at magkaisa.”
‘COMMUNITY PANTRY SONG (SIGURADONG MABIBIYAYAAN)’
By Police Cpl. Christian Villamor
“Bukal sa puso’y kabutihan
Sa gitna man ng kagipitan
Corporal Christian Villamor, 33, an officer at the Lupao municipal police station in Nueva Ecija, was stuck in quarantine after being exposed to a COVID-19 positive case when the community pantries took off.
His response to their growing popularity, which he saw on his social media feed, was a song written in 2 hours encouraging Filipinos not to tire in helping out.
Villamor has been composing music since he was in college, especially during times of calamities. He has separate channels for his original songs and covers.
Villamor has also pitched in to his police precinct’s community pantry, one of the “Barangayanihan” outlets rolled out by the Philippine National Police all over the country.
His favorite line from the song touches on the innateness of “bayanihan” among Filipinos as their signature trait.
“Parang mas magkakaroon sila ng pagkakataon na tumulong sa mga taong mas nangangailangan o ‘yong mga kinakapos po,” he said.
“And doon sa mga nangangailangan naman ng tulong, na magkaroon sila ng idea na ang community pantry ay para sa lahat, na dapat lahat ay makinabang.”
By Mimo Perez
Sung by Rev. Fr. Chad Rodriguez
"Sa gitna ng pagdurusa
Bumukal ang bagong pag-asa
May nangyaring himala—
Taumbayan ay nagkaisa."
Faith meets hope in this song composed by former priest-turned-life coach Mimo Perez.
Perez, 54, and his family have been based in Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro since the start of the pandemic in 2020.
Mirroring the pantries that inspired his song “Babangon Muli”, Perez got help from friends he wasn’t able to meet to produce the song, such as the song arranger whom he worked with in the church music ministry.
Fr. Chad Rodriguez, the parochial vicar of Calapan City’s Sto. Niño Cathedral, recorded the vocals.
The cathedral has also put up its own community pantry as part of the Catholic Church’s “Kindness Station” initiative.
Perez said he was moved by the power of the community pantry to empower even the neediest of Filipinos.
“Siguro kung may napaka-inspiring sa ginawa ni Patreng (Maginhawa community pantry founder Ana Patricia Non), mag-isa siya. Hindi siya isang institusyon,” he said.
“So parang nire-remind tayo na no one really is so powerless. Kahit sino sa atin, ‘pag malinis ang intensyon, gusto lang tumulong, mayroong magagawa.”
For him, the pantries helped the country realize and remember that everyone is a gift, a thinking that goes beyond charity.
“Kasi empowering siya doon sa, ‘Oo nga ano? I cannot be so poor not to be able to give anything. Lagi akong mayroong mabibigay ayon sa kakayahan ko’.
“Tingin ko ‘yong kawanggawa, first step lang iyon. Ang ideal talaga ay umabot doon sa reciprosity, ‘yong tinatawag na culture of sharing na hindi lamang ikaw ay tagabigay, tumatanggap ka rin. At ‘yon ang ginagawa ng community pantry!”
Perez said it was a conscious decision to leave the Filipino words of the community pantry motto intact even when his initial song was revised.
“‘Yong dalawang pangungusap na iyon, it highlights ‘yong katotohanan na we have this shared humanity, mayroon tayong responsibility talaga sa isa’t isa. Hindi tayo puwedeng mabuhay para sa sarili. ‘Yon 'yong na-reclaim natin.
“Madaling magsalita ng ganitong magagandang bagay ‘pag wala tayong problema, walang krisis. Pero mas totoo ‘to pagka bumukal ‘yon sa gitna ng krisis.”
His song has come full circle, being picked up by community pantries that play it on their loudspeakers as a source of encouragement.
Different tunes but one message—a call to use kindness in helping others recover during challenging times.
“At the end of the day, uuwi tayo sa tinatawag nating shared humanity, na mas pareho tayo kaysa magkaiba,” Perez said.
“Kahit magkaiba tayo ng ibinotong presidente, magkaiba ang kasarian, magkaiba ang relihiyon, mga Pilipino tayo, likas tayong mabuti. Doon tayo huhugot ng kakayahang iregalo ‘yong sarili sa isa’t isa.”