MANILA—A move to brand Ana Patricia Non, the founder of the Maginhawa Community Pantry in Quezon City, a communist has led to an unexpected consequence — more than half a million pesos in donations to a PayPal page that was set up to help the pantry.
Speaking to ABS-CBN News, Non’s mother, Zena Bernardo, said Patricia’s sister, Jenny, set up the PayPal page to help Patricia raise more funds for the community pantry that was set up in Maginhawa Street last April 14.
“What happened was Patreng told us about the community pantry, tagged us and asked us to like her post. And then her sister said: ‘Pwede akong gumawa ng PayPal. Baka may iba pang gustong tumulong.’ Kasi her sister also cooks for a community kitchen in the US, mga 200 people every Friday or Saturday,” Bernardo said.
“So she set up the PayPal and set a target of $5,000, which is enough money for a pantry.”
Patricia, 26, initially thought of giving away free food after seeing how many people were having a hard time putting food on the table in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
She had just finished 21 days in quarantine when she decided to put fresh fruit and vegetables in a bamboo cart on the corner of Maginhawa Street in Teachers’ Village.
As more and more people visited the pantry, donations to the PayPal account also trickled in — a dollar, 5 dollars, 10, 100.
In five days, the money ballooned to more than $4,000, even as hundreds of community pantries — inspired by the Maginhawa pantry — opened up all over the country.
Then came criticism. Less than a week after the Maginhawa community pantry was launched, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) posted graphics on its Facebook page apparently linking the community pantry initiatives to the communist movement.
This was no idle threat, Patricia said, since many people who had been tagged as communists by the government later ended up dead.
Fearing for her life, Patricia was forced to close the Maginhawa community pantry for a day after 3 police officers started asking questions, as well as her contact information.
It would take assurance of Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte and the head of the Department of the Interior and Local Government to convince her that she could continue the pantry without interference
It was during the height of the red-tagging against Patricia that donations for the Community Pantry PH PayPal page boomed, her mom said.
“Nag viral siya before pa nag-announce si Patreng ng press con,” Bernardo said. “Dahil diyan sa NTF-ELCAC, dumoble ‘yung donations to $10,000. Kaya para sa kanila, labyumats!”
Bernardo said Jenny is still consulting with other community pantries on how best to use the donations. As of posting, the PayPal page has already gathered more than $14,000 (roughly P677,000) in funds, including one $2,000 donation from a well-known restaurateur/vlogger.
“Hindi ito mapupunta sa Maginhawa but to more than 300 community pantries all over the country,” she said.
Bernardo said the Maginhawa Community Pantry is receiving so many donations that it is now distributing the overflow to other pantries.
“’Yung Maginhawa, masyado na maraming donations. By 3 p.m., ’yung overflow na goods pumupunta na sa mga 15-20 pantries na malalapit. 'Yung mga ate at kuya, mga orgs na nagtayo ng pantries, we told them we will try our best to help them get more people to support their pantries,” she said.
Bernardo said she is now contacting a group of farmers who are willing to sell her an initial 4 tons of vegetables, which will then be repacked into 40 kilos per pantry. The 4-ton shipment of vegetables is set to arrive in Quezon City today while 2 more shipments are set to arrive over the weekend.
Bernardo said she is proud of what her daughter has accomplished, one bamboo cart full of vegetables sparking a movement of hundreds of community pantries in just one week.
She also noted the community pantries are not meant to last, likening it to the government’s conditional cash transfer program (4Ps) that helps indigent families.
“Gutom kasi ’yung mga tao, ’yun ang nakita ni Patreng. Pero ang community pantry, hindi ito masu-sustain, eventually mauubos din. Parang 4Ps, pantawid lang ito. I think the government should take advantage of the situation. Kahit papaano ngayong busy ang mga tao na umaalalay, ayusin na nila. Find a solution,” she said.