THE idea of a single wooden cart with free basic goods for those in need on Maginhawa St., Quezon City has caught fire across the National Capital Region (NCR) plus area, where a wave of coronavirus infections has gripped the population and prompted the reimposition of harsher quarantine measures.
As of Sunday, April 18, 2021, community pantries have sprouted or were being set up in several areas across NCR or Metro Manila, as well as in Laguna province.
The concept is simple: “Magbigay ayon sa kakayahan, kumuha batay sa pangangailangan.” (Give what you can, take what you need.)
Kalookan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David described the community pantries as "the clearest and most tangible signs of hope in the midst of the hopelessness brought about by this pandemic.”
The Diocese of Kalookan also set up a community pantry at the San Roque Cathedral on Sunday, April 18.
For former vice president Jejomar Binay, the message behind the rise of community pantries is simple.
“When government is absent, we can look after each other. When the situation seems hopeless, we can lift each other’s spirit. Magtulungan, magtiwala sa isa’t-isa at manalig sa Maykapal,” he said on social media.
(Let’s help each other, trust one another and have faith in God.)
Ann Patricia Non, who initiated the Maginhawa community pantry on April 14, said she was overwhelmed by the support as donations poured in and volunteers offered their services.
“‘Di nito masasagot ang root cause ng kagutuman pero okay na din na pantawid gutom sa mga nangangailangan. Mahirap magtrabaho, mag-aral at lumaban habang kumakalam ang t’yan,” she said in her Facebook post announcing the establishment of the first ever community pantry.
(This will not address the root cause, but will alleviate hunger. It’s difficult to work, study and struggle with an empty stomach.)
The wooden cart initially contained rice, vegetables, fruits, vitamins, coffee, face masks, canned goods, soap, among others.
Non’s initiative was quickly replicated across Metro Manila as several groups set up their own community pantries.
Two days later, farmers in Paniqui, Tarlac sent several sacks of sweet potatoes to the Maginhawa community pantry.
On Saturday, April 17, Non came up with guidelines for the setting of community pantries.
On Sunday, April 18, Non issued a call for more volunteers to man the pantry and enforce physical distancing among the people who seek to avail themselves of the free goods.
“Kailangan po sana namin ng may sisilip, tagabuhat, magre-replenish, marshalls para magpa-physical distancing at mag-aayos ng pantry. Hihingi po sana kami ng 1 oras ng inyong araw. Transition na din po ito para gumana ang #CommunityPantry sa tulong ng buong komunidad at standalone,” she said.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr., in a statement on Sunday, said the emergence of community pantries is laudable and exemplifies the Filipino bayanihan spirit.
He reiterated that government alone could not defeat the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
“We need the support and cooperation of everyone. The social amelioration programs and services of the national government serve as subsidy for the provision of basic necessities and tool for the recovery and rehabilitation of the most affected families and individuals,” he said.
“The medium and long-term solution remains safeguarding the physical safety of our people while ensuring the economic health of the nation. Ingat buhay para sa hanapbuhay,” he added.
Roque reminded the public to continue adhering to the minimum public health standards, such as wearing of face masks and face shields, physical distancing and frequent hand washing.
The government has set aside P22.9 billion as cash assistance to low-income families in the NCR plus, which was placed under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) from March 29 to April 11.
As of Friday, April 16, only P4.47 billion has been distributed. This comprises barely a fifth of the budget. Local government units were given 15 days to distribute the cash assistance.
The NCR plus - composed of the NCR and provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal - is under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) until April 30, 2021.
As of April 17, NCR continued to post the highest 14-day running total of new Covid-19 cases in the country, with 54,806, followed by Calabarzon with 22,244 and Central Luzon with 12,965.
Quezon City, where the Maginhawa community pantry is situated, had 11,526 new infections in the recent 14 days to April 17, the highest among cities and provinces. (Marites Villamor-Ilano / SunStar Philippines)