After 15 months, the entire Philippines continue to suffer from the consequences of community quarantine lockdowns while waiting for vaccines which are in scarce supply worldwide. People continue to lose jobs and have barely nothing to put on the table. The national government on one hand seems to have taken for granted the country being hungry.
It is for this reason that a 26-year old Filipina put up a humble community pantry with barely 800 worth of food items in a small cart. In front of this cart is a cardboard with a message “Give according to your means, take according to your needs.”
It quickly drew inspiration and other places have started their own community pantries. Only then when I saw it on the news and although this is not a new idea, it would still be nice to adapt it in Pag-asa Social Center but I kept it to myself waiting for the right time to bring up this idea at Pag-asa’s weekly staff meeting. My PWD friend who herself is in need saw the news about this also and it kept her awake all night in amazement with this selfless act of love for the community. She said she doesn’t have much but she has “five loaves and two fish” to share.
Together we planned on doing our own community pantry without Pag-asa involving in it. She and her daughter repacked their canisters of coffee and creamer to donate. Because of our respective works though it would be difficult that we do it ourselves. Meanwhile I saw a group initiated a community pantry in Tagaytay. I suggested that we just support this group by giving them our donations. This is a community activity anyway and we are just doing what we can as part of this community.
I guess it helps that aside from being very active in social media where I make noise with my posts, I am also part of Pag-asa Social Center Foundation, one of the many social expressions of the Focolare Movement here in the Philippines because aside from the people I know, many beneficiaries themselves of our foundation and some members of the Focolare Movement gave whatever they can.
To mention a few that really made this activity more meaningful are:
A friend security guard voluntarily gave up his craving for alcohol and donated the supposedly budget for it for our community pantry.
Richard and family whose livelihood was greatly devastated by the volcanic eruption last year followed by this pandemic was hesitant to ask me if he can contribute coconuts. He came the next day carrying heavy big sack of coconuts and bittergourd. The following week he gave again sacks of coconuts, jackfruits, and cassava. His act of love later on spread on social media and inspired a lot of people and fellow farmers until it was picked up by a famous national tv and news outlet and inspired more people.
Many more similar acts of love followed until we decided to launch Pag-asa Social Center Foundation Hopping Community Pantry since the protagonists of this activity are beneficiaries of our foundation. This version of our community pantry hops from one town to another.
So that the farmers and those who have variety stores who donated realized themselves the hundredfold, we make it sure that whenever we receive cash donations, we buy the produce from them. From the communities back to the communities, we really didn’t have to look far. No haggling was involved all throughout this activity, just purely voluntary selfless giving.
Many community pantry have sprang all over the country and even reached and inspired other countries to do the same. Every day, many community pantry take a break, many new ones spring too. Donors and volunteers will eventually get tired and for this, we have to remember that community pantry like these are just temporary relief.