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Remembering the Community Pantries

Remembering the Community Pantries

Photo by Ezra Acayan

It’s been almost two years since we became witness to the phenomenon of community pantries in the country. A symbol of solidarity held together by virtue of caring for the community we belong from.

There is something to it that will always be alluring to me. It seems as if its existence hold a mirror up to the face of the pervasive individualism that plagues our society and at once an affirmation that despite it, we still care for each other.

Putting the ginhawa in Maginhawa

Photo by JL Javier

On April 14, 2021, using only a bamboo cart, and a few grocery items, Ana Patricia ‘Patreng’ Non take it to herself to set up the first community pantry on a sidewalk in Maginhawa, Street in Quezon stating that she’s become tired of complaining. In an interview with Rappler she said, “Pagod na akong magreklamo. Pagod na ako sa inaction.”

Around this time, the country has already recorded over a million cases of COVID-19 while 19,000 died because of the virus and only a little population has received vaccination. 

After this, 6700 community pantries have sprouted in the country according to the Department of Interior and Local Government, filling carts with everyday essentials: alcohol, face masks, vegetables, canned goods, fruits, loaves of bread, vinegar, oil, soy sauce and even produce from different places made its way to the pantries like sack of potatoes and fish. 

Photo by Ana Patricia Non

It’s startling for some that this kindness is possible. That a community can be formed out of caring for one another. During its first few days, many people doubted the sustainability of the pantries with some saying that people are inherently greedy and will take more than what they need. Non, aware of this, reasoned that, “Kung maubos ang laman ng community pantry, magandang problem iyun. Ang goal naman sa pagkain is maubos, maconsume at kainin — hindi i-display.” (If the community pantry runs out of supply, that’s a good problem. The goal is for it to be empties, consumed or eaten, not to be displayed).

Some people countered this belief, 

The power of community

It’s startling because it’s simple. Give what you can, take what you need. In a society where everyone is forced to compete by its institution and systems, the idea of self-interest and self-preservation prevail and the idea of maintenance and care are foreign. Wala ng libre ngayon, goes the saying. But this? This collective effort in feeding one another, in response to a situation that all of us seem to make powerless by quickly shattered this notion.

When the community pantry began to arise, several initiatives sprouted too like community libraries and public digital repositories managed by individuals. Authors have chipped in their work, hard-to-find titles, and even movies.

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I admit I get teary-eyed when thinking about this. Around this time, there’s a recurring phrase that day by day would prove to hold more weight, Tayo-tayo na lang. The laggard dispensation of cash aid, the militaristic approach in lockdown made it seem that the recourse, inevitably, always ends in the hands of one another.

 ‘Magbigay ayon sa kakayahan kumuha batay sa pangangailangan’, goes the principle. To some, this idea is dangerous, that citizens could care for each other, and so there goes the profiling, the redtagging—knee-jerk reactions from a community effort that calls into question the role of the state in caring for its citizens.

Read more by the author here.

Featured image is a photo by Ezra Acayan

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