'Hope in the darkest of times'

Updated: Apr 21

Community pantries sprout all over metropolis amid the Philippine government's inept leadership


Community panties have become ubiquituous all over Metro Manila. Photo courtesy of Facebook

Manila – Just a few days after business owner Ana Patricia Non put a simple wooden stall of free vegetables and other food items by the roadside in her neighborhood and posted photos on Facebook, nearly a hundred other community pantries popped out in Metro Manila – the Philippines’ epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic – and across the country.


“From the masses, for the masses! This is awesome,” Non said on her Facebook post after ordinary people donated more food, snacks and basic items.


When her post of her community pantry on No. 3 Maginhawa St. in U.P. Village, Quezon City went viral, another community pantry sprouted on C.P. Garcia Avenue in the next hours. Both areas are in the neighborhood of the University of the Philippines.


The following day, the young woman’s initiative caught on as people formed long lines to wait for their turn to take their needed food items from the stall, which now has more food donated by more people, including agricultural produce from farmers outside the capital.


Almost all of the pantries put up signboards that said, “Give what you can, take what you need,” the slogan that Non also posted on her Maginhawa Community Pantry. Incidentally, “maginhawa” is Tagalog for “convenient" or "comfortable."


Non, who owns a furniture shop that closed due to the pandemic, is a former volunteer at a community kitchen that provided meals to families affected by unemployment during the initial weeks of the 2020 lockdown. When urban poor residents in her village learned about the community pantry, they immediately extended their help to her.


Poor people and those who lost their jobs when the government imposed a second strict lockdown for two weeks last month due to a renewed surge in Covid-19 cases suffered the most, and while they wait for the government to provide financial aid in cash and kind, they have no food, and they’re angry at the government’s lack of empathy, corruption, and incompetence.


“Hope in the darkest of times,” opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros wrote on Twitter as a reaction to the spontaneity of Non’s initiative that caught people’s admiration. She said, “this is also a sign that the government needs to step up and do better,” adding that Non’s community pantry is “an inspiration born out of desperation.”


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There are now online lists and maps of community pantries, food banks, community gardens and other food initiatives. An organization of Filipino Muslim doctors has put up their own Halal community pantry. The Philippine Animal Welfare Society set up a community PAW-ntry at to help other pet owners in need amid the pandemic. Catholic churches are putting up their own, too, including homeowners and neighborhood associations.


Social media continues to be flooded with messages mostly directed at the government of President Rodrigo Duterte that has not provided a comprehensive response to the pandemic in a country that has the longest lockdown in the world.


“Kindness as protest, compassion as rebellion, love as revolution,” said a netizen’s Facebook post. “To his eternal shame, Duterte, with trillions of pesos at his disposal, could never offer even a fraction of the hope given to Filipinos by a humble community pantry,” said another.


Non’s initiative is now a nationwide movement that is also empowering people to do good. Those who organized community pantries were initially skeptical that people would take advantage of the contents of the pantry. But people would only get what they needed and left other goods for other families who may need them.


On her FB page, Non put out a Zoom meeting scheduled in the next two days on how to start and sustain a community pantry.


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