Same sea, different boats. No truer words encapsulate what everyone has been facing with this pandemic. The privileged few fear the virus. But to most, to only fear that is a luxury. The fear of not making ends meet is graver for most working Filipinos.
No matter what bad cards we are dealt with – natural catastrophes, political injustices and now this global pandemic – we, Filipinos, have always had that one thing going for us: our bayanihan spirit. Our courage and resiliency to withstand hardships has always been because we have each other. This time is no different. One selfless act has sparked a bayanihan movement across the country and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
A Woman and Her Cart of Hope
Filipinos are no stranger to carts being used as a vehicle of initiatives with 2009 CNN Hero of the Year Efren Peñaflorida and his “Pushcart Classroom.” This time around, it was an unassuming bamboo cart filled with groceries, fresh produce, vitamins, masks, and other necessities set up along Maginhawa Street, Quezon City. It was set up by a concerned private citizen for her community to get what they needed and give what they could. From day one, people flocked and patiently queued up with hopes of getting some much-needed supplies to get by.
What was meant to be a small gesture for a small community has launched the community pantry movement all over the Philippines and even in other countries like Timor-Leste. Ana Patricia “Patreng” Non is the face that launched these thousand ships. Patreng, just like the rest of us, has had her share of struggles this pandemic. Comforted in knowing that she has everything she could possibly need to get by, she turned her thoughts to others who unimaginably have it worse.
“Magbigay ayon sa kakayahan, kumuha batay sa pangangailangan.”
Plastered on Patreng’s cart is the community pantry’s philosophy: “Magbigay ayon sa kakayahan, kumuha batay sa pangangailangan.” This initiative works as a two-way street for it to thrive, and thrive it did all over the country. Donations flood the pantries just as people in need flock to it. The pantry is for everyone in need of help and who wants to help. This is the embodiment of the bayanihan spirit and we, Filipinos, never fail to show up time and time again.
“Give what you can, take what you need”
Against All Odds, The Good Wins
Naysayers have grounds when they say that the community pantry, for all the good that it does, is eventually bound to fail. It certainly could, but it hasn’t. It hasn’t been dampened by a few civilians who selfishly took unreasonable amounts of the rations and spared nothing left. It has withstood the nonsense intimidation and harassment of the police force questioning its affiliations with communist groups. Ironically, the people that we expect to help us are discouraging us from helping one another.
The community pantry’s mission – to provide aid to many of our struggling fellow Filipinos – is far too important for these nonsense hindrances. The pantry is for the lola who got a handful of fresh produce because it was all she needed for herself, because there are also others behind her who are hoping that the supplies last for them too. The pantry is for the taho vendor who got what he needed and at the same time, gave away his day’s taho to sell for others to get. To give when you have plenty is one thing. To give when you only have so much is another. This is what the Filipino bayanihan means. Any help is help appreciated to those in need. Our government’s response to our ailing call for help has been dismal or if there is any, it is not enough to address the need of so many Filipinos. Theirs was the help we expected, but the community pantry has shown that help need not be too far to reach when we have each other to lean onto. A community pantry for the people by the people was the vision in mind. The magnitude that this has had created a ripple effect across the Philippines which has been nothing short of inspiring and heart-warming. Kindness has always been infectious, and we simply don’t need to “mask” ourselves from this kind of virus.