All it took was one cart on a sidewalk filled with vegetables, fruits, rice, eggs, canned food, and other stuff to prevent or fight the onslaught of covid-19. And the scribbled message in Pilipino on a cardboard tucked on the adjacent lamppost translates to: "Take according to your need, Give according to your ability."
From then, it looks like a seed has popped and quickly bloomed into thousands of street flowers. The Maginhawa Community Pantry set up by Ana Patricia Non in her neighborhood in Quezon City on April 14 has since inspired hundreds of similar food stalls in less than a week and over 6,000 nationwide in a month.
For days till now, Facebook has been flooded with photos and tales of community pantries. A showcase of the Filipino spirit of helping others in need called "Bayanihan", they likewise show the creativity and humor of the people in promoting the concept of charity. From basic food staples, "takeaways" have expanded to variants like hawker foods on sticks and "taho" (soft, syrupy beancurd), footwear, clothes, plant-growing kits, books.
A snapshot: Fr. Jovi Nepomuceno organized a community pantry where he performs his good shepherd role, the Parish of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Antipolo. On its scenic grounds on the road to the famous picnic attraction of Hinulugang Taktak, the lines are blessed with generous donations, some from Caritas, the Catholic church's social arm. Not new to charity work, the well-liked priest has earlier been holding breakfasts for the community's indigents after the Saturday mass.
Evelyn dela Paz, the charter president of the Marikina Inner Wheel Club conducted a community pantry outside the family's events place for five days in two weeks, distributing per day 300 packs of rice, vegetables, eggs, canned goods some she solicited from her various civic, church, business groups. The day I visited, tricycle drivers in the "barangay" were the main beneficiaries but still a motley of residents lined up on both sidewalks of the road plied by jeepneys and trykes. Also in the same city, young mother Glenda Jaca got some market vendors to contribute their remaining stall veggies at the end of the day to her small stall in a street alley.
Belinda Jacob initially ordered supplies from one store to put in the community pantry her husband organized in Quezon City for their two charismatic organizations (Ligaya ng Panginoon and Tahanan ng Panginoon). Not long after, donations flowed abundantly for the ten days it has operated. Before her eyes, she saw how the Lord provided through the generosity of people. As to continuing their pantry operation beyond May, this Bible Study facilitator counts on Philippians 4:19 regarding God supplying all our needs.
One of the most prominent and outspoken Catholic church leaders, Bishop Pablo "Ambo" David of the diocese of Caloocan, says the emergence of community pantries (like what he put up in the San Roque Cathedral), is among "the clearest and most tangible signs of hope in the midst of hopelessness brought about by the pandemic."
The hardworking Non lady of Maginhawa, at 26, widely applauded and awaiting a Senate recognition of her initiative, can even beam for the rest of her life. Truly, the seed of kindness in her heart has done good for both takers and givers in the incidental and instant movement for people's solidarity.