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‘From the masses, to the masses’

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Ana Patricia “Patreng” Non, the woman who started the Maginhawa Community Pantry.

They come from near and far.

“UP area,” says a woman, “Fairview,” says another. They attest that the food they get for free from the community pantries that have been sprouting all over the country, especially here in Quezon City, are a life-saving grace.

Line of women waiting for food outside Claret Church in Quezon City.

Some of the women are seen walking away from the Maginhawa Community Pantry, their bags empty as food distribution is temporarily stopped.

Volunteers help repack vegetables for distribution to different community pantries.

Somebody in the group says they went there early to be first in line. But there’s a sudden cutoff in the schedule, says another.

Less than a kilometer away, on Malingap Street, a line of mostly women leads to a roadside pantry. This is just for today, an initiative of the family overseeing the pantry, says Teachers Village West barangay captain Ana Liza Rosero,

Claret Church Parish priest Eduardo Apungan checks on the repacking of donated vegetables to be sent to various community pantries.

There’s just not enough money to buy food, says an elderly woman who just got her goods from the Malingap Pantry. She doesn’t have access to government assistance.

In nearby Claret Church (Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish), another line has formed, again all women, who say they’re still waiting for word when the pantry will reopen.

So how do they get food when there’s no pantry?

Pick on waste to sell, says one of the women, her voice trailing off. The pantry fills up what they need to have a meal, says another.

Man with two children in a pushcart stop by Maginhawa Street.

Inside the church grounds, parish priest Fr. Eduardo Apungan is checking on sacks of vegetables being repacked for distribution to other pantries.

Claret Church has its own pantry, Fr. Eduardo says, pointing to a long wooden table, and there’s quite a lot of people who line up. He asks them where they’re from, and they say they’re from different parts of the city.

Elderly couple with their food bags at the Malingap Community Pantry in Quezon City.

That’s why the priest thinks it’s better if all churches within the diocese open their respective pantries at the same time to diffuse the number of people going to only one.

Leaning against one of the sacks of vegetables awaiting repacking is Zena Bernardo, a community leader in Marikina who’s been through many emergency feeding programs especially during calamities.

Construction workers at the Maginhawa Community Pantry.

But this one is different and her organizational skills were challenged. “We were caught off-guard by what Patreng has done,” Zena posted on Facebook a few days ago.
Patreng is Ana Patricia Non, the unassuming, 26-year-old woman who innocently put up the first pantry on Maginhawa and, unwittingly, moved many Filipinos to do the same in their respective communities.

Patreng happens to be Zena’s daughter.

Mother of pantries

“We had to repack the supplies,” says Patreng as Maginhawa reopens its pantry.

The mother of all community pantries that have now grown to over 300, Maginhawa has moved to a bigger site, on the same street, at the Barangay Hall of Teachers Village East.

Not enough money to buy food, say these two women at the Malingap Community Pantry in Quezon City.

Put on your face shields, come on, hurry up, barks a village official as people stream in to pick eggplants, tomatoes, cabbage, corn, canned sardines, rice — enough to feed a small family for a day.

But how long will the food last?

“As long as there are donations,” says Patreng as Maginhawa enters its second week of food distribution.

Zena Bernardo, a veteran organizer of emergency community projects, takes a breather supervising the repacking of vegetables at Claret Church.

Meanwhile, the overseas fund drive that Patreng’s United States-based sister, Pauline, launched recently has reached $20,000 (P965,000).

That can surely help keep the pantries going.

Patreng captures the essence of what this cycle of giving and taking is about. “I think this is the unity we’ve been hoping for.”

And, as she told a reporter: “I always make sure that I understand the meaning of the phrase, ‘From the masses to the masses.’”

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