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‘Saba & kalabasa’

The modern-day miracle of the multiplication of the loaves

By JOANNE RAE M. RAMIREZ, The Philippine STAR Published Apr 30, 2021 5:00 am

At a time when many are dejected, modern-day miracles akin to Jesus’ multiplication of the loaves to feed the five thousand (from a little boy’s initial five pieces of bread and two fish) are turning biblical in proportion, thus uplifting spirits and saving lives.

Inspired by millennial Patricia Non’s first community pantry on a street aptly named Maginhawa, community pantries are multiplying across the archipelago.

And the miracle is, the “loaves” are truly multiplying in a country ravaged by poverty even before the pandemic — people are unlocking not only their hearts but also their personal pantries.

Take, for instance, the Assumption College (AC) community pantry in San Lorenzo Village in Makati, which aims to help out security guards, janitors and maintenance personnel aside from channeling goods to the Assumption-run San Juan Nepomuceno school in Malibay, Pasay.

 The Marie Eugenie pantry in Malibay.

It started with a trove of saba (a variety of banana) and kalabasa (squash) sent by Father Manoling Francisco to the Assumption along with the rice and vegetable supply regularly purchased by the college. Father Manoling is with the Tanging Yaman Foundation, which supports farmers.

Assumption College president Angela “Ola” Regala shares, “After we shared the saba and the kalabasa with our staff, Caritas, guards and many more, we sent the rest to Malibay to share with their community.”

We still have a long and dark road ahead but we definitely see the glimmer of hope. With our foundress St. Marie Eugenie, we say, ‘Across this darkness, we salute the dawn!’

“Kindness is so infectious. When people saw that we received goods for sharing, the parents, students and alumnae wanted to send food, too. So, a poster was made — and since then, we have been receiving so many donations.” The bulk of donation recipients are from Malibay.

“It is so heartening to receive donations from alumnae, young and old, our very own staff who share kangkong and talbos from their homes, crackers, vitamins, etc. God is so good,” adds Ola.

 Assumption College San Lorenzo community pantry for security guards

Sister act

Not far from San Lorenzo, Makati is Malibay, Pasay where the Assumption nuns have also organized their own community pantry in coordination with barangay officials.

“We have barely begun but we have totally been experiencing and witnessing a modern-day version of the ‘miracle of feeding the five thousand,’” says Sister Lourdes Eugenia, the Superior of the Malibay community.

The Marie Eugenie community pantry in Malibay, Pasay

Ang kagandahang-loob ng Diyos kailanma’y hindi natin masusukat, patuloy itong dumarating. Our very own ‘Old Girls’ (the Assumption term of endearment for its alumnae), friends of the Assumption, private companies, lay partners, students, faculty and staff and parents from our Assumption schools made this miracle happen before our very eyes,” Sister Lourdes affirms.

It wasn’t easy at first, even for these women of faith.

“Everything was a first for the sisters. The experience was both funny and frustrating. At the break of dawn, we tried putting up the pantry, which included donations of fresh vegetables, rice and eggs from Assumption San Lorenzo. But even as we were just putting up the signs on the gate, people started flocking in, desperate to get what they needed. Before we knew it, everything was almost gone. Amidst the chaos, however, was a limping old man who came forward and asked where he could put his share. After getting the two eggplants that he needed, he struggled to pull out his crumpled P20 bill and, with a smile, gave it to us. It was our ‘Aha!’ moment.”

 Sister Lourdes of the Religious of the Assumption: Witnessing every day the ‘miracle of the five thousand.’

Another miracle: those who were once in need have now become donors themselves as well. “Today, we not only receive from outside donors, but we have also been receiving from those who have benefited from our community pantry. It is by empowering the latter and making them own this community that we can give life and sustain what we have now. The stories of hope and positivity that we have heard allow us to believe that we are on our way to transforming our neighborhood.”

After the initial difficulties, the sisters got their “act” together, so to speak. “We designated entrances and exits. We put the pantry inside the compound instead of in front of the gate. This facilitated some discipline since the people entered by batches, which made it easier for social distancing. This arrangement also somehow reminded the people to really just get what they needed, and remember those who have not yet gotten their share for the day.

“We put up signs to remind people to put on not only face masks but also face shields. Upon seeing these signs, those who came with only face masks went back home to secure their face shields.”

According to Sister Lourdes, the founder of the Assumption, St. Marie Eugenie, “has always believed in the goodness of each person, if we only take a closer look at each person we meet.”

Now, the sisters are tapping local vendors, like the taho vendor who regularly sells his sweet soya in the neighborhood. “This very same taho vendor now happily serves and helps in our pantry and gives taho to everyone lining up. We also put up a small pantry for our motorcycle delivery drivers, for our garbage collectors and pedicab drivers — they are the ones most often forgotten and they are the ones who serve us the most.”

Sister Lourdes marvels at this overflow of generosity in these dire times. “We still have a long and dark road ahead but we definitely see the glimmer of hope. With our foundress St. Marie Eugenie, we say, ‘Across this darkness, we salute the dawn’!”  

(Those who wish to support the AC Community Pantry through monetary donations may use the following accounts:

Unionbank of the Philippines Acct. No.: 101720011407

Account Name: Hiro G. Vedua Or Anna Lorian S. Dato

GCash Acct No. 0927 763 9340

Account Name: Hiro G. Vedua

For tracking purposes, kindly label AC Community Pantry and send proof of donation to [email protected].