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How kindness, community pantries change behaviors and opinions

By Brooke Villanueva Published Apr 22, 2021 10:21 am

It wasn't only about food. It also became a solidifying force on public opinions, and behaviors within the community both for the middle class who sprung into action from their pent-up exasperation and the low-income sector that was being served. 

The community pantry started on April 14 by Ana Patricia Non along Maginhawa Street in Quezon City—containing essentials like alcohol, canned goods, vegetables, and rice—bears the words “Magbigay ayon sa kakayahan. Kumuha batay sa pangangailangan.”

Upon looking into the spread and phenomenon of community pantries within the period of April 14 to 17, the Philippine Sociological Society came to thought-provoking conclusions.

First and foremost, the community pantries became “a gauge for a solidifying public opinion on the inadequacy of government response to the pandemic.” Aside from the surge in coronavirus infections, the PSS noted other enormous concerns of the public such as uncertainties in line with COVID aid and the vaccination program, job losses, economic recession, and overcapacity in hospitals, among others. 

“For the precariat, these community pantries enable translocal mutual aid between and among them, and for the increasingly disenchanted segments of the middle class, these community pantries have become outlets of their pent-up exasperation over the absence of official action,” the group explained.

Additionally, the community pantries may have disproved some people’s perceptions of the marginalized, who are now seen taking only what they need and leaving the rest for others. The quote, according to the researchers, has become “the new slogan of the lower classes in the time of the pandemic.” It includes the urban poor, rural poor, and the middle classes who have shown unity and solidarity amid such challenging moments. 

"The sectors who have kept the pantries well-stocked and who have taken from these pantries no more than what they need for the day, are the sectors who are consistently blamed by the current administration as the culprit for the spread of the virus because they are pasaway (undisciplined)," the PSS stated.

Many gathered to Maginhawa either to score some supplies for the day or donate to restock the cart. Days later, the powerful idea sparked a ripple effect: other communities in the Philippines laid out their own versions of the initiative. As of this writing, the count has reached 350. It has also garnered incredible support in the digital scene—there’s even a map showing where people can find community pantries. 

Does everyone who flocked to the Maginhawa pantry have the same political views? The answer to that remains unclear. “But that it became viral indicates that these community pantries and what they stand for resonated with the public—temperance against greed, compassion over indifference, and mutual care in the face of institutional neglect,” the research group noted.

While the movement has been sullied with allegations of red-tagging, profiling, and police interference, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque stressed that he doesn’t see the initiative as some kind of government condemnation. “The community pantry represents the best in the Filipino,” he declared. “It’s part of our psyche to help one another in times of need.” 

Article thumbnails from Ana Patricia Non's Facebook account