January 29, 2023

SPREAD LOVE, KINDNESS IN COMMUNITY PANTRIES

Long before the Maginhawa community pantry in Quezon City became viral on social media, farmers in the highlands, despite being highly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic themselves, have been silently sharing their harvests for free at the peak of the pandemic last year.
This means the community pantry, a form of bayanihan, is not new in the Cordillera, but has been a deeply rooted tradition for generations.
This spirit of sharing is called binnadang, a trait carried by those who call themselves Cordillerans even when away from their homeland.
At the height of the pandemic last year, countless farmers and farmers’ groups, without much fanfare, have donated assorted temperate vegetables worth millions to various local government units and in turn were given to the public for free. But this act of kindness was overwhelmed by reports of farmers losing heavily due to lack of buyers in the greater Metro Manila area due to restrictions.
The act of kindness is highly contagious in the highlands especially during calamities, disasters, and the current pandemic the world is facing now. It is through the culture of binnadang that those in difficult situations in the highlands find comfort from people from all walks of life.
But it must be a virtue inherent in humanity, if one is to see how the concept of a community pantry quickly became a countrywide trend.
When the Maginhawa-inspired community pantry became a hit on social media, various groups and individuals in Baguio and Benguet also launched their respective community pantries – offering vegetables, rice, canned goods, sanitary items, fruits, and other food and non-food items to anyone in need of these.
We commend those behind the community pantries in the localities, including the donors, for their selfless acts of kindness and generosity to complement the government efforts in addressing hunger in this time of pandemic. We also commend the concerned local government units where community pantries were set up for not requiring the organizers to secure permits on the condition that they help observe the minimum health protocols in their own areas.
Following reports of red-tagging and surveillance among organizers of community pantries, the Department of the Interior and Local Government has said there has been no specific order for the Philippine National Police to look into this activity, which the DILG acknowledged is part of the bayanihan culture of Filipinos during disasters and calamities.
We believe community pantries can be sustained based on trust systems, wherein all parties involved must strictly observe the simple concept of giving what you can and getting only what you need.
But community pantries will not be sustained if greed reigns among those who resort to hoarding the supplies on display unmindful of those next in line. This means the public has the shared responsibility of helping the organizers from ensuring that community pantries will not be exposed to abuse and donor’s fatigue while many Filipinos, especially the urban poor, suffer from unemployment and hunger due to the lingering pandemic.
While it might be true that the presence of more than 300 community pantries nationwide is a possible indication of the government’s poor response to address hunger during this pandemic, it would still be of great public interest for this initiative to be sustained – away from politics, harassment, and intimidation.
Instead, let the very virtues that gave life to these community pantries thrive. Kindness, generosity, selflessness, and gratitude borne out of love for one another may yet be the best answers to the problems of the world at the moment.
As the song goes, love is all we need.

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