The Community Pantry sa New Manila
(First of a series)
In our Gospel, we see over 5,000 people who had the powerful experience of the miraculous multiplication of bread and fish,” says former Ateneo president Fr. Bienvenido “Ben” Nebres in a Jesuit Communications Mass last week.
“Jesus tells them, ‘You have followed me because your stomachs were filled. But that is not the gift I have come to give you. That was but a sign of something greater.’”
Jesus is the bread of life. “Jesus wants to give us Himself, his love and the love of the Father, which will give us eternal life.”
Fr. Ben, who grew up in La Union, says, “Our mother’s greeting to us when we come home after being out, no matter what time of day or night, is always, ‘Kumain ka na ba?’ My mother would ask in Ilocano, ‘Nangan kan?’ (Have you eaten?)”
I told Fr. Ben that the standard greeting of my late grandparents and parents was also, in Fookien, “Din chiah be?” Food for them was also love.
Even before the pandemic, Fr. Ben was already actively involved in Gawad Kalinga’s Kusina ng Kalinga (KnK) and other initiatives. At the start, when needy families in Payatas and elsewhere offered food, he hesitated, because they had few resources to spare.
But Fr. Ben realized that “they were showing their gratitude, even their affection, and sharing food was their language of gratitude and affection … [So] it has been wonderful to read about the community pantries started in Maginhawa and how that has sparked a movement of caring.”
One such is The Community Pantry sa New Manila along Broadway Avenue corner 7th Street, Quezon City, put up by my friend, lawyer Charlemagne “Charlie” Yu, last April 21. He lives in the neighborhood and teaches law at the University of the Philippines (UP).
“I was raised by my parents to respond to calls for help,” says Yu. “When I heard of the first community pantry, I knew it was a perfect idea to mobilize people to assist others directly, without coursing through agencies or organizations. The simplicity makes it replicable, and the core message—give what you can, take only what you need—was hard to ignore.
“With my wife Meriam and our sons Oliver and Ryan, we looked at our pantry at home, set aside seed capital, tapped our network of friends and colleagues. Without even a plea for donation yet, we got pledges. Everyone was more than willing to help.”
More organized efforts to feed the needy exist, such as KnK, Feed the Frontliners and Jollibee Foundation’s Busog, Lusog, Talino.
But the community pantry is “unique,” says Yu, “in that it has no formal setup nor is there the intention to form one. It was born out of a spontaneous desire to help, without any thought of formal incorporation. While it took a year before anyone did a community pantry because we were paralyzed by fear of the unknown, it bloomed from a single seed in Maginhawa.”
“We never expected our pantry to attract so many people, both donors and recipients. People say that it is well-organized and strictly adheres to safety protocols, with markings on the ground for social distancing, colorful signs for people to follow, provisions for alcohol, face masks and face shields. From the start, support gushed in.”
The first responder was UP law professor and Picazo Law managing partner Gabriel Dee, who delivered 5,000 cans of tuna and mobilized Gardenia Philippines to donate 1,000 packs of fresh bread, with promises of more to come. Dee also tapped Monde Nissin and others in the corporate world for donations.
Yu’s UP law classmates, including lawyers Esther Gacutan, Carol Mercado, Marissa dela Cerna, Marizon Romero, dean Sol Mawis, and students, including Bernie Tan, sent cash, packed goods and other food products. UP law professor May Tan tapped San Miguel Corp. to give frozen food.
Former Pag-Ibig CEO Darlene Berberabe, also a colleague, sent boxes of vegetables, and her daughter, Jamie Lim, SEA Games karatedo gold medalist and UP mathematics summa cum laude, tapped corporations supporting athletes to also help out.
The Community Pantry sa New Manila accepts donations in cash and kind. Call Bheng at 0927-3940785. Drop off your contributions at 2F Gilmore Heights Building, Castillas corner Granada Streets, Barangay Valencia, Quezon City. Visit the Tayo Tayo Community Pantry sa New Manila on Facebook.
(To be continued)
Queena N. Lee-Chua is with the board of directors of Ateneo’s Family Business Center. Get her book “All in the Family Business” via Lazada and the ebook version on Amazon, Google Books and Apple Books. Contact the author at [email protected]
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