It started because of the community pantries. That the more you flay at these pantries, the more they grow like wild grass.
If members of the Philippine Senate are closing ranks and hell-bent to de-fang the National Task Force to End Local Communist Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) of its precious funding, well, it’s only the NTF-ELCAC which is to blame for the deep hole of predicament it has dug itself into. None other.
Now, even members of House of Congress have stepped into the fray, the House Deputy Speaker urging members to strip the Php 16 billion NTF-ELCAC funds and transfer it to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
Because while many Filipinos understand a simple language, it happened, unfortunately, that NTF-ELCAC misunderstood this language. For that lapse, Senate and Congress members have taken up the cudgels to teach NTF-ELCAC to understand that simple language.
There happens to be a language that Co-Cordilleran, co-Iloko or simply ka-bayan can’t resist, which is unfeigned as it flows from the heart.
In this pandemic, where the demon hordes of hell stalk the very doors of all, deterring anyone to earn a living, this simple language banishes the fears and sighs of many, if even for a moment’s notice.
In this pandemic when death hovers over all like an invisible cloak to shred our peace and rip away our breaths, this simple language can diminish – if for a moment – the unhappiness of many, wondering what to put in the hungry stomach come mealtime.
In this pandemic when deaths and suicides spiraled, causing families torn and anguished, this simple language gives a kind of simple affection to the grieving, that their clouds passing before their sunrises will someday lift.
This simple language has long been embedded in Philippine culture. It is simply called “BAYANIHAN!”
Has members of NTS-ELCAC never came across this Filipino word? If not, something is amiss about their identity as brown-skinned Filipino/Filipina.
For even a school child can easily understand the word, “bayanihan.”
Nothing will cost us so much, but which at the same time so very precious as a gracious and kind attitude towards our neighbors we see struggling to get by.
Life among us, Cordilleran, Ilocano or ibang rehion ka man – is stitched up of parts – of moments. If the moment is full of joy, life steers with happiness. But if an unkind word or look is bandied about, it changes the sparkle of life into somber look.
Hence, it’s not often that citizens emerge from comparative obscurity and attract the attention of all classes of Filipinos in the country.
They emerge because they see something not right, like their ka-bayans feeling the pangs of hunger. They emerge simply to help poor, wretched souls.
That’s what Ana Patricia Non, 26, furniture designer and who experienced hunger many times this pandemic, felt about life – of parts and moments – and decided to start a food bank or community pantry for those in need, “ to take only what they need,” so others can also avail of what’s left in the pantry.
Ana Patricia Non was giving about that simple language of kindness – and how cheaply it could be given. So far from costing her anything, she made us rich in the giving. If one kindly act of Ana will convey only a half of gladness to some fellow being, how easy will it be, by multiplying those small amount to produce a very important and valuable sum.
So, on April 14, Ana steered a cart along a sidewalk at Quezon City, stocked it with Php800 worth of groceries, slapped a sign on the cart which said, “ Maginhawa Community Pantry, Give according to your means, take according to your needs.” The sign was printed in black.
Little did she guess, her idea of kindness would spread like rain, as other community pantries sprouted in the Manila, and the rest of the country – their signs all printed in black color.
But others, particularly some in government, saw only red color from the black sign, that whenever they turned a corner, they saw only red in the community pantry. They demanded personal details about Ana and her supposed organization. She had no organization or connected whatsoever to any.
Such power by which the community pantry possesses to produce happiness among our needy co-Filipinos has been very imperfectly misunderstood by paranoid witch-hunters of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
Such act of kindness towards a co-Filipino neighbor through community pantry is one manifestation imperfectly misunderstood by the powers- that-be at NTF-ELCAC.
Or put in straight line, attributing malice without presenting clear and valid evidence sends a chilling effect to anybody who entertains the prospect of yearning to help a ka-bayan in this time of strategic need.
Atty. Joel Obar, who hails from the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) and traces his roots in Kalinga Province, has something so say about community pantries and why they sprouted like monggo: “Activities such as the pantries are emblematic of a void in the entire government system.”
Just be very careful, Atty. Obar, because after members of NTF-ELCAC would have finished reading this column, they might just entertain the prospect of tagging you and this columnist with colors by singing, “Red, white and blue; stars over you; Mama says, Papa says, I LOVE YOU!” EH?
Most thankfully, CAR authorities see community pantry as an act of kindness – or other kindness bubbling from the soul needing no explanation. For example:
April 23, 2021, police officers in Ifugao donated two water tanks with 56 drums capacity and worth Php114, 000 to the people in Nangkatengey, in barangay Namal, Asipulo, to serve as reservoir during this time when water is scarce. If that isn’t an act of kindness, then what is?
Since the start of the pandemic, Baguio City Police Office (BCPO) in partnership with the city government of Baguio started various programs to help the most affected to cope with daily living.
BCPO headed by PCOL Allen Rae F. Co, the BCPO launched outreach and civic programs which later became known as “barangayyanihan.”
“All BPCPO stations have been offering libreng sakay which benefitted about 7, 982 individuals, healthcare and essential workers. 1,822 families received assorted grocery items and hygiene kits amounting to Php1, 307,731.00 under the Adopt a Family Program, Kapwa Ko, Sagot Ko,” a BCPO report revealed.
The BCPO reported about a family living in a shanty at Purok 7, San Luis Village, and Baguio City. Because of the “Adopt a Family program, Kapwa Ko, Sagot Ko,” the family of Mr. Hassan, who presently raise singlehandedly, five children by selling eco-bags at the city market, was given an opportunity to stay in a more humane housing.
“With concerted efforts of police officers of Naguillian Road Police Station, barangay officials and a generous individual who donated wood, the trapal previously covering Mr. Hassan’s home was replaced by galvanized sheets. They were provided with assorted grocery to help in their basic needs,”BCPO noted.
“Hassan’s family is just one of the families in Baguio which benefitted from the barangayanihan, apart from feeding program, food distribution, clean-up drive and libreng gupit done by Baguio cops,” the BCPO further explained.
“Also, with the rise of community pantries across the country, police stations of BCPO established mobile barangayanihan pantries which encourage the bayanihan spirit among Baguio communities,” at the same time reminding the public “to abide with health protocols,” BCPO added.
Now, if that’s not kindness emanating from BCPO ranks, pray, tells this idiot of a columnist, then what is?
In Baguio City, aside from the BCPO pantries, more than eleven others have sprung to cater to the needs of the needy in Baguio, a truth also evident in La Trinidad, Benguet. An example is the community pantry set up by Mia Magdalena somewhere in barangay Betag. If that isn’t kindness, for the love of the Maker of humanity, pray tells this addle-brained columnist, what is, then?
What will it make those who impute sinister motives behind the community pantries benevolence that we do not survive on this earth independent of it, or of our suffering ka-bayans?
If this fast-spreading grassroots movement in the Philippines started by Ana Patricia Non, we compare it by contrasting smiles and frowns, soft words with those that are harsh, and a uniformly courteous demeanor with one which is rough and uncivil, then who is seeing red?
Are they our suffering and hungry ka-bayans or otherwise. You decide intelligent readers.
In deciding, remember only that over and above the idea of the community pantry is the plain, simple and kind action which sincere affection clothes it, which is far different from the ceremonial politeness which is as heartless as fashion.
For it has been said over and over that the Creator smiles upon the kind words or acts of the humble, (those bent on doing community pantries despite pandemic fear) more than upon the oblation of the haughty (those who see red before their vision and publicly red tag what they see without clear proof).