Inspired by a sweeping spirit of volunteerism that started in the lockdown communities of Quezon City, a local community pantry was put up by concerned citizens at the Barangay Hall in San Miguel on Sunday morning, to help those who are in need amidst the surge of the pandemic in Puerto Princesa.

Community pantries have sprouted in several areas of the city as barangays were placed under a hard lockdown to stem a spreading surge of COVID-19 infection.

Russell Fernandez, one of the organizers of the Puerto Princesa Community Pantry, said the community initiative was inspired by the Maginhawa tenet of “Magbigay ayon sa kakayahan, kumuha batay sa pangangailangan” in Quezon City which they adapted in the city.

The idea of the initiative works as people may drop off whatever food they could donate based on their capacity in a certain location and those individuals who cannot afford to buy their own can visit the pantry to get what they need for free.

“Nagsimula siya sa isang ideya na actually post lang sa Facebook. Iyong share ng common intentions ng mga magkakaibigan, magkakakilala na dahil na rin sa nakita na rin nila ang sitwasyon ng ating mga kababayan, especially na limang barangay ‘yong naging under ECQ ngayon hanggang sa katapusan ng Abril. Dito, among our friends, nagplano na kami kung saan ba maganda maglagay, sino ba ‘yong mas nangangailangan na komunidad, ng tulong,” Fernandez said.

The shared common intention to help those who are affected by the ECQ in barangays San Jose, San Miguel, Sta. Monica, San Pedro, and San Manuel, made the initiative work through the pledges expressed by friends and locals.

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The city government declared the two-week ECQ in five barangays due to the spike of COVID-19 cases recorded in  these areas.

“Kung sino ang nais magbigay ayon sa kaniyang kakayahan ay pwedeng magbigay, anytime ay pwede magbigay pero sundin natin ang curfew, social distancing, minimum health protocols. At para sa mga komunidad na mabibenepisyuhan ay kumuha lang dito sa pantry, libre ito, walang bayad, sumunod sa minimum health protocols at kumuha ng ayon sa pangangailangan nila para sa araw na ‘yon,” he said.

Felicita Hernandez, one of the residents of Barangay San Miguel where the first community pantry was put up said this initiative is a big help for her and her fellow senior citizens.

“Malaking bagay na ito na may ganito rito lalo na sa pangangailangan namin,” Hernandez said.

On the other hand, barangay Indigenous People Mandatory Representative (IPMR) Ana May Magbanua-Maberit said that this helps barangays like them with a tight budget due to alignment in assistance to COVID-19.

“Sa ginagawang ganito na voluntary, pagbibigay ng non-government organizations ng kaunti-kaunting ayuda, malaking tulong ito sa amin sa barangay. Kasi nga ang ating pondo ngayon ayon sa ating pagkakaalam ay napunta na sa COVID dahil marami tayong positive sa antigen. Focus muna tayo sa patients, nabawasan ang ating pondo para sa ayuda,” she said.


Fernandez acknowledges that flocking of residents could be a challenge as they want to comply with physical distancing protocol. He added that everyone’s conscience must rule in getting their needs in the pantry and the sense of altruism should be passed to others.

“Ang nakikita namin na challenge ay ‘yong biglang pagdagsa ng mga tao kasi libre ito, libre ‘yong somehow ayuda pero hindi talaga ito ayuda, depende lang naman ito sa pangangailangan nila. Pangalawa ay baka may umabuso at sobra naman sa pangangailangan nila ‘yong mga kunin pero sa konsensya na lang ito ng mga tao,” he said.

“Kasi kahit tinutulungan ka, dapat ‘yong sense ng altruism kasi is sana maipasa rin natin sa mga natutulungan natin. Doon sa pagkuha lamang ng kanilang pangangailangan ay one way na matulungan din ang iba,” he said.

Social impact

Fernandez said that strengthening the faith in goodwill of people is one of the impacts that they want to see in this social initiative. The community pantry will also encourage everyone that they could give help at any cost.

He believes that the community pantry may also inspire the birth of other innovative ways to extend help especially during the time of pandemic.

Locals put up a community pantry outside the barangay hall of Sta. Monica on Sunday afternoon to help residents with their needs during the span up of a two-week ECQ. | Photo from Em Ramos Facebook post

“Pangalawa, para mas ma-encourage din’yong iba na pwede pala tumulong, ‘pwede pala ako maging parte ng isang inisyatibo na maraming matutulungan kahit kaunti ang ambag ko’. Ito kasi ay mas tangible siya, mas direkta rin siya na kontribusyon ng pagtulong, pangatlo ay maging domino effect siya, hindi lang naman sa paraan ng community pantry ‘yong pagtulong,” he said.

“Kasi kaniya-kaniyang paraan, baka ‘yong iba, ang kaya lang nila itulong sa panahon na ito ay serbisyo or ‘yong kakayahan nila. Baka makaisip tayo ng mga paraan papaano rin natin ito mababahagi sa ating mga kababayan,” he added.

The spread of the idea

After setting up the community pantry on Sunday morning in the barangay hall of San Miguel, similar initiatives were also set up in other places a few hours after. Fernandez also set up a community pantry in Brgy. Sta. Monica as they aim to expand and help other areas.

The Kusina Palaweño also put up its community pantry called “Mesa ng Pag-asa” in Baltan Street, outside Juner Funeral Homes by the group of Joy Niña Gomez, her sibling, and Rix Rafols. The JCI Puerto Princesa Kiao, Inc. announced that the Kusina Palaweño Project will also open its second “Mesa ng Pag-asa” at Petron Tiniguiban (in front of Robinsons’ Place Palawan).

“I think it matters, kasi it awakens the Bayanihan Spirit of the Filipino people. It will be a big help right now — ngayong pandemic and COVID cases are rising up here in the city. And it also encourages the youth to be involved with their communities,” Gomez said.

SK Federation President and Councilor Myka Magbanua also posted online that they will also open a community pantry in Brgy. San Jose on Monday through the help of volunteers from her office and barangay SK officials. The community pantries will be put up in Lomboy Street (near San Jose National High School); Santol Street (near TODA area); Masikap (near waiting shed area); and Atis Road/Siete.

“Ang Community Pantry po ay may layong maitawid sa gutom ang ating mga kabarangay na nawalan ng trabaho, nawalan ng pagkakakitaan at mas higit na nangangailangan dahil sa umiiral na ECQ, sa pamamagitan ng pagbabayanihan ng komunidad,” she posted on Facebook.

One of the residents in Barangay San Miguel gets supplies for her family’s need.

Future of community pantry

Fernandez said it would be better if the barangay and local government units will have direct participation in community pantries. As private individuals, Fernandez and his fellow organizers want this community initiative to continue even after the pandemic.

“Naniniwala ako na ang pangangailangan din naman ng tao ay hindi natatapos, hindi rin natin alam kung kalian makakabawi ang ekonomiya. ‘Yong ibang pamilya na ‘yong bread winner mismo nila ang nawalan ng trabaho, hanapbuhay, hindi natin alam kung kalian mababalik,” he said.

“Marami naman sa atin na patuloy ang biyayang natatanggap although mas limitado, mas kaunti siguro pero at least ay kaya pa rin nila magbahagi sa iba natin na kababayan. Wini-welcome natin ito at sana ay magtuloy-tuloy at dumami,” he added.

Any food donations are welcome in the community pantry, the organizers said. They also encourage donation of face masks, face shields, tissues, vitamins, and even agricultural products. Monetary donations may also be sent to GCash accounts of Russell Fernandez at 09209724526 and Katrina Lucena at 09177734016.

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is one of the senior reporters of Palawan News. She covers agriculture, business, and different feature stories. Her interests are collecting empty bottles, aesthetic earrings, and anything that is color yellow.