The Philippines holds a spot in the top 15 countries hit hard by COVID-19. With 962,000 recorded cases and more than 16,000 deaths, the country unfortunately holds the record for the longest lockdown in the world hurting its economy and the vulnerable.

The government did provide assistance to the Filipinos but it wasn’t just enough. In the last few days, a concerned citizen started a small effort to help her community – little did she know that this will spark a national issue that will set government officials and the military at each other’s throats.

Below is the sequence of events:

APRIL 14 – with a small wooden cart and a few supplies, Ana Patricia Non began the Maginhawa Community Pantry in Quezon City. Ana Patricia or Patreng is a Fine Arts graduate of the University of the Philippines who had a earlier project last year that benefitted the jeepney drivers who lost their mains source of living due to the lockdown.

On the cart read: “Take what you need. Give what you can.” From 10 people visiting the cart, the number of volunteers has grown, helping distribute donations to hundreds of people visiting their small spot.

This became viral and inspired other people to put up their own pantries to help out the downtrodden Pinoys. In a span of just a few days, Ana’s effort rippled into a national movement – one that was supported by a number of supporters from all over the world who sent their donations to keep the pantries going.

An overwhelming response followed from people who benefited from the pantry – those who thought that there was no more help coming. Amazingly, these pantries were re-stocked by people who had more to give.

APRIL 18 - On April 18, circulated on social media showing heavily armed Police visiting these pantries and inquiring about their nature with high powered rifles.

April 19 - The National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), which is under the President’s direct command, accused the entire movement on its Facebook page of being funded by communists, who aim to spread propaganda. They went on to say that soliciting donations is a way to fund the guerrillas in the mountains. 

This comes from rumours of the people giving out pamphlets asking for donations from people coming to the pantries … people who didn’t even have money to buy food.

APRIL 21 – Ana went to her Facebook page to tell everyone of her decision to close the pantry because she feared for her life. She didn’t feel safe anymore because people who were “red tagged” were either incarcerated or murdered.

April 22 – Lieutenant General Antonio Parlade, Commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Southern Luzon, said that Ana Patricia Non, organiser of the Maginhawa Community Pantry, considered the original pantry that spurred the movement, was deceiving people the way Satan would.

Of course, in the middle of all these activities are the many innuendos that may be attributed to people trying to survive, people trying to inappropriately make people laugh and the non-ending bickering of government solons and the military.

Ten days after, I’m wondering what realisation this experience has brought to the wanting people of the Philippines. It’s just so sad that one possible glimmer of hope could be evil in disguise and that a movement to empower one another could be a national threat to the country’s security. While all the bickering, fact finding, name-calling and social media frenzy is happening, the vulnerable and the impoverished wait … hungry.

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