POSTSCRIPT / April 20, 2021 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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When Filipinos help one another in crisis

WRITTEN large on the wall is the message of the Community Pantry that was set up first on Maginhawa Street in Quezon City then in multiple other places visited by hunger in this time of the pandemic.

The pantry is a makeshift stand offering free food to the hungry and hope for the angry, to the victims of government neglect and of the coronavirus causing the COVID-19 that has infected close to a million Filipinos, killing more than 16,000 of them.

The neighborhood pantries are also a reminder that ultimately it is the people who will save themselves, not the facsimile of a government that purports to represent their best interests.

Indeed, our fate as citizens and as a nation lies in our own hands, not on the palms of officials grown callous by their handling of the coin of corruption.

The Community Pantry is a restatement of the last Commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.” As said elsewhere earlier, it reminds us “Yes, you are your brother’s keeper.”

So now we have these neighborhood pantries whose house rule is short and simple, scrawled on cardboard: “Magbigay ayon sa kakayahan. Kumuha batay sa pangangailangan.” (Give to the extent of what you can afford. Take according to your needs.)

The message hit home. We caught ourselves exclaiming on Twitter: “Yan ang Filipino!!! Let’s replicate this everywhere. Mga trapo huwag munang makialam!”

That part warning politicians to lay off was triggered by the spooky spox pretending to praise the Community Pantry idea in a bid to hijack it and blunt its blow on government’s neglecting citizens’ welfare while favoring invaders that have breached the bureaucracy’s top levels.

Early reports of pantry replications (some with photos) have been coming from communities in Project 4, Quezon City; Don Bosco in Paranaque; Almagro, Samar; Brgys. Saray and Tipanoy, Iligan City; Roxas night market, Davao City; GMA (General Mariano Alvarez), Cavite; Brgy. F. De Castro; San Miguel, Bulacan (Kariton ni Apo Ige); Brgy. San Miguel, Puerto Princesa, Palawan; Sta. Maria, Bulacan (where a motorbike-riding man left pancit canton but not his name); and Bushido resto, Brgy. Del Rosario, Baao, Camarines Sur….

The list has been growing too fast for me to keep up with while writing this column. I’m purposely leaving out the pictures and names of officials and politicians to protect the good faith of this new wave sweeping the land.

There was, however, a slightly sour note heard in Maginhawa where one of the residents complained about the possible spread of COVID-19 in the neighborhood if those flocking to the pantry do not observe public health protocol. Okay, let’s remind everybody to wear masks, keep a healthy distance, and wash their hands.

But a number of netizens asked why the woman did not complain about the wanton violation of the same protocol among the crowd that collected ayuda (financial aid) days ago in the neighborhood.

Somebody also noted that “outsiders” come around and compete for food and other essential items offered in the pantries. We trust that the neighbors will be able to resolve these issues by themselves.

And what about those who bag off a somewhat large amount of food and other items? It is just my opinion, but I think those picking up supplies should not swoop in with big bags. With supplies being limited, people should think of others and get only what they need that day.

On the positive side, there are neighbors, even total strangers, who come around with plenty of goods to contribute.

A shopper with username obit Cruz @tobitcruz on Twitter related that when he was buying stuff at the supermarket to contribute to the pantry, a stranger overheard his conversation with the cashier and handed him P1,000 as his contribution.

 When Christ fed 5,000 at Tabgha

REPLICATION of the Community Pantry in places stalked by hunger during the pandemic reminds us of Christ feeding five thousand people who gathered around him where now stands a Roman Catholic church at Tabgha, on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee in Israel.

In Matthew 14:13-21 we are told: “When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

“As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.’

“Jesus replied, ‘They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.’

“‘We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,’ they answered.

“‘Bring them here to me,’ he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.

“They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up 12 basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.”

It is widely held that the fish fed to the crowd was the precursor of our popular tilapia, most of whose variety in the Philippines is the tilapia nilotica, named after the Nile River where it was/is endemic.

Since the Marcos regime brought in the nilotica variety in 1972 because of its easy and fast propagation, demand for the fish intended for the mass market has risen fast. The nilotica is favored over the tilapia mozambique that was introduced in 1950.

Yesterday, tilapia was selling at P130/kg in the market near home in Bagong Pag-asa, Quezon City, competing with bangus (P160-200/kg), pork (P310/kg) and beef (P380/kg). But the food items in the pantry nearest our place are being given away free.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 20, 2021)

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