Inspired by one small bamboo cart, Filipinos are leaving rice, vegetables and fish on street corners, free to take for those in need. Born out of the pandemic, the community pantry movement shows the spirit of giving and a unique Filipino trait that doesn't translate to other languages -- diskarte.
Diskarte requires creativity and is usually associated with getting out of very tough situations. In this case, it's hunger for the poor after being under community quarantine for one year and counting. The community pantry shows diskarte, sociologists Enrico Baula and Froilan Alipao told reportr in separate interviews.
"Diskarte is us being left to our own devices primarily because we cannot rely on the government to help everyone therefore we have to do it ourselves. Kailangan dumiskarte," Baula, who teaches Behavioral Sciences at the De La Salle University-Manila told reportr.
"Sa mga taong naghihirap, we always have to find multiple ways to keep ourselves alive," he said.
The concept -- give what you can and take what you need -- quickly became viral, with many versions of the mother pantry in Maginhawa, Quezon City popping up across the country. The pantries were reminiscent of the centuries-old bayanihan or community spirit.
The nearest English word to diskarte could be hustle.
With COVID-19 cases rising and with many without jobs, Filipinos took it upon themselves to respond to the situation through the community pantry.
Filipinos felt that they can no longer rely on government action alone which prompted the rise of community pantries, Alipao, a Philippine Studies scholar from the University of Santo Tomas Department of Sociology, said.
"There is that feeling na tayo-tayo na lang na kapag hindi ka madiskarte mamamatay ka sa gutom. The community pantry gives people the power na huwag lang basta umasa, na puwede ka magbigay at kumuha," Alipao told reportr.
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'Taking care of ourselves'
The pantries sprouting in different areas highlight the inherent community spirit of Filipinos--where sharing is the norm. They also magnify the shortcomings of officials. More than charity, Alipao said community pantries are an expression of "solidarity" with those who are struggling during the pandemic.
"Hindi lang siya pagtulong o pagbibigay ng limos. Ito ay pakikiisa din sa mga naapektuhan ng sitwasyon," he said.
Some lawmakers and critics of the government have said the community pantries are a form of protest against officials' handling of the pandemic.
Senators Grace Poe, Panfilo Lacson, and Risa Hontiveros said the government should view community pantries as a call to step up and improve its pandemic response.
"It’s a wake-up call that government must do more to provide for the people,” Poe said.
“It is a selfless act of people, unwitting they may be, [who] are telling government to do better,” Lacson said.
The community pantry highlights the need for government to do more for the people, Alipao said, noting that more pantries mean a wider need for government help.
"Kapag ang mga mamayaman na ang gumagawa ng paraan para maibsan ang problema, ibig sabihin nagkukulang ang gobyerno sa presensya," he said.
The community pantries show that the prevailing social systems in the country are not working, sociologist Baula said and people need to take matters into their own hands.
"Community pantries are just another form of us taking care of ourselves, taking care of each other because the system is not taking care of us. All the diskarte na kailangan gawin ng Filipino, ginagawa natin. And the system doesn't help us so we help ourselves," Baula said.
"The little things that people do to help each other out, it magnifies the incompetence of the system," he added.
The contagion effect and garapalan
Social media powered the spread of community pantries--a contagion effect--and not long after, there were Facebook groups and directories on where people can donate and volunteer.
Hoarding is a problem in some areas. Photos and videos of people taking too much from community pantries have surfaced online, garapalan according to some in the comments section.
It's not greed but rather an effort to attain a sense of security for the poor, Baula said. When life is unpredictable and when stomachs are growling, feeling shame over getting more than what's enough is not the first thing that comes to mind.
"Poor people are more inclined to accumulate more than necessary because, for poor people, the future is very unpredictable," Baula said.
"They need something to help them feel safe and secure that for the next couple of days, we will be okay. It's not about greed. Poor people want to feel the security," he said.
Alipao said people have different thresholds of what is enough, rejecting criticism that those who take more from pantries are greedy.
"Bawat indibidwal ay iba-iba ang sitwasyon. Hindi mo basta pwede husgahan dahil relative ang konsepto ng 'sapat' sa kada tao pero hindi lang naman iyan nangyayari sa mahihirap pati din sa mayayaman," he said.
There's a foil to hoarding, one that's also familiar to Filipinos, according to Baula -- hiya or shame. "But when you compare hiya and security, you have to think that hiya is a luxury of those who can," he said.
"At the end of the day, community pantries wouldn't happen when resources are available for everyone."