As the National Capital Region (NCR) and its environs return to GCQ following a six-week ordeal of ECQ and MECQ since March 2021, it’s best to look back on how one caring, sharing and daring Filipina in the person of Ana Patricia Non sparked a “community pantry” revolution of sorts along Maginhawa Street in Quezon City.

With one bamboo cart filled with basic groceries and fresh produce of vegetables and a catchy phrase, “Magbigay ayon sa kakayahan, kumuha batay sa pangangailangan,” Ana Patricia’s brilliant initiative created ripples of hope, inspired others in NCR Plus and other parts of the country to establish and mount their version of community pantries. Much like the miracle of 5,000 loaves of bread by Jesus Christ, the community pantries provided relief to our Filipino brothers and sisters badly hit by the pandemic as thousand of families benefitted to enable them to survive a day or two and put food to their family tables. It’s one of silver linings for Filipinos during these challenging and confusing times that even acts of charity were at one point labeled as “stupid” and “communist-inspired” by the present dispensation.

Former President Fidel V. Ramos oftentimes called on Filipinos to build a community of caring, sharing, and daring for others. “Caring and sharing mean being compassionate to the plight of others and lending a help to others. Daring is making sacrifices for others and for the interest of the country,” exhorts Ramos whose voice and wisdom are dearly missed nowadays as he always emphasized that “Filipinos should always continue the “bayanihan spirit” in our daily and national lives.”

One of FVR’s proteges who served as his aide and the first PNP Special Action Force (SAF) Commander in the person of retired Gen. Reynaldo V. Velasco, now MWSS Chairman and concurrent Administrator, rallied the MWSS employees, the three concessionaires – Manila Water, Maynilad and Luzon Clean Water – as well as other affiliate national government agencies holding office at the MWSS to mount their own version of a weeklong community.

Organizers of the MWSS-led community pantry worked hard by coordinating with the office of Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte; bought groceries and others stocks; mounted an organized food distribution to ensure social distancing and observance of health protocols; and, less waiting time for the beneficiaries. Volunteers left gifts of food, groceries, rice, vegetables, essential goods, some contributed money to buy food supplies, for the week-long community pantry. The scorecard of the week-long MWSS Community Pantry benefitted 4,650 families.

The MWSS Chief expressed his gratitude to the organizers, volunteers and donors including one from the UP academe. For his part, Chairman Velasco, a farmer gentleman himself, personally brought fresh vegetables from his farm produce in San Juan, Batangas. His gesture was likewise replicated by San Miguel Corporation’s top honcho Chairman Ramon S. Ang.

In his official FB page, RSA has this to say: We continue to find meaningful ways to connect struggling farmers around the country to food-insecure communities. Through our SMC Infrastructure, we were able to initially supply over 1,000 kilos of fresh vegetables and San Miguel food products to over 500 families from Barangays Pansol and Balara in Quezon City. The food was sourced from our Better World Diliman community center that buys surplus crops from farmers reeling from the pandemic. With this, we are able to help sustain farms by redirecting excess produce to families in need. Thank you to our teams from Bulacan Bulk Water and MRT-7 for volunteering their time, and to our partner MWSS for spearheading, and allowing us to take part in, this worthy cause.”

SMC established its third “Better World” sustainability project with Rural Rising PH situated in a property owned by SMC in UP Village, Diliman Quezon City where farmers can initially sell their harvests. It focuses on helping Luzon farmers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic market their produce.

“Together with Rural Rising PH, we hope to further boost the incomes of farmers, particularly by aggregating their fresh produce and selling directly to customers here in Metro Manila,” Ang said.

SMC also partnered with the Department of Agriculture to open direct marketing stores “Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita” at Petro gas stations in Metro Manila, which also aims to help agricultural industry and provide consumers easier access to fruits and vegetables.

Even Maynilad outsourced its food donation from Cropital, a social agri-startup supported by MVP group’s incubator and accelerator program under Ideaspace.

According to Maynilad President Ramoncito S. Fernandez, “aside from providing local farmers access to affordable capital, they also help find or create market for the produce of the farmers. This is the reason why Maynilad has partnered with Cropital for our BuyLocal CSR program. Through this, we aim to directly support the livelihood of Filipino farmers by creating a sure market for their produce through the purchases of our employees and their families and friends.”

According to Fernandez, former president of the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), Cropital takes care of the sourcing of the produce like rice and veggie crops from the local farmers they support as well as order fulfillment through an ecommerce site such as ordering, payment, delivery. Among the companies in the MVP group that already adopted this program are: Maynilad, Meralco, ePLDT, LRMC, MPIC, and PGN.

Meanwhile, Velasco also congratulated east zone concessionaire Manila Water Services, Inc. which recently landed the third spot in LinkedIn’s 2021 top 15 companies in the Philippines that promotes professional growth.

“To help our employees overcome the impact brought about by COVID-19, we rolled out programs that aimed to listen and respond; redirect focus and energy; build confidence and assurance; instill gratitude; celebrate big and small wins; retool and re-skill; provide financial support where needed; and prepare for the new normal,” Janine T. Carreon, Manila Water Group Director for Corporate Human Resources said.

“Consistent with our corporate value of ‘malasakit,’ these programs are the best expressions of our care for our employees who drive our business forward. Without our people’s commitment, we cannot deliver our service to our customers and create value for our stakeholders. In the darkest moment of uncertainty, we wanted to provide hope for our employees and in by so doing, help the country in our own small way,” Carreon added.

As a footnote to the MWSS community pantry, Velasco has this to say: “Malasakit. Compassion. CSD (Caring, Sharing and Daring). Bayanihan. These are the Filipino traits that will carry us through in the coming days and months ahead in our collective struggle to rise from the ill effects of Covid 19. This is where the Filipino spirit always shines bright. The smiles on the faces of beneficiaries as they left the line are images that will drive us more to help others in need.”