In the Philippines this April, in the midst of a covid outbreak and with millions going hungry, Ana Patricia Non, a lone 26 year old woman, loaded a cart with basic food items: canned goods, rice, pieces of chayote. She put up signs: “Maginhawa Community Pantry” and “Give what you can. Take what you need.”
Individuals began contributing bagfuls of groceries. The owners of the stores where supplies were bought matched these donations. Farmers and fishermen sent sacks of potatoes, and buckets of tilapia, bags of greens, onions, garlic and tomatoes began to appear. Within weeks, nearly 400 more pantries had opened around the island archipelago, showing the desperate need for food, and people’s willingness to help others.
Rather than praise the action or offer help, the reactionary government of Rodrigo Duterte followed the time-honored tradition of right-wing propagandists: they called the pantries a “communist plot,” and even compared their founder to Satan!
As laughable as their attacks may seem, they are a reminder that the capitalists and their governments cannot allow people to think for a second that we can work together to help each other out and feed ourselves. The ruling class knows that if we did, then we might sweep them out of the way and actually run society to serve our own needs, and not their pursuit of profit. To avoid that, they’ll use the most foolish rhetoric to undermine Ana Patricia Non and others like her, those who dare to help their fellow humans.
In the midst of a humanitarian crisis, the pantry movement in the Philippines is an important reminder of the powerful collectivity and compassion of ordinary people, and a testament to our abilities to rely on each other. We don’t need a government or a boss to feed us. In fact, we don’t need them for anything. If we recognize our common struggles and work together, we can feed ourselves and so much more. Many thanks to the “communist” pantries of the Philippines for reminding us of our potential.