//MSU Law Student Starts Iligan Community Pantries

MSU Law Student Starts Iligan Community Pantries

A student from MSU College of Law Iligan Campus, together with her sister, initiated the community pantries that spurred the Bayanihan spirit of fellow Iliganons. The concept of community pantries is very simple and best encapsulated in the lines, “Mukuha sumala sa panginahanglan, muhatag base sa kakayahan”.

Community Pantry in Iligan City

The first community pantry in Iligan was opened in Canaway on April 18, 2021. The initiative has expanded to include 17 community pantry sites in Del Carmen, Tubod, Suarez, Abuno, Upper Hinaplanon, Ubaldo Laya, Tambacan, Pugaan, Maria Cristina, Mahayahay, Luinab, Dao Hinaplanon, Santiago, and Buru-un. All of which have been catering to hundreds of residents daily.

Lucia Silva, 23, was inspired by the Maginhawa Community Pantry organized by Ana Patricia Non, whom she calls ‘Patreng’, her fellow UP alumna and friend. She initiated it with the help of her sister, Luzianie Silva, 22, who is taking up BS Community Nutrition in UP Diliman. Lucia was a graduate of UP Diliman with a degree in Journalism and currently pursuing her Juris Doctor at MSU College of Law Iligan Campus.

Silva, in an interview, was asked how the Iligan community pantry initiative started. She recalled, “When I saw Patreng’s initiative with the Maginhawa Community Pantry, I told my sister, why not replicate this in Iligan?”

Silva then posted on her Facebook account to let people know that they will initiate a community pantry in Iligan and asked for donations. They initially gathered 2,000 pesos and started a community pantry in Purok 5, Canaway, Barangay Tibanga. They catered about 100 people because their items were limited, but it was the start of many more pantry locations rising across Iligan City, catering to thousands of Iliganons.

After the success of the first community pantry, they started getting more donations and messages from volunteers who want to establish community pantries in their barangays. They then created a Facebook page for more accessible information dissemination. Through the Iligan Community Pantry Facebook page, they post photos of their pantry operations and call for monetary and in-kind donations. The newly-established community pantries were provided 2,000 pesos as their starting funds from the financial contributions that they gathered. For the in-kind contributions, they divided it equally among the pantries.

Different community pantries in Iligan from different barangays

When asked about the sustainability of the said pantries, Silva, answered “We will do our best to continue operating as long as there is a need in our communities and, of course, as donations keep coming. We aim to establish community pantries as part and parcel of every barangay in Iligan City to serve as a reminder that in the hardest of times, amid a debilitating health crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic, we have each other to lean on.”

“Iligan Community Pantry will continue as long as there are families in our neighborhoods who are hungry, and as long as there are people able to share their blessings with others in need,” she added.

The community pantry has been in the headlines of the national news due to polarizing opinions surrounding it. Regardless of how noble the goal is, critics claim it is politicized.

The 23-year old Silva did not shy away from sharing her opinions as a law student. She said, “To be honest, if I think about it, the emergence of community pantries itself is political because hunger is political. Community pantries did not emerge out of a vacuum. It spread swiftly across the Philippines because there are hungry people. This tells us that there is a problem that we need to address urgently.”

She also expressed her biggest take-away in organizing the community pantries.

She shared, “The dominant narrative in mainstream media is that Filipinos are “pasaway” for not following lockdown and quarantine protocols. But the truth is, they are pushed to go out of their homes, even at the risk of contracting COVID-19, to simply look for food to feed their families. As a law student, if I look at this through the lens of the legal system, these people ought to be penalized and even criminalized for failing to follow COVID-19 protocols. However, it is not that simple. Organizing the community pantry here in Iligan taught me a lot about the narratives and stories of people wallowing in hunger and poverty, far from the way they are painted in the media. Sometimes those who have nothing have more to give. It’s really a community effort.”

People lining up in community pantry, waiting for their turn

“It’s two-pronged. The emergence and proliferation of community pantries showed us that there is a major problem that we need to address, and it also showed us how much we could achieve, how many people we can help, through our collective efforts.” She emphatically closed.

Silva also expressed her happiness with the way her fellow Iliganons supported the initiative by donating and volunteering.

Donors can contribute by making monetary or in-kind contributions. Donations of cash will be used to replenish food pantries across Iligan City. Rice, bread, vegetables, canned goods, instant noodles, biscuits, coffee, milk, eggs, and other essential products are needed for in-kind donations. They are also open to volunteers who are willing to help with the daily operations of the community pantries.

Silva urged her fellow Iliganons, saying that the best way for them to contribute is to set up a community pantry in their barangay to help those in need.

(For monetary and in-kind donations, kindly visit Iligan Community Pantry Facebook page for more details)

Photo Credits: Iligan Community Pantry Facebook Page