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The rise of community pantries

It is not just an act of exemplifying the “bayanihan spirit” that Filipinos are known for but a call for accountability. 



Artwork by Ana Victoria Ereno/TomasinoWeb

Magbigay ayon sa kakayahan, kumuha batay sa pangangailangan” in our current situation, this saying becomes more powerful now more than ever. As the pandemic prolongs, so do unemployment, lockdowns, and the rise of cases leaving people unable to fend for themselves. 


Photo by Ingrid Mediarito

Inspired by the initiative of Patricia Non creating the Maginhawa Community Pantry, chef and restaurant-owner Ingrid Mediarito shared with TomasinoWeb how she started “Love Cart” or the IAM Pasig Food Tour Group Community Pantry in Brgy. Caniogan, Pasig City. She shared that after writing a post on Facebook asking for help in starting a community pantry, many people responded to her in just a few minutes. “Ganoon siya kabilis po. Gaya-gaya lang po talaga. Ginaya ko lang kaagad kasi kailangan aksyonan agad siya kasi kapag too much planning, baka yung momentum pati enthusiasm ng tao tumulong mawala pa,” she said. 

Using a spare cart from her supplier and donations from friends and family, Mediarito was able to organize their “Love Cart” outside of her restaurant. Donations continue to arrive as people shared her Facebook post and saw the result of the community pantry. She added that people she didn’t even know messaged her asking how they could help in creating a “ripple effect”. “Hindi ko rin ine-expect na madaming magdo-donate,” she said.

Mediarito expressed that people told her to think and plan thoroughly because it cannot be avoided that people can take advantage of it. She said that people should be educated on what a community pantry is. 

Hindi lang siya ayuda o simpleng grocery na pwede kang kumuha na kahit anong gusto niyo pero it’s a give and take project,” she said. 

For them, it is not just a momentary project that after a few days, it will die down—like a trend. Mediarito said that encouraging others to give regardless of their social statuses and capabilities to help or donate, gives hope to other people that there is still kindness which inspires people to give more. She added that it gives them joy seeing indigent people capable of donating in ways they can.

They plan to establish more sites in Pasig City to extend their reach to Pasigueños to share donations and not just within the vicinity of Brgy. Caniogan.

Photo by Toots Vergara

In one of the corners surrounding the home of the Growling Tigers, Toots Vergara installed the P. Noval Community Pantry beside the Mang Tootz Food House where he is one of the managers. He said that they were also inspired by the community pantry in Maginhawa. 

By just starting with a sack of rice, 450 pesos worth of vegetables, and 300 pesos worth of groceries, they worry about how they can sustain their daily budget until the end of modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ). But after posting in his Facebook account asking for help, donations continue to flow. “Ngayon ang daming nagpapadala ng tulong. Nakakagulat. As in. Solidarity talaga,” he said. 

Skeptical din kami na baka nga maubos agad yung laman ng pantry. Pero it turns out, kinukuha nga lang nila ang kanilang kailangan,” he added. 

Recently, two community pantries were set up around the university by the UST Center for Campus Ministry. Through a Facebook post, they announced that these will be set up at the UST Gate 10 in Dapitan st. and another one at Gate 7 along P. Noval. With this gesture, they hope to provide ease for those who are in need. For the supplies and food, the office is open for donations. “Sa mga nais pong mag-donate, mangyaring lumapit sa ating Parish Office” the post stated. 

Photo from AP Non’s Facebook account

The concept of community pantries was started in Maginhawa by Ana Patricia Non. What began as a small bamboo table containing produce and canned goods, instantly became an idea that was quick to spread all around NCR. After posting on April 14 about the pantry, Non stated in her post that there is no reason to be shy in taking what was needed, just be sure to leave some goods for others, “Wag mahiyang kumuha andun lang po iyun. May hand sanitizer din para sa mga kukuha at mag-iiwan.” She also encouraged others to donate if they can as the makeshift pantry is available from 6 am to 6 pm. 

In just a few days after her post went viral, as of April 16, there are now 28 community pantries in different locations: Maginhawa, P. Noval, Santa Ana, Manila, Brgy. Central, Commonwealth, Visayas Avenue, Pinyahan Diliman, Muntinlupa, Worker’s Pantry in Sampaloc, Parang and Concepcion Uno in Marikina. There are also some that were initiated in Laguna, Valenzuela, Cavite, Iligan, Bulacan, North Caloocan, and even in Iloilo, Pampanga, and Bicol. 

These makeshift pantries provide staple food such as rice, grains, canned goods, vegetables, and fruits. Apart from these, some pantries also have facemasks and soap. In a post from AP Non, Farmers from Paniqui, Tarlac even donated big sacks of Kamote. She captioned the photo with, “Mula sa masa, tungo sa masa”. 

From an individual’s initiative to help those in need, stemmed a selfless act that is quick to bloom in all places. Community pantries prove that sharing resources in this crucial and horrendous time can save everyone. It is not only proof of how caring for others is essential but also proof that the people have taken matters into their hands. 

Although community pantries provide essential goods for those in need the most, it does not easily solve the problem on how the government lacks competence in handling the pandemic. It is not just an act of exemplifying the “bayanihan spirit” that Filipinos are known for but a call for accountability. 

As the people behind these projects around the country urge for, you can start donating to community pantries near you or better yet, you can start one in an accessible part of your community to reach more people. 


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Road to service and growth with PRO aspirant Gabriele De Lara

Being a person who holds a position in the student council is not all fun and games, as it entails a lot of errands and responsibilities. They also hold the weight of the students’ concerns upon their shoulders.



Photo courtesy of Gabriele De Lara

[Disclaimer: TomasinoWeb remains to be a non-partisan media organization and does not campaign for any candidate.]

Coming from a course that involves the constant act of giving service, third-year education student Gabriele de Lara ran for the position of Public Relations Officer (PRO) in this year’s CSC polls, hoping to continuously develop his capability to help and serve the people in ways that he knows.

“What inspired me to continue the responsibility of a Public Relations Officer is my course, secondary education, to continuously be developed and exposed to the concept of acts of service,” he told TomasinoWeb.

“I chose to run as the Public Relations Officer, since this is the field I am most comfortable that I can deliver quality service, especially considering my wide range of exposure in it while acknowledging the things I need to learn more about as a student leader,” he added.

Growing up, the independent candidate was taught how to be responsible and own up to what he has chosen to do. He said that this is all thanks to his mother, whom he considers as his prime inspiration.

“She’s always been there supporting me and guiding me, letting me take my own steps in discovering more of who I am,” he elaborated. 

De Lara also shared that his experience in the College of Education Student Council executive board from 2018 to 2019 taught him to always welcome opportunities for growth. 

“They’ve taught me as a then staff to live by on the quote ‘If it’s for your growth,always say yes and always do it with all your best.’ I owe it to them for helping and teaching me to never be content on how I do things today and [to] always strive to live and do it better tomorrow,” he shared.

The aspiring educator has taken on many positions in various Thomasian organizations—each with different tasks and responsibilities. These experiences, according to De Lara, taught him how to manage the tasks that he is given. 

Tingin ko talaga it really is about time management lalo na dun sa concept of urgency, ‘yung uunahin mo yung kung saan or alin yung pinakaneed agad. Kasi it all boils down to juggling extra-curricular activities while making sure that your academics or your own life on that matter is not being compromised,” he said.


Leading the way

De Lara believes that a good leader is someone who is politically aware and knows what is right. 

“For me, I look for someone socially approachable, politically aware, and also morally upright. Diyan lang sa tatlong yan tingin ko makikita na natin ang mga kandidatong dapat iboto, sa university at sa national elections,” he explained.

He also believes that elected officials should have a strong sense of belief in freedom, and must be willing to become the voice of the people.

“Personally, although attitude, communication, and commitment get the work done, we need to look for the essential qualities of a good leader—one who practices democracy and looks for being a representative of the voice of the studentry,” the PRO bet said.

“I believe naman na lahat tayo qualified, kaya nga it is our responsibility as constituents to be critical in choosing our next set of leaders,” he added.

Checking where their background and development is crucial in assessing a candidate, as these little things give the slightest idea of what kind of leader they will be. 

De Lara stressed that credibility also plays an important role when it comes to voting for someone into a position of power. 

“What makes them qualified is ‘yung background nila. We need to be aware and assess ‘yung track records ng mga candidates natin in order to check their integrity and principles,” he said.


Road work ahead: Struggles of a student-leader

Being a person who holds a position in the student council is not all fun and games, as it entails a lot of errands and responsibilities. They also hold the weight of the students’ concerns upon their shoulders.

For De Lara, one of the few challenges that he’s facing amid the pandemic is the limited form of connections. In a face-to-face setting, people don’t have to deal with the hassles brought upon by socializing online, like pixelated views and delays in internet connection. But due to Covid-19, communicating with others has become a hindrance. 

“This is one of the problems we all experience at the moment–the limitations placed upon our interactions. The then personal interactions are now accommodated to the online setting which, as naturally social beings, really affects us,” he said.

He believes that the first step in overcoming this problem is to understand that change doesn’t happen overnight. Identifying the root of the problem can help immensely in figuring out what to do in the long run, which in this case, is the distance that separates everyone and the growing case of detachment that comes along with it.

“Although it is true that it is hard to keep up at times,” De Lara admitted, “As student-leaders, we need to continuously encourage others to participate and remain connected not only to us but also to the issues both inside and outside the university.”

It is important to keep in mind that student leaders like De Lara are also students. While it might not be easy, the PRO candidate made sure to accomplish his requirements before the set deadline.

“I  handle my academics by managing my time well and prioritizing accomplishing my academics as early as possible. This is to ensure that I can stay ready whenever needed and just put minimal effort on the following days and put into refreshing my brain na lang,” he shared.

When De Lara isn’t juggling tasks and responsibilities from his organizations, he makes time for the important people in his life, making sure that the connection is still there especially during these trying times. He makes sure no aspect of his life is being compromised—that he has time for himself, his family, and friends whom he considers a “healthy support system.”


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The destination

De Lara’s platforms are centered around students and equipping them with the proper information.

Should he take a seat at the CSC as its PRO, De Lara seeks to revive the UST CSC website and to have an open dialogue with the University regarding the mental health concerns of teachers and students.

He also mentioned his intent to address different concerns and ideas with regards to media literacy. In a time where fake news is rampant, the student-leader believes that as Thomasians, it’s important to be responsible when sharing content.

“We would start by offering the students with a platform that gives them the opportunity to always be in the know of everything the council aims,  pursues, and offers. This of course is along  with  our responsibility to keep an open communication channel with the Central Board and the Local Student Council Executive Boards to ensure that we properly address and coordinate the concerns and ideas of each academic unit properly,” he said.

“It is also important to note, that we would not stop at mere information literacy inside the walls of the  university,  but also promote and move towards information literacy on a  national level. I believe that as a Thomasian, and as part of the Thomasian youth, we really need to be informed before we participate,” De Lara added.

De Lara shared that his plan for Thomasians is to keep them connected and informed, especially since the 2022 national polls is fast approaching. 

“We have a duty to our country and to our institution to choose people, leaders na patuloy tayong lalapitan at patuloy na ilalapit at ipaglalaban ang ating mga concerns,” he said.


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Redirecting focus and conversations with PRO bet Jerome Espinas

Serving people will inevitably include moments of weakness, exhaustion, and second-guessing, but for the likes of Espinas, who found his purpose in his passion to serve, he will only stay and continue.



Photo courtesy of Jerome Espinas

[Disclaimer: TomasinoWeb remains to be a non-partisan media organization and does not campaign for any candidate.]

At a time of great uncertainty when people look all the more for leaders as bearers of hope and catalysts for change, student councils are challenged to take a step forward in embodying a service that addresses and alleviates the current sociopolitical turmoil present today.

In a bid to ratify this, Jerome Seth Espinas shares with TomasinoWeb how the pandemic closed and opened doors for him to realize where he was really meant to be: in the service of his fellow students as an aspiring Central Student Council (CSC)  Public Relations Officer (PRO).

“It’s a story of redirection,” the former Commerce and Business Administration Student Council (CBASC) Vice-President explained. Espinas was meant to run as the president of their local student council before the elections got cancelled due to the lockdown in March 2020. “The pandemic closed doors for me kasi ‘di ako natuloy sa CBASC, but little did I know it shaped where I am going today.”

Initially taking the lost opportunity as a sign for him to spend his third and fourth year in college orgless, Espinas goes on to look for another sign to refute that– and he finds it when the CSC had a tiger hunt. “Na-realize ko na ‘yung nag-close na door, it opened to another: I was redirected from CBASC to CSC.”

Mahirap kasi maraming doubts and apprehensions since univ-wide na, pero hangga’t may tiwala sa sarili, you have people believing in you, and you really have the intention in you to serve, hindi na important ‘yung fears,” he said.

Espinas explained that the role of student councils goes beyond organizing University events. “Usually people would say na ‘ano pa bang role ng student councils ngayon na pandemic kasi online naman – ‘di naman natutuloy events’,” he shared. “I disagree with that kasi student councils are not just event organizers langhindi ‘yun ang pinaka-essence nila.”

Espinas then emphasized how a student council’s real essence is student representation, adding that they become a means to amplify the voices of students, therefore, becoming an avenue for their rights and welfare. 

“I want to use the CSC as a platform to forward the rights and the welfare of the students, at para na rin maging mas bearable ‘tong online setup since no one can understand students better than their fellow students,” the candidate said.

“As student leaders, we are the dartboard for criticism – but we shouldn’t focus on that. Instead, we should focus on the power and the authority that we hold to make a change in the community. That’s the most important thing,” he added.

Highlighting how including students in the conversation is vital to serving their purpose, Espinas also stressed, “Kasama dapat sila sa usapan kasi it’s not about the candidates – it’s about the students and how these candidates will uphold the rights of their constituents. Hindi ka dapat tumakbo para sa sarili mo, tumakbo ka para sa mga kapwa mo estudyante.

The aspiring PRO also talked about the importance of respect in working efficiently as the main foundation of his work ethic. As a student leader, Espinas firmly believes in the saying ‘when you have respect, everything else will follow’, as well as striking the right balance between being productive and fun.

“I wanted to foster camaraderie with the members of the legislative board to have something to look forward to in meetings, kasi mas mag-iimprove ‘yung work dynamics kapag may bond – not only a connection, but also a relationship,” he mentions in correlation to a team-building program he started prior to the revision of CBASC’s Constitution, which made up his legislative agenda as former Vice-President.

Espinas’ decision to run for CSC was kept under wraps until he formally filed for candidacy, and he shared how heartwarming the flow of support was once his greater circles knew about it. “Bumuhos ‘yung support sa messages. Sobrang thankful ako for everyone who supported me and made this possible.” This further helped him to face the incoming challenges as one of three aspiring PROs. 

“I’m not afraid of losing – that’s the essence of democracy. May kalaban ako and may choices ‘yung voters. I am sure na my fellow candidates are competent and capable of handling the position. The position of CSC PRO will be in good hands,” he said.

On the subject of essential leadership qualities, Espinas stressed the relationship of education and politics, especially in building future leaders. “It all starts in school talaga, kaya dapat as early as students, ma-practice na ‘yung value ng transparency and accountability – kung sa school pa lang ganito na traits mo, what more if you reached the regional and the national level sa government?”

Furthermore, with his acknowledgment of the current government’s lapses and its failed pandemic response, Espinas elaborated how prioritizing one’s ego can prevent a leader from recognizing his shortcomings, therefore preventing him from knowing what to improve on in return.

“Always go back to your core. Palagi mong tanungin ‘yung sarili mo kung bakit ka nandyan, bakit mo ‘yan ginagawa. If you have your reason to run or if you have your core there, you will always find your way back,” he proclaims.

In the spirit of genuine service, conviction goes hand-in-hand with responsibility. Serving people will inevitably include moments of weakness, exhaustion, and second-guessing, but for the likes of Espinas, who found his purpose in his passion to serve, he will only stay and continue.


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Driven by Thomasians: On PRO bet Carl Jeric Mataga’s desire to run

Inspired by his desire to serve Thomasians, third-year Information Technology student Carl Jeric Mataga vies for the position of Public Relations Officer (PRO) during this year’s Central Student Council (CSC) polls.



Photo courtesy of Jeric Mataga

[Disclaimer: TomasinoWeb remains to be a non-partisan media organization and does not campaign for any candidate.]

Inspired by his desire to serve Thomasians, third-year Information Technology student Carl Jeric Mataga vies for the position of Public Relations Officer (PRO) during this year’s Central Student Council (CSC) polls.

“I was inspired to run by my desire to serve the Thomasians.I know that many of them are having difficulties with their academics because of the pandemic. There is an urgent need for student-leaders that will be able to lead the Thomasians towards better conditions,” he told TomasinoWeb.

The independent candidate shared that among all the positions in the executive board, he feels most confident serving the University best as the PRO, citing his previous experiences.

“While I believe that I could competently hold some of the other Executive Board positions I am confident that I can serve the Thomasian community best as a PRO. As someone who has been involved in PRO matters in all the organizations I’ve been in, my skill set is best suited for the PRO position,” he explained.

In this time of uncertainty, student-leaders become the beacon of hope where Thomasians can turn to for help. As everyone is facing difficulties, Mataga wanted to run in hopes of helping those who are in need in ways that he can, as he said, “There is an urgent need for student-leaders that will be able to lead Thomasians toward better conditions.” 

Being a member of many organizations in the university, Mataga explained that he had many roles such as a resource speaker and a student-reactor, to name a few. Aside from that, he also became a member of the National Union Students of the Philippines, an alliance of student councils in the Philippines, where he “mainly participate[s] in conversations about national issues and attend educational discussions.”

But other than his commitments outside the university, Mataga is also active in engaging with events within the four corners of UST, where he builds up his skills in coverage. He talked about his involvement in organizing projects such as the IICS Welcome Walk and the supposed IICS Week 2020 which was, unfortunately, cancelled due to the pandemic. 

“I used to be a photographer for UST CSC during my 1st year of college and I covered many events and built up my coverage experience there. I also used to be a photographer for TomasinoWeb and I covered many rallies and events during my time there. Because of my long history of taking photos at rallies and events, I’ve become more keen to media coverage and news,” the candidate shared.

Struggles amid distance learning

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According to Mataga, students were pushed to quickly adapt to online modes of communication due to the pandemic. He then emphasized the importance of online spaces amid the virtual learning set-up.

“In the digital age, especially during the pandemic where we spend more time online, the space we hold online is more important as ever, and as one of the main sources of information on social media for Thomasians, the PRO holds the biggest responsibility for maintaining relevance and official information to the community,” he said. 

The PRO bet also cited his issues with electricity and power outages, which he solves by preparing policies and contingency plans.

“We can’t totally prevent emergencies, but we can control how we react to them. By allowing another team member to manage the team or finish the work, we’ll be able to work as seamlessly as possible despite outages,” he said.

Being a student-leader has its challenges and it is inevitable to encounter difficulties. Mataga  shared that due to anxiety or lack of motivation, there are times that there is a struggle in dealing with requirements that need to be done. He combats this by dealing with it head to head. 

“By being honest with my family and team, I am able to pull through my everyday routines. No person lives alone.” he said. 

Keeping a balance between his academics and other responsibilities, Mataga makes sure to list  down his tasks and take breaks from time-to-time.

“The way I juggle my responsibilities and make sure I finish what needs to be done is by having a list and reordering them depending on their priority. Taking breaks help too,” he explained.  

On good leadership

Mataga stressed that it is important to practice compromise when it comes to having different views with the administration and team members.

“All things can be discussed, compromises may be reached. Ultimately, we all just want the best for the Thomasians,” he said.

The PRO bet also believes that good leaders must show empathy and humility to the community they serve.

“They must be humble enough to recognize their errors and be tactful enough to resolve them. […] They must wholeheartedly and selflessly be prepared to serve the community, putting the community’s interests first over personal interests.” he said. 



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