This week’s buzzword that captures the zeitgeist of the eternal and infernal lockdown that the Filipino people have been enduring for more than 400 days is “community pantry”.
After the trending of the words “dolomite”, “brrrt”, and “Ivermectin”, it is now the concept of the community pantry that has captured the imagination of the weary and frustrated people of the Philippines.
As a buzzword, “Dolomite” is a reflection of our government’s priorities during a pandemic. This is a country where there is not enough testing, where contact tracing is useless, where bulk of the much-needed vaccines still haven’t been delivered, where the capacity of the healthcare system has not been improved and the pay of health care workers is still no match for the police and military. But Manila Bay gets a dolomite beach costing taxpayers almost P400 million.
“Brrrt” became a meme in the early days of the weekly late night show with the country’s Tatay. To those who are not fans of wasting time watching an old man pretend to display strong leadership by talking incoherently, this fad was quite difficult to understand because one had to see the video to believe it. Those who did seek out the video clip out of curiosity and a desire to understand that presidential meme had to make sure the video was not spliced or faked because it was almost unbelievable how someone so incoherent and unfunny could manage to top himself in what was supposed to be a prerecorded national address. Anyway, “brrrt” summarized the incoherence of our country’s leadership and its response to the pandemic. One year later, it feels like they are still merrily brrrt brrrting along while everyone else suffers.
“Ivermectin” is another fad in a country that has absolutely failed to procure Covid vaccines in an urgent and timely manner. This veterinary anti-parasite drug that quacks are claiming works against Covid symbolizes the desperation of the Filipino people who are now willing to self-prescribe a drug designed for animals just because some kook said it works. For me, the biggest, reddest flag is that Merck, the manufacturer of the drug, who also sells drugs for humans, has up to now not made any claim as far as Ivermectin’s efficacy over Covid is concerned. If it were even partially true, they would have maximized the potential to make a killing on their wonder product that can allegedly prevent or cure a disease that has already infected millions worldwide. The big pharma manufacturer of Ivermectin can’t make those claims and yet here in the Philippines, people are rushing to get their Ivermectin fix even without any scientific proof just because some doctors and a couple of politicos are making weird intestinal noises from the other end of their digestive system.
If it’s any consolation, the newest buzzword is, at least, partially positive. The concept of the “community pantry” began in Maginhawa Street in Teachers Village in Quezon City by a 26-year-old entrepreneur Ana Patricia Non. The idea is simple. People drop off whatever food they can donate at a central location in the community and those who can’t afford to buy their own only have to line up to get what they need for free. The original community pantry went by the tenet of “Magbigay ayon sa kakayahan, kumuha batay sa pangangailangan,” or “Give whatever you can, take only what you need”.
This is a concept that is foreign to our government that only knows how to use guns and intimidation but it has been proven to work so far and it took only a few days for the idea to be replicated in other neighborhoods all over the NCR to as far as Nueva Vizcaya. If you look at it from the point of view of another failure of government, the community pantry movement is, indeed, a sign of it because Filipinos wouldn’t be doing this if they haven’t been left to take care of each other.
But the beauty of this buzzword, unlike “dolomite”, “brrrt brrrt”, and “Ivermectin” that have no redeeming value is that there is something positive in this one. Filipinos have been abandoned by their government for more than a year now but we have shown that the capacity to help each other is still there.If only this jealous and petty government will allow Filipinos to help each other instead of red tagging those who come up with innovative ideas and throwing roadblocks along the way.
After more than one year of terrible buzzwords, our nation needs better ones and, hopefully, the community pantry movement is just the beginning. If there is anything we can learn from this, it is the realization that it is the private sector that has to generate the positivity and inspiration because the people we should be counting on have been failing at that job for almost 14 months now.
Good luck to us all.*