Community pantries have now appears in different parts of the region. Among the first to open were in Biri, Northern Samar, and Oras in Eastern Samar. The organizers of these community pantries want to provide assistance to families affected during this time of pandemic.

TACLOBAN CITY-The concept of community pantry has reached Eastern Visayas and this found its way in the remote towns of Biri in Northern Samar and Oras in Eastern Samar.
In Biri, the community pantry was organized by two women who works in the government sector: Mary Joy Sabangan, an elementary school teacher and Maria Vandervis, who works at the local government unit of Biri.
The two organizers spent around P8,000 from their own pockets and solicited some with their friends to buy the food items consisting of rice, canned goods, noodles, eggs, vegetables, sachet of coffee, and even bar and laundry soaps and shampoos.
They opened their community pantry last April 18 and put them on display in Barangay poblacion which is located just in front of the town auditorium.
And as expected, people made a line to take the items on display.
“But we asked them to take three to four items which they think they need most for that day. This way, more people can avail from our own community pantry. That we can be able to help one person or his family to have a meal even only for a day,” Vanderis, 42, said.
Sabangan,33, said that they were ‘overwhelmed’ with the response that they received from the people who mostly were poor that they could barely afford to buy their foods for the day.
“We never thought that we could help our people who are in need during this time (of pandemic) and at the same time, received donations from other people,” she said.
Among those who helped them is Sabangan’s friend, Jovi Domingo, 42 and also a school teacher assigned at the Biri National High School.
“This is an endeavor worth helping. And I am willing to help and share whatever I have as I know this will help our people who are now affected by the pandemic,” Domingo said.
Their community pantry is opened starting at 1 pm until 5 pm daily.
In Oras, their version of community pantry was initiated by Franklin Robedizo and his brother-in-law, Jessiejun Columbretes, which opened just this Tuesday (April 20) using their own money of P7,000.
According to Robedizo, who works as the secretary of the provincial board based in Borongan City, they put their items just outside of his bakeshop located in Barangay San Eduardo, about three kms away from the town proper.
Robedizo said that they have packed the items into a kilo of rice, two noodles and one sardine to ensure that any ‘get- all-you-want’ attitude could be avoided.
He said that when they opened their community pantry at around 5:30 am, the items that they put into display were gone in less than two hours.
Brgy. San Eduardo is said to be the biggest village in Oras with more than 4,000 people.
Both organizers of these two community pantries admitted that they decided to come up with their own versions after they were inspired by the Maginhawa community pantry in Quezon City.
And the organizers have made it known that they just want to help their communities during this time of pandemic caused by coronavirus disease and not to make them ‘dependent’ on this kind of set-up.
“We try to inform them that this community pantry is like a bayanihan kind of thing. We want to help those who are in need (during this time). This is our way of saying that we should not depend on our government all the time,” Robedizo said.
The organizers admitted that due to their lack of own resources, they hope that those who could afford would help them for them to sustain their own community pantries.
“Giving is caring,” says Vandervis.
The towns of Biri and Oras are among the poorest areas in Eastern Visayas.
Based on the 2015 poverty incidence data of the Philippine Statistics Authority(PSA), Oras, which has a population  of 36,540, has a poverty incidence of 45.6 percent while Biri(population:11,767) has a poverty incidence of 49 percent.(JOEY A.GABIETA/ROEL T. AMAZONA)