By Marissa Torres-Langseth
Slowly, HAPI is becoming a household name in the Philippines. In our quest to bring smiles to Filipinos across Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, the Humanist Alliance Philippines, International has managed to establish five HAPI community pantries over the past month.
The Philippines, a country of over 7,000 islands, remains mired in abject poverty and overt religiosity; superstitious beliefs are still so prevalent in Filipinos’ daily lives, blocking progress on many fronts. We at HAPI have put a dent in these beliefs and hope to penetrate more in the Filipino psyche in the hopes of promoting critical thinking and logic amongst our kababayan.
Despite the pandemic, our Chapters throughout the country have proven to be creatively resilient in putting up these pantries (just like the many other kind-hearted Filipinos who constructed their own). This is a genuine attempt to reach out to communities in far-flung areas; the reason we put up a banner in our pantries is so that onlookers would not assume that those helping are religious in nature. (Besides, honesty is one virtue HAPI has espoused from the outset.)
Pantry 1 – Zambales
The trailblazer of all the HAPI pantries is Van Pugay Catayong, Lead Convenor of the newly-minted HAPI-Zambales Chapter! Zambales lies in the Central Luzon region which is famous for its beaches and tourist spots. Here is just a quick rundown of bucket-list-worthy places you simply must visit: Anawangin Cove, Talisayin Cove, Mt. Pinatubo, Mt. Balingkilat, Pundaquit Falls, islands like Capones, Camara, Potipot – and more tourist spots for millennials and seniors alike!
Oh, and not to forget, it is also the home of the Pawikan Rangers of Pawicare Hatchery, which HAPI National visited quite recently!
Pantry 2 – Alabang
The next HAPI pantry on our list sprung up at Alabang, Muntinlupa, a densely populated and predominantly poor municipality in Metro Manila. This pantry was initiated by Jamie del Rosario-Martinez, one of the longest-serving HAPI members who has been with us since 2014. Her community pantry lasted for more than 14 days!
While Alabang is densely populated, there are plenty of good sights to see, including a number of famous churches – proof that religion is very much alive and encompassing Filipinos’ way of life since the Spanish Inquisition.
Pantry 3 – Sorsogon
Through the supervision of Lead Convenor Janice Buenaventura, the next pantry to open was HAPI-Sorsogon‘s. Sorsogon is a municipality in Luzon and it is yet another mini-paradise in the Philippines with tourist spots galore! Truly a haven for sightseeing and adventures.
Pantry 4 – Northern Mindanao
The fourth HAPI pantry to open belonged to HAPI-Northern Mindanao at Cagayan de Oro, a province just a little south of Luzon.
Members had to deliver aid to far-flung areas and carry life-saving items on their heads at times. They were headed by the chapter’s Lead Convenor, Johnny Denden, who lives in Cagayan de Oro and is also a long-time HAPI leader.
Should you happen to tag along with the team on these supply runs, you will also inevitably see the beauty of the island along the way. Here are some photos from TripAdvisor and Johnny’s own collection to prove it:
Pantry 5 – City of Malolos
Last but not least to establish a pantry was the HAPI folks at the City of Malolos, Bulacan – where the HAPI Headquarters also happens to be located! This pantry was led by the HAPI Chief Finance Officer herself, Maria Juana Valenzuela, a multi-tasker with intact integrity. She is a pioneer of HAPI and its most active member since its inception in 2013.
What’s there to see in Bulacan? Since it is just an hour’s drive away from both Metro Manila and Central Luzon, you can enjoy practically all of Luzon’s tourist spots at your leisure. Given Bulacan’s status as the rice granary of the Philippines, our CFO has kickstarted some rice livelihood programs catering to mothers in the area. Female empowerment comes naturally to us at HAPI.
Humanitarianism is part and parcel of HAPI’s mission and vision and we set our priorities depending on the situation, like crisis intervention during the pandemic.
We thank all of our local donors who helped make these community pantries a reality. We would also like to deeply thank our international affiliate Humanists International for their continuous support, generosity, and kindness towards HAPI.
We are also grateful to all HAPI leaders for inspiring each other to do more. There is strength in numbers and diversity.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”