It all started with a meme in the “Big Four Trashtalkan” Facebook group. In the photo, a community pantry was superimposed in front of De La Salle University (DLSU) and the caption imagined that products like Kirkland strawberries and Ritz were being given away.
I took that pic and shared it to the Facebook group A Group Where We All Pretend to Be in Taft.
Can we actually do this? I was honestly shooting for the stars, or so I thought.
After 3,000 reactions and over 400 affirmative comments, we got the ball rolling. We pitched the idea to our social arm Center for Social Concern and Action (Cosca) and the DLSU administration. We—alumni reps, students, Cosca, DLSU-University Student Government and the school administration—did a Zoom call and launched the pantry Friday of that same week.
“Dude, Pantry, Chong”—The Taft Times Community Pantry was born three days after I lifted the meme. The name shows just how organic everything is. It came from the Lasallian community, showing that we keep things tongue-in-cheek and that we can laugh at ourselves. Even in “Taft times,” we don’t lose our sense of humor. Not only that, we step into action, too.
“Dude, Pantry, Chong” got traction. Our community pantry went viral on Twitter, Facebook and TikTok, and donations started pouring in.
The school has created jobs for the staff that come in and assist in the pantry. We’ve partnered with the local government to make sure that the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases health protocols were in place and followed through.
Various companies have reached out for pantry partnerships via donations in kind and product provisions. On the fifth day, Purefoods gave a generous donation to the Lasallian Community Pantry.
On day six, we had a partnership with vegetable supplier Pagdaloy PH which helps Benguet farmers.
Every day, there are various stories about why people donate and why they choose a particular product. We’ve had donations from P5 to six digits.
A significant amount came from a girl from Baguio. She had a special request—for the money she sent to be used to buy vegetables.
That’s how we met Joyce, a resident of a nearby barangay who recently lost her house to a fire that hit their area. She was selling veggies just outside One Archers condo. You wouldn’t have thought that she just went through something as devastating as a fire. She had the happiest demeanor and she gladly picked the best vegetables for us, giving us a good deal. So, Baguio girl, please know that you actually helped the community twice over.
I couldn’t have dreamed of such an awesome outcome to be born out of a meme—but here we are! I’m proud of the LaSallian community especially everyone in our Facebook group who have gone above and beyond for this effort. This wouldn’t have happened without that 68,000-strong group of people. Your impact has helped countless families here by Taft and beyond. You don’t need to pretend you’re in Taft . . . because you never left.
The whole Lasallian community has come together—it’s pure animo at its finest. I want people to focus on that, to focus that we are all inherently good and we have the power to share that good to our country, the world and, yes, the universe.
“Dude, Pantry, Chong” is the work of a real community that knows how to embrace something as trivial as a typical stereotype and transcends that into unconditional kindness.
I am overwhelmed by the fact that a joke is now a full-fledged social initiative and amazed at the support we get day in and day out. We plan to sustain this pantry as long as possible.
We have plans to evolve the pantry into providing or matching jobs for barangays we are serving for May 1 and a very special surprise for mothers on May 9. Donations will be turned over to Kada Uno, another social responsibility arm of La Salle.
We are overjoyed and overwhelmed by the animo spirit and generosity of Lasallians. You have all truly lived Jesus in your hearts, forever.
P.S. If you drop by, look for Ate Joyce by One Archers and help her and other small businesses around the Taft area as well. —CONTRIBUTED INQ
The author is a DLSU alumnus and a coorganizer of Dude, Pantry, Chong—the Taft Times Community Pantry;
@mart712in on Instagram.
The Lasallian community pantry is at Agno Side, Bro. Andrew Gonzalez Hall, DLSU, Manila. Donate via BPI, 4849011834, Andrew P.; GCash 0917-3291400, Andrew P. or 0939-9371360, Martin C.; Paypal, paypal.me/martincervantes712. Send proof of transfer to bit.ly/DLSUCommunityPantry for tracking. In-kind donations of fresh produce, rice (repacked into 1-kg packs), ready-to-cook food, health items, vitamins and medicines may be dropped off from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Taft Side, Bro. Andrew Gonzalez Hall, DLSU, Manila.