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In Metro Manila, cyclists are bringing goods to community pantries

The cyclists rallied together by Mobile in MNL are filling in a need for agile distribution.

Photos courtesy of DCG Cycling

As the community pantry phenomenon continues to sweep the Philippines, more and more Filipinos are finding ways to help out.

Last Saturday, a group of recreational cyclists took out their bikes and started mobilizing much-needed goods around Pasig City to various community pantries.

Since then, the initiative has grown into an ad hoc effort for delivering and redistributing donations around Metro Manila.

There are over 350 community pantries in the country to date, but right now the group is mostly focused on smaller community pantries that could use more help with donations.

“With any organization that supplies goods, there is a supply chain that requires transport. We thought bikes would be perfect because they're more discreet and can reach places that cars can't,” says Rowhe Siy, the founder of Mobile in MNL and head of the operation.

Photo courtesy of Jello Espino
Photo courtesy of Miguel Feria

“Everyone in the group I bike with (pre-ECQ, of course) thought the community pantries were great and we all wanted to help. Initially we thought of becoming mobile pantries, but then the more we discussed it the more it made sense to just transport stuff to already established pantries,” Rowhe says.

Mobile in MNL is a local storytelling project that hones in on the perspectives of bike commuters around the Metro. They tapped other biking groups in the city: White Helmet Co., DCG Cycling, Manila Commuter, and Cycling Matters to help them distribute food and other goods to community pantries.

“We just want to be agile in responding to needs,” says Deej Fabian, one of the cycling advocates behind DCG Cycling. “[We also want to help with] decentralizing big community pantries’ received donations to smaller ones in the area.”

Deej and the people behind DCG Cycling have taken on the role of plotting bike routes and determining which pantries the groups will be hitting.

“At first we were donating to [any pantries] but we found that to be a bit inefficient. And the pantry lists on certain maps are inaccurate and could be compromised,” he adds. “Now we make cold calls to pantries to confirm their location and how they’re being run and the times they’re open.”

Photo courtesy of Anton Salvador

Donors can send in-kind donations until May 08, and a team of volunteer cyclists will deliver them to select community pantries around Metro Manila during the weekends. Donors are also asked to fill out a donation form before sending goods, while community pantry organizers in need of assistance can get in touch with the group here.

Regular updates are posted on the group’s Facebook page, and donors will be sent a report detailing where their donations were given.

“To answer why we felt it was important to help out: it didn't make sense not to!" Rowhe says. "So many Filipinos have lost their jobs in this pandemic and it's devastating to see how difficult it has been for many to have basic human needs met."

Photo courtesy of Deej Fabian