International Bayanihan Spirit: Timor-Leste Sets Up First Community Pantry

by Matthew Escosia
SEA Wave - SEAtizens Timor-Leste Community Pantry
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By: Sophie Querijero


The spirit of Filipino bayanihan is starting to spread, not just across the country, but around the globe.

Timor-Leste, a fellow member of the South East Asian community, is taking a page from the Philippines’s book as a group of Timorese volunteers opened their country’s first community pantry on April 21.

SEA Wave - SEAtizens Timor-Leste Community Pantry

Photo from Laser Sumagaysay

Shared or community pantries started popping up during the pandemic to address the needs of local communities, like with Thailand’s Pantries of Sharing. This idea also took root in the Philippines, with Ana Patricia Non’s Maginhawa Community Pantry starting the initiative and inspiring other Filipinos to create their own community pantries in the country. Seeing this, the Philippine Vice Consul of Timor-Leste Laser Sumagaysay decided to bring this idea of a community pantry to Timor-Leste to aid the country’s citizens.

Earlier this April, Timor-Leste endured several floods that drastically affected the country’s citizens and economy, forcing several municipalities to declare a state of calamity. Dili, in particular, was hit hard by the floods, with its citizens are now scrambling for food and resources.

Sumagaysay summarized the situation and his community’s efforts in a Facebook post that read:

“Noting the local economic effect of this month’s historic flooding in #Dili and the year-long COVID-19 lockdown in Timor-Leste, I took the opportunity to discuss with some Timorese friends and diplomats about the concept of ‘bayanihan’ and particularly showed them photos of #communitypantry set-ups in Ph to which they gained much interest. Colleagues and I, in our private capacities, are now supporting Timorese organizers as they launched their own (and the very first one) in TL (Timor-Leste).”

SEA Wave - SEAtizens Timor-Leste Community Pantry

Photo from Laser Sumagaysay

Funded by individuals and not the embassy itself, Timor-Leste’s first community pantry also uses the slogans from the original. Sumagaysay noted that while aid from the Philippine embassy focuses mostly on the Filipinos in the area, “we can still contribute to the overall humanitarian effort of our host country. And, it could simply be by introducing beneficial Ph practices, values, or concepts in the hopes that it could be replicated, adopted, or improved by the local community.”

Dili’s community pantry can be found in Bairro Farol, and is open from 1:00PM to 3:00PM (or until supplies last). The organizers hope that this community pantry will start the country’s own movement to help one another, and for compassion and hope to prevail.

SEA Wave magazine’s SEAtizens initiative is a series of inspiring stories of people in Southeast Asia who champion the human spirit by demonstrating courage, ingenuity, generosity, and selflessness.

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