(SPOT.ph) The PUV Modernization program affects all of us—but most especially jeepney drivers, whose earnings are hardly enough to match the prices of the modern jeeps replacing their old vehicles. One thing keeping our faith in humanity alive, at least, is how the current events are also bringing out the goodness of kind-hearted individuals—like the folks of Community Pantry PH who are now helping feed drivers with community kitchens for tsupers.
Also read: GUIDE: Free Rides, Class Suspensions + More Updates for the Week-Long Transport Strike
Community Pantry's Community Kitchen for Jeepney Drivers
In a public Facebook post published March 7 on her personal account, Patricia Non (who founded the original Maginhawa community pantry in 2021) shared an "ulam reveal" of the meals prepared for the drivers: "Ginisang ampalaya with sotanghon at egg! Sarap!" The group also plans to serve ginisang togue with tokwa on Thursdays, and munggo with tinapa on Fridays.
The initiative, Non shares in an exchange with SPOT.ph, was initiated by the Community Pantry PH group (now an NGO), who are joined by volunteers from Krus na Ligas, the Human Rights and People Empowerment Center, and theatre organization Teatro Tao sa Tao. "Nagluluto kami sa office namin sa... Quezon City, tapos hinahatid namin siya sa mga piket," she explains. "Commmunity effort pa rin talaga siya."
Non admits they lacked ample funding for the initiative in the beginning, but this is now accomplished through sales of Tsuper Solidarity Shirts (P399). "Byaheng may konsiderasyon tungo sa modernisasyon," the shirts read. "Kasi kami, naniniwala na okay kami sa modernization, pero dapat may konsiderasyon sa mga hanapbuhay ng jeepney drivers, nung commuters, ganyan," says Non. "Dapat may pakialam talaga 'yong policies na ginagawa natin para doon sa masses, lalo na 'yong commuters. Kasi wala naman ding focus sa... public transportation natin." Half of the profits received go to the shirts' production cost, while the other half goes to the cooking of meals. These meals cost about P60 per plate.
"Tina-try din talaga namin na may makuha sila and maintindihan [ng mga tao] kung ano yung pinaglalaban natin," Non explains. "And parang solidarity rin sa drivers na suot [o] bitbit natin 'yong call nila, kahit 'di tayo mismo 'yong tsuper saka 'yong operators."
The initiative is meant to go on for as long as they receive orders for the shirts, with any extra profit being intended for use in "mala-community pantry" efforts for the drivers—including repacking rice and other food supplies. "Kasi... 'yong dalawang araw na tigil pasada sila... parang dalawang araw na walang kita sila," she laments. This, of course, affects the drivers' families. "Ang hirap makaraos ng buhay ngayon."
Among the team's realizations was how—despite the proposed modernization—the drivers would still be earning very little. "Maliit pa rin 'yong kita nila, tapos kung bibili pa sila ng modern na jeep, lugi pa sila," she says. "So kailangan talaga may understanding tayo sa driver, na kailangan nila ng support."
This, she continues, brings to mind another key realization they had from operating the community pantry—that these folks simply don't earn enough. "Karamihan no'ng pumipila, 'di sila pumipila dahil wala silang trabaho, actually [halos lahat] sa kanila may trabaho. May construction [worker], tricycle driver, [nagtitinda ng] bote dyaryo—ibig sabihin, 'di talaga sapat yung kinikita nila," Non explains. "Parang... eh 'di ka naman din pipila o aasa sa pantry kung di mo talaga kailangan."
"So ngayon 'yong [Community Pantry PH], may awareness na kung sino yung mga nangangailangan and ngayon 'yong focus natin 'yong drivers. Tayo na 'yong mismong lalapit sa kanila, kasi kailangan may iintindi talaga [at makikinig] sa kanila."
Non also opens up about their "frustrations" on the lack of understanding from lawmakers about the situation. "Kahapon no'ng naghatid kami ng pagkain, 'yong drivers natin... ang hirap pala talaga pagka 'yong lawmakers natin, 'di naman sila 'yong nagcocommute [so] 'di naman nila alam kung magkano 'yong sahod," she laments. "Feeling ko, madali siguro sa kanila maglabas ng milyon para makabili [ng modern jeeps], maliit ['yon] sa kanila. Pero sa simpleng tao, even middle class, even ako, 'di ko kaya magproduce ng gano'ng pera para sa kabuhayan ko."
"So kailangan talaga 'yong call na konsiderasyon, at kailangan bumaba sa kung ano pinagdadaanan ng drivers."
"Suportado po namin ang modernisasyon, pero dapat po may konsiderasyon sa kakayahan ng ating drivers, operators, at commuters," the Community Pantry PH group writes in a Facebook post. "Dahil po sa threat sa kanilang kabuhayan, nais po namin maglunsad ng pantries at kitchens para sa kanilang pamilya."
With the Community Pantry PH group now being categorized as an NGO, Non shares that they now have goals that are deeper and nobler—"mas malalim." "Tuloy-tuloy [ang Community Pantry PH] this year," she says. They've started projects that include selling gulay bouquets last Valentine's season to raise funds ("para sa operations ng pantry"), as well as helping rescue vegetables. "Kung ano 'yong root ng gutom sa Pilipinas, siyempre 'di naman tayo lalayas sa gutom kung hindi empowered 'yong farmers natin."
Also read: The Inspiring Evolution of the OG Maginhawa Community Pantry
The PUV Modernization program was launched by the Duterte administration in 2017, with the aim of making the public transport system more efficient and better for the environment. It would do so by phasing out jeepneys, buses, and other public utility vehicles 15 years old and above, to be replaced by modern PUVs—which would cost the drivers P1.5 to P2 million per unit. Jeepney drivers' incomes vary, but can go as low as P300 to P400 a day.
For orders of the Tsuper Solidarity Shirts, fill out the Community Pantry PH's order form. For more information, check out the Community Pantry PH's Facebook page.
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