“The people here are very disciplined. Every time there’s a new order that needs to be carried out from the national to the barangay level, the people willingly comply,” barangay captain Nasrudin Mohammad said as he described Barangay Biniruan, Poblacion 9, Cotabato City. 

“I’m proud to say that we have a zero crime rate in our area,” he shared.

As the people lined up for a one-day community pantry in their barangay, one can not only see the discipline that Mohammad takes pride in, but also the quiet dignity that the people carry themselves with. They would express their gratitude at every stop as they get an assortment of vegetables and meat, while members of the minority bloc and the 2nd Marine Battalion assist them in finding what they need.

The community pantry was set up in Muamad Elementary School with the support of Minority Floor Leader MP. Atty Laisa Masuhud Alamia, together with other members of the minority bloc of the Bangsamoro Parliament. Present in the pantry roll-out were MP Rasul Ismael and MP Atty. Suharto Ambolodto, together with the staff of MP Alamia and MP Engr. Baintan Ampatuan. 

Also present were City Councilor Hon. Christina Enggay Tan Chua, LtCol Alimodin Pula of the Philippine Marines (MBLT-2), and the Rotary Club of Cotabato City.

A community united by survival

The people of Brgy. Biniruan are far from living in luxury, but they find comfort in their community. Mila, a resident, describes their life as “buhay buhay lang” — just finding ways to live and survive every day. The pandemic, however, has made living feel more like a chore, where “even buying rice has been difficult.”

Because of this, having a community pantry in Brgy. Biniruan feels like a weight has been lifted off their shoulders. Norhani, also a resident of the barangay, said that “this pantry is important to us because our budgets have been stretched thin by the pandemic” Her friend, Seham, agrees.

“This is a big help for our families, especially that we’re in a crisis. The money we usually allocate for food sometimes ends up being spent for diapers and other needs of our children,” Seham shared.

“Many of our residents here make a living through fishing, as well as driving a habal-habal and other means of public transport,” Mohammad said of his constituents. “Apart from the pandemic, we also experience flooding quite often, and we find ourselves evacuating whenever floods hit our communities.”

Help from the regional government

The regional government has been consistent in extending its support to the barangay, Mohammad said. “They would send sacks of rice consistently, and it was a great help because it allowed families to allocate more funds for other food items,” he said.

“Many of the residents here don’t have stable jobs,” he shared, “and perhaps the most important thing for us is for our families to not be hungry. The BARMM has helped us with that.”

Mohammad also mentions the need for a covered court or similar infrastructure that can provide shelter and safety whenever families need to evacuate because of persistent flooding in their area.

For the community pantry in Brgy. Biniruan, the Office of the Minority Floor Leader provided food enough for more than 500 families, including bundles of eggplant, okra, spring onions, and string beans. Other food items available in the pantry were basic ingredients such as garlic, red onions, and tomatoes, as well as canned sardines. Other members of the minority bloc provided rice and salt, along with packets of soy sauce, vinegar, and instant noodles.

When Mohammad found out that the community pantry was made possible with the support of MP Alamia, he recalled his previous encounters with her in the regional government. “I’m proud and grateful that Muslims are represented in the ranks of government by someone like her who is articulate, and someone who continues to work hard to provide public service.”