Pilipinas Kontra Gutom
Due to previous commitments, I was not able to witness the whole media launch of a new anti-hunger coalition called Pilipinas Kontra Gutom (PKG). I caught most of it though, even when I had to divert my eyes to writing some urgent stuff with my headphones still monitoring the PKG meeting. I am glad I made the effort to listen as best I could and watch some slide presentations as well. Impressive, to say the least.
I was not impressed by the presence of personalities or government agencies or NGOs or media outfits who were part of the virtual conference. I had seen them, read them, or even crossed paths with them in the anti-hunger, anti-malnutrition, and anti-poverty effort these last 20 years. What impressed me is that I saw ALL of them together in one gathering for one cause – to end hunger. Well, almost, that is, because hunger could not take the stage by itself with all the people and groups there who have worked hard to curb malnutrition. In truth, by sheer numbers, malnutrition seems to be the bigger challenge.
The uglier truth, though, is that hunger persists because it was never given center stage in our attention. Having failed to do that, everything follows. In other words, since it was never that important, we never moved against it like the horrifying enemy it is. And when I say never, I mean never. Not that there were no sympathizers or even champions for the hungry, just never enough, and never given access to the kind of power, authority, and resources needed to end it. Believe me, too, when I conclude that if hunger is tolerated, malnutrition all the more will be.
But, and I mean this with utmost sincerity, listening and watching that media conference of PKG gave me a healthy dose of hope. I felt in my heart that, at last, hunger is finally going to meet its nemesis – a united front. When factionalism and fragmentation have been the more defining attitudes of our social and political dynamics, a united front is not just a breath of fresh air – it is a sudden gust. My prayer, then, is that it develops into a cyclone that will decimate hunger. That is its intention, and that is its potential.
The final answer to hunger, though, is all of us. The personalities, and the organizations they represent, who were part of the PKG virtual gathering can only lead the charge. The army, though, is you and me – we. A united front is not a coalition among societal leaders, it is a collective priority of a people. The tip of the iceberg is the known leadership of decision-makers, but the iceberg is us the people. Without the iceberg, that tip is just a floater and will soon melt away. We and our united front, therefore, become the greatest challenge of PKG, our conversion, our participation.
I believe that the PKG coalition knows the score because most, if not all, of them have been players in the hunger and malnutrition intervention in the past. I saw a list of big corporations that have a history of donating food or monetary resources to the historical battle against hunger. That they are still here, still prepared to have another go at it, speaks highly of their commitment to corporate responsibility. With this new initiative of trying to create a united front, the corporations who have joined may well double or triple their donations and commit to do so for the coming years.
There were several government agencies that were present, particularly the DSWD, the DA, and the DILG. We know that the DSWD and the DA will forever, by law and official mandate, will always have hunger and malnutrition as key concerns. It was the participation of the DILG, however, that gave me an extra spark of hope. The hungry, especially, needs to be seen, to be known, to be monitored, and to be responded to. LGUs must have that epiphany of sorts to put hunger in the same level of importance as illegal drugs. An activated LGU structure down to the communities is the first line of defense. It may even be the only line needed if adequately supported.
Government is government, and the rest is the people. It is us who are invited to end hunger, it is you and me in our daily lives who can end hunger. If you and I are ignorant of the hunger around us, if you and I are not upset that the hungry are around us, if you and I can sleep soundly while others and their children fear for their next meals, hunger will not end. Hunger and its victims must be our concern as much as the food security of our families.
What I pray for is that the PKG and concerned government agencies serve as our teachers and role models. The goodness has always been there in our hearts; it only needs to be stimulated, habitually stimulated by good examples. It is a challenge of leadership and discipleship, of those who show the right way and of those who follow their good ways.
For all who care and who have been in the trenches all the while in the war against hunger, the PKG or the government are not asking us to relax because they are taking over. There is no united front if it is just them out there. They have been there all along but could not beat hunger. For hunger to end, you and I must understand that a united front means we are at the core and also in the most remote battlefields.
We are the army that can end hunger. The strategy is simple. In our hearts, hunger must never be tolerated. In our minds, hunger must always be unimaginable. In our hands, sympathy and food must overflow to those in need. Our promise, our battle cry – Hunger No More.
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