"I don’t get starstruck,” Ana Patricia Non said. “I see people equally, so status is not something I look at.” Non, better known to her peers as “Patreng”, sat across from me and sipped from a cup of tea. This was her first photoshoot since her high school prom, so she was very excited. The bubbly 26-year-old looked every bit the confident personality she seemed to be on TV. Non is the progenitor of the Maginhawa Community Pantry, which has since begotten 6,700 other pantries across the country and counting. Despite the massive achievement and endless accolades from the press and government agencies (not to mention, thousands, if not millions of supporters online), she was humble, warm and very easy to talk to.
A few years ago, Non was knee-deep in the corporate world with a job in Sales. “I thought I had to please other people, that I needed to be successful. It never occurred to me that it was possible to help others, much less start a movement.” She was pursuing a life she believed was necessary, working towards buying a house, owning her own car—the trappings of a regular 20-year-old starting her career. Yet, Non shared that she always had a penchant for lending a helping hand. Once in college, a schoolmate whose mother had cancer had gone around asking for people to donate blood; Non signed up immediately. “Go talaga ako (I did not hesitate).” She was known to be generous, so much so that her professors often advised her, “take care of yourself first before others”.
On her way to fulfilling what she thought were her dreams, Non suddenly lost a dear friend, whose passing she related was a turning point in her life. “I realised I had to live for myself. We go through life … we don’t like what we eat, we’re overworked at our jobs, we forget the essentials.” Her friend, she noted, was someone she deeply admired—an artist-activist that lived life to the fullest. She wanted to be like that too.
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