And who says you can’t give what you don’t have?
Well, not for Benjamin Gabuni and his friends who are often misconstrued as wasted, if not lost, for their expressive fashion sense that exceeded and defied the elegance of the mediocre and the “normal”.
The tattoos and the piercing all over their young bodies perhaps are enough reason to scare the unaware and uncomprehending, but these are nothing to the hungry and homeless dwellers of Davao City’s Rizal Park.
Gabuni is part of the Food Not Bombs (FNB), a community of young men and women advocating for the equal access to food as a basic right of every individual. Almost every Saturday afternoon, the group distributes food to people, mostly children, who fight their way to survive in the rather complex urban life.
Since July in 2000, the group has been an attention grabber among the dwellers of the park. Always clad in black shirts and tattered pants, chains hanging from their waists, their presence ironically lights up the dwellers, children numbering to more than 50 break in a monotonous chorus “Pagkaon dili bomba…pagkaon dili bomba!” just by seeing them.
“Pasalamat gyud kaayo ko kay naay nagahatag sa amo ug pagkaon. Bisan kan-on ug gulay lang, mabusog man kaayo ko maong dako gyud ni ug tabang (I am really thankful because they are giving us food. It’s just rice and vegetable but it eases my hunger),” said 10-year old Mikay Panilag.
But how can a bunch of most of the time penniless youth afford to fill, albeit temporarily, empty stomachs?
They ask. And what they receive, they give. Simple.
“Feeding the hungry can be done without us spending money but time and the dedication to lessen the problem of hunger especially among the youth. We have been doing this through the help of the countless individuals, market venders, who willingly spared us what they have,” Gabuni said.
The group often roams around the Ho Chi Min-like trail of the Bangkerohan Public Market asking for spare vegetables, fruits, and rice from the venders—food that most often are wasted. They will prepare what they have collected into meals and distribute them to the Rizal Park dwellers.
A global community, FNB started in Cambridge University, Massachusetts, USA in 1980 as a movement that aims to serve vegetarian food to the hungry. The movement, started by anti-nuclear activists, believes that no one would be hungry if the government and transnational corporations only spend much for food as much as they spend for war.
They also believe that vegan food is both non-violent and healthy.
“We encourage others to look into the issue of poverty and hunger as a problem so simple that can be explained and solved with not much technicality and politics,” Dindo, a member of FNB, said.
“This can be done when all of us commits to solving it. But of course, the problem of poverty and hunger is reflective of how the policy giving bodies—the authorities, prioritize arms over education and other basic social services such as health, shelter, clothing, and food,” Dindo added.
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