Living with “THEM” is like Living with HOPE…

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WE MAKE A LIVING BY WHAT WE GET, BUT WE MAKE A LIFE BY WHAT WE GIVE…

I quote from Winston Churchill. This I will never forget because for once I realized that my struggles are nothing compared to what these people are enduring every day in their lives…

December 26 – 28, 2014 marked the most unforgettable days of my year. Spending the moments with my friends who are part of different non-profit organizations, we went to a Mangyan Community in one of the remote provinces in the Philippines, Oriental Mindoro.

December 26, 2014

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This is my first time to travel by water and it frightens me cause apart from being the first, I have no power against the water cause I don’t know how to swim. But the reasons of going there and the faces of the people that I will see are enough momentarily to push away all the fears that are slowly creeping within me.

Upon reaching the end of the water trip, we rode again the same bus that will bring us to our destination. The travel is exhausting but the eagerness to see the people that I will be with for two days made the whole trip a less pain-in-the ass experience.

After a three-hour bus ride from the Pier of Calapan, we finally reached Roxas Oriental Mindoro. We are greeted by one of the facilitators/organizers of a non-profit organization, Sir Jepz Abiera Tarog, that has been taking good care of the Mangyan community for a long time, they even have established platforms and programs that will greatly help and enhanced the way of living of our native Mangyans. And after a while, he was joined by other members of the groups: Sir Ran Quijano and Otton Conopio.

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From Roxas proper to San Vicente, we travelled for another two hours. Carrying the goods that we will share and our hearts open to see the realities of the lives of these people, we are all set and ready.

Nighttime falls when we reached the town proper of San Vicente. Gathering all the donations we received from generous people and piling them all, the baranggay captain decided to lend us a truck that will bring us to SitioTagaskan. It is located in a foot of a mountain but you have to cross 14 small rivers. Cause it’s night already, travelling by foot even without carrying anything is literally difficult. As we passed by the trail, you can see in the dark the rich diversity of the different trees and some are actually creepy. Amidst the shaky ride, cause we are at the back of the cargo truck, we still managed to enjoy the shadow scenery of the surrounding. And exchange of different scary and funny stories are handy especially with this kind of bumpy ride in the night until we arrived at our final destination.

Few mangyan children and adults greeted us and helped us unload the truck of our baggages. I can feel already the warmth of the people by that simple act of helping us. I know that my decision of pursuing this outreach is what God wants me to do.

Sitio Tagaskan is taken care by Konsehal Roger and he is there for us all the time and attends to our needs. The community is small and there are at most 500 mangyans in the area. There are still other sitios and most of them can be reached hiking the mountains surrounding the place. In the heart of the baranggay is the school with three rooms and glad to know that the government finally was able to construct two new classrooms and one of these is our resting place.

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We prepared and planned for tomorrow and ended the night with a prayer hoping for the best.

December 27, 2014

Everybody woke up very early. With a happy heart and a promise of a new day, I prayed to GOD to guide us all and make this day wonderful for the people I will see in a while especially the children. It is time for us to meet “THEM”. As I went out the room, I saw already children playing basketball and some mothers with their feeding babies in their bosoms. I was glad to see them and I nearly cried cause these people in their simplicity are happy to greet the morning sun while I was way back then curse every morning that I have to wake up because I have to face another challenging life at work. Setting aside this feeling of humiliation, I tried to stick with the plans we managed to came up last night. We had a short talk about the rights and responsibilities of a child where the children and parents had separate group discussion. I lead one of the discussions with students from grade 5 to high school. It was a meaningful one cause I’ve learned that not all of them can actually read coherently. This motivated me to do one thing: GO BACK TO THIS COMMUNITY AND TEACH THEM FOR A WEEK. We also cooked for them: sopas and spaghetti. After eating we distributed hygiene kits like toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo and conditioner and for some moisturizing lotion and taught them the proper way of brushing their teeth and washing their hands. The kids and also the older ones enjoyed the games we prepared for them. I, for one, never felt happier this way before. If you could only see the smiles in their faces, the joy while receiving their prizes, its all WORTH IT. And the happiest part of all, we let them feel what we normally feel if we receive gifts, is the GIFT GIVING. We actually wrapped the toys with christmas wrappers so the children could feel the season of CHRIST, the season of sharing. We all know that seldom, or worst, not even once, have they received gifts on a season like this. We also gave the children a notebook and a pencil, not that much, that they can use after the christmas break. A good way also to let them feel the season of giving cause not a single house has something to remind them that its christmas time.

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The fun doesn’t end here because the younger ones are reminded to clean themselves and go back to the school by 6:30 PM cause they would watch a movie: RIO from the famous app Angry Birds. To sum up their experiences, selected groups are tasked to come up with a drawing with a message depicting what their feelings are for that day and what is christmas for them.

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Other than the smiles and hearts full of love and gratitude, best gift we received today is the mouth – watering lechon, YUMMY =)…

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December 28, 2014

The next day, we have to leave not with a heavy heart but a PROMISE that we will be back and that they will never be forgotten. On our way to BUKTOT Beach in Manaul Mansalay, we have to walk the trail the truck had passed by on our first night in San Vicente. It was not a tiring trek because each one of us has a story to tell even the creepiest ones make us laugh. We crossed rivers, careful not to slip or fall down and took pictures of the view with us in it. We rode a jeepney going to BUKTOT Beach and here it is… another reward, another beauty of nature.

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Thanks to the people I’ve been with for the past three days. May the fire of volunteerism keep burning in our hearts.

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These people may not know but it is I who is blessed more in this experience. Life offers me things that they don’t have but THEY HAVE SOMETHING that I neglect and forget most of the time, HOPE. HOPE that something good will happen, HOPE that pain will end and HOPE for tomorrow.Truly, NOTHING will compare to what I have learned from this outreach. It is not what we have in life that matters, IT IS WHAT WE CAN GIVE AND OFFER to make this world a BETTER PLACE FOR ALL OF US.

I quote and unquote again the saying which is now engraved in my heart. A saying that started and ended it all.

WE MAKE A LIVING BY WHAT WE GET, BUT WE MAKE A LIFE BY WHAT WE GIVE…

And this is the picture that says it all…

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Mangyan Community: Sitio Tagaskan, San Vicente, Roxas Oriental Mindoro

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