Sunday, November 2, 2014

Christmas in October #GiveLove

(TheBACKPACKERS #GiveLove in Ifugao 2014)

It was exactly a year ago when majority of TheBackpackers and some very close friends made one of the most heartwarming adventure of 2013 in Ifugao Province. In coordination with the KaEswela, they have spread happiness by giving school supplies and sports equipments to students throughout some schools located at the remote but beautiful Mt. Humalophop

Every aspect of it was memorable. From the preparation of donations to climbing Mt. Humalophop up until the distribution of the donations to the schools were definitely an event to remember in the hearts of all those who participated. 

Conducting an outreach program is not new with TheBackpackers. In fact, we conducted several outreach events spearheaded by different BP members such as BP Marion, BP Chons and BP Ivan. During that time we refer to it as an outreach but as time passed by it evolved into the term "GiveLove" meaning conducting an outreach. This GiveLove usually happens in the month of October.

Prior to the month of October, the officers were already planning to conduct an outreach in the province of Rizal. Although there were some details that needs to be polished, we were confident that we will be able to conduct one this year. Come by the first week of October, KaEskewla emailed our President Heinz that they need support in an outreach in Ifugao to be conducted by the Tourist Oriented Police for Community Order and Protection (TOPCOP) Banaue. When I heard the word IFUGAO, I was immediately ecstatic because once again, there is a possibility that TheBackpackers will be able to provide help in this beautiful province. 

Limited time was given to us to gather donations for the benefit of this event. We shared FB statuses and talked to different people either at work or with friends to somehow share their blessings. With all the help of BPs and friends, we managed to received overflowing of donation during that short period of time. It just shows that when group of people are working together for a same cause then everything will be a success. 

Our sample poster
Originally, the plan was for some representatives of the TOPCOP to receive the donations from our headquarters in Mandaluyong to be brought up straight to Banaue but that did not obviously happened. A week before the intended event and while the officers were sorting out the donations, Heinz told us that TOPCOP wanted to have a representative of TheBackpackers to go there, witness the event and speak in behalf of the group. Apparently for some of us, the event was on a weekday and they cannot afford being absent for work. I myself was confused on whether to join or not since I am experiencing some career changes in life. 

Hygiene for Children
Toys for the Children
The BP's sorting

I have been to Banaue and it's one place that I would keep coming back over and over again. With a combination of cool weather, nice people and astonishing views, and the World-Class Rice Terraces, every people who has been there will definitely say that Banuae is a must see Philippine destination.

None of the officers can refuse the offer and by Monday of that week, all was set. In addition to Ghei, York and I, we were also joined by our fellow BP member Liz. The four (4) of us were excited and at the same time blessed for once again TheBackpackers are given the opportunity to share their blessing through GIVELOVE.

Wednesday night at around 9:30pm, the four (4) of us met at Ohayami bus station located along Lacson St. near U.S.T. BP Wilson was also there to support our trip to Banaue. At 10:0pm the journey to the beautiful Banaue began.

After nine (9) hours of travel, we arrived at Poblacion, Banaue. Its been nearly four (4) years (if I'm not mistaken) since I last step foot at Banaue but I can never forget the place and the experiences that I had from the last time I've been. On the other hand, this was BP York's first time in the province for he was always absent whenever TheBackpackers or his other friends goes there. As soon as he stepped out of the bus, he immediately grabbed a selfie picture.

BP York's first selfie at Banaue
Happy first time boy
While BP York was taking some pictures, the rest of us met Sgt. Carolina Kimmayong and two (2) of his officers. To be honest, I wasn't expecting Sgt. Kimmayong to be a woman (although it is obvious in her name), furthermore, to be young looking. We had the usual exchanges of "Hi, Hello" and "How's our trip?". We then continued our conversation at Sarafe Lodge, a restaurant located below the bus Terminal. From there we had our breakfast and discussion of our agenda for our two(2)-day stay.

Sanafe Lodge

Discussion of Agenda and Breakfast with Sgt. Kimmayong

First from our agenda was a visit to the Municipal Hall of Banaue. Sgt. Kimmayong introduced us to almost all the personnel of almost every departments of the Municipal Hall. We all felt special with all the greetings and everything but we never forgot our mission, and that was to GiveLove.

Compared to other government offices in Manila wherein you need to travel from one place to another, Banaue government offers an almost like a "one-stop-shop" for those in need to transact some business/personal matters because almost all the different government offices can be found in one whole area.

Banaue Town Hall
BP Nick, Ms. Grace, BP Ghei, Mr. James, Sgt. Kimmayong and BP York
Discussion with the Municipal officers

BP Nick and Sgt. Kimmayong
Am I Fit To Work?
BP Ghei
After a few discussions on our agenda, together with some officers of the Municipality, Sgt. Kimmayong decided for us to go to the TOPCOP office to show us the sacks of donations they also received from other donors.

It was a 10-15 tricycle ride from Municipal Hall going to TOPCOP office and upon our arrival at around 10:00am, we saw tons of sacks inside their office. I was incredibly excited and at the same time thinking if we (personally) would carry all these number of donations up to the schools. We began helping some of the police officers in sorting some school supplies & clothes and load them to the parked truck. But take note, those were not the only kinds of donations we are giving to the schools as I expected would be (some would be revealed later on).

TOPCOP Headquarters
Sorting of donations
BP York reading some books
Clothes donations
We tried to as much as possible to help with the sorting and loading of the donations but the four (4) of us felt exhausted on our bus ride from Manila to Banaue and needed to take a rest. After a very short nap, we had our lunch. And was better food it is to be served but the all time favorite Filipino food - ADOBO. Quite frankly, it was good.

At  1:00pm, all of us, together with some TOPCOP officers loaded the remaining sacks of donations in the truck. Afterwhich, through the use of TOPCOP mobile, we began our journey to the two (2) chosen schools in Banaue  - The  Guitte and PatPat Primary Schools.

Loading donations

The truck full of donations
Located at Barangay Ducligan, Banaue, we arrived at the jump-off point of PatPat and Guitte Primary School at around 4:00pm. Energized and pumped-up for the climb, I actually thought we would be carrying some loads of donation, over and above with our personal things, from the jump-off up to the school where we will stay. Contrary to our assumption, some locales were already carrying the donations back and forth from the jump-off up to the school itself prior to our arrival.

The river at Barangay Ducligan
Jump-off point
Signage to Guitte and Patpat Primary School
Clearly, from the signage written in the jump-off point, the Guitte and Patpat Primary Schools were located in about two (2) and three (3) kilometres, respectively. It was an easy hike compared to last year's Mt. Humalophop were the BP spent hours hiking (and wandering) from the jump-off up to the schools itself. Carrying only our Backpacks, we started the hike on our way to the schools.

Along the way, we saw locales carrying the sacks of donation and saying "Thank you". I was reluctant since instead of us carrying the donations, they were the ones doing it. Although it was for them, I still felt the shame because of some factors that they have been doing it barefoot and back-and-forth while us were just carrying our things. But even though that's what happened, they were still thankful for our presence and for the cause.

Gradual assualt
BP Liz, York and Ghei
BP York, Ghei and Nick with Sgt.Kimmayong
The hike was relaxing at first. We passed by sceneric views of the river and mountain ranges of Banaue. The second half of the hike was challenging and offers a lot of variety. On the second half of the hike was my all-time favorite mountain trail (sarcasm insert here)- the STAIRS! If you were a climber, you would agree (or maybe not) with me that it is much more difficult than a normal mountain trails. In between the stairs trail was another unique path - a HANGING BRIDGE! 

The never ending STAIRS!

BP Ghei tired. At rhe background are locales carrying the donations
Hanging with an estimate height of Forty (40) feet, this Fifty (50) metres hanging bridge can definitely bring a scare to those with Arcophobia (fear of heights). Its steps and the bridge itself were unstable but there's was no other way but for all of us to conquer the hanging bridge on the way to schools. 

The unstable HANGING BRIDGE!

After the hanging bridge was the pride of mountain province - a.k.a "The Hagdang-Hagdang Palayan" or the World's famous RICE TERRACES! BP York immediately took a picture upon arrival at the first steps of the rice terraces (first time boy!). Although, we did not actually passed-by the whole rice terraces, it was indeed a nice feeling to have seen and step foot on it again. 

BP York and Liz
BP Ghei
Rice Terraces
BP Nick and Ghei
Savoring the moment - BP York
A little over an hour from the jump-off, we were greeted by the children of the community as we arrived at Guitte Elementary School. Guitte Elementary school was being run by two (2) teachers. A small school with roughly around thirty (30) to forty (40) grade school students (Grades 1 to 6) was our home for the whole event. While waiting for the other organizers of the event, we had a chit chat with the locales of the area. However, instead of having a good conversation, all we did was to SMILE and take a picture. Neither do we know, most of the kids have limited understanding with Tagalog words nor do they talk the language. What's amazing with the kids were their ability to talk in English and of course their very own native language.

Hi Kids!

BPs and Sgt. Kimmayong with the kids
Daily Attendance of the day
At dinner time, they served three (3) different set of meals - the native chicken, monggo and snails. During dinner, we had a chance to converse with teacher Gerry (Jerry). He was a teacher from PatPat Elementary School and a native of Banaue. He was still young, in fact, just about our age. He shared some school stories during our dinner which enlightened me in a way on the life of the people in that community. 

Dinner time
A  very short program was conducted after the dinner. It was more like a greeting and welcoming for everyone who were there for the night and to GiveLove. Though the four (4) of us doesn't really understand what they were saying, we felt that they were just thankful for our presence that night or for the whole event.

BP York, being the incumbent Vice-President of BP shared some speech in front of all the community. While BP Ghei and I had a short intermission just to shake the night.

BP Nick with LGU of Banaue

BP York and BP Liz doing some tribal dance

It was still early when the program ended. Although, in an official BP event, that time of the night would be the equivalent of BP social circle. We felt that we needed to get some sleep (and we really can't do anything). Next day would be the event proper and everyone felt the excitement. We slept together with the other organizers and hoped that the next day we will continue to bring some smile on the community's faces.


Stay tuned for the Part 2 of Christmas in October (TheBACKPACKERS #GiveLove in Ifugao 2014)

Photo credits to:
Liezl Honrade
Nickson Garcia
York Advento
Heinz Alvarez

No comments: