Monday, May 4, 2009

Lakbay Aral sa Bangkal (Part 1)

The work an unknown good man has done is like a vein of water flowing hidden underground, secretly making the ground green. ~Thomas Carlyle
We all want to make a difference. People dare defy limits of wisdom to create something out of nothing. Through the years, we never stopped in our desire to seek purpose and fulfillment in daily existence. We seek, and sometimes we find, sometimes we don’t. We want to see changes. Apparently though, not all people work to make these changes happen. Some do, at a certain extent.

Allow me to speak in behalf of my friends about this goodness. I do not wish to boast but to share. My aim is not to brag about this achievement but to inform people that they can get hold of this as well. I did not write this entry to influence people but to recount what has been a priceless experience that not all of us could obtain.

We went to Bataan on the 25th of April, 2009. At 9 in the morning, while inside the van, we repacked those donations sent by Veronica’s friends and those that my fellow teachers bought. In just a matter of 30 minutes or so, we came up with 140 gifts for the children, all containing biscuits, beverages, packs of pancit canton and corn snacks.

We arrived at around ten in the morning and waited for Ate Tina, our tour guide at a gasoline station. She never wasted a moment in sharing facts about Bataan. On our way, we were held at a checkpoint because she forgot to put on her seatbelt. We took it as something to smile about, nonetheless.

It was already an hour before lunch when we got to Brgy. Bangcal. Veronica, Joel, G-lyn and Tasha wore shoes. I was the only one wearing slippers that time. We were inside the van but we already had the idea that we would have a long walk all the way up going to the church and school. By the time we went out of the van, the rain had finally stopped. The only problem was, the roads became muddy and slippery, so we had to watch our steps to avoid losing our balance while walking.
We finally got to the church. It wasn't like any other churches I've been to. There was a spot outside where you could see the lush fields of Bataan while relaxing on Father Lauro's tumba tumba (rocking chair).
The church wasn't as small as I expected. After a few minutes of taking photos of the place, Ate Tina introduced us to Father Lauro, a fairly tall man in his forties, who looks more of a community captain than a priest. I guess that's how priests should really seem like. They all look dignified, well-mannered and good-tempered; but as Father Lauro smiled at and shook hands with all of us, we felt he seemed a lot more different. He offered us seats inside his small nipa hut situated a couple of steps next to the right side of the church.

It was very brave of him to open simple truths to us. He started telling us stories of how his people live their daily lives. The aetas in the community depend on hunting and farming for sustaining their barest necessities. Everyday, fathers would go to the forests to cut bamboos, and sell them off to people for 1 peso. He said, the largest income an aeta could have in this kind of job is a hundred a day. Most of the families eat once or twice and sadly, these meals consist mainly of only rice, soy sauce and cooking oil. If they're unlucky, they could have coffee spilled on rice for breakfast. Because food was even barely enough for the entire family, fathers have no choice but ask their children to help them in earning a living. Ergo, most of the children ditch classes to go out into the forest to work. Father Lauro was so happy to tell us that he finds hope in two aetas who are currently pursuing their second year in college.

These children, I told myself, they should know that they could get more when they finish their studies. They can uplift the lives of their siblings and they can give more comfortable lives for their parents. It hurts me even more that they cannot live to look forward to achieving these things for they already struggle to live for today. While Father was talking, it was by reflex that I shed tears not out of pity but out of guilt that I knew I could only do this much even if I knew I would have wanted to do more.

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