Could we change lives given just a weekend? With the right group of dedicated individuals, we easily can.
The heavy rains, thanks to Typhoon Falcon, did not stop the group that Friday night. Metro Manila's every corner is flooded but we managed to make the rendezvous and catch the bus headed to a town in Oriental Mindoro, an island south of Luzon. The destination: Mansalay, home of the Hanunoo Mangyans (one of the 7 Mangyan tribes in Mindoro). The mission: distribute school supplies to about 300 or so school children (official list indicates 320).
The group is made up of professionals from various fields, but that weekend we were all volunteers of Black Pencil Project
"Black Pencil Project is a grass-root, hobby-based, volunteer organization with core advocacies focused on child's primary education in remote and indigenous communities in the Philippines. Primarily founded as a collective initiative, Black Pencil Project fosters shared responsibility using individual's skill and talent through AdvenTourism and VolunTourism programs." - Mon Corpuz, one of the founders.
This particular trip was organized by a group of BPP volunteers - running enthusiasts who initiated the Run For Pencils project. The fundraising initiative aimed to collect pledges for every kilometer a runner covers.
I was fortunate to be invited to tag along and I almost backed out of it due to a conflict with schedule. Looking back at that weekend, I would not miss it for the world, not even with the flood and the huge waves that delayed our island crossing from Batangas pier to Calapan.
Here are some of the photos I took (with more photos soon):
Our home and activity area for two days. This is where all of us, volunteers and different groups from various sitios, ate and slept. Some of our group stayed on a small hut on a hill just beyond this compound, while some pitched a tent. There are no bathrooms and CRs of course. We had to take a bath in the river and they had to create a temporary CR for us (read: dig a hole and cover it with anahaw leaves)
I still don't have the exact number how many of them were able to make it there that weekend but there was enough number to keep the volunteers occupied, from manning the kitchen, telling stories, and organizing/facilitating parlor games.
happy smiling faces
Some of the children with their parents and para-teachers, all beaming and happy.
The pictures may not say it all (I hope to post more) but it was a life changing experience, probably for both the volunteers and the Mangyan kids. The Mangyans are a resilient tribe, making do with what they have. They understood the importance of literacy for their children and have used whatever resources they have, be it a simple hut for a classroom or engaging volunteer teachers, to uphold and sustain this.
I've learned that among the 7 Mangyan tribes, the Hanunoos have their own form of writing. They showed me how to write my own name using their script.
I've learned that their dialect have a lot of words in common with my own (Hiligaynon) and that of my grandparents (Kinaray-a). Somehow I (or they) felt some gap has been bridged as soon as I started using these words and phrases in conversation with them.
As we parted ways that weekend, Imelda, of the the para-teachers, told me repeatedly: "Allan, wag mo kaming kalimutan" (don't forget us). I don't think I ever will.
More photos soon.
Know the dedicated people behind this here.