Friday, March 29, 2013 0 comments

Hopeful and Thankful

The Pens of Hope Project in Cagayan de Oro started with a boxful of pens, pencils and other school supplies from Frtizie Figuera of Yokohama City, Japan. It sat under my cubicle for almost a year waiting for just the perfect moment. It was supposed to go to Kikit and Pens of Hop in Davao but with her encouragement and the spirit's prodding, I decided to start the project in my city.

The first distribution was a pleasant surprise and very heartwarming. I met a Swiss missionary in Baungon, Bukidnon who shared his experience of putting up a preschool in the Basurahan or Landfill in the city. Right there and then I knew they would be the perfect place to start POH in CDO. I rounded up some of my former high school student leaders who were generous enough to spend their time and resources to give out the supplies to the preschool kids of Philippine Island Kids Learning Center. What never fails to amaze me about giving is that after the experience I always feel like I was the one who received more than I ever gave. We went through classes giving sweet kids their set of pens and pencils and snacks. It was admirable how well behaved they all are. I can tell that the volunteers did an amazing job with teaching them. In the end, the high school kids showcased their talents. It was another revelation to me how gifted kids can be as they sang and danced with passion. Every move and every word that came out is  full of hope and dreams for the future. I was really glad to have been there to witness it. I looked at my former students who have also chosen to serve and hoped that they see the same thing and that they will continue to live a life of generosity.

Jeda Suyao and Jyle Pielago with the kids of Philippine Island Kids Learning Center

The fruits of the first distribution was plentiful enough to influence more people to do so much more for the kids of CDO. As more donations came pouring in from Xavier University High School and her alumni, I remembered one of the areas that have made a huge impact in my formation and my work as Immersion Coordinator. The tiny village of Leropan in Brgy Pagalungan was very remote and can only be reached by habal habal. Hundreds of XUHS students have spent their weekends here learning and experiencing rural life. The generosity of the people have taught me that no one is too poor not to give somethiing. Together with my Awesome class of 3 Owen and some Bobola students, we spent a day sorting donations from the Math Department and Paper Station Store. We packed 80 kits and then hired a jeepney to bring us to Leropan. It was a very humid day when we went around houses and gave out the kits to the kids. Of course they did not know we were coming but the pleasant surprise and shy smiles on their tiny faces made all the effort worthwhile. It was a tiny thing to do compared to what their lives had taught us over the years. 

This little boy was playing with his friends on the street when he received a surprise from POH.

Awesome Owen and Bobola volunteers braving the searing heat of the sun

The previous distribution experiences have taught me a lot about how to do this project. As a teacher, the formative aspect of every activity is very important so as not to lose sight of the real meaning and purpose of why we do what we do. The Third Distribution was a response to our own public schools whose teachers had to use their personal money to buy the most basic learning materials for the pupils. Cathy Lozano's sister was one of those who always had to salvage used teaching materials from Cathy that her students can use. She told us of how she had to cut pencils in two so that more students could use it. For years, Cathy had also been sharing to me how her sister would be ecstatic over scrap paper from XUHS that her pupils can use to write on. Drawing on the generosity of LAWIG, former CLC's like Tiulay Abamonga in Canada and Sit Nitz of XUHS, we set out to prepare kits for 80 pupils. It was an outreach that filled us with loads of happiness. We started out with some fun getting to know you activities while some parents looked on. The kids were very excited and participated very actively with Cathy. Their eyes sparkled with joy when they received their set of school materials and it was heart warming how they clenched the pencils and carried the envelopes close to their hearts. What we gave will never be enough but then that is how generosity thrives. This time, the kids expressed their gratefulness and Ma'am Mildred's smile conveyed her happiness that at least for the rest of the school year her pupils didn't have to worry about what to write on. 

their smiles say it all
Ma'am Mildred and Cathy introducing POH

My belief in every person's capacity for selfless giving was reinforced when LAWIG once again decided to do an alternative Christmas Party. It was a suggestion from Davao friends Alwin and Roj. Cagayan de Oro has been bravely struggling to rise after the devastation Sendong caused. The group decided to do something for the children of Puntod, Balulang. Thus, the Grasya sa Pasko project was born in coordination with Pens of Hope in CDO. Balulang was one of those areas where floodwaters did serious damage to property and took away lives. Puntod is an island right in the middle of the river and during the flood it got completely submerged. The goal of our activity then was to help the children focus on the graces they want to receive this Christmas, a year after Sendong. Although the turnout of kids were not as many as we expected, their was still enough of them to fill the area under the great lumboy tree with happiness and laughter. Games were played, art work and group sharing were facilitated and at the end of it all, the Grace of Christmas drawings were wrapped around the Lumboy tree. A beautiful symbolism of hope rising up towards the heavens. 
winding the grace of christmas drawings up the lumboy tree

The activity was also an amazing unifying force as several groups came together to make the activity meaningful. It was a reunion of sorts for CLC's from Lawig and Tunob who had not been together since college 15 years ago. XUHS students, XU SOE English Interns with Sir Nitz Librando, Jr. Donors from all over the world sent their generous contributions and Ms. Gigi Go of The Rotary Club helped a lot in providing the kids with a delicious snack.

the grace behind it all

The event was truly meaningful. We only hope that the pens and pencils we have shared with the kids of CDO have written relevant stories and that the kids have somehow seen hope amidst the hardships. We are strangers putting our money, our time and our lives to other strangers. But somehow, in the hours it took to be with these kids, they have somehow become our children and our brothers and sisters. The joy that is evident in the twinkle in their eyes, the silly grin, and the shy Thank You's grab at your heart. And I say, I find meaning in dong this, in seeing this, in bleeding for this. Love is indeed shown in deeds as St. Ignatius once wrote. It is not merely a feeling, a good thought or even a grand intention. The months that Pens of Hope had spent in Cagayan de Oro was truly wonderful. It brought out the generosity of people and the kids. We will continue writing little scribbles of hope.

Thank you so much to all those who have been very generous in giving their time, money and prayers to Pens of Hope in CDO.

Sunday, December 09, 2012 0 comments

writing begins tonight

Being cooped up in a 10x15 foot apartment when one is recovering from a major operation can be quite challenging. What can one do in two months of necessary break from a 12 year habit? Before the surgery I listed my options:

1. Design the menu for Pacifico Huts
2. Reviving my never started Odesk online career
3. Resurrect my blog
4. Make card templates
5. Play chuzzle for two months
6. Stalk everyone on Facebook

From the list, the blogging idea seems more attractive. Why not? This blog has been sleeping for almost two years and I need to vent out some emotions that a Facebook status update just cant cure. So I opened blogger which this computer does not even recognize as a favorite and got blasted with a new blogger look. It invited me to "explore" and I was little bit insecure about doing this again. Years ago I taught myself html so I can tweak my blog the way I like it. I remember how time consuming it was and I cringed at the thought of having to do it again. First on the blog resurrection to do list is to change the template. Gisele's template is still cute and the green looks happy and elegant. But I am 35 years old and I cant get away with cute drawings anymore. So I searched for something 35ish and found a notebook/diary design which looked more mature and classy. Then I have to decide to delete some widgets,mementos of the blog hopping craze and the race to gain more traffic and maybe earn some on the side. I decided I'm terrible at it and I do not like the pressure of writing to please people. This blog will remain to be a collection of thoughts,a keepsake of memories and events and a record of emotions and dreams. 

With this awkward attempt at writing again, I now begin my stories...

Thursday, April 29, 2010 2 comments

all about EVE

grandpa dude heralding your arrival

Dear Eve,

We have been waiting for you ever since your mom told us you are on the way. It is our heart's fondest desire to see you and hug you. Your grandpa dude is especially happy to hear about your arrival from your dad. He has been waiting impatiently for months and now feels that he has been born again through you.

I know that you will be a wonderful person coz of the parents that you have. I pray that you will love life in all its awesome beauty and even in its tragedy. You are a child whose coming has made a lot of people very happy. Never forget that.

We will be waiting for you to come visit our tiny island. We will bring you to different places and let you meet interesting people. We will teach you to eat rice and say, "Maayong buntag!". We will let you swim in crystal clear warm waters, eat fresh buko, play with butterflies and make friends.

Thank you for coming into this world. Even without having seen you yet, I know that you have made it a million times more beautiful.

Love and kisses,


Sunday, April 25, 2010 3 comments

blue sky, blue ocean, blue boat and a baby boy

Let me tell you this amazing story on our recent trip to Siargao Island. Our 3 day recollection-outing ended on Saturday, April the 24th. We took the first trip out of the island since we wanted to do some shopping in Surigao. Charlie had difficulty with the seats so we opted to stay outside the fastcraft. But I still saved two seats inside the boat just in case the coast guard wanted us inside. The seat I saved was right in front of the engine room coz it had the largest leg room. We arrived early so there was plenty of time to waste. While waiting, we sat on two plastic chairs watching people come in. Then there was a flurry of activity and an elderly woman got in the boat with the intention of getting our seats. I told her it was reserved. But when I looked up I saw a very pregnant woman in a hospital gown and another man holding her dextrose. I took my bags from the seat shamefaced and offered the seat.

that's the kind of boat we were in

I once thought that these things only happen in the movies. That of women giving birth inside a taxi or car and on a plane. Who has heard of a woman giving birth on a small boat?

I watched with disbelief as she ducked to enter the boat. But before she did, her face was contorted as a contraction hit her. She then sat down and for a while everything seemed ok. Thirty minutes into the trip, I noticed a commotion below and saw that the woman was now lying on top of the engine room on a mat. The nurse or midwife was between her legs and a blanket was around her small body covering the woman's lower body. Her contractions had become more frequent and her face was always contorted in pain. Surprisingly, she never screamed.

The people on board respectfully gave them distance and was careful not to stare. But interestingly, the men seemed more affected than the women. I have to tell you that where I was seated, I had the best view of everything that was happening. If I turned my head to the left and looked down, I can see everything. So the men crisscrossing the boat always asked me, "Nanganak na?" They seemed pretty nervous about it. I saw three women assisting the midwife. I dont know why but they kept shaking the woman's belly.

And then an awful smell came out from below. I saw one of the assistant's eye tear up and she ducked her head outside and puked. I didn't understand why at first coz I didn't smell it until later. The wind was blowing right on my face so I was not so affected. But people started going out of their seats and puking. I then realized that the woman must have pooped (excuse the word).

After a few minutes, I heard the women shouting "Tuyod! Tuyod!" (Push!Push!) over and over again. I was so scared for the woman that I texted my co-teachers up front to pray. Then Charlie tapped my shoulder and said, "Look, Shals!". I then saw the baby come out wriggling and the women exclaiming, "Nay, layake! (Hey, its a boy!)" I was just so amazed by the whole experience I couldn't stop smiling! They placed the baby on top of his mother and wiped him clean. Then the midwife began cleaning up the mother. Another woman took charge of the baby. I looked at the mother. She looked so exhausted and looked like she was asleep. After they put clothes on the baby, they placed him in her arms. She instinctively opened her eyes, looked at him and snuggled him close to her.

I guess everyone on board sighed in relief. I wanted to take pictures but Charlie forbid me. So I took a picture instead of the blue gallon in front of me. Haha! After that, its as if nothing happened. When we arrived in Surigao, an ambulance was already waiting. Later, my co-teachers said that they never knew there was a woman giving birth until they smelled the stench and got my message.

the blue gallon in front of me right after the baby was born

I just felt awed by the whole experience. I couldn't forgot the sight of the baby looking so pale with the umbilical cord still linking him to the mother. He looked so beautiful. I still regret not taking a picture especially when they told me another passenger took a video of the whole thing.