After a long day in the office, I pampered myself with a sumptuous dinner at Pancit Malabon. As I was enjoying my favorite food, my eyes were busy running though my bags for my Guiuan Trip. This obsessive-compulsive trait of mine has been there since I was a kid. I don’t want to leave a single item especially if I am on my way to a travel. The last sip of my cold cola signaled me to move my butt out or else I will be tempted by the waving of the desserts in a not-so-far-away fridge.
I had a good conversation with the cab driver as I was heading to RAFI. He got valid points about the recent hostage drama as it was the news on the radio that time. I was wowed by his simple interpretation of the behavior of the hostage taker. Looks like he took some forensic psychology units. A few minutes passed, I found myself in my destination. After getting my change, I bid the cab driver goodbye and said my thank you.
I had fun talking to my trip mates. We exchanged jokes and pieces of bantering from time to time. After a while, Sir Anton called us for a briefing. Reminders were given and policies were imposed. I then found out that my buddy for the trip is Cherry. As the big bro, I have to ensure that my young and pretty buddy is okay from that time until we will be back in the City.
When we were in the boat, the excited faces hurriedly settled their baggage to their assigned cots. The bonding started as the feet heeded towards the videoke room. The first note hit it off. And the rest was a fun-filled history. There I discovered that I was not just with scholars but great singers as well. Aileen was such a nightingale who sang a melodious madrigal.
After a fragmented sleep series (from the boat to Ormoc to Tacloban), we flexed our muscles, freshen up and ate our breakfast at UP Tacloban. At around 9AM, we were in the Audio Visual Room of the university to attend the forum about the Triennial Awards Xchange Series of RAFI.
Following the usual programme protocol was the video presentation of the Triennial Xchange Series. It featured the finalists and their advocacies. Indeed, it was very inspiring. More than its artistic factor is the genuine content of the material. The perseverance, sacrifices and selflessness of the nominees are incomparable.
A short talk by the representative of Lihok Filipina who was awarded as the best organization and Ms. Margie dela Cruz who was one of the finalists started the forum proper. There were questions and reactions from the audience which made the forum rolled to almost two hours.
Lihok Filipina’s representative, Ms. Jean, said that their intention is to create empowered groups opposing violence against women and children which they call it as Bantay Banay (Family Watch). It was successfully replicated to a number of areas in the Visayas and some parts of Mindanao. Right now, they are not only addressing gender sensitive issues but other sectoral concerns as well like the environment and good governance. Though they do not monitor the activities of each group, they still provide technical assistance to the existing and the about-to-start groups in order to ensure sustainability.
On the other hand, Ms. Margie dela Cruz of the Guiuan Development Foundation, Inc. has made some partnerships with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in order to support the foundation’s advocacy which is to preserve and enhance the coastal and marine resources. As a biologist, she shared her expertise unvarnished to the people. One of her primary concerns is to translate the scientific concepts to applicability to the lives of the concerned families. For her, volunteerism needs commitment. It is not something that drains your energy. It is something that fulfills the soul.
Both representatives from Lihok Filipina and Guiuan Development Foundation, Inc. are living inspiration for people who have the heart to make a difference in the lives of our fellows. I can only wish that their shared goodness will be rippled as many times possible. And may all the efforts they have started be continuous in the spirit of poverty amelioration and nation building in general.
For what they have been through, I take my hats off for their success of transforming their good intentions into an inspiration in the lives of the less fortunate people they have much concern for.
Lavishness in the Surf Camp
What a paradise! The scene was perfect. The architecture was superb. The moment was splendid.
Everything I saw spelled abundance.
It felt like I was transported by angels to a place where life is magnificent. The food satisfied my finicky palate. True enough, priceless moments are when you don’t expect anything extravagant. It made me experience even in a nick of time the life and pleasure of the millionaires. My thank you to the host may not be enough. Hope my prayers will be.
While I was engaging in my narcissistic photography, a thought appeared in my overwhelmed mind. It made me realize that there are people who live in extreme wealth. Perhaps, they deserve it as a result of their hardwork and resourcefulness. All I am hoping is that their hearts will be as big as their properties to accommodate the cries for mercy of the underprivileged.
Our visit to the Guiuan Clam Hatchery, a joint project of the DA-ROSFD Guiuan and Guiuan Development Foundation, Inc., gave me the best encounter with the giant clams when not in their natural habitat. Ms. Margie confessed that abalones and clams grow best in their natural environment like any other living organisms. Those in the hatchery are smaller compared to the others in the sea. However, the purpose of the hatchery is to better study the science behind the protection of these underwater treasures. The result of the study will surely help the livelihood and commercial intentions of the people who would like to engage in production of the said species without placing them under the threat of extinction.
A humble gentleman whom you would think as a caretaker but actually a biologist in profession warmly welcomed our inquiry about the process and history of the hatchery. I can sense through his eyes and his words his dedication to the field he is in. Away from the urban civilization, he opted to be in the laid back rural community where he can better impart what he had learned from the walls of the academic institutions.
My visit in the hatchery did not only give me the chance to have an up close and personal encounter with the underwater treasures. It also gave me the privilege to handshake with their protectors. With this, I have realized that in order to maintain the balance of nature, one has to fulfill his share – not just “lip service-ly” but unselfishly.
Aliw in Maliwaliw
The trail going to the center of the mud crab ranch was a challenge. It made me hold on to my dexterity, gravitational control and proper breathing. But the whole experience was worth it as the group was warmly accommodated by the members of the Maliwaliw Multi-purpose Association (MMA). Mr. Jaime Calicoy, who has served for four straight years as the Chairman, graced us with an interview. He said that at present there are 72 active members of the organization who take turns round-the-clock in manning the mud crab ranch. The good attendance record of their regular meeting is a reflection of the cooperation of each member. They also have governing laws to set order and unity within the organization. Slowly by slowly, they were able to harvest some fruits of their labors as reflected by their shared dividends for the last 3 years. Though the municipal support is not that solid, the organization was able to get some assistance from other agencies like the Plan Philippines who provided them with some materials for the ranch. The chairman also said that they are openly lobbying their stand against illegal fishing. There were moments that he himself joined some police actions to capture the “illegalistas”. In the future, the organization hopes to produce volumes of crabs to cater not only to the individual buyers but to the industries as well. This will surely augment the income of the organization. With the support they are getting from the right agencies and right people like Ms. Margie dela Cruz, their dream is not far from reality.
At lunch time, grilled fish and fresh-from-the-ranch crabs in coconut milk were served. The “aninikads” made me salivate like an experimental dog in classical conditioning. The fresh buko juice flooded my esophagus and quenched my thirst away. With these, you cannot blame me for being one of the last men who abandoned the dining table. Though I felt a slight tightening in my nape, plus a heavy feeling of the rounded tummy, I still considered the meal as one of the best I had in my entire life. So, I blurted out a nonchalant burp.
After we conveyed our sincere gratitude to the chairman and members of the Maliwaliw Multi-purpose Association (MMA), they surprised us with their singing of their hymn. I was not able to control my being melodramatic. The chorus of their voices gave me an afternoon goose-bump. What a sincere song anchored with a felt cause!
As we bid goodbye to them, my nerved felt their sincerity and happiness of our visit through the grip of their handshakes. Passing through the challenging trail, I was quite emotional. I maintained distance from my friends as my eyes started to get misty. Seldom do I meet real people in the urban areas. I just want to prolong the real moment I had with them.
I was also amazed of the way that Ms. Margie dela Cruz was able to penetrate to their lives. She was able to convey the scientific concepts to their humble lives. The art and the discipline of translating quite complicated information to the simple minds of the people are for me a wondrous phenomenon.
Part now of my bag of learning is to continually find simplified ways in order for me to relate the complex theoretical background I have to the people. It is not impossible. I have witnessed it. And I am also happy that our national trait of being hospitable that is known internationally is still being preserved. My personal experience with the beautiful people said it all. It had fun learning in the island of Maliwaliw.
Bagongbanua island is another world for me. I have never been in an uninhabited mangrove island before.
Without having second thoughts, I went swimming and snorkeling with my newly found friends. Being the big bro, I felt like I was plowing the low tied coastal area as I served as their navigator while they are enjoying their sea grass exploration using their goggles. I am not complaining. I enjoyed it too. The little wounds I had from the sharp corals were worth it. My close encounter with some school of fish and giant clams was just priceless. For me, it was another kingdom I was able to explore though I was just in its doorstep.
After the dinner, a round table discussion with Ms. Margie dela Cruz followed. She shared to us some tips on habitat assessment that might be of help if our project will deal with the marine or coastal ecosystems. Knowing the composition of species or diversity and density is the key element to gather the right data. The discussion also included the indicators of pollution like garbage, bacterial attacks, eutrophication, presence of industrial waste and bio-magnification among others.
Ms. Margie also walked us through the history of the establishment of Guiuan Development Foundation, Inc. (GDIF). She told us that it started in 1988 after a strong typhoon that left the place devastated. She lobbied it as an environmental protection not as a livelihood program. At first, she had difficulty getting the financial support until such time that she got the assistance from PBSP. With the cooperation from the people, the foundation is getting stronger right now in fulfilling its projects.
It was very difficult to get the support and cooperation from the people at first according to Ms. Margie. She shared to us some tips then. She told us to never blow your top when you get snide remarks. You will always receive negative reaction at first said Ms. Margie. But the right thing to do is to consider them as a challenge. You need also to prepare your relevant and practical knowledge. The discussion should be customized to the level of the audience during group discussions. These are the simple things she used to get the support she needed for the projects to move forward.
From this, I was able to draw a conclusion that learning is easy. What is difficult is when you transfer your learning to a group of people with different background in terms of experience, exposure and culture. However, the most effective strategy is to know and understand them fully. With a genuine heart and an assertive mind, procedures will then be easy and projects can be sustainable.
Above the World
In the ravines of Eastern Samar facing the Pacific Ocean, it felt that I was transported to the time where gods and goddesses were visible in sky. The wind that tickled the pacific waves swayed the time to a different kind of high. What a sight to behold!
After taking some pictures of nature’s beauty, I realized that we have plenty of blessings from the Maker. The moment I had was the door for me to have a quick inner journey. The sound of the pacific waves allowed me to thank Him for letting me see and feel His greatness.
No one can argue. I was in my heaven - above the world where serenity romances with bliss.
Prone to Indulgence
The prawn farm visit was another indulgence of the wonders of nature. The boat ride was impeccable. It is such an exclusive bonding moments with new friends. Swimming in the water from the Pacific Ocean was another dream come true for me. Added bonuses were the underwater spectacle. Coral formation, unique shapes of algae and some sea creatures delighted my eyes as I swam deeper.
The fresh prawns, “gabi” and grilled fish satisfied our hunger during lunch. Indeed, it was another expensive meal and a healthy one too. It is because the prawns were grown in their natural habitat. They are fed with their natural food. Therefore, threat of having bio-magnification from the toxins of the commercialized prawn food or substitutes is non-existent that time. So, I let myself be swallowed with my voraciousness of seafood in the same way as I was engulfed with the splendor of the salt water lake.
The warm welcome of the owner and friends seemed to be the icing of the cake. Another hunky-dory moment with real people.
The festivity, both the food and the scenery, made the stomach and the eyes jubilant. Another part of the trip that made me experience the tagline: the best things in life are for free.
The essence of travel is not when I reached the destination. But the travel itself that gave me meanings beyond meanings of the disguised trivialities.
As I was quickly packing up my things for our departure, I made some recollection of all the events that transpired. My heart melted as I traveled in my mind and collected pieces of insight in the corners of my memory.
I have made new friends. I guess these are simple joys in life that no amount of money can buy. For me it is a social journey that does not end any soon. I can feel it will last for a long time as it is created with a purpose. I believe that the trip and the trip mates I had with are no coincidence. The discussion and the ideas we shared are no coincidence either. There is a great force telling me that this is just a start of a number of collaboration that will be in support to community development.
Ms. Margie dela Cruz is an inspiration more than a hero. With the talents I have and the experience I had, I feel that I have not shared enough to my community. Her dedication towards her projects is a reason enough for me to get started doing something for my identified advocacies.
The cliché stating that there is strength in unity is not just an axiom in Maliwaliw island. The Maliwaliw Multi-purpose Association (MMA) embodies the true spirit of union. Collectively giving pieces of them selves as they go through a collective direction of achieving a profound goal of protecting the environment and improving their standard of living is an act of heroism deserving to be replicated in some areas of the country. The hope to reach a brighter future for all is the source of strength for the members to untiringly support the organization.
I also have realized that there are people who have shared their expertise of making the ordinary people make extra ordinary things for their community and for the environment in general. Forever, I will salute them for choosing to take the road less traveled.
My eyes were rounded in excitement and my heart shouted for joy as I have witnessed the picturesque beauty of nature. Its abundance is overwhelming. However, it will not be lasting if one will be abusive instead of being responsibly appreciative about it. There is no other starting point to go extra mile in taking care of the environment but to highly commit the self to it.
But I guess my realization comes in pair with responsibility.
The land trip going to the port, the boat ride, the dinner and the very early breakfast we had with my trip mates were just the reminders that I was on my way back to where I call home. All I was praying that time is for me to be guided by the supreme force to translate all my realization into concrete action within my capacity.
As I twisted my room’s door knob, I made a personal pact. I will use words to document and share this personal experience of mine. In the world that I am in and in the spiral that I always find myself winding, I will commit to make my collected realization as a point of reference in expressing my opinion and making my decision.
I am hopeful that through my sharing, be in the fulfillment of my responsibility as a Human Resource practitioner or as an ordinary part of the social network, will create greater waves of awareness directed towards taking accountability of the environment and in touching other people’s lives in the name of sustainable development.
The chain of simple activities with simple people in the entire trip has led me to harvest simple lessons with greater purpose. In simply living with the values and principles I shook hand with during the learning visit it is where I can find the key to having a great life.
Now, I am richer not by wealth but by experience.