Straight from Sitio San Pedro and our Mt. Tangisan climb, we all went aboard Mang Danny’s jeepney in order to head straight to Barangay Maamot for the outreach leg of our trip. This program was brought about by the cooperation of Climb Against Cancer Pilipinas, Tarlac Mountaineering Club, Photographer’s Club of Tarlac as well as the Black Pencil Project. Carrying boxes and boxes of school supplies collected by these groups, off we went to Maamot Elementary School.
Volunteers from Manila were actually going to meet us there. There were those who did not choose to join the climb but still wanted to be there for the outreach so they went straight ahead to Maamot Elementary School come Sunday morning. They actually got there way earlier than we did because it was almost lunch time by the time we got to the school. HLGG and CAC buddies Erwin, Kuya Ivan, Grace, Bing, ate Anna and ate Kath were among those who went on ahead so by the time we arrived, the preparations were already under way.
We arranged all the foodstuff and items to be used during the games as well as the school kits that were to be given away as soon as we arrived. Nanay Nini also briefed us on our duties so that we could orderly proceed with the program. I forcibly volunteered Erwin to be the emcee of the event since he was versed in it. He would later claim that he was backed into a corner but let’s face it, HLGG peeps would know what I’m talking about, he definitely loved doing it. 😀
Since we had the Sunday group buy us our lunches, we ate before everything went under way. So after having our lunch (a ridiculously spicy Jollibee chicken meal from Erwin), we quickly made ourselves useful by helping in the preparations. The food committee has actually been working for a while led by ma’ams Bing and Anna, so we relieved them as soon as we finished eating. Everybody went about their specific duties. There were volunteers busy setting up the donations, setting up the games and cooking the meals. Everybody lent a helping hand whenever possible. It was like watching a small community working hand in hand and in all fairness, that’s basically what we really were.
After the preparations were through, it was time to begin the program proper. We first had the kids assemble themselves near the stage in order to begin the games which were arranged by TMC and PCT. Once they were settled, various games pitting boys against boys and girls versus girls were held. First was the kalamansi relay which required the kids to navigate a simple course while balancing a kalamansi on a spoon.
Then a sack race was held. All the while, we were crazily jeering and cheering for the kids, not caring of course who won. Despite the bearing heat of the sun which I know couldn’t have been easy for the kids, it was still clear that they were having fun. I really enjoyed watching the kids because it reminded me of how we used to do it in elementary Christmas parties and stuff. I don’t miss the feeling of doing it, don’t get me wrong just the thought of having did those once upon a time. In any case, it made for a great and fun morning which was spiced with a little bit of (healthy) competition. I just hope the kids don’t hold it against those who won afterwards! 😀 Food packets were given as prizes, (handled by sir Ryan) since it would lessen bitter sentiments from those who lost. I actually get the logic since it would probably incite jealousy among some if say, toys or gadgets were given as prizes. At least for food, they’ll be able to share it right?
After the sack race, a game of tug-of-war was then held. For this game, the kids were relocated to a soil patch on the left side of the school. Of course that meant leaving behind the emcee back at the stage since the mike was tethered to it. Poor sir Erwin (“At dahil hindi ko makita, making na lang kayo kay Kuya Badong mga bata ha.”). I’m sure he didn’t mind though. On our part, we totally enjoyed his colorful side comments which I think he sometimes forget is still being amplified by the mike. 😀
At first I thought that the game would be reserved for the boys only (yes, I’m sexist that way haha) but after the boys contest was done, the girls had their chance to play the tug of war. What was amusing though was while the boys were competitive even up until the end, it was clearly a different vibe when it came to the girls. During the girls’ game, when it became too painful to hold the rope, they would just let go and give up. It was like, “Aw, aray ayoko na.” 😀
After the tug of war, one last game of pandesal eating contest was done. Each team (grouped by grade) was instructed to consume 3 pieces of pandesal and of course the quickest to do so would be the winner. By this point, we were probably cheering the most for the younger ones who were eagerly stuffing their cute faces in an attempt to win the game. I was actually on the juice committee to make sure that none of the kids choke in their excitement to win. Well I guess, you could readily imagine the hilarity that ensued with such a setup so I won’t go into further more details. 😀
It was time to feed the kids soup and bread after the games were over. We once again had them line up by grades and individually give them a plastic of pandesal, a cup of soup as well as juice. This actually turned out to be the most chaotic part of the whole morning. It was hard enough heralding them to order (“Huwag po nating tapakan ang mga halaman, ilalaban pa to sa contest sa August” hehe) but when it came to giving out food, it became infinitely harder. I guess the excitement of every kid got the best of them so they were all falling over each other in asking for soup and bread. They’re kids, what could you do right? I swear some kids were even sly enough to go back for seconds! I didn’t mind it much since there were plenty to spare, it was actually kind of telling since you could see how they could get excited about a basically simple fare. Sure, there were times when the crowd was unruly and we were stressing ourselves on what to do but in the end, I still feel glad that we were able to feed every kid no matter how simple the meal was. After all the excitement died down and the kids were finished eating, it was time for the distributing committee to shift to a cleanup crew.
After all of the kids were done eating, a mini program was held which included singing the national anthem, an interpretative dance/doxology, welcome and thank you speeches (which was ridden with phrases like “far-flung place” and “paradise”…the principal’s words not mine haha) as well as commendations. The community was kind enough to hand us a certificate of gratitude for what we have given the kids. One for Sir Khit of TMC and one for Nanay Nini (Castro haha!). I’m sure none of us do what we do for validation so it was a nice surprise that we were given one. 😀
Now this is the part where we justify calling our Nanay Nini a crybaby. We constantly joke about it but only because it had merit. See, when she was asked to give a few words before the supplies were given out, the waterworks quickly started that she didn’t even get to finish the speech! 🙂 I guess it was easy to feel overwhelmed with the support that CAC always get whenever they hold an outreach program and this time was no exception. Especially since sometimes the supplies turn out to be scarce only to be completed at the very last minute. Support always seems to come through and I know Nanay Nini was drawing from that feeling. She just happens to be more sensitive than most …and we love her for it 😀
Anyway, after the program, it was time to give out the school kits that were promised to the kids. I helped in ushering the kids to the stage and making sure that they remained orderly once they received their supplies. It was set up like a graduation ceremony without the background music actually. 😉 I spent most of the time reminding kids to line up or sit down to make sure everyone is accounted for. I kept addressing the boys as “Boss” which for some reason they found amusing. I also got to talk to them while they were in line. I helped a grade 4 student open the bag she received and she eagerly exclaimed, “Wow, kumpleto lahat.” all with a big smile on her face. It was nice seeing the kids’ reaction because you know it wasn’t contrived. If they were happy about it, they’ll tell you, if not, they will do so as well. I actually had an interesting conversation with a grade 5 kid which turned out like this:
Boy: “Kuya kuya, bakit yung iba tatlo ang lapis yung amin dalawa lang?”
Ako: “Ok lang yan, matagal mo namang magagamit ang lapis eh. Nakaubos ka na ba ng isang lapis sa paggamit?”
Boy: “Hindi pa.”
Ako: “Ako rin eh kaya matagal mong magagamit yan.”
Boy: “Onga no kuya hehehe”
See? Sometimes you just have to help them realize the value of things to make them content. Of course that gets harder when you get older, but that’s life. 😀
We took countless of pictures with the kids after that then we sent them home right afterwards. Nanay Nini was also interviewed by a GMA media personnel who covered the event so I don’t know when that will air or if it has already (it probably has…). We also resumed cleaning the school up as best we could before packing up our stuff and heading back home to Manila. I actually did not get to take much pictures since my camera battery died halfway but I need not worry, I’m sure our own media personnel (yes, Vernz and Joyce kayo to!) will have plenty to share. 😉
We boarded our jeep then said goodbye to TMC and PCT, went to have a quick dinner at Chowking (I’m noticing an HLGG-like pattern here…) at the Luisita complex then off to Manila soon after. It was a tiring two days but the worthwhile company and cause really left no room for me to complain. I can’t wait to do it all again soon! To CAC, PCT, TMC, BPP and to everyone who made this outreach possible, kudos to all of us! 😀
*Photo credit: Joyce Anne Regalado
**Photo credit: Vernz Fabroa
***Photo credit: Bernard Llaguno
****Photo credit: Nay Nini Sacro