Last October 6, we were fortunate enough to be invited to join Climb Against Cancer’s 2nd Anniversary Outreach activity. This time, in cooperation with Black Pencil Project and Calumpit Fire Station in Bulacan, the beneficiary would be Sitio Duplas, Brgy. Kalawakan, Doña Remedios Trinidad in Bulacan. Besides being a school outreach program, this one will be joint medical mission as well since a number of the participants were practitioners of medicine.
I wasn’t actually sure that I would be able to go since I was supposed to work that day. I asked Nanay Nini if I could just follow later that day or the morning afterwards only to find out that transportation to the barangay was very difficult that’s why we were being afforded trucks to take us there and military escorts to guide us. I guess they didn’t want to place the volunteers at too much risk. Luckily though, the project was cancelled (or not really if we’re talking about my subsistence funds here…) so my schedule was suddenly free. Nanay Nini said that the arrangement was to spend the night at the school to have a mini gathering since it was CAC’s 2nd anniversary after all. Some opted to stay while others preferred to come home after the activities were done. Personally, I chose to spend the night.
It turned out that I would be the only one doing so for HLGG! I found out that day that most of my groupmates were going home after the outreach instead of staying the night. Ate Ching joined me and so did Yan, Madz, Vernz and Erwin. Prior the outreach, HLGG was put in charge of the games with Erwin being assigned as the emcee. We didn’t actually have much time to prepare because every time we brainstormed, a certain someone keeps shooting us down for not being too creative. 😀 In the end, we were stuck with the same old games but hey, it’s the fun that we bring that matters eh?
So at 4 am on a Saturday, Yan, Ate and I were heading to Chowking Balintawak to meet up the rest of the group. We were joined by Kuya Jepoy, Badong and sir Jepri there as well. Most of the participants were coming from down south so the plan was to pick up the lot of us there en route to Bulacan. After about an hour of so of waiting, the rest of the party arrived and after a quick commotion of finding the nearest restroom, we were on our way to DRT.
We stopped over at Jollibee Pulilan first to have our breakfast and also meet up with the company from Calumpit. I had my second breakfast here since the one in Chowking clearly wasn’t enough. After everyone has had their breakfast, we resumed our trip, this time stopping over at the fire station where we would be relocating to the trucks instead. There was also a carabao upgrading facility inside the compound because apparently the firmware of today’s carabaos are not up to date anymore. 😀 So there we were, joking about owning the place not knowing that the actual owner was just walking behind us. Papansin talaga uy. 😀
We hauled all of the foodstuff as well as the school supplies onto trucks then headed off to DRT. I found out that the way to DRT was actually the same route that you would have to take when going to Mt. Manalmon. You would also reach it via Camias but would just take a left turn a little earlier on the road. After that it would be a half hour or so of more rough roads, which involved crossing a river because the bridge previously servicing it was destroyed, and open fields. It wasn’t quite the hell-level of the Kapatagan rough road but it was still rough nonetheless. After getting our bums bruised, we finally arrived at Mataas na Paaralang Esteban Paulino where the outreach event would take place.
As soon as we arrived, everybody went on with their assigned duties. The medical mission team were led to a separate building where they could see patients, the food committee relocated behind the school to prepare the food while the rest of us helped with the repacking and organizing of the school supplies. At best, it was organized chaos.
I don’t think any of us expected that there would be so many people. Because there were too many students, no official program was held but rather, we led them into separate rooms then held games separately. Thank heavens we had Mam Alex and Erwin with us since they were the ones who facilitated the activities. We supported them as much as we could since we were the committee for that after all. All of our games were for outdoors and since the bearing heat was too much for us to start playing, we just helped with whatever room we found ourselves in. There was mam Alex’s trademark “Pupunta tayo sa ‘Afghanistan” (where one kid said that he’d bring “Ayop” haha) and Er-er’s group Samson-delilah-lion thing. The kids actually got too physical with each other during this game, taking the competition to a whole new level. It wasn’t serious or anything, it was actually quite funny. Well, you can’t really blame them seeing as their team leads (RJ and Yan) were no less competitive than they were. 😀
The guys from the fire station also helped a lot, bringing their own mascot “Berong” to help educate the kids on fire safety as well as play games with them. I say ‘play games’ and not ‘play’ with them because the way that Berong was introduced was the kids were asked,
“Sino sa inyo ang gustong laruin ni Berong?”
The intent was nice but the phrasing? Not so much. 😀
When the heat was tolerable enough, we led the kids on the grounds to play more outdoor-sy games. We held a kalamansi race, a sack race and a ball relay/race which as you may have noticed, basically had the same goals. Yes, we had the creative juices of a dead cockroach. 😉 I’d daresay we were fairly successful in bringing fun to the kids though. At one point, we were apprehensive of pitting smaller kids against taller ones during the sack race but as it turned out, they had the greater advantage. There were also some teams which ended up forfeiting mid-game because some of their teammates left before their turn. Ah kids. 😀
After the games, the feeding program was done next. This was probably the most chaotic part of the whole day. It was hard to distinguish which kid was supposed to be handed food next because it was hard to keep up a straight queue. It also didn’t help that some (a lot actually) of the adults wanted a share of the meal as well. It wasn’t surprising that there were some irate parents that we had to deal with, calmly explaining that the food was allocated for the children only. And because some of the participants were from other sitios (drawn especially to the medical mission), there was a good chance that not everyone would be handed their share. By the end of the distribution, we were allocating less and less but still aiming at least, to provide something for the kids.
It was somewhat frustrating but it’s not like you could blame them really. They clamor for what I could enjoy on a regular day so I’m not in any position to judge whether they deserved to be given a portion or not. Kudos to our cooking committee though. I don’t think I ever saw Bing and the others in any other part of the school during the whole outreach but at the back of the main building, overseeing the soup for the kids, our lunch and our dinner. Everybody really pulled their own weight during the outreach. 😀
At one point, because admittedly I was feeling a little stressed, I visited the building where the medical mission was being held. By that time in the afternoon, a neat system was already in place so everything was orderly as opposed to how it started, where everyone was rushing to be the first one checked out. Like the cooking committee, our good doctors probably did not move from their stations since the whole event started. A testament to their dedication to their field I’m sure and we were very lucky to have them.
The residents of DRT were luckier than we were as a matter of fact. According to some moms, medical missions are really what the residents look forward to. It’s because the sitio was located so far from the nearest health center so a medical mission like ours was a huge deal for them. They said that health officials visit their area about once in two months to check on things. You could imagine one’s hardship especially if someone were to give birth. So they didn’t mind waiting in line under the sun because who knows when the next time will be. But I guess for some, waiting wasn’t a hardship after all. Apparently the talk of the town was that the medical mission building was manned by “good-looking” receptionists. Kayo na, sir Rowell at Gab (Mel :D), kayo na.
Then of course, the distribution of the actual school kits began. Instead of lining all of the students outside the grounds, we were the ones who visited each grade in their respective classrooms. It was still tiring work because we had to haul boxes of school supplies to different rooms then do some quick inventory especially for those students who were absent. Not to mention that it was still at the middle of the afternoon so the heat was still somewhat dizzying. At one point, I came across Nanay Nini while carrying a huge box and asked her where we would be distributing kits to which she replied, “Pinapaupo ako ni Yan nak.” 🙂 Nanay really did look like she was out of it so it was probably a good idea for her to take a breather. We could take it from here Nay! 😀
It was almost 4 when everything was finished, the medical mission being the last group to do so. By that point, some other volunteers helped in wrapping up the remaining residents who were still in line. Although there is still a huge debate whether Vernz was more hurt than help. 😉 After that, we had ourselves a very late lunch then an awesome chocolate cake dessert, countless photo ops and it was goodbye for some of our fellow volunteers. Most of the guys from HLGG went on ahead but I opted to stay overnight.
After pitching out tent and washing up, we convened for the obligatory socials. For fear of sounding incriminating, let’s just say that the socials were so much fun. Probably too much fun. We were so rowdy that Nanay (with Rowell as the official spokesperson) didn’t get to finish telling us how CAC came to be because some joke would always pop up. We blame Kuya Jepoy for that!
We were already quite tipsy before we even had dinner so when the much anticipated raffle began, we were laughing so hard we were like little school children. I didn’t get to win anything though. I honestly wasn’t expecting to because experience never really suggested that I was lucky with raffles before. 😀 Sirs Gab and Josel won the coveted Nalgene water bottles while sir Willie won the trekking shorts (with which he did not waste any opportunity to show off by the way…)
We joked around and told stories till way past midnight. By then, the fun was already no-holds barred. At one point, sir Mel held an impromptu dance workshop to Gangnam style with us utilizing Kuya Badong’s “limited stretching” moves. 😀 There was also some “good-natured battle for affection” going on and I’m pretty sure that by that time, we could get Doc Ruben to do almost anything! All in all, it was one crazy and fun night indeed.
When we’ve had quite enough fun, we turned in for the night and soon enough, it was already morning. We had breakfast, cleaned up after ourselves and boarded the trucks that would take us back to the fire station. It truly was an awesome experience, one I would definitely sign up for again in the future. To Climb Against Cancer Pilipinas and Nanay Nini, a happy happy birthday! Salut! 😀
*Nanay Nini Sacro