Traveled more than 10 hours by boat, bus, and jeep, trekked for more than 6 hours, slept less than 8 hours in three days, made 27 river crossings, day, hit by a storm, stranded for a day! Why, why did I join?…..
Well, no regrets because I’m happy that I was a part of a group of volunteers who endured harsh conditions just to deliver school supplies to students in remote areas in Marinduque.
It was both challenging and very rewarding as my friend said, “an experience worth repeating.”
I joined BBBS last month thru my friend, Joy. It wasn’t actually an invitation because she had already signed me up for it. I don’t there is still a chance to decline. 🙂 Anyway, BBBS stands for Big Brother Big Sister. They are a group of volunteers bringing school supplies to students in remote areas in our countries since 2005. As a teacher, I understand how happy the students would be when they receive these school materials. Trust me when I tell you that teachers are the only people in the world that would get excited over pen and paper. It’s the kind of outreach activity that really touched my heart. But I did have my doubts. I was ready to back out when we had our pre-climb meeting and read the itinerary. There would be 10 hours of traveling and 4 hours of trekking. I’m not out of shape or physically inactive but I don’t really want to push my limit. I have scoliosis and vertigo. I’m anemic and underweight. I was actually asking my sister to take my place. I think the group wouldn’t notice the difference. 🙂 Well, except for Joy and new-found friend, Lorrie who rode home with us. We attended the 2nd packing session and found out the weight of the school bag. It wasn’t that heavy but if you’ll be carrying it for a long period of time, it would eventually weigh you down. We were already thinking what are the essentials we’ll bring and the things we can live without for two days. My bag was packed a day before the trip and what’s left is the food and bags. When we got to the meeting place, we had the small bags among the group but Joy’s was smaller. She was ready to exchange bags with me because I’ve been dreading this day. I was really out of my mind when I joined. Seriously, I was planning on getting in the next available cab and just go home. We started loading the bus and soon we’re off to Lucena Port. I was able to sleep during the bus ride because our journey wasn’t cold nor bumpy. It was still early when we got off the bus. We boarded the ferry and occupied the top. The volunteers soon searched for a place to sleep. Some opted to lie down at the sides and some slept on the floor right beside the chairs. As for me, I stayed put and waited the others to vacate the chair and got it all for myself. (Nice tactic!) It wasn’t comfortable but definitely better than the floor. It was the best place. (As what my group mate, Ryan, resentfully pointed out during the post climb meeting. hindi naman masama loob mo sa akin no?:-) ) This was the point when I lost sense of time. I got off the ferry and got in the jeep. There was a monstrous jeep and it could definitely pass up as an autobot. (LOL! fyi,I met optimus prime in Dubai, it would be great to have a local autobot) I always enjoy jeepney rides in provinces. I remember getting around Batanes while riding on top of the jeep and it definitely gave me a different thrill and enjoyment in riding jeeps. Anyway, I was inside the jeep when we went to our first school in Marinduque. I slept a little but when I caught a glimpse of the sky starting to brighten up I woke up. I am simply amazed every time the jeep crossed the river. After three hours, we reached Boi school. They were really friendly and hospitable and they even prepared breakfast for us.The bags were distributed and pictures were taken. I stood beside the stage and tried to be helpful but I was swarmed with parents. I went at the back and watched the children excitedly opened their bags. They were comparing what they have and seemed to be proud that they have these things. I took my backpack and prepared for the trek. And how did I prepare? I put on sunblock and just stuffed in the school bag inside my backpack. Instead of 2 bags we were supposed to bring, we were given only one. I’m not complaining there. But if we didn’t carry any bag, it would totally defeat the purpose of volunteering right? Well, we were set to go and began our 4 hour trek. They said we went for 27 river crossings but I didn’t actually count. I didn’t bother to check on time but eventually I was getting tired and hungry. What was stated as four hour trek, it stretched into 6 hours or more. Whenever we asked a local how far the school is, they would say just one hour. I didn’t complain at all because I was busy motivating myself to keep on going. Whenever someone asked me if I was ok, I’ll just nod my head and smile. As far as I remember, we had a coconut break and from then on I just want to finish the trek. In my mind, I was stuck in a moment where if I didn’t follow I’ll die.(What’s worst than dying, right?) Seriously, I have no option except endure the trail for I don’t how to go home on my own. And I was sure that it will get worse. And it did. We finally arrived in Tambuhan School. We didn’t wait anymore for our group mates, Joy and I started eating our lunch and rested on the ground. After Tambuhan School, we trekked again to meet the jeep. They said that it will be just 30 minutes trek. I no longer believed them. We trekked for two hours more. I tried to enjoy and appreciate the scenery but good things never last. The perfectly easy trail was ruined when we went for a short cut. My whole left foot soaked in mud when we tested a branch to cross the mud. Well, we reached the jeep anyway. Off to Poctoy beach. The mayor let us stay in the resort instead of going back to the school. Thanks! Then, it began to rain. I would say that my group was still fortunate than the rest because we were able to eat right away. It was very lucky for me to have AMCI mountaineers in our group. Cooking for me is ordering in or reheating. My only culinary skill I actually take pride in is my blueberry cheesecake and it’s stupid to bring something like that in camp. I successfully took a bath in a paid shower room after a few trips to and fro my disorganized bag. I was cleaned and fed. It was the greatest feeling in the world. Then, I drank a few shots of liquor and slept. I am a light sleeper which is why sleeping is another adventure. I slept with the sound of hard pouring rain blending in with the symphony of snoring people and one stood out as he talked in his sleep. Typhoon Bebeng hit Philippines and we got extended for another day. I had a feeling that something like this would happened. I’m not regretful that I joined this outreach but I still worried about work. Its a whole different story but it’s what bothered me during the program. We went to Sihi from Poctoy beach. How unlucky that our jeep broke down. It didn’t surprise me anymore. The driver was able to replace the jeep anyway. When we reached Sihi, it was really raining hard. Some of the children were soaking wet and shivering in the cold. I can’t really put my mind at ease after seeing the weather as for sure we won’t be able to go home. Since I was already stranded there, I joined some of the games but not really in the mood for it. How ironic is it, since I’m the most playful teacher in our school. Oh! School, school, I was worried about our own school. Thankfully, I met group 10. I talked to some of their group members and found out that two of them, Val and Don, were my schoolmates in college. I graduated before they went in. I love UPLB and it’s always nice to meet fellow graduates. A lot of pictures were taken and soon enough the program was done. We went to Marinduque Hot Springs Resort to eat lunch prepared by the governor. Some swam while the others, like me, just rested at the restaurant. In the middle of our conversation, Lorrie and I watched shamelessly our fellow BBBS volunteer stripped down to his swimming trunks.:) Since we were stranded, the governor and Ate Gina were so kind and generous that they provided us food and place to sleep at their house for the night. How blessed we are! I’m so grateful to them. At around 4 in the afternoon, we headed to the governor’s house. The resort was impressive but hardly maintained. After dinner, each group performed and it was really funny. We presented a simple skit ala-Rex Navarete. Since we’re the X-men, we portrayed each character. I was Jean Grey and shared the stage with Professor X. We had a Filipina maid who had previously worked at the Super Friends house. She was irritated with my telepathic ability. I knew exactly what she was thinking. She thinks my boobs are small. (LOL! huh, does my 34B really stand for barely there? Well, better than A for absent.) Then, there was Storm who caused the typhoon and kept us in the island. After all the members were called, we danced “Kapag tumibok ang puso,” I enjoyed watching Voltes V and Dragonball Z. (And they won!) Some stayed for a few drinks and few got drunk. One group got angry and a couple got into fight. At least two women were crying. Some cute guys turned out to be gay. As for me, I would say san mig pail pilsen tastes better than san mig light. The weather improved and we were set to go home. Yehey!
I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to survive if not for these people who made this experience very memorable and tolerable for me.My heartfelt thanks to Joy, who signed me up for this, who was so fast during the trek to completely avoid my rant, (you can run but we’ll still meet in school 🙂 .)my group, the X-Men, the hot mamas, Elaine and Lorrie, who amazed us and took care of me (I’m not really drunk nor heart broken), Ryan, who guided us first timers and kept us company and tirelessly make kwento, our group leader, Ian, who really helped the group finished the trail, Nell, who was running after Joy, Clint and Jazz, the sweepers, the Pulag Girls, Cath and Aileen, and Alman, who shared his things and fed us and made us laugh and even gave a sleazy strip dance to us.
Thanks also to BBBS Climb Staff , Ate Gina, the governor, and the people of Marinduque.