this is a day that will stay with me forever. and here is it how it went:
|taking the road less traveled, like never before!|
one of the parents from yagayan came to the office to drop off the umbrellas that sr. t and i left at the weekend celebration (super nice, considering it’s a super long trek for her)! haha, well, i was happy to see her and her 3-year old son companion!…i was sitting at the desk in front of the office, working on my laptop and getting angry at the fact that the internet was malfunctioning, and i was commissioned to get some answers from the agent who is handling our internet (on the phone), cause the connection was less than awesome…thank goodness that parent came – she helped me get the impatience away from my heart. haha, the life of a missioner. it happens.
so i asked her what she was doing for the day, and i thought to myself, i need to get out of the office today – i have an open schedule! so i basically asked her if i could tag along with her for the rest of the day, but moreso, i think it was more like, “can you show me where all of the yagyagan kids and their parents live?” she didn’t think i was serious, cause well, it was so impromptu! well, before you know, she agreed, and we were on our way!
it was my goal to visit the homes of my god-children before their baptism, but because that didn’t work out because of the weather…this was a perfect time to do it! and so, here is a recap of my adventure..an eye-opening adventure/journey/can’t believe i did it experience.
so we were off, but had to pick up some rice first from the market. so we bought 10 kilos of rice..which is HEAVY! i have no idea how the heck she was going to carry that, AND hold her 3-year old son, but these filipina women are hercules in women form, i swear. so we started our long journey on the jeepney, dodged a couple of extended glances and stares, cause clearly i was an import, but i think it added some entertainment to their otherwise-super long journey to their destination.
we stopped by the school, and the teachers and children were so surprised to see me! it was so cute! some of the kids were playing in the street and then when they saw me, they ran inside to tell their teachers that “ate crystal” and “sister crystal” was here!
i think the most ironic part of visiting the school is that, i found out my god-daughter was so sick, and had to go home, but had no one to take her home…and so, it was perfect! i told her we were planning on going to her house anyway, so we were able to venture together! the teachers gave us some rambutan (a delicious fruit here!) for the hike…i had no idea that it would be SUCH a hike to take my little girl home!
so we were off, my little one was the leader, i followed, carrying her little pink backpack and umbrella that was bigger than her, and then parent and child in back of me. after walking 40 minutes along the road, staying as close to the side of the street as possible, then we started venturing down the hill! my goodness. that was indeed hiking! i watched my girl randomly pick plants and eat the leaves, watched her hop on down from step to step. wow…but after an hour, we eventually made it to her house, and she was all smiles to be home. girlfriend was sick 🙁 she needed rest, and i was so happy to be able to accompany her home along the way!
the going there part wasn’t so bad. i think it was the going UP HILL, back to the main road part, that was most challenging. i definitely called on jesus to accompany me…it was a trek – really! the blessing is that it was not raining (yet) and the weather was ideal. 🙂
we then stopped along random streets along the highway, cause tita knew them or she was related to them…and then we continued on our journey! we stopped at a temple, took a few pictures, then took a short-cut down a hill (the route of the carabou), instead of taking the “long-cut” along the street. i saw a dead possum along the way, and i almost fainted. i then explained to tita that i am the least outdoorsy person, but after moving to baguio city, things have seemed to change (despite the fact that i still screamed at the sight of the possum!)…she laughed..and she was really patient with me as i went super slow down the hill, but considering i have fallen on every mountain/hill that i have hiked in this benguet region, i had to be super careful!
|this gate is supposed to stop you from continuing. haha|
|for real, this happened!|
we then reached another home of my other god-child, then kept hiking down, visited some of their gardens, of course i was like paparazzi status, then kept going down the hill, stopping by the homes of my yagyagan family! they were so surprised to see me, and i was happy to see their faces light up! definitely did not think they would see me here, that’s for sure! 🙂
|the “secret garden” entrance to some of the coolest plants and flowers i saw!|
|prayer plants! they look like praying hands. 🙂|
well, then, we continued, and it started raining…though we took the “short-cut” to cross across the mountain, we still had to keep venturing down and eventually hit up another one of our families, and it really did make my heart break. after another hour and a half, we reached one of their homes. tita told me that red cross came to donate ten beams/posts for them because the landslides from the typhoons ruined their shelter, and she described it as saying that they were like sardines in a pond…they were really thankful for the help and support they received. this will hopefully give you a better picture of what it was like:
afterwards, we started trekking back up the hill to the main road so that i would be able to catch a ride back to baguio…well, as we were walking up the super steep dirt road, i saw some of my kids, and it was pouring! 🙁 but again, it was so cute to see them and to see how surprised they were! they were like, “sister crystal! we love you!!!” and then “ate crystal! i can’t believe she’s here!” it was so precious! they greeted me with smiles and hugs, and i wanted to accompany them home! but alas, it was getting dark, and i had to trek back! ..ha, i definitely had no concept of time in those moments. i was just focused on getting back to the top!
…before the school year started, everyone stressed how important it was for the students to get raincoats and rain boots…and i learned, that it is absolutely necessary. the winds weren’t even super strong, but the rain was crazy coming down…and here is how the kids cover themselves:
|they take care of each other|
|always travel in groups!|
my experience of trekking up and down the hill for the 6 hours was unlike anything i had ever experienced. tita’s son was such a rockstar. he did not complain once, and tita was able to carry him every so often too – it was pretty amazing to me. i really felt like jesus was walking with us making our way visiting the families, and i think he really saw to it that the weather treated us nicely as we were making our visits.
after seeing what i saw, and now, truly experiencing the trek, my perspective has changed, and i understand even moreso now, why the kids are so tired everyday, why they don’t necessary listen to everything i say! shoot, i was thinking, if i was them, and i had to sit through catechism with a fil-am speaking in straight english/struggling tag-lish, that would take up so much energy to even process and understand what she was saying. i would not be a fan. but i know they try their hardest to listen to me! 🙂 so i’m super thankful. everyone told me, no, it’s not so bad cause the kids are used to it and it’s like they are playing when they go up and down the hill, and they’re used to making the journey! but STILL…and seeing some of the homes, it is not ok with me.
i was stuck again with the question, ok, crystal, what are you going to do about this? what is my role in this? i understand while i can not transform these families and provide them with more stable homes, there are changes that i can bring to my life that will hopefully illuminate change around me as well.
i asked tita how the families were able to build all their homes, many are in secluded areas – she told me, it’s all “tulong tulong” – helping each other – it is the meaning of “bayanihan” as in, the community spirit…and that is what has captured my heart about this community…there is that TRUE bayanihan spirit of everyone knowing everyone and the support system is strong, despite any gossip that naturally happens in every community, let’s be honest. because these families do not have addresses, you can just ask anyone in the area where certain people live, and they will direct you. it’s pretty helpful 🙂
i was processing with some of my staff about my experience and told them how the kids are so different from the kids in the city, here in baguio. it’s a different culture, it really is – city kids are different from rural kids…there’s a greater innocence with the kids in yagyagan and they all go straight home right after school…cause there are no other distractions! here in the city, everyone heads to internet cafes or hangs out on the side of the streets…it’s just, really different.
i think one of the funniest things though is when one of the women in the community (who has a store at the top of the hill) said she heard me from the bottom of the mountain, but she was so confused because she knew it was my voice, but was so curious as to why i would be there in the afternoon. hahaha, she’s like, your voice is like mine, it’s very strong! haha, i said, i know, i think i was the loudest thing in the hills that day. my voice definitely echoed, but they said it was all good 🙂
i woke up this morning a little bit tired, but i thought of seeing the kids again this morning and i got excited! 🙂 when i went to school this morning for mass, the other parents had already heard about my adventure and told me they were all looking forward to my visit…i told them i would! haha, here we go. and so, in this new year of mission, my eyes have been opened in a greater way, and i am so excited to be here, once again (i think only a few moments on mission here have put me in a lull, but i usually get out of those moments pretty quickly. God is THAT good. haha!). though i live in baguio, it is such a blessing to have my yagyagan family be just 25 minutes away, and always ready with open arms and smiles.
they always thank me…but really, i am just full of gratitude for them – i always leave with fruits, vegetables, and some of their harvest that they give to their kids to give to me (this is their livelihood, but STILL they give it to me!), they give me the best hugs and the warmest smiles, amidst their super shy culture.
the hills, up and down, rain, animals along the way, being tired…that is nothing. it was all worth it – this is all so worth it. so glad to have been fulfilled by their bayanihan spirit.