The Birth of TREK (TRails to Empower Kids)

October 30, 2012 Voluntourism

Most of us who brave a mountain have a singular goal, to stand proudly at the summit. Here is where we marvel at nature's magnificence only a few would exert effort to see.

Years of enjoying this weekend hobby have built for me real friendships and have taught me real life lessons. I have also seen and experienced up close some realities. Many times on the trail, we saw children walking miles on muddy terrain, sometimes with no slippers or shoes, any backpack nor any rain gear to get to school. We found out about their dire need for school materials. We learned that they study their Math and Science from very old textbooks with brittle pages and answers erased too many times.

So when an idea came up of doing an outreach program benefiting children who live in the mountains, I committed to it. 

A life-long hope

When I was first introduced to mountaineering, I was so fascinated by it.  A college friend had just bought new gloves for a friend who was into that sport.  I got curious, but it was not a hobby I pursued until later in life. 

It was my career, more than anything else, for me after college. I couldn't be distracted, and everything outside my work and my graduate studies was unwelcome.  But, there was this desire to explore and make my life more meaningful.

My Strategic Management Professor from then De La Salle University Graduate School of Business (now Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business), Elfren Cruz, gave us a lot of frameworks.  The one I really embraced is the belief of using the gifts bestowed on us wisely.  I just believe that I become too little if I just exist to fulfill just my own dreams. 

For years, I have been entertaining thoughts and ideas on how to give back. I tried volunteering in different organizations but I couldn’t find the perfect fit.  Then, I just laid it aside while I figured out what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.  I knew that everything would fall into place eventually.

Mountaineering takes on new meaning

Months before my birthday in 2007, I thought of doing something in an orphanage until the idea of reaching far places not too many groups are willing to go.

In October 2007, I climbed Mt. Apo, the country's highest peak located in Mindanao, together with some of my close friends - Noel Dulay, who is from Maria Aurora, Aurora and is a member of Maria Aurora Outdoors Club; Mimay Punongbayan, Elias Bacolot, JP Cruz and Atty. Jong Navarro of SABIT Moutaineers,and Rexandre delos Reyes, a member of Guys4Mountains. 
from left, Mimay, Jong, JP, me, Rex, Elias and Noel

Most of them I met in a friendship climb in Bolinao, Pangasinan organized by Pilipinas Sierra on May 1, 2007.  We have gotten close since then.

That three-day arduous trek at the majestic Apo starting from Kapatagan in Digos to Kidapawan got us talking about so many things and among them an idea of doing charitable work for communities living in the mountain.  The sulfur vents of Mt. Apo did more than spew pungent gasses.  It also unearthed our great potential. 

After all, they have been very kind and helpful to us mountaineers and we should give back. Most of these communities are accessible by hours of trek, but they seem to be separated from the rest of the world, especially where community service and aid are concerned.

Stepping on the trail

The plan slowly took shape after another mountain climb.  After successfully scaling Mt. Ugu in Benguet in November 2007, we met with then Barangay Captain Norberto Pacio. We were resting after a three-day climb and waiting for our last team to arrive.

Over coffee the Barangay officials prepared for us, we told Councilor Pacio of our intention to help students who live in the mountains. Councilor Pacio suggested several schools but we told him of our limitations. First, we really didn't have many resources, just intentions to help. Second, we were targeting the second week of December, which was only a month away.

But, God had plans and we were His instruments. 

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