The Birth of TREK (TRails to Empower Kids)

December 30, 2007 Voluntourism

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


Years of enjoying this weekend hobby have allowed me to build real friendships and taught me real-life lessons. I have also seen and experienced some realities up close. Many times on the trails, we saw children walking miles on muddy terrains, sometimes with no slippers or shoes on, no backpack, nor any rain gear to get to school. These are not just stories we hear or see on television; we actually walk with them.


By conversing with them, we found out about their dire need for school supplies. We learned that they study Math and Science from very old textbooks with brittle pages and answers that have been erased too many times.


So, when the idea came up of creating 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. Although I got curious, it was not a hobby I pursued until later in life. 


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


My Strategic Management professor from the 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 was the belief in using the gifts bestowed on us wisely. I just believe that I become too little if I exist only to fulfill my own dreams.  


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


Mountaineering Takes on a New Meaning

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

In October 2007, I climbed Mt. Apo, the Philippines' 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 the Maria Aurora Outdoors Club; Mimay Punongbayan, Elias Bacolot, JP Cruz, and Atty; Jong Navarro of SABIT Mountaineers, and Rexandre delos Reyes, a member of Guys4Mountains. 

from left, Mimay, Jong, JP, me, Rex, Elias and Noel

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


That three-day arduous trek at the majestic Apo, starting from Kapatagan, in Digos, to Kidapawan, got us talking about so many things, among which was the idea of doing charitable work for communities living in the mountains. 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. At the time, we were resting after a three-day climb and waiting for our last team to arrive.

Over coffee Barangay officials had prepared for us, we told Mr. Pacio about our intention to help students who live in the mountains. 


Mr. Pacio suggested several schools, but we told him about our limitations. First, we 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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