TREK Kasibu: New Trails and New Faith

August 31, 2011 Voluntourism

When we started TRails to Empower Kids or TREK in 2007, only fifteen mountaineers ventured to Sitio Saybuan in Itogon, Benguet. Now, the number of our volunteers has multiplied tenfold, and along with it, the amount of donations we are able to gather has increased.

Our 9th project is TREK Kasibu, with beneficiaries being the students of Atan Elementary School located in Barangay Runruno, Quezon, Nueva Vizcaya.

The trail that led us there was long and difficult.

We took a five-hour bus ride from Manila to Barangay Antutot in Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya, followed by another 30-minute jeep ride to the jump-off point. Some participants chose to commence their trek from Barangay Antutot. From the jump-off point, it was another two and a half-hour trek to reach the school.

Our destination

Students and their parents met us at the jump-off point, ready to assist in carrying the donations. This was part of the counterpart we requested from the school. A week ago, the parents had also begun constructing the school's water supply system and comfort room using the construction materials donated by TREK's generous supporters.

Unloading the boxes
The trek

Accustomed to traversing this route, the children and their parents didn't face as much difficulty carrying the donations, and they appeared less tired than us.

Fortunately, the weather cooperated. In the past few weeks, the country had been grappling with heavy rains. However, on that day, we were blessed with excellent weather, featuring abundant sunshine and a cool breeze. We could imagine how slippery the trail might have been if it had been raining.

There's not much forest cover left along the trail we passed. Most farmers in this area resort to kaingin, underscoring the challenges faced by the residents of Kasibu and Quezon.

We reached the school before lunchtime.

The Program

The students had already gathered on the school grounds, and some parents were busy preparing lunch for the students.

We immediately began unpacking our boxes to prepare for the gift exchange ceremonies. It was a demonstration of the power of volunteering at work. Most participants took the initiative and assisted in coordinating the program. All stations were occupied — from unpacking the boxes to loading the backpacks and loot bags, to fixing the solar panels, to decorating the area with our donations.


Some students observed us from outside the classroom windows while we arranged the donations, while others participated in our mini art contest organized with the help of their schoolteachers.

After about an hour, lunch was ready, and the parents started serving the students. We bought a native pig, which was cooked using the traditional way by their parents. They called it "wat wat," which is essentially boiled pork.

Following the meal, we commenced our program with welcome remarks from the school principal, Mario Manzano, and another school official, Virgie Aroco. Both expressed their gratitude to the group for reaching out to the students of Atan. They mentioned that it was the first time they had received donations for the school.

A local barangay official was also present, expressing initial apprehensions about the group's intentions, suspecting a connection to mining. After realizing that we were simply a group of friends wanting to help and reach out to communities, he conveyed his happiness over our decision to visit their place.

Their expressions of appreciation continued with local dances performed by the students and their parents. We felt fortunate to experience and witness these cultural performances.

Gradually, we could sense the students becoming more receptive to the guests in their village. We brought out our earthen jar and pabitins, introducing them to two traditional Filipino party games. Soon, we witnessed the kids smiling, giggling, and laughing.

After the games came the most awaited part of the program. All our volunteers lined up to pass the backpacks filled with school supplies to the students, while others guided them to an area where they could choose their new slippers, raincoats, and boots. We deemed it essential for the children to have these, considering that many walk for up to two hours just to get to school.



Fitting of boots

Our entertainment

Then, it was an additional surprise for the students as we distributed loot bags filled with goodies from Universal Robina Corporation and toys from Pherica Corporation.

Meanwhile, in the classroom, we held a more formal turnover of the books donated by Diwa Learning Systems, the Bato Balani Foundation, and the Department of Education to the teachers and school principal.

For most schools in isolated areas, the responsibility of providing students with school supplies is usually shouldered by teachers. That is why Ma'am Virgie and all the other teachers are so thankful not just for the new set of school supplies but also for the other educational materials that will aid them in their teaching.

We felt and saw the joy and gratitude on the faces of the students and the teachers, conveyed through this simple piece:

S - Sa inyong pagbisita
A- Ang Atan Elementary School

L - Lubos na nagagalak
A - Aming Iingatan at pahahalagahan
M- Mga regalo nyong handog
A - At nagpapasalamat
T - Tagumpay ay aming makamtan
P- Poong Maykapal sa inyos pumatnubay
O - Oo, siya na ang bahala sa inyo

Group shot

Rommel Duyapat, the Supreme Student Government Council Head of Atan Elementary School, spoke last and assured us that they would take care of the donations and make full use of them in achieving their dreams.

(some photos by Gary Concepcion)

Other Good Travels