TREK Kibungan: Celebrating 5 Years of Reaching Mountain Kids

January 31, 2013 Mountain Climbing

To commemorate the fifth anniversary of our group, TRails to Empower Kids (TREK), we undertook a monumental outreach program, marking our largest endeavor to date in terms of the number of beneficiaries. 

For ten days, alongside dedicated volunteers, we journeyed through the mountains of Kibungan in Benguet, driven by the mission to deliver books and school supplies to students in this mountainous municipality.

Planning the Outreach

Kibungan, a fourth-class municipality in the landlocked province of Benguet within the Cordillera Administrative Region, became the focus of our initiative. With the help of Ms. Bren Siadto, we meticulously crafted an itinerary that spanned nine schools over ten days. This allowed us to personally deliver the goods acquired through the generosity of family, friends, and colleagues in Manila. 

Despite the considerable challenge of reaching close to a thousand students, we pressed on, trusting that providence would prevail—and indeed, it did.

One innovative suggestion from volunteer Mr. Jojo Palad involved repurposing old tarpaulin materials from billboards and promotional materials to create backpacks. Upon sharing our request online, the response was overwhelming, providing sufficient materials for the students on our list. The backpacks were filled not only with school supplies but also with textbooks, reference materials, storybooks, and toys.

Journey Back to Polis

Our initial destination was Polis Barrio School in Sitio Polis, Barangay Poblacion. We had previously visited this school two years ago and were captivated by the breathtaking landscapes, the charm of the community, and the kindness of its people. We pledged then that we would return.

The trek to Polis entailed a four-hour journey on foot from the Municipal Hall of Kibungan, Benguet. Despite being my third time traversing this route, the excitement endured, heightened by the blossoming scenery along the trails.

The stairs to Polis.  Midway of a 4-hour  trek to Polis

As nightfall enveloped the surroundings, we reached our destination. The teachers and parents, despite their limited resources, graciously prepared a sumptuous dinner for us to share. Their kindness spoke volumes and added to the warmth of the moment.

The next day, the students orchestrated a brief program that incorporated our distribution of gifts along with the traditional talak dance. Engaging in such activities provides a priceless opportunity to immerse ourselves in the rich culture of the mountain-dwelling communities—an experience not everyone is privileged to witness.


Continuing the Outreach

Over the next six days, we hopped from one school to another, distributing backpacks and witnessing the sheer joy on little faces as they received their new bags and explored the treasures inside.

We visited Napsong Barrio School in Barangay Madaymen, Gasal Barrio School in Barangay Lubo, Lubo Elementary School in Barangay Lubo, Ewa-Bokes Elementary School, Tonquey-Nalusbo Primary School in Barangay Madaymen, Tabbac Primary School in Barangay Palina, and Legleg Elementary School in Barangay Palina.

While these schools boasted breathtaking scenery, they faced significant challenges, particularly in terms of school materials. Polis Barrio School, Napsong Barrio School, Gasal Barrio School, and Legleg Elementary School also grappled with the absence of electricity. Teachers had to trek for hours to neighboring communities just to charge their cell phones, crucial for staying in touch with their families. Fortunately, our friends from Aduana Mountaineers, Outdoor Addicts, Sagada Environmental Guides Association, and Adtel came to the rescue by donating solar panels through our group.


During our stay, we adapted to bathing in freezing cold waters and the profound silence of the mountains. Cooking meals and washing clothes became communal activities, offering bonding opportunities in the absence of other forms of entertainment. 

We stayed during our first few nights at a lodging facility in the municipal compound. We moved days after to the health center near Palina Elementary School, our last site.

What remains etched in our memories is the kindness of the parents who pampered us with freshly harvested vegetables every day.

The trek to Legleg

Mababang Paaralan ng Legleg

Turning over the solar panels for Legleg

Ewa Bokes Elementary School

With all the participants at Palina Elementary School

Students of Tonguey

Story teller for a day

Mt. Kilkili, Our Reward

On our eighth day, having compressed our itinerary for the fifth and sixth days into one, we managed to fit in a hike to Mt. Kilkili, one of Kibungan, Benguet's renowned climbing destinations.

Although it was a relatively short hike, the view from the mountain was breathtaking. From the summit, we could trace the trail that led us to Legleg Elementary School, Palina Rice Terraces, and the prominent peaks of the neighboring town of Bacun, another sought-after mountaineering destination.

At the summit's outcrops, which give the mountain its unique character, we spent time capturing photos and updating our Facebook statuses. Yes, cell phone reception was surprisingly good up there. 

Relaxing at the summit of Mt. Kilkili 

Celebrating Five Years

A significantly larger group of volunteers arrived on the eighth day, reserved for an outreach at Palina Elementary School.

Despite a slight delay caused by a flat tire and a minor road accident, we managed to maintain the children's enthusiasm. They started arriving as early as 7 AM on the school grounds. We engaged the students in singing, dancing, and playing games while awaiting the arrival of the volunteers.

Upon the volunteers' arrival, led by our designated expedition leader, Ms. Ailene Mae Leal, we commenced the distribution of their lunch, prepared with the assistance of barangay officials and parents.

After lunch, the festivities continued with more games and the eagerly awaited distribution of backpacks and other donations.

Since the group was scheduled to spend the night at the municipal hall, which is more than an hour away from Palina, we departed after the program. However, not before dancing Gangnam style at the students' request.

Later that night, we shared with the group the photos captured during our ten-day trek in the mountains of Kibungan, presented certificates of appreciation to our cherished volunteers, and, of course, toasted to our five years of friendship.

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