TREK Tinglayan: Silver Linings

November 04, 2013 Voluntourism

Buscalan, Kalinga is fast becoming a popular destination in the Philippines. It has a rich unexplored beauty, including majestic rice terraces, and is home to tattooed women and warriors.  People come here to get inked by Apo Whang-Od, a mambabatok or traditional tattooist.

However, despite the influx of tourists, there were still lots of aids needed for the kids.  So, we decided to help them.

Our group, TRails to Empower Kids, helped three schools – Buscalan Elementary School, Southern Tinglayan High School, and Loccong Elementary School, and got the help again of Kalinga Mountaineering Society, and a local educator, Levi Banao. 

We had several meetings, asked help from a lot of people, did our usual repackings.  I joined all of them.  There was one thing though I could not do – join the outreach.

An Accident Happened to Me

I never ever thought that a TREK would come that I could not join. But God has His ways, and I never question that.

Weeks after TREK Mapedya, I joined a climb in Mt. Tabeyoc, which was on my bucket list, with other TREK volunteers.  That was where the accident happened.  I tripped on a protruded root, which broke my left leg.  I had to be brought down on a makeshift hammock. It was damaged so badly, I had to go on surgery, which left me in crutches for months. 

I had to accept the fact that it is not possible for me to resume my hobby in the near future.  That also meant I could not join TREK Tinglayan. 

Despite having had almost eight months for recovery, I will still not be up for the long, overnight road trip, from Manila to Tabuk, then Tabuk to Buscalan.  I also definitely could not trek for hours, being still on crutches.

So, I involved myself as much as I could in the preparation of the TREK.

The Outreach

It was difficult sending off the volunteers.  I monitored the whole time, and thankfully, I was being updated every step.

Transporting the donation to Buscalan

It rained when they arrived at the first village, but everyone was safe.  The rain even became beats to the songs of the kids that welcomed them.  At night, they drank with the locals.  And, they were presented with local dances the following day when they thankfully had better weather. I imagined the colors, the sweet smiles, and the teary eyes. I imagined myself being there, immersed again in Kalinga’s rich culture.

The kids doing their artworks

Native Dances

Playing with the kids

It was a good TREK, though.   We helped almost 200 students. Each of them received backpacks complete with school supplies and hygiene kits. We also handed over several books as well as teaching materials for teachers, some toys for small kids, and raincoats for students of Tinglayan National High School.

The volunteers

It was then I realized it was time for TREK to take on a new form.  It was time for the volunteers to become more empowered because I could not be there every time.  It was time for us to formalize the organization.

(Photos by Joseph Cruz)

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