TREK Tinglayan: Silver Linings

November 04, 2013 Voluntourism

Buscalan, located in Kalinga, is rapidly emerging as a popular destination in the Philippines. It boasts unexplored beauty, including majestic rice terraces, and is home to tattooed women and warriors. Visitors come here to get inked by Apo Whang-Od, a mambabatok or traditional tattooist.

Despite the influx of tourists, there was still a need for assistance for the local children. Our group, TRails to Empower Kids, decided to lend a hand.

We assisted three schools – Buscalan Elementary School, Southern Tinglayan High School, and Loccong Elementary School, with the support of the Kalinga Mountaineering Society and local educator Levi Banao.

We conducted numerous meetings, sought assistance from various individuals, and engaged in our routine repackings. I actively participated in all aspects, yet there was one thing I regretted not being able to do - joining the outreach.

I never thought a trek would come that I couldn't join, but God has His ways, and I don't question that.

Weeks after TREK Mapedya, I participated in a climb to Mt. Tabeyoc, which was on my bucket list, with other TREK volunteers. That's where the accident occurred. I tripped on a protruding root, breaking my left leg. I had to be brought down on a makeshift hammock. The injury was severe, requiring surgery, and I was left on crutches for months.

Accepting the reality that I couldn't resume my hobby anytime soon meant I couldn't join TREK Tinglayan. Despite nearly eight months of recovery, I wouldn't be ready for the long, overnight road trip from Manila to Tabuk, then Tabuk to Buscalan. I also couldn't trek for hours, still relying on crutches.

So, I involved myself as much as possible in the preparation for the TREK.

The Outreach

Sending off the volunteers was emotionally challenging. I monitored the entire time, and fortunately, I received updates every step of the way.

Transporting the donation to Buscalan

When they arrived at the first village, it began to rain, but everyone stayed safe. The raindrops turned into beats, harmonizing with the songs of the welcoming kids. In the evening, they shared drinks with the locals. The following day, under improved weather, they were treated to local dances. I envisioned the vibrant colors, sweet smiles, and perhaps even teary eyes. I imagined myself once again immersed in the rich culture of Kalinga.

The kids doing their artworks

Native Dances

Playing with the kids

It was a successful TREK. We assisted nearly 200 students, providing each of them with backpacks filled with school supplies and hygiene kits. Additionally, we distributed numerous books and teaching materials for the teachers. Small kids received toys, and students from Tinglayan National High School were equipped with raincoats.

The volunteers

That's when it struck me: TREK needed to evolve into a new phase. It was time for our volunteers to become more self-empowered because I couldn't be there every time. It was time for us to formalize the organization
(Photos by Joseph Cruz)

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