#trek10for10 Casiguran

May 22, 2017 Voluntourism

Ain’t really no mountain high, no valley low, or river wide enough to keep me from pursuing my passion.  Since 2007, I have been combining my love of the outdoors and with with my desire to help kids through a group I co-founded called TREK or TRails to Empower Kids.  We go to far-flung areas to provide aid to kids. 

So, it didn’t matter that I had to travel 1,500 miles by land, air, and sea for 30 hours from Bangkok (where I attended the World Travel and Tourism Council Summit sponsored by my client, AirAsia) to Casiguran.  I had to be there when our group conducted our second in a series of ten outreach programs to celebrate our 10th or Anniversary - or our #trek10for10.

Casiguran, Aurora was the site of our group’s second project, held in May of 2008.  Our beneficiaries in Casiguran are members of the indigenous group called Agtas or Dumagats, who are students of a School of Living Tradition called Sentrong Paaralan ng mga Agta, or SPA. 

Our 2008 outreach was followed by another activity in 2012.  So, our recent project was actually our third for the school.

#trek10for10 Casiguran volunteers

The site is specifically located at Sitio Disigisaw in Casiguran, Aurora.  Unlike the usual sites of TREK where we have to hike in, this time we only had to ride a boat to the site.  The ride is about an hour and a half. 

Sitio Disigisaw
We were the last team to take the boats to Sitio Disigisaw.  Our other volunteers left earlier and they had the donations with them.  When we arrived, the kids had already finished doing their artwork; our kitchen team already halfway done with the meal preparations; and our volunteers were finished conducting their dental mission, storytelling session, and games. 

Boat to Sitio Disigisaw.  Photo by Nelfie Flores
Volunteers arriving with the donations. Photo by Nelfie Flores

Storytelling.  Photo by Nelfie Flores

It looked so much different now.  For one, they already have a classroom so the teacher and the students are no longer camping in the barangay hall.  We helped build that classroom the last time we visited.  There are also more finished houses now in the village.

I remember the last time we were there, we stayed overnight and we were awed by the beautiful sunset and the fireflies that took over the display of wonders.  We stayed in the barangay hall, and some of the community members joined our socials, which lasted until the wee hours of the night. 

I remember this kid was asked by his mom to fetch his father.  The father didn't go with him, so the mother went herself.  The irony was, instead of the father going home, both of them stayed and entertained us. The poor kid had to sleep in one of the benches with us!

We weren’t able to stay overnight this time.  We only had three days and the site is quite far from Manila, where most of us stay.  Our travel time ate up most of our itinerary.  Nevertheless, the short time we spent again in the community was very memorable.

All of the kids we saw in 2008 and 2012 were no longer there. Some had transferred, the others graduated. 

The school only takes up to grade 3 now.  The older kids are transferred to a bigger school in the town proper. 

Some of the kids of SPA

Aside from the usual gifts we bring to the kids - which are backpacks, school supplies, raincoats, slippers, toys, art kits, and hygiene kits - we also brought cloth the kids can use as their tribal costume, tables for the school, water system, sacks of rice for their feeding program, and also some pre-loved clothes.

This is me with the kids

Picture with the kids after the turnover of donations

It is really a joy to watch these kids’ faces light up when they receive their gifts.  It takes a lot of effort, not to mention so much stress, to put these projects together, but their shy smiles are more than enough to reward us. 

Turnover of donations led by our youngest volunteer, Izyan

It’s sad that it started to rain, so we had to leave earlier than planned.  I still wanted to spend more time with their kids.  But it was still okay, because that meant more bonding time with my fellow volunteers.  We spent the rest of our time together exploring the tourist attractions around.  We take voluntourism to heart. 

#trek10for10 Casiguran volunteers at Dilasag's grassland
one of the beaches of Dilasag

Thank you very much to all my fellow volunteers, led by the expedition leaders JP, Jane, Joseph, and Marren; the community members of Sitio Disigisaw; the tourism officers of Casiguran; and of course the kids for another unforgettable weekend.

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