#trek10for10 Mansalay

5:31 AM Voluntourism


Hanunuo means "true," "real," or "genuine." And that was the kind of kindness we experienced when we visited the Hanunuo Mangyans, one of the eight indigenous groups living in the island of Mindoro, as part of TREK or TRails to Empower Kids’ 10th Anniversary.

TREK Mansalay is the 4th in a series of 10 outreach activities planned by our group to commemorate this year. Our beneficiaries are the students of Anahaw Elementary School located in the mountains of Mansalay, Oriental Mindoro. Just like all the other schools we've scheduled to visit this year, Anahaw Elementary School is one of our past beneficiaries that we chose to revisit.

I must admit, I was a bit uneasy about this outreach. First off, we had to prepare for 400 students, which is a quite a huge number for a small group like ours, especially since our 10th anniversary program is a bit ambitious (10 schools in 10 months!). Then, there was the security issue. It didn’t help that days before our outreach, there were news abroad and in our own shores of fighting and terrorism.

But, we trusted kindness, and it didn't fail us. Donations poured in, volunteers signed up, and Mansalay locals committed support.

The only thing left for us to face was the bad weather. From the Mansalay gymnasium where we offloaded our cargo after our ten-hour trip from Manila, we set off for the four-hour trek up the mountains in pouring rain.  Our trek included several river crossings, so it didn't seem like a good decision. But our happy volunteers were like rays of sunshine. Despite the incessant rains, they were unfazed.

So, after about three hours of waiting for the rains to stop, we got on the trucks lent to us by the local government office of Mansalay, and rolled to the jump-off point where the Hanunuo Mangyans were waiting. We were told they had been waiting for us since early morning.

unloading of the donations at the jump-off point

They carried the heavy stuff, yet they were still the ones pushing us when we felt like giving up. They felt how difficult it must have been for us to navigate those steep and muddy trails. “Malapit na." “Mahirap talaga dito sa amin pero konti na lang." “Pag akyat mo dyan patag na." (“We are near." "The trails are really difficult but you will get there.” After that assault, it will be easier.”) They assured us.

Trail to Anahaw ES



And sure enough, after four hours, we got there. I wanted to so badly to join the volunteers, who went to the nearby water source to get the mud off their legs and arms, but I had my period and needed a real comfort room. Knowing my predicament, one of the volunteers and my longtime friend, Ponga, fetched water for me. We were all tired and she still did that for me.

Anahaw Elementary School
Actually, it looked like I was the only one who was exhausted. As soon as the volunteers settled, they started the preparations for the program. Resly, who was tasked to organize a football game, started training the kids. Uncle Benjie and his kitchen crew started prepping the ingredients for the lunch we were going to share with the community. The rest started unboxing and organizing the donations.

The following day, when I got up, there were already volunteers busy with the preparations. The kitchen team was up early preparing the lunch we would share with the community. By mid-morning, the handover program began. We started with a simple football game, followed by art-making, then some opening activities. We then started the distribution of slippers, then ate some food, and lastly we wrapped up with the distribution of backpacks filled with school supplies, hygiene kits, and other gifts. On the side, Doc Jo was leading our dental mission.

Mansalay FC

Art-making

Program Proper

Our host, Rex, with the kids

TREK Mansalay volunteers

Ready for lunch!

Distribution of backpacks

Yehey!

Even with the rains constantly threatening to halt our activities, everything went well. Everyone remained cheerful. Well, no way we could have done all of that without the joyful disposition of the volunteers. Imagine getting 400 kids organized for the program, especially with the language barrier, getting 420 sets of donations ready for the handover, plus preparing meals for 500 people.

That is why I am overjoyed at the genuine kindness of our volunteers. I know it is really in their heart to help, and that is why they signed up for this outreach even with knowing the difficulties involved. We made sure during our pre-climb meetings to make them aware of all of these. And they were such troopers! Muddied, sometimes sweaty, but still delightful troopers.

What better display of kindness than seeing our volunteers still cheery even with fingers already numb after peeling a sack of potatoes, or even with muddied hands after helping kids find the sippers that would fit them, or with sore muscles after carrying donations from our storage room to the stage?

These are very simple acts of kindness, but these are true, real, and genuine.

I am also aware of kindheartedness of the teachers, the community leaders, our other bayes and bapas (aunties and uncles) from Anahaw, plus the tourism office of Mansalay, Oriental Mindoro. From the time they spent organizing this outreach, to their guidance during our treks, plus accommodation all throughout our stay there in Anahaw, we felt nothing but kindness and care.

They even cheerfully carried one of our volunteers, Jam, in a makeshift hammock, down the mountains after his foot got really painful.

They were also very generous in sharing their culture with us. Some of the kids donned their traditional costumes. They opened our program with their ambahan or poetry. They also gladly wrote our names in their archaic script.

I know also that we were also a handful, especially for them who are not used to receiving visitors.

When we left Anahaw, it was already sunny. The trails had dried a little, so our descent was not as difficult as we expected it to be. And we all left with more joy in our hearts, more stories to share to our families and friends, and more new friends to join us in our treks. 


We enjoyed the sunny weather up to our side trip at Buktot Beach where our bonding continued.


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