Returning to Marinduque wasn’t really in my plans for 2011, even though I thoroughly enjoyed my visit during the Holy Week of 2010 (Moriones and all.) What made me accept the invitation of my friend Madz Crisostomo to return to Marinduque is the prospect of doing some charity activity while traveling. This is something that I’ve never done before, but which I was very much interested in doing.
A secondary reason was the fact that the proposed itinerary would bring me to places in Marinduque that I was not able to or just barely visited back in ’10, this includes a Mt. Malindig climb, an extended stay in Buenavista, daytime beach bumming at the Poctoy White Beach in Torrijos, and visiting the town of Sta. Cruz and exiting the island through its very picturesque port.
“HAPPY TO LIVE, GLAD TO GIVE”
If you recall, I got to know Madz when I was researching on Biri Island last year and I found the information in her blog really useful. Madz started this group called “Happy to Live, Glad to Give” (HLGG, for brevity) which always pairs a mountaineering activity with a charity activity benefiting a nearby community in need. Ever since I’ve read about this group in her blog, I’ve always wanted to be invited. And so once I finally got an invitation last October, I did not hesitate to join once I ascertained that my schedule was free for the dates indicated.
For this dual-purpose activity, the mountaineering part would be done at Mt. Malindig – the highest mountain in Marinduque. We actually had to secure a military permit for this climb because, until just a few years ago, Mt. Malindig and its neigboring mountains were infested with the NPA. Nowadays, it’s already safe for mountaineering activities, but the military still maintains camps in the mountain. The permit is really for our own safety, lest we ourselves be mistaken for NPAs.
As for the charity part, our intended beneficiary was the Praiseland Foundation based in the town of Buenavista. It describes itself as, “…a non-stock, non-profit, inter-denominational, para-church foundation with the purpose of serving the Body of Christ in and outside of Marinduque specifically through Bible camping ministries, scholarship and feeding programs.” For our part, HLGG’s intention was to give school supplies to the 100 scholars of various ages currently being supported by the foundation.
We had to undergo a pre-climb meeting for this activity (held in the Megamall Food Court) just to be apprised of the details and the expectations for the activity. It was the first time I met Madz as well as my other online friend Tin, whom I asked to be invited too. Once the pre-climb meeting was done, then we were all set.
THE NIGHT BUS & NIGHT BOAT
So the plan was to assemble at a bus station near Kamias Rd. corner EDSA before boarding the bus that would take us all the way to the Lucena Port in Quezon Province. From there, we were to board a Ro-Ro ferry going to Marinduque. This was a route I was familiar with because it’s exactly how I got to Marinduque back in ’10.
So there we were with all our bags and stuff when it started to rain. But that was the least of our worries because there were still a few people in our group who haven’t arrived yet. It’s a good thing that the bus schedule wasn’t rigidly followed and even the latest of the late (haha) was able to make it.
It was a long drive from Cubao to Lucena and we could have taken advantage of the long trip by sleeping were it not for the fact that we were forced to wake up every now and then for various reasons (ticket payment, bad music, sudden braking, etc.) As a result, we arrived at the port with that not-very-pleasant feeling of having one’s sleep cut short repeatedly.
If the bus ride was bad, the boat ride was much worse. Granted that it wasn’t as bad as the insanity that I experienced during the ’10 Holy Week, the boat still was crowded enough to be uncomfortable. For one thing, the seats were not conducive for trips lasting for more than an hour in the middle of the night. You simply won’t be able to sleep unless you’re callous enough to occupy and lie down on an entire row.
It was still an hour before sunset when we arrived at the Cawit Port in the town of Boac. The port was well lit, but by some unfortunate coincidence, a power failure occurred right before we disembarked. We then walked towards the exit in almost total darkness. Somehow, we all made it to the exit and negotiatied with a local jeepney driver to transport us to Buenavista.
ARRIVAL AT BUENAVISTA
After our jeepney briefly got stalled somewhere between Boac and Buenavista, we arrived at Praiseland Foundation. The main avenue was empty of people as it was still very early in the morning (although there was already daylight). Pastor Rogelio Brion was already waiting for us by the side of the road and he generously served us piping-hot coffee and pan de sal for breakfast. At that time, there were already a few early birds at the premises. Since the actual gift-giving affair was still an hour away, we whiled away the time by strolling through the main avenue until we reached the recreational park by the sea, where a lot of us had photos taken.
Eventually, we were asked to proceed back to the foundation’s premises as the giftees were already starting to arrive. In a span of less than an hour, the number of giftees swelled from 2 to around 50, and more were coming in every minute. Aside from the place getting crowded, the noise level was also increasing because, well, children are children and they’ll always make noises.
Finally, the program started . Actually, there wasn’t really any planned program as we only went there to deliver and give the school supplies to the recipients. Ivan, one of the leaders of our group, got a bit dumbfounded when he was asked by Pastor Rogelio to say a few words to all those assembled. He did manage to say a few words and introduce each of us to everyone. Pastor Rogelio then gave a few words of his own just before the gift-giving proper commenced.
The intention was to start with the youngest (Grade 1) giftees and to work our way to the succeeding grades. We got to the Grade 2 giftees before the program was temporarily halted to acknowledge the arrival of Russel Madrigal, Mayor of the town of Buenavista. He gave a few words of his own expressing his appreciation for what HLGG was doing and he then stayed for the rest of the program and graciously chatting with a few of us every now and then.
By this point, the number of children in attendance further swelled until it seemed like there were a lot more than 100 children there. This certainly posed a bit of a problem because we brought school supplies only for a specific number of scholars, and seemed as if we won’t be able to provide for everyone. Pastor Rogelio explained that the number swelled to over the official figure because it was usual practice in their place for children to tag along when news of free giveaways gets out.
Since it would be very unchristian to ask all those unlisted children to go home, HLGG remedied the situation by doing some “dagdag-bawas” with the pre-packaged gifts in order to be able to ensure that each child gets something. (And we made it! All the way to the 4th year high school level.)
DISPROPORTIONATE EXPRESSION OF GRATITUDE
What was totally unexpected was the fact that they prepared a thanksgiving song and “participatory” dance number as an expression of their gratitude to us for giving the school supplies. Since I realized that we were about to witness something special, I immediately set my BlackBerry in video mode to capture all of it from the very beginning. Here’s the video:
I’m saying it’s disproportionate because I felt that we did not deserve to be thanked in such a grand way. We only gave them school supplies and a simple “thank you” would have sufficed. Instead, these children spent a lot of time and effort in practicing and eventually performing their song and dance number that, in hindsight, I actually felt guilty I didn’t give more. It’s as if we gave them a winning 6/55 Grand Lotto ticket.
I learned something that time:
For some people, a little kindness indeed goes a long, long way. On the subject of generosity, we oftentimes confuse size with significance. How many times have we stopped ourselves from giving something to people who are really in need because we were ashamed that what we’d end up giving might be perceived as too paltry to be significant? If one is in the habit of imposing too many conditions on one’s own generosity, then one might end up not giving at all. As far as results go, imposing conditions has exactly the same effect as making excuses not to do something. And in that case it won’t really matter even if one had the intention to give.
As the words in the HLGG Facebook page says, “A small step taken in the right direction is better than no action.”
It’s also sometimes a matter of pride and humility. Right or wrong, we all have an inclination to pride. We want to be recognized and acclaimed for anything good we do. Sometimes, we’d rather not do something if we think we won’t get recognized for it. It is an ugly reality about ourselves that we all have to deal with and is something which I personally struggle with.
I was humbled by what those children did. They didn’t care about how little I felt I gave to them. They thanked me just the same in a manner that they felt was commensurate. If there ever was proof that pride has no place in generosity, then that was it. And I’m thankful that I experienced that humbling moment.
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Next, Mt. Malindig, Marinduque Hot Springs, and “indoor camping”.