Thursday, April 14, 2011

Five Nights, Five Girls, One Room

I’ve never been in a dorm before, and I’ve never experienced having roommates that are not related to me whatsoever. Fieldtrip nights spent in a hotel room doesn’t count, I figured getting the benefit of all kinds of luxuries and what-not is a different experience altogether. I guess the feeling of living in a communal way was not something I’ve always looked forward to, however, just last week, I got to spend five days with four of my friends in a room that couldn’t even be counted as a room. I’d give props to us and two other roommates for our tolerance for a room in an unfinished resort with only two large beds without foam, and no air-conditioning, electric fan nor water in the comfort room. The first day was surreal; it was like a huge slap in the face, like a back-to-basics challenge, or like an episode in Survivor, except we were given the luxury of a roof. By the time we were about to sleep, all our apprehensions were trifled down. Finally, we had electricity, we were given pillows, and blankets, and bless one of our roommates who lived in the vicinity, provided us with extra pillows, and an electric fan. Imagine the comfort of seven girls trying to fit in two wood beds- I bet you can’t. We all woke up with painful backs; each of us tired and not wanting to wake up with several different complaints.
However, the reason why we were gathered was different. We get to spend one week in Bantayan, a small island in the Philippines with hopes of transforming it into a better place with 2000 other delegates from around the country, and outside as well. The Gawad Kalinga Bayani Challenge 2011 was a 1-week affair that provided different activities for different teams that were to “gawad kalinga” or “give help” to those who live in the island. Teams were sent in different sites with different tasks, and our team was to refurbish one of the villages there. With half the team in one room, you could imagine we’d have a lot to talk about in the ride to the HQ or at the site, but no, it was awkward and quiet, just like the night before.

In the middle of the day however, all those invisible barriers were broken, and I could say that there was improvement in our bond. We were each in our comfort zones, and we were not afraid to let other members of the team in. Day 1 at the site proved to be a challenge, while all the other teams in the same site were easily digging to their sides of the road; ours was busy trying to break the huge rocks that were too hard to shatter. While everybody was being productive, our road was the only part of the village where development was slow. Other teams proceeded to the cork stoppers, and digging two-inch deep spaces for gravel. As work time was nearing the end, we made a couple of new friends from the neighbourhood. Considering the fact that we had a language barrier, it is not hard to make friends with little children because just a simple smile is already an understanding. By the afternoon, all teams were already at the beach for the beach sports competitions.

It was a fun day, filled with laughter and work and smiles and fulfilment but nothing prepared us for the days to come. The night ended with happy cheers and lots of new insights. Our burdens concerning our room lessened. We had water supply, and our two other roommates transferred. It was bittersweet because we wanted to bond with them but we also somehow needed lesser people in the room. Anyway, I guess it all worked out in the end.

So here we are, back to where we began: five nights, five girls, one room.

Most of what happened in those five nights are never to be shared. I guess it was an unwritten pact, that somehow “what happens in Room 1 stays in Room 1.” Probably not everything. But waking up every day in a room you share with four girls could somehow change you. Different personalities that seem to just mesh well with the other; Sacrifices were made, stories were told, and a bond was formed.
Day 2 in the site endowed members of the team with different pride and frustrations. I was proud of us for doing an excellent job helping in adding the gravel in the roads, and being trusted to work by the mayor, and all the other higher officials that served there. However, we were still frustrated at the same rocks that presented us with too many delays the day before. I’m just happy that teams from other places were willing to help us with no questions asked. It just goes to show that it is easier to work when all of you are working for the same goal.

The next three days were easy, as to what was left for us to do was paint the houses. Our team has painted three different houses in total, but we still go back in working to get rid of the rocks from time to time. Also our friends multiplied, and we had a lot of children to play with as well as students our age from other schools.
The nights differed from the days. After a long and hard day’s work, we revived ourselves in the beach, swimming or playing Frisbee, or actually playing officiated Frisbee. I’m now proud to say that I’m a Frisbee “athlete” and our team won second place.
Basically, the week I spent in the island of Bantayan was a good exposure. The complaints we made from our first night couldn’t compare to the complaints people living in the villages we helped refurbish could have made. And to think they’ve been living, and would be living there for most of their lives. They never whined about the way they lived, all they had was gratitude, towards us, for helping them, for being there for them and I wanted to slap myself for even complaining in the first place. GK Bayani Challenge 2011 made me realize, although I’m lucky for living the way I do, I should still thank them, because they are the people who makes me realize the worth of my actions. Just like what Kuya Jaypee said, “Kung napapasaya namin kayo, higit na mas napapasaya niyo kami.” I am happy for the people who live there that are just willing to give us more despite of what they have. I feel lucky to have met people like them, and understand that no matter how rich or how poor a person can be, it is the giving heart that matters, and because of that I will never forget them.


not a review, but an insight

Although I have promised many times that this blog will not have a review of any kind, I’m sort of counteracting with that original plan. I have come across the books Francesca’s Kitchen by Peter Pezelli and A Whole New Life by Betsy Thornton in my collection, and loved it. They were compiled in a single paperback copy in large print. The two stories were very contradicting, as the first story was almost familial, written in a quiet and comforting manner that is usually for easy reading. The other one however is an edge-of-your-seat type of story with twists and climactic plots that are common in most of the detective-lawyer type books I own. However, the meshing of two different stories was quite new to me, as I read them one after the other. Usually, after reading a crime book, I would read another, and then another and it would take a long time before I read a book in another genre. The same goes to a blithe story; I would read another with the same field and sometimes maybe even read a love story, and then a long gap before I read another action-packed novel. I know, I read a lot of books. But back to the two, they sort of balance out each other, even though they’re directed at the exact opposite direction. Each story is short; I got to finish reading them at a day each. Both stories were intriguing, touching and seamless. What I could never forget however was the line from Francesca’s Kitchen:

There is something sweetly inexplicable that passes between two people who aren’t destined to meet when one day, after wandering often aimlessly through life, the heavens finally fall into alignment, and they happen upon each other unexpectedly. It is not quite, though some might call it so, the proverbial love at first sight that strangers sometimes experience, for in truth, the two find in each other something extraordinarily familiar and comforting. It is more a feeling of profound recognition than anything else, one that brings with it a sense of relief, as if their hearts are simply saying to each other, “Oh, there you are. Where have you been? I’ve been looking all over for you for the longest time.”

I’m not really a believer of the cliché love-at-first sight, but just the thought made me wonder, if it’s true for some people, it might be true for me too. Then there unlocks another hopeless romantic dream that just seems too scatty and obnoxious, in my case. So thanks to “A whole New Life” I forgot all about the thought of finding my very own chance encounter to “love-at-first-sight” and understand the realities of what other people are facing, like divorce, and all the other negative situations that are realistic (in the most not cynical way I could possibly explain.)