Just got home yesterday to be honest. We were in Boracay as we conduct the Project Read Aloud for the Tribe Bato (Boracay Ati Tribe Organization) along with members from YSEALI (Youth of Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative). Well, we are there to teach the kids on how to speak American English properly and also teach them to write. Am not really particular with diphthong or tripthong stuff, especially how they draw those letters awkwardly. Honestly, it’s not like I don’t get them. That’s what they intend to teach the community with. But since my American English is fine, thanks to my experience on working with BPO companies, I’ll be one of the teachers.
This project is actually led by a good friend of mine, Jarrah Brilliantes. Aside from being part of YSEALI, she’s also a founder of SILAW Foundation (Saving Innocent Lives Against War) and this project is set to be on the 21st of January.
Now, I don’t think that it is hard to figure out how I get myself involve into these stuff, right? I mean, I came back home from Manila and, rather just stay in Lambunao and cave in, I’d rather do something productive. So many things happened on the past year. Triumphs and big time failures. The only way to get back up is to move forward.
Well you see, it is actually pretty hard retracing what I was before. It is like going back to that piece of my life when I was on my own.. And hmmm.. It’s not really I’m trying to retrace the real me because I was never unreal 😛 Or have I? I That’s kind of absurd and I don’t really want to get existential here. Let’s just say I’m just trying to continue on the lost thread.
Just for the record, I am not part of any organization or clubs or whatever. What I am is a volunteer, a solo philanthropist and I also do solo travels. Maybe I’ll blog about those too. Yeah, I’ll reserve those stuff on a different blog post.
Anyway, lets talk about this Project Read Aloud. The thing is, I was already in Iloilo on the 20th of January as there’s supposed to be YSEALI Dinagyang Exhibit on the 21st. It’s a fund raising event in parallel with the Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo. And they were also thinking maybe use it as a venue where we can gather or receive books. So my schedule is set as I also need to pick up some books from another friend of mine.
Which I did. I meet up with an old friend. She is a school principal now and she doesn’t really want me to mention her name 😛 So I won’t. Hehehe. But anyway, if you’re reading this. Let me say thank you again and if you need my help, don’t hesitate to ask, please 🙂
So after that, I brought the books to Batiti Grounds Inc. (Jarrah’s office) in Mandurriao. And since I was driving Max, our pick up vehicle, with Atsong, Ador and the Titas. We left right away and I drove to Villa as they also have their own plans regarding with Dinagyang Festival. Then, I went back to Batiti Grounds Inc. right after.
Wait a minute, this is going to be too tiring to tell you guys all the details of that day. Let me just try to shorten it as possibly as I can. So let me skip Dinagyang for now.
Alright. Now, we woke up around 7 at Jarrah’s apartment. I’ve been in Iloilo for 2 days already and was thinking, “Might as well just go to Boracay with the stuff I already have than go back home in Lambunao” And so I did. But due to slight hangover the previous night from Jarrah’s Birthday and to that “ghost” haunting me with memories, I was just all silent that morning even when I was already on the bus to Boracay. I was actually a bit surprised when it actually took us like 5 or 6 hours to arrive in Aklan. Because if I can,I can drive Max to Boracay for, maybe 3-4 hours? Anyway, soon as we arrived, I lit up a cigarette. Damn. I know I got to quit smoking. Just that these stuff constantly banging my head. Sheesh!
Anyway, so Jarrah used her phone and we’re supposed to meet someone that could take us there without paying for the terminal fee, environmental fee etc. Spotted the person she was talking to along the wharf before she approached us but forgot her name is. Apologies. She did brought us on a different location where she said the boat will pick us up. She told us to wait in the beach and so we did.
So we took a boat and soon as we arrive, we took motorcycles to drive us directly to the Tribe Bato community. I arrived first and was greeted by Tonying. I was taking pictures of the entrance when he just suddenly showed up. Soon enough, Jarrah and Angelica arrived and so we gathered in their townhall. And so we start the task at hand.
But there is something at the gate I noticed. Kind of surprising though that at the entrance of their community, there’s supposed to be a P200 fee per head for visits. Of course, we paid nothing. We came there for the project and not as tourists. But the idea of it, I find it degrading for them. They’re the first inhabitants of the island and yet somewhat they’re being treated like as if their community is like a zoo or museum, like as if they’re walking artifacts. And seems like they’re being passive about it. Maybe they got used to it. But it is insulting. What they have is a culture that we inherited from our ancestors. It’s something we should treasure and, for me, that is priceless.
Anyway, after the the task. We able to find a good accommodation with a pool. Also we stroll for a bit.
We went back to the community. We were greeted by a nun from Daughters of Charity. I recognized right away because of the uniform (I came from a Catholic School and it was also under supervision of Daughters of Charity. I was a member of SSVP – Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. Also was later told by a friend that she was also facilitating Asilo de Molo.) So Jarrah talked to her as she explained the vision of the team in which the sister also agrees.
Sister told us that some of the students are at school. Some actually trying to learn weaving.
So we decided to just bum around the beach along with the kids.
I was playing with Hermie and Mari Francis when I noticed several people walking by. I didn’t pay much attention. Jarrah noticed something though. When they got to the kids playing at the front beach, they decided to took a picture with them, and one of the group said, “I’m going to instagram this and will caption it ‘playing with the kids’. They barely stayed for 5 seconds after they took a picture. What’s worse, they paid the kids with coins, probably 10 pesos or something. Then they left right away. Jarrah witnessed it and told me right after. And to think they are actually just from Iloilo, by the language they speak.
It pissed me off when I learned it from Jarrah.
I never give out money to beggars whenever I’m in the streets. I’d rather give them food or buy them some. You see, this is how I see it, there is a big difference between charity and solidarity. Charity is vertical. It’s coming from the top to bottom. It is condescending. It is like fake self-gratification. Does that make you feel any better? So by giving alms, that should be enough? Whereas solidarity is linear and leveled. No one should be above or below. You help, I help and pay it forward. There should be a network of empathy. That is how I see and how it should be.
The tribe gone thru a lot of issues. Their tribal leader was killed few years back and it seems like everyone from the island knew who did it. There was an argument regarding with the land with one of the top hotel owners. And that owner was also killed in Davao due to drugs involvement. They said he is also a drug lord. I also heard that some ati kids are being kidnapped and their internal organs are being harvest and sold to black market. A friend told me who worked in Boracay, there are actually a lot of news being blacked out. And I tell you, these are really happening. They are not just a word of mouth.
With all of these bullshitry, I feel ashamed and pissed off. Ashamed because with the problems I have, who am I to complain? Some people had it worse and yet they still able to smile, play and laugh. It is incomparable. I grew up with a pretty awesome childhood, these kids have the right to experience it too.
I don’t know if there’s an epiphany am just not aware of, my conscious self you know. Maybe my subconscious or supraconscious got connected to something surreal. Yeah, I don’t know what I’m blabbering about. But at that moment, I felt peace and just at the moment.
It was almost twilight when we decided to leave. We took the normal boat and paid terminal fee etc. Got to the mainland and took a van. It was already midnight when we arrived at Iloilo.
I enjoyed the experience and probably on the next month we’ll be back. We should be able to continue the progress with the kids.
Manang Millet said to me that the most kindest and caring people are the broken ones. I never considered myself kindest or most caring. Broken, yes. But the world has a lot more pressing issues. It is vile and traitorous. If I have the power to start the ripple of change, to make a better place for everyone, I’ll do what I can.
Disclaimer: Due to bad internet connection, I’ll update other photos/videos, maybe next week or so.