Text and Photos by Euden Valdez / Additional Photos by Coleen Salamat
This is one concept that Random Act of Kindness – RAK Ph Mountaineers live by. That whatever you give, you also receive. By extending kindness in the form of our Christmas outreach called “Give Light on Christmas Day and Pasko Fiesta,” we also received so much more from our Aeta recipients.
Our beneficiaries, 36 households residing in an Aeta Resettlement in Sitio Camiling, Brgy. Papaac, Camiling, Tarlac, through their very own hands, dug earth crops like ube, cassava and ginger from their own lands as gifts in exchange of our donations.
“We don’t ask for alms. We receive these gifts and we return them with what we have,” proudly tells Chieftain Robert Sanchez during the Pasko Fiesta segment.
But more than the tangible gifts, we also took home fulfillment in what we do, and more importantly, empowerment to continue what we started.
Here are highlights from the 2017 Give Light on Christmas Day and Pasko Fiesta held last December 16 and 17:
Arrival and opening
Our team of 30 composed of members, guest volunteers and our three RAK kids, arrived at about 10 am and immediately, Chieftain Robert along with his council of elders welcomed.
Before everything, he blessed us with a prayer to Apo Na Malyari, the Almighty One of Aetas, which was followed by a prayer from our team leader Rick.
We then distributed morning snacks, which were sponsored in part by McDonalds, to the Aeta kids. There were also juice drinks for them care of Benby Enterprises Inc.
After this, we then began the preparations of the gifts, the food and the games and activities by the different committees. Notice that we reused old papers, like magazines and newspapers, to be friendlier to the environment.
Fun and games
Fun followed suit as our youngest committee lead by Coleen held games for the Aeta kids. It was an active afternoon indeed as movement shook the open field and laughter filled the air.
Later on, the ladies and some youth who were inspired to join the games!
After spending energy during the games, everyone got hungry making it the perfect time for merienda! We gladly served the pansit our food committee cooked, along with assorted bread from Gilarmies Bakery in Pasig City.
The group also prepared gifts in the form of sports equipment for the youth: Volleyball for the young ladies and basketball for the boys. But of course, anyone can play the sports that they like, with no gender bias. What we really aimed for is that the youth develop camaraderie among themselves, while having fun playing of course.
Last on Pasko Fiesta is the traditional exchange gift between us, RAK members and the guest volunteers, and the 36 Aeta households.
In his speech, Chieftain Robert proudly said that they would return all our kindness with whatever they had — as a sign that they were not merely asking for alms. And true to his words, we received earth crops like ube, cassava and ginger, which the Aetas harvested with their own hands.
During the day, our movement was also honored to see a cultural performance by Chieftain Robert and some female Aetas who showed us a traditional courtship dance. Afterwards, our Igorot member Billy Angayen represented the whole group as he danced his tribe’s tradition.
The chieftain hoped that performances would give have something to remember even after we left.
For our part, this was also a must because we aim for immersion and cultural exchange in wherever IP community we visit.
The ending to our long day was something inspirational, something that affirmed what we are doing. It was a simple donation of seeds that became truly significant.
In accepting the 100 packs of vegetable seeds, Chieftain Robert enthused that he won’t exchange this over P100,000. Because the latter, according to him, would only last for so long but the former, can be planted and then harvested. From that harvest, each one of them can earn by selling. Also from that harvest, they can make new seeds for planting. And so the cycle of planting, harvesting and selling continues as long as they persevere.
When this happens, they don’t only provide food for the table but also send their children to school. And where there is education, there is hope for a bright future.
We have East-West Seed to thank for being the enabler of this endeavor.
A side trip
The next morning, RAK Ph Mountaineers trekked to the beautiful, hidden Ubod Falls of Mt. Damas.
Mt. Damas has been a tourist destination for many who appreciate the outdoors. Since opening, it has given a source of income to some residents of Sitio Pokis who serve as guides.
Finally, it was time for the last and best part of our 2017 outreach, the flagship Give Light of Random Act of Kindness, which aims to provide a need as basic as light to remote Filipino communities that still don’t access electricity.
In partnership with Solar Solutions Inc., we were able to donate 20 solar lamps for 20 chosen households. We gave a proper demo of how to use, charge and care for the lamps so it will last a lifetime for the recipients.
As parting words, Chieftain Robert had this to say: “Itong mga regalong ito ay pangmatagalan. Ating alagaan.”
For our part, we only have gratitude to every individual, organization and corporation who made this cause possible. And until the next outreach, we RAK on!
is a former dyarista,