Tuesday, May 13, 2014


"Let us not abandon our country. First, never stop hoping for this country. Second, never stop caring for our people. Third, demand greatness from yourself as a Filipino. And fourth, inspire greatness in other Filipinos. Then poverty will end even before 2024."  -Tony Meloto

Normally, Gawad Kalinga's Bayani Challenge is a one week event where volunteers from all over the country come together in one place to build houses for the poor. This year, the Bayani Challenge (BC) is extra special for the victims of Yolanda, Bohol earthquake and the Zamboanga siege. Gawad Kalinga brought the BC to the next level when they announced that this year, it will be held for 2 months (April 9-June 12) in 12 provinces. For this year, I joined my family and friends in Leyte to serve in the Bayani Challenge family edition :)

The kids ready to go to Tacloban

DAY 1. We arrived Tacloban on Friday and this is what welcomed us. 
Airport's arrival area
You can still see the massive destruction Yolanda left. Everything was manually done, the checking of baggage, giving out of check in baggage, checking in etc. When we toured around the city, you can see more damages that will really break your heart. I can't imagine how strong the winds were that can destroy buildings and warehouses. :( We also saw different mass graves and pictures of kids are everywhere. I can't help but cry.

We went straight to the site in Tanauan, Leyte to start building. We had a scrumptious lunch prepared by the residents there then went straight to work. 
The GK site in Tanauan, Leyte
With party music blasting on the stereo, we started sifting sand under the sun. During Bayani Challenge weeks, I never worry about my color. This is the only time that I know I can be dark and be proud of it. After 2 blisters and several calluses, we decided to start painting houses. We were joined by the Cruzes, Santoses and Wilk's children. Seeing the little ones paint houses for the victims of Yolanda is very inspiring. 

Diwa, the youngest BC volunteer!

Since the kids overtook the painting scene, my brother and I decided to dig for septic tanks. I dug my first septic tank in Gabaldon and ever since then, I have been an expert (GK Ateneo is famous for septic tank digging). It would always be an honor for me to serve alongside my brother who is an inspiration to me.

Ateneo represent!
We ended our day with Kalinga night at Alangalang, Leyte. We listened to the inspiring talk and sharings of co-volunteers.  And of course, you couldn't leave a Kalinga night without dancing the unity dance. The Alangalanganons are pretty active at that time of the day so we danced the unity dance multiple times. When we were leaving, they are still dancing. Pretty fun crowd we have there ;)
Mayor Yu of Alangalang giving the opening remarks

DAY 2. We are assigned at Palo, Leyte for today to host a Paraisong Pambata. We went to the GK Village first and saw the roofless houses of our Kapitbahayans. It was heartbreaking to see that kind of damage at a colorful house that brings hope to others.

Starting the event with the Philippine National Anthem
We were assigned to handle 100 kids but I think more than a hundred kids went. We separated the little kids (1-4 years old) since they can't participate yet in the games we prepared. They asked me to handle the little ones and boy, it was hard. Since they speak a different dialect, they look clueless when I speak. We just gave out candies to them and I found a medium to relate with them... the camera. I swear, I have a lot of pictures of them! They enjoy doing wacky poses and looking at their faces afterwards.

Kids of Palo, Leyte
Kids of Palo, Leyte
Kids of Palo, Leyte
We gave out school supplies to the kids of Palo and I am very happy to see our company's bags at the back of each child there. 
Kids bringing home their new school supplies

MTCC bags ;)

After the Paraisong Pambata, we had lunch with other GK volunteers in Palo, Leyte.
Ateneo represent!
The highlight of our day was meeting Manny sundalo. If you don't know the story of Manny Sundalo, click here. We were promised a picture with him after the Paraisong Pambata event and we were all eager to meet him. When they gave us the go signal to go to him, we hurriedly finished our food and went to where he is. He is super friendly and I was really starstruck. I will always be a fan of our AFP Chief of Staff. He even went over the wall just to have a picture with our kids. IT WAS A VERY UNFORGETTABLE MOMENT. He is someone who makes me believe that there is still hope for our leaders in this country. So please, don't generalize that all our leaders are corrupt and dishonest.
Meeting Manny Sundalo

AFP Chief of Staff jumping over the wall

After a long morning in Palo, we headed towards Ormoc, Leyte to visit the Human Nature village there. We are all expecting an afternoon of building but we were all surprised when we got there. The beneficiaries of the Human Nature village prepared a program because they were expecting that Dylan Wilk is with us. Unfortunately, the news didn't reach them that only Ate Anna Wilk is coming over. They still continued to honor Dylan and his work. They also honored all the May birthday celebrants in our team (including Sining). It was very touching to see these people honor one person for all his work. It was a very moving sight. We went home after the program and ended our day with dinner at Andok's.

DAY 3. Our last day's for touring around and relaxing. We first went around Tacloban and saw the ship that was swept inland during the storm. It was a very devastating sight to see houses under the ships and there was even a cross beside the ship to remember the people who died there.

The kids trying to push the ship  :)
We also went to San Juanico bridge just so the kids could see the longest bridge in the Philippines.
San Juanico bridge
The afternoon plan's to swim in the river (for the kids). Since Gret, Ate Coco, Anton, Mischa and I still want to build, we went back to Tanauan to do more for the people of Leyte. The foreman asked us to sift sand and dig septic tanks. My body was giving up during the latter part of the digging but my heart is still determined to finish that septic tank (AND WE DID! YAY!). It was very overwhelming to end our Leyte trip this way.

Jeje invasion!

Septic Tank girls

My heart may have been broken because of all the damages I saw but it also filled my heart more with love for this country. It intensified my will to serve the poor in this country. GK always give me this feeling of love that can't be replaced by one person. I will be forever thankful for being in this community with co-volunteers who shares the same vision. Cheers to 2024!


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