A friend once quoted that we need a little time out from what we usually do in order to keep our sanity. For some time I just thought of it as extravagance, but as I advance in years I come to see it as a need (haha!). That is the reason why volunteer opportunities are indeed a treat to me. It means a refreshing new environment, change of tasks for a few days, new people to meet, and a dozen or so realizations from experiences that are worth keeping. Allow me to share a shortlist of those insights in this post:
1. Live your passion.
In our Be Cool in School activity in Negros, I met a middle-aged man who would talk nonstop about arts and children advocacy. He is passionate for the arts and that is what he teaches to children. He has been doing it for more than 20 years up to the present. And even if he talked to me about it for more than two hours on the ride, there wasn’t even a hint of boredom. Truth is, he inspired me. Insight? If you breathe your passion, it makes you young. And it becomes contagious. Challenges and struggles may come as part of life, but they will just add flame to your burning desire.
2. Love easily.
The bibo kid who is the grand daughter of the inn owner in Kabankalan where we stayed taught me this lesson. It was love at first sight when we arrived at the place and she saw me. Within minutes, she held my hand and led me to our accommodation. She’s like a mini receptionist trainee! Haha.
When her mom came to fetch her, she reached for the door. Before she left, she told me, “I love you!” (Sweet! Haha) Yes, it’s dangerous to be so open to strangers. And yes, it’s a kid’s vulnerability that must be protected. But it is one thing that kids can teach us. They teach us to have childlike faith, and they teach us to love without thinking of conditions, of “if’s” and “but’s”.
3. You can’t help others if you can’t help yourself.
On our third day in Negros, we drove to Don Salvador and started hiking toward a school sitting on top of a mountain. Apparently, we had to cross four mountains to bring school supplies to well-deserved pupils. It was one hike I wasn’t expecting, and one I wasn’t prepared for. We had volunteers who carried boxes of supplies on their backs. We went down slopes, crossed wooden bridges, climbed huge rocks, and climbed (or rather crawled) steep terrains.
I initially didn’t want to pass through the bridge alone (I’m afraid of heights! Huhu) But it seemed like my companions intentionally left me on my own. Besides, the wooden bridge might budge if two people would cross together. So, I decided to cross on my own. Hooray for that victory!
But after crossing the bridge, skipping over huge rocks, and crawling on muddy slopes, I began to feel dizzy. A few more minutes of walking and I felt like vomiting. My companions decided to carry me because my lips were already turning white. At first I resisted but realized that I had to yield. As I sat on the makeshift hammock made of bedsheets, tears flowed down my cheeks. There we were, bringing loads of school supplies to kids of indigenous people. They were carrying bulks of supplies, and they even had to carry an overweight version of me. I was dead weight.
This experience left an imprint in my heart. The people around me will always find a way to cope with the circumstances no matter how difficult. But if I want to be part of the solution and not the problem, I have to help myself. I need to be strong and resilient. I must be able to carry myself to the top.
This lesson applies not just in climbing actual mountains but in battling symbolic mountains as well. You cannot help people in need if you are also needy. Aim to be excellent and be at your best so you can use all the resources and all the connections you can get to lift people up from their destitute condition.
Looking back and reminiscing my experiences this year, I know that God did give me a break to refresh me. These insights are not new to me, but the way God “re-taught” them makes it all significant. Social work may not be my battle in life and I may not be able to come back to the communities we helped, but the lesson is powerful: Living a passionless life in your comfort zone with lots of worries and fear — it is not living at all. If I have to do paper work until I can start my own business, and serve my family and win souls and make them disciples, I have to fuse passion and give it my best shot. My efforts have to be significant. That, more than just touring around or hitching in out-of-town outreaches, is a life worth living.
So what does the title mean, after all? Well, they are Bisaya words that I learned during the volunteer activity.
Sinda = mythical environmental spirit; engkanto in Tagalog. The IP’s who accompanied us believed that my red shirt attracted sinda and caused me physical stress.
Tinday = a young carabao. One funny incident in which this term was uttered was when my teammate slid on a muddy slope and fell. The local guide tried to help but was carried away because my teammate weighed like a tinday! 😂
Handom sa Kabuhi = dream in life. This is the key message we shared to the school kids we visited. Whatever situation they may be in, they must not give up but hold on to their dream ❤