Pasko para sa kababayan is an annual celebration of Christmas to the outreach areas of our church. It is a program where one of the goals is to bring joy to the community people, especially the underserved and less-privileged, by telling and letting them experience the Love of God. The usual activities include games, singing of Christmas songs, a Christmas message, gift-giving, various presentations by the community folk and by our team and a luncheon. The funds needed are voluntarily provided by members of the church and some outside sponsors. One of the gifts being given is the shoebox, wherein one person is challenged to provide (He will stuff it with anything that he wants to give then wrap it). Usually, they would fill it with food, clothing, toys for kids, slippers, shoes and other basic needs that the community folk cannot afford. Over a hundred shoe boxes were all collected and distributed to families. There are also volunteers who prepare all these stuff from collecting, sorting, packing and distributing. As one who’s involved, it is indeed a worthy cause where to spend resources, effort, time and skills.
Last December 20, a team from our church went to Mangingisda. It is one of the barangays of Puerto Princesa and can be reached by boat or by land travel in almost an hour. It is also one of the outreach places of our church. According to the plan, It will start from 10 am to 2:30 pm. The earlier party would travel in a boat, while us, will use the truck (which is parked at our meeting place at kuya Jun’s house).
The weather that day woke me with wind and a heavy rain. However, I thought that it will stop by 10 am but it did not – But I still decided to go to our meeting place. I have a set of raincoat though to keep me dry on my way.
When I arrived at the meeting place, everything and everyone was set to go. It was 9:30 in the morning and was still raining. The truck was carrying the sound system, a guitar, plastic chairs, food, materials, gas tank and stove and other supplies. Me, a few students and some of our leaders compose the team and are all ready.
We were all excited but it would have been more exciting if it wasn’t raining. And unknown to us, a chain of unfortunate events is about to happen.
First, the truck could not be started. Though it was prepared and checked a day before, something happened with the battery. Maybe because of the heavy rain since dawn. Worse, It cannot be charged nor be fixed at that particular situation. Our appointed driver tried to start the second truck. But seemingly, it has the same problem. Nobody’s worried though, everyone was patient and waiting for a solution to rise. There is a third truck but it is parked 4 kilometers away in a shop. Kuya Marvin and Jong (our appointed drivers)went to get it, so we still had to wait. It took them about an hour and it was because it couldn’t be started if they hadn’t pulled it with another truck. So finally, there it came.We tied a tent canvas on the third elf truck to shelter us and the cargo. Fortunately, its hedge was high enough for the tent canvas to be placed and for us to fit ourselves in and sit with our butt. The top of our head is being touched and stroked by the canvas (as if caressing us that it is okay) but no one complained. After transferring all our load to the third truck, we set off. It was almost mid noon.
The road was fine. Kuya Jong was driving fast. It was still raining and windy. Three of us has to stay at the back of the truck where the length of the canvas hadn’t reached. It was cold and the rain was striking my skin like ant bites. I wore my rain coat after experiencing it. We looked a bit like refugees being moved from a war torn place- wet, cold and hungry. We were having fun though.
After more than a half an hour travel, we made a left turn out of the highway to a barangay road. We stopped at the left turn to buy boiled corns for our growling stomach, then set-off again. Just less than a kilometer after our stop, the brake system of the truck didn’t respond when kuya Jong stepped on it near the bend. Fortunately, he managed to stop the truck without the brake. That moment we knew we were really going to be late. It was 12 noon. We had plenty of corns but it disappeared fast. The crew made some diagnosis about the problem and sadly, the tentative decision was to take the truck home to the shop to get it fixed. However, some of us really need to be there ( I do the documentation and the others are needed for helps in the program presentation, facilitation, games etc…) and most of all, we carry all the food and the goods.. So kuya Jun walked for about a kilometer to call a tricycle at the highway. He was able to bring one and the first 4 most valuable persons went first with the large basin of pancit, a large casserole of menudo and lechon paksiw and other materials.
Kuya Marvin walked to the highway too to buy a brake fluid for seemingly, the brake system’s fluid spilled. Diagnosis and remedies were further made and finally, it was decided to take the truck home and just utilize the engine brake. Then about twenty minutes later, the first four texted that the tricycle had some trouble too. Something was wrong with the spark plug. It was fixed though but a valuable time was wasted.
In the midst of the rain and trouble, silent prayers were whispered by each one to save us from this situation. “Is there a Jonah among us?”, was the funny question spoken by everyone. The crew decided then to cook the the sopas for lunch for we had a gas tank and stove and everyone was now hungry. Funny thing was, the chicken that was supposed to be mixed with the sopas was left in the refrigerator at Kuya Jun’s house – the place where we left from. The person in-charge forgot it. Fortunately, Kuya Marvin found a sari-sari store nearby and bought cans of corned beef to replace the forgotten freezing chicken.
As the crew was preparing to cook, JC remembered that he knew a good mechanic who lives somewhere near the highway. He once was the mechanic of their truck. With kuya Jun’s approval to seek the mechanic’s needed service, JC made his search and walk to the highway, about a little more than a kilometer.
At that moment, the tricycle who took the first four came back. We hired him again and me and dennis went off with the few large boxes of gifts and giveaways, and a sack of clothing for the community folk. We didn’t took the sound system and instruments for it was too much for us to carry. The road was good halfway and the rest was bad but it was traversable. Then finally, we arrived at the place. It was about 1:30 in the afternoon.
When we arrived, the program had already started and I did my documentation shoot. The team did their puppy sticks show while the team left with truck were cooking the sopas.
The experience we went through was worth it. There were about fifty adults and children who waited for us. Everyone was enjoying the games, presentations and the whole program. Everyone was smiling and laughing like it was the funniest day of the year. They were so grateful with our presence there since August 2010 when the work in that particular area started. The kids were saying their thank you’s and we could definitely see their gratitude and inner joy for remembering and showing care for them. The outreach program there actually started in the early 90’s by ARP – an NGO who is like a sibling of our church). For two decades, the NGO had implemented holistic and sustainable programs in Brgy. Mangingisda in the health care and nutrition, livelihood, sanitation, education and even the spiritual aspect of the community folk. There were only a few families who live there not until when it became a relocation site for hundreds of families whose homes have been burned less than a decade ago.
Away from the history, the ‘Pasko para sa Kababayan” in Mangingsida was a worthy experience. Everything that happened was a highlight and what we went through in coming there has been forgotten.
On the other side, JC found the mechanic (His name was tata) and fortunately, he wasn’t busy. Tata went with JC, checked the truck and in a few minutes before the sopas was cooked, Tata found and temporarily fixed the problem. He just needed a less than an inch long plastic to plug to a hole. Something was wrong with the front disc brake.
At about 2 PM, we had our late lunch. The food was served after Kuya Ryan shared the Christmas message. The folks love the food we’ve brought. And we also love the food they’ve prepared. Especially the “sikad-sikad” (a variety of sea shells), grilled fish, buko salad and ginataang manok (chicken cooked with coconut meat juice). While everybody was enjoying the luncheon, one of us received a text that the truck was fixed and they’re all coming and be arriving in a few minutes. Indeed in a few minutes, the rest of the team arrived and we were all overjoyed. After the so muchly troubled travel, we were all safe and fine.
There were more games. More laughs and smiles. More greetings. The First kagawad (Barangay Councilor) and an ex-kagawad were there too. The kids were enjoying and noisy. And finally, the program ended with giving of the gifts and clothing to the families, a picture taking and a prayer by kuya Jun.
The team received more thank you’s and appreciation. Hearing them say it had lighten our hearts and made it a complete, adventurous and fruitful day. The rest of the group who went in the morning by boat had joined us in the truck on our way back home. It has stopped raining allowing us to remove the tent canvas cover and letting us fix the plastic chairs around the hedge of the truck for us to restfully sit.
When we do something good for God, an evil force will try to stop, break and discourage us. But if we hold on, trust in Him with a peaceful, immovable, persistent and truthful heart – The grace that He shows is even greater.
- The truck’s brake did not broke at the time when Kuya Jong was speeding.
- A boiled corn was provided for us for lunch.
- A tricycle was provided to take us and the valuable goods and food.
- JC was supposed to be home that day in Narra but he was convinced to come to Mangingisda – and eventually, he was the one who knew the mechanic who could fix the truck.
- No one got sick after our exposure to the sick weather.
- The entire event was successful… etc…
- The rain stopped. The truck was fixed. We had an enjoyable trip back home. The sopas was delicious.
In my previous blog, I have written about the forgotten CHRISTmas. It’s about how people are so blinded with materialism and selfishness. Now, here is my idea of a real Christmas. Sharing the Love of God through sending His son Jesus Christ, in speech and in action. God has already given us His gift – his Son, more than two thousand years ago. What is our gift to Him?