Aklan Trekkers


Over The Mountains and Into The Rapids: Our Altruistic Journey to Sitio Maytaraw

I want to share with you a wonderful story I was blessed to experience just a month ago. I seldom do this, friends, but sometimes you just feel the need to share some things wonderful and different that might change and inspire lives.

Last December 14-16, 2018, I joined a group of people for an upland outreach mission in Sitio Maytaraw, Brgy. Dalagsaan, Libacao, Aklan that turned out to be one of the best things that happened in my life. I’ve been to other outreach activities before but this one is different. This time, we get to risk our lives doing it. Upon hearing of this mission, I knew right then that I want to go. I saw the documentary in Jessica Soho and I was inspired to be part of it. I’m not in good shape but the pregnant teacher in the docu video made it, so surely I can do better than that? Goes to show how naive I can get. But before that, I’ve got other matters to attend to, work to do, and dysmenorrhea to expect. To cut it short, I managed the work with the help of my beloved Accounting Team… and the dysme came early. A miracle. To make it better, a good friend and classmate came with me. Apart from Pres Cha, I don’t know anyone else… a little anxious, something an introvert would only know. Though we will be missing a quiz in our law school, we still decided to proceed.

The journey itself taught me a lot of things. Libacao is such a wildly beautiful place. It’s not just all about the scenic views and the majestic waterfalls every now and then, this also includes the challenging terrains, the stones, the mud, and everything in between. I love all of it. Yes, my physically inadequate body was put to the ultimate test and it was a miracle that I made it. It was not an exaggeration in the docu where you saw the pregnant teacher being carried when she’s too tired to walk. In fact, I wished then that I could carry myself too. Lol. But with the help of these wonderful people with me, nothing became impossible. Someone carried my bag, motivated me throughout the walk, fed me and all. We managed to cross the raging rivers, the ‘assault’ climb they said that I’d rather call the murder climb, some cliff hangers, as well as the slippery downhills with a smile on my face. I still love that it became part of the journey. Why? During one of those arduous walks in solitude with nature being chased by butterflies and flies alike, away from the stress of urban life, I realized how contented and relaxed I was. I didn’t even miss my cellphone or the internet. Right now, I can no longer remember the pain, just the beauty of it…and it’s an all-in-one package. You just can’t love the falls and hate the stones that came with them. It wouldn’t be love. One thing that I learned from this journey is that loving encompasses all the aspects of that subject… beauty, flaws, and all. Because loving does not include buts and ifs, you just love and let it be.

Another perspective that changed was my gloomy inclination to the rain. Before for some unknown reasons, I feel nostalgically sad whenever it rains and the only remedy is to stuff myself with food and binge-watch movies and series. After my immersion with this drowning wet journey, the rain became the least of my concern. In fact, I didn’t hate that it rained. I learned to appreciate its gentle pat on my body that seemed to ease my muscles; the realization that I lasted longer because I couldn’t have it made if it was scorching hot; the occasional puddle of water that I enjoyed washing my tired feet and of course the ironic comfort it brought to me… that as of today, whenever it rains, I get a feel of the greens, the fluttering of the butterflies wings and the calming pitter-patter that seemed like music to my ears. It also became a spiritual journey for me. I knew in my heart I really want to go. But my obligations and duties bound me like a chain on my feet. Just like anything else, I entrusted this to God, continued doing my duties, and prayed for the best. Just like that, like a miracle, everything cleared and I was there like I’m meant to be. This empowered me all throughout the journey, that I am here for a reason and that I just have to be strong for those waiting for us.

Finally, we reached the place. No words could ever express the warm feeling that embraced my heart on their kind, welcoming, and grateful faces when we arrived. So we dressed quickly and proceeded with our activities. I was contemplating a short lie down but I found myself dancing with the kids later. Yes, me, dancing after crawling a few hours before because I just can’t lift my legs anymore. Just when you thought you don’t have energy left to burn. I even told the kids my messed-up version of the Little Prince. I realized then that I’m not a storyteller but you just can’t stop in the middle of the story… no, not in this sea of happy and eager faces. So, kids, thank you for bearing with me. There’s just something in their faces that makes you want to do more… to put a bigger smile on their face and never let it fade away. Like a balm to my pain, everything just fades away and all that is left is that moment with them and I am there. I felt despair when I saw their only three classrooms in great need of repair… and the raging river right below the school. I never felt so old when, during the handing of gift bags I told every kid I could talk to, to have a Merry Christmas, obey their parents, give their best at school and someday… help make a difference in this deprived life. That was even their first time to taste an apple and longganiza. They werent even baptized nor their parents married. The place is so remote they just couldnt be reached. The group brought a lot but I just can’t help but wish I could have brought more. This is coming from me who couldn’t even carry her own bag.

To be honest, I don’t feel like I had described enough what we had to go through in order to accomplish the mission. Just take my word that we could have died a number of times. There’s a lot of things beyond our control but we have the best and experienced company, a greater mission, prayers, a greater faith, and a bigger God. That’s what made us safe.

To our very own JCI Aklan Kalantiao Team headed by Pres. Cha with Bryan, Jho, Gerel, I’m proud of you. We are definitely not hikers but we made it!!! Pres Cha, you’re amazing. You never gave up and survived it all. You always make me laugh. Lots of love! Bryan and Jho, nice meeting you both. Thanks for being there! I’m glad to have met you! It’s as if we’ve known each other for a while already! See you both soonest! Gerel, I’m really glad and grateful you came. Thanks for being there all the time, for keeping me alive, for making it better, and for preventing the worst. Please no more 1-2,1-2. May we always have the strength to do the unexpected for the sake of our passion. You know, rivers to cross, mountains to climb and muddy rice fields to slide on.

To the Aklan Trekkers and company, I am in awe of all of you. Please continue being a blessing to other people. I hope I can join you in your future meaningful travels ahead (in better body shape and gear this time). Jackie, your pair of shoes was a lifesaver. Meeting you all is an inspiration and I’m honored to be part of this team for this noble purpose. Thank you for sharing your wisdom, laughter, and experience with us. Madam Ritchel (Ritch), I really admire you for leading the team… for your bravery, courage, and a big heart full of compassion. You also have a great team. I can’t mention everybody. You made me feel like there’s hope for me in hiking. Hahaha.

To the cool guys of the team, I will miss the hugot hikes and the humorous talks we had. Pretty ladies, although I’m half asleep, I heard a thing or two. The tough girls with soft hearts, we have a club. I’m sorry I missed the chance to bond with you… but we could still see each other right?! Stay tough, beautiful, and strong girls.

Personally, I don’t have a strong body. In fact, I lagged most of the time and one of the reasons of our delay. I don’t have enough strength to cross the raging river (I have to be dragged and carried in order to cross one, and I thought I’m a swimmer) nor the stamina for the uphill climbs that thoroughly drained me. But to compensate for the lack of physical strength, I have a stubborn will and a fearless heart that seems to be ironically enjoying the beauty of the rain, the butterflies, the stones, and even the mud, dung, and all. I gave my best even if it means I have to crawl, slide and limp all the way just to do it. I believe I’m doing this for a wonderful reason and I’m willing to give my all to accomplish it… and with your prayers and God’s grace, we certainly did it. Because when I feel like I’ve got nothing left to give… the words would always come to me, and right then I know that everything will be alright.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9

P.S. The quiz was postponed.

To God be the highest glory!

Watch as Ms. Rea, a volunteer from JCI Aklan Kalantiaw shares her experience during the First Upland Outreach to Sitio Maytaraw.

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