What Volunteering Has Taught Me ❤️

Volunteer
I love today’s prompt: Volunteer!  via Daily Prompt: Volunteer. It significantly flashbacks golden memories of my volunteering experiences. I live in a lovable country where volunteering opportunities can be found almost everywhere. Why?

First, it is prone to natural calamities such as earthquakes, typhoons, volcanic eruptions, etc. Second, it is a developing country where at least 26.3% (12Million as of 2015) of its population were found to be living under the poverty line. Some people do not have a complete access to the basic needs: food, shelter, education, and health care. I mentioned only two but there may be a lot more. If you want to work as a volunteer in the Philippines, please feel free to do so 🙂 Not only you will help/save lives; you will realize you ought to be thankful how blessed you are.

Here are some of lessons I’ve realized based on my personal volunteering experiences:

  1. You cannot give what you don’t have–LOVE
    I visited Mindoro Philippines for the first time in 2012. As I hop from the city to the province, it is sad to easily notice that the rich and the poor exist side by side. I passed by huge buildings in the metropolis but upon reaching the other shore, there’s no electricity, poor sanitation, nipa huts which can be easily washed by strong rain away were standing in any way, mosquitoes are also ready to bite you–I recognized these during my stay in this particular province but I was not there to complain. I was there to help. Through volunteering, I’ve learned that you can have everything and give as much as you can–but without love, it is nothing.
  2. In volunteering, you will face unexpected circumstances. No matter what it is, carry yourself and deal with it.

    Although the Filipino schools are excellent on its own structure, many parents are unable to pay for the required school supplies and uniforms. This realization has caused me and my BS friends to gather our own resources and produce what we can to make these kids happy ^_^
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    Adopt a School Project 2014 [Victory Group]

    Aside from the material gifts we distributed, we also taught them how to pray, read, and sing songs. One remarkable thing for me during this particular project is that, I met this little boy. He was very silent and apparently sad (while the other kids were loud and excited about the presents that they received), I smiled and went close to him. I asked his name. He hesitated to talk to me. I continued by introducing my name and told him I have a younger brother whose name is the same as his. That’s the time his face lit up and talked to me. Few minutes later I gained his trust. He began to show a picture of his family. I was surprised! How come this kid keeps a family photo in his school notebook at all times?  I smiled and asked him, “Can you tell me more about this beautiful picture?” Then he continued with a sad voice, “This is my mom, my dad, and me when I was a baby. I miss my parents so much. I want my mom to teach me my homework but I do not see them every day.” I could feel his soul. I couldn’t say a word. Honestly, I didn’t see that situation coming. So, I just asked his permission if I could hug him instead.I realized that you don’t necessarily have to talk all the time. Sometimes, all you have to do is LISTEN. ^_^

  3. Volunteers do not necessarily have the time.. they have the HEART (•~•)

    In Summer 2013, my schedule was so busy. I worked full-time during the day, went to school full-time at night, did some online work night shift after classes. But this situation did not stop me from accomplishing my commitment with my church mates in the Values Formation Project for Police Trainees in the Philippines.

    Every morning, these police trainees  wake up early for their morning physical and spiritual (devotion) exercises. Every Sunday, we gather together for a fellowship. It was during this time that we got to know more about them. Police trainees come from different provinces in the Philippines. Some of them signed up for this even if they are not police graduates because they wanted a job that could help their family survive (sad reality: they are willing to risk their lives for the sake of their family.  To protect the country is secondary). However with the help of the Values Formation Project which runs for 3-6 months, their mindset was reset: they are willing risk their lives for a better Philippines–to see every Filipino family secured and happy.

    After the labour and joy of serving, it pays to see these Police Officers in full surrender to the King of kings. I am blessed to be part of this volunteer work. It’s really nice how some people can make you smile just by thinking about them.

  4. You give what is best available not what is left. The good seeds you plant today will bloom and someday flourish.

    In 2015, my co-workers sponsored a project shoebox for the people in jail for Christmas. A jail is somewhere most people don’t want to go. Are you kidding me?–so you want to be kind to the lawbreakers?  Yes, it was not easy to love the unlovable but we were not there to condemn them. We were there to show that we hate sin but not the sinner. Our visit emphasized that they are valued and there is still a room for change. Most of them are victims, too.

    This is my first time enter a prison cell in the Philippines. The space is too crowded with prisoners. The sanitation is poorly observed. Family members seldom visit.  They have needs (especially women) that the jail management could not provide (i.e. toiletries, sanitary napkin, etc.). Thus, we paid a visit and give the best of what is available from us. In the middle of the consultation, a young lady suddenly became teary-eyed as she accepted my present to her. She told me she missed her baby but couldn’t go home. She’s been in jail for several months for a crime she never intended to commit. Unfortunately, she was not being accorded properly by her prison mates. I could not assure her safety but I led her in prayer. Justice shall be served.

    Few months later, I ran into this young lady. SHE’S FREE!! I didn’t recognize her at first, but she did recognize me. What an awesome surprise! She testified how good  God is. I couldn’t hide the way I feel–I’m  extremely happy for her. I’ve learned to never underestimate the power of kindness. It’s worth sharing a portion of your life to serve others. You gain.. you never lose.

  5. You have to feel you are making a difference not just doing something that has been thought up to keep you busy.
    In 2016, I visited Canada. I stayed there for two months. After traveling to places, I had to stay home however, I didn’t wanna kill time–I wanted to maximize it. So when I had the opportunity to be part of the Summer Camp as a Teacher-Volunteer for super funny and brilliant students, I immediately grabbed it 🙂 It was a remarkable experience to be part of the lives of Noah, Josiah, Madison, Elijah, & Joana 🙂  While I was with them, I’ve been thinking a lot about the kids in Mindoro, Philippines–I wish they could also enjoy their childhood the ways the kids in this city do–going to parks, face painting, reading books, etc. instead of going to the fields/mountains to look for food. 😦

    Lucky are these kids to have more than what they really need (tangible things). Moreover, I also witnessed how they were taught to give freely to the needy.  One example is.. they were given an arts and crafts project–to  build a paper house. With their own imagination, they could turn the plain paper house into a marvelous work of art. They were very creative!! The very simple paper house turned out to be an amazing piggy bank. Every day, they would put any amount in the paper house piggy bank in order for the kids who have no house in Kenya to buy tents. What an amazing way to teach children how to do volunteer work. Consequently, I also told them several stories about the kids in the  Philippines who also do not have beautiful houses or anything. They were very interested and engaged with the topic of helping others. Indeed, it was a quality Summer for them and for me. I want to meet them all again in the future 🙂

    Everyday is a season to plant seeds of LOVE. The seeds of kindness that you plant today will one day bloom in the hearts of all that you touch  Keep shining! VOLUNTEER WHENEVER YOU CAN, WHEREVER YOU CAN.

    Special Video Made with Love
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hODLTYztF4

    👣 The Official Traveler

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IGOROTA: Pride of Cordillera

“Woman’s beauty dies with her body;
but a culture’s beauty dies with humanity”


It’s International Women’s Month celebration thus this dedication:IMG_9698.JPG

Special Credit: The Igorot via Facebook

She is beautiful.
She is fierce.
She is strongwilled.
She is brave.

IGOROTA is her name.

If the Igorot is strong, the Igorota takes pride being the toughest. In any condition, she can brave. She can stand alone. She makes her own decisions. Headhunters roam, unafraid she walks on.

She is simple.
She is grand.
She is loyal.
She is kind.

Her strength is her charm. Her beauty is her grit. She is not delicate nor a damsel in distress. She carries herself with dignity. She is self-assured and undaunted.

She is intense.
She is balanced.
She is calm.
She is steadfast.

The Igorota is a woman of her words. She keeps it real while she keeps her poise. She doesn’t demand attention, she simply gets it. She is a wildflower. She blossoms and shines in any weather.

She is zealous.
She is genuine.
She is generous.
She is cognizant.

She is the pride of her man. A pillar of strength, quick to understand, slow to judge. She is an equal not a trophy. She is the soft spot in her man’s ruggedness.

The Igorota is a treasure.

She’s more precious than any jewel.
She has brilliance that inspires.
She is the life of the lofty heights.


In a nutshell, physical appearance can be deceiving and beauty does not last. But the damsels of the Igorot highlands harbor such splendor not only skin-deep but also deep within their souls.

Salute to all genuine Igorots 👷 and Igorotas 👰 out there! You are the pride of Cordillera.

Visit Philippines 👬: Minalungao National Park

Nueva Ecija is the rice granary of the Philippines but wait, it is more than just a rice field! If you look for a place to explore and enjoy, Minalungao National Park is one incredible natural attraction and thus, a must-visit in the North. It is a very popular holiday destination for tourists and other locals which is located in the outskirt municipality of G. Tinio Natividad. I’ve been working for quite some time now and I never knew there was a place like paradise here. Do not let pass the opportunity to see the hidden gem of this province— “The Little Palawan of the North”.. I must say.

ACTIVITIES


✔ Swimming (& Cliff-diving for some)
✔ Cave exploration (rock formations: stalagmite and stalactite)
✔ Limestone walls viewing
✔ Zipline
✔ Rafting
✔ Walking: 1000 steps to the Big Cross
✔ Photography

EXPENSES


✔ Individual Entrance Fee: P30.00 (upon entry at a gate) and P10.00 (entrance fee on site)
✔ If you own a private vehicle, Car entrance fee: P50.00
✔ Cottage Fee: P200 (for 6-8 people)
✔ Raft: P500 (for 10 people)
✔ Zipline: P100 (two-way)
✔ Toilet: P10.00 (each time you enter) 😦
✔ Voluntary fee for the tour guide/s (usually little children) on site 😦

Quick Tip:


a. Organize a group of 8-10 people. 👬👬👬👬👬 (Principle of the economies of scale)
b. Rent a private vehicle. (or if you own one, then go for it). The road is rough.
c. Bring your own food. You can cook/grill on site.
You can actually do all the activities for a price of <1000 Php [my group :$11.49/pax ]
d. Be careful! 🙂

How to get there?

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By Private Transportation (from Capital of the Philippines: Manila)

  1. Head north to NLEX. Exit at Sta. Rita.
  2. Head right and follow Candaba – San Miguel Road passing by towns of Candaba and San Miguel. Continue until you reach Bucana, Gapan.

By Public Transportation (from Capital of the Philippines: Manila)

  1. Take a Cabanatuan bound-bus. Go down at Gapan City, Nueva Ecija.
  2. From there, hire a tricycle going to Minalungao National Park. Ask the driver to bring you to General Tinio then hire another trike to the national park.

So, if you are interested to see the snap view of Palawan Underground River in a bit or if you are just interested to do the activities enumerated, try Minalungao National Park. It won’t let you down! Check the SnapVid of our Minalungao trip here.

Happy Trails,
👣 The Official Traveler

A Short Trek to Mt. Kalugong

Mt. Kalugong Cultural Village is a privately owned eco-park which is located in Tawang, La Trinidad, Benguet. It is another tourist attraction being developed to preserve culture and promote tourism in Benguet. There is a small form of rock resembling a hat on top of the mountain. Kalugong is an Ilocano term for “hat” thus it was called, ‘Mt. Kalugong”. Whether to discover culture and traditions of the highland along with rock climbing are some of your interests…OR you are an alumni of Benguet State University/MSAC who wants to recall memories.. this is your place 🙂


We headed to Mt. Kalugong (7:45-9:30 a.m.) which is just a few more walk away after our trek to Mt. Jumbo (4:30 a.m.-7:45 a.m.). We passed by the Tawang Cemetery and followed the trail.

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After paying an entrance fee of P50.00, it’s the green light to enjoy the place!

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Since my friends and I were a bit exhausted, we used the man-made swing to relax. They are scattered everywhere ^_^

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Tired and hungry? You can sit, rest, and eat at the picnic area…

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You can see some traditional huts to represent the different provinces of  CAR (Cordillera Administrative Region). Explore their uniqueness.DSC_0583_ed.jpg

Now, it’s time to walk on the rocks… (It is risky for children and some adults). Be careful..

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I am not sure if there are rescuers who can immediately rescue when you accidentally fall. So, BE EXTRA CAREFUL! (staff in-charge are doing multi-tasking–developing the area)

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hat 1

On top of the Mountain…

The top view unleashes the beauty of La Trinidad and the view of the strawberry farm but at the same time it reveals the growing population in the municipality. It has a strong message regarding what it would look like in the future. Go and see!

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If you still have time and energy, do the zipline (c) before you leave. (We skipped this part though.)

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There is a toilet available here for your convenience. It’s a little bit funny to read something like this… ^_^ “Men to the LEFT because women are always RIGHT” Haha 😀

KAsiljas

Go and see it for yourself. 🙂

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Happy Trails!

👣 The Official Traveler

Mt. Jumbo: Sunrise View, Let’s Go!

You do not need to go as far as Mt. Pulag in Benguet to catch the sunrise and have a good look of clouds and town view from the top. If you live in Northern Luzon, Baguio City or La Trinidad, it is just few kilometers away! Now, if you are interested, keep reading… (or Watch it here)

Where to Go?

Mt. Jumbo is located in Tawang, La Trinidad, Benguet. It is still unimproved in terms of artificial aesthetics thus it is uniquely authentic in nature. On top, you can see the full view of La Trinidad and a portion of nearby city, the City of Baguio. It has gained popularity among locals and soon to be widely known as a famous tourist spot in Benguet. So while it is authentic and not too many tourists, then I urge you to grab the chance and take advantage of its perks. A couple of years ago, climbing was free but as of January 2016, the entrance fee is P30.00. This amount is collected by some town officials who are guarding the area. Sooner or later the price might hike as it gains popularity over time.

When is the best time to go there?

  • It depends on your preference but I recommend early morning (5am onwards) or late afternoon (4pm onwards).

What can you do?

  • If you want to catch the sunrise, start hiking at around 4:30 a.m. and enjoy the view.
  • If you are lucky enough, you can see some clouds hovering the area.
  • There are formations of rocks in the area where you can take photos and be like Superman.
  • You can set up your own tent and stay overnight to gaze the stars/clear sky and the city view from the top. Just make sure you bring your own tent and blanket.
  • Take some silhouette photos by 5 a.m. to 6 a.m.
  • Play with friends and create unlimited memories.

 

  • If you still have plenty of time, eat some bread/snacks while waiting for Mr. Sun. There are no stores (open) nearby so plan on buying your own water and some snacks ahead of time.
  • Wear your most comfortable clothes and footwear for the hike. It is COLD during the night and at dawn. It’s better to be prepared than be sorry ^_^
  • Warm yourselves up as it is windy and cold especially in the morning. Limited only to a certain few, some people set up bonfire…just make sure you do not burn the mountain.
  • Bring “SELF-DISCIPLINE” with you as you start your trek. 🙂 Respect nature, respect the local citizens. So, please TAKE YOUR GARBAGE WITH YOU when you leave. It matters!

How to Get There?


Option A

If you aim to catch the sunrise, it is better to hail a taxi at 4 a.m. and tell the cab driver to drop you to the turning point of Tomay. There is a junction on your right with a signboard, “To Lubas…”. Start walking from there following the main road—about 2 kilometers to the bottom of the mountain. Unfortunately, there is no signboard that says, “This way to Mount Jumbo” or “Welcome to Mt. Jumbo” (as of January 2016) so you have to figure it out on your own. You will pass by a “This way to barangay hall” and “Tawang Elementary School” sign posts on your right as you walk straight following the main road (near Tawang cemetery). It will take about 30-40 minutes walk up to the mountain.

[Extra Tip: There is a sign post, “PIGS 4 SALE” near an electric post. If you see the concrete road going up, then you are on the right track. JUST go up, follow the trails, and create unlimited (photo) memories!]

Option B*

If you are traveling on a daytime (6a.m. onwards), you can ride a jeepney located near the bridge at Pines Park in Km 4. Inform the driver to drop you off at Sitio Banig to go to Mt. Jumbo.

Option C*

If you are familiar with Balili’s footpath, you can hike from Km 5 passing through Balili to reach Tawang. When you reach the main road, walk for about 30-50 meters and you can find the trail going to Mt. Jumbo.

*These options are a little bit tricky and risky for first-timers because you may miss it out. If you can, it is better to ask local who is familiar with the place to go with you to make sure you can reach the mountain top on time for the sunrise and sunset.DSC_0482

HAPPY NEW MEMORIES ^_^

Wishing you a Happy Journey,

👣 The Official Traveler 

Piolo Pascual: The New ‘RICEponsible’ Ambassador

Piolo-Pascual-PhilRiceThe Filipino multi-awarded actor, recording artist, endorser, and producer Piolo Pascual joins the nationwide call for responsible rice consumption as the new RICEponsible Ambassador.

Pascual pledged to promote the advocacy of the Department of Agriculture’s Be RICEponsible campaign such as the consumption of brown rice and rice mixed with corn or other staples, appreciation of our farmers’ hard work, and the non-wastage of rice that would all contribute to the country’s rice self-sufficiency stride.

Culturally, we love to eat rice. It’s disappointing to know the facts on how much rice is wasted every year. I think it’s about time for us to do something about it. The best way for me to help is by using my influence to send out awareness for people to really value rice in this country,” Piolo Pascual

Taking off from the National Year of Rice in 2013, the Be RICEponsible is an advocacy campaign that promotes responsible rice consumption by encouraging Filipinos not to waste rice, eat healthier forms of rice, and by valuing the hard work of our farmers.

©PhilRiceWebTeam & StarMagic

Mt.Pulag Adventure (Part 1): 8 Steps to Get There!

39Mount Pulag is the third highest mountain in the Philippines. It is the highest in Luzon. There are three trails available for people who want to climb the mountain from Benguet. First, the Akiki trail, which takes more than 2-3 days to finish and is suited for more experienced climbers. Second, the Tawangan trail, which is steep and could also be difficult for inexperienced climbers. This course starts in Kabayan, Benguet. Third, the Ambangeg trail, which is also the easiest and safest trail to Mount Pulag. Though it is the easiest, it is equally stunningly beautiful as compared with the two other trails. Ambangeg Trail is also very popular for first-timers ^_^

The sea of clouds is very popular for its enchanting beauty. It feels like you wanna swim on it!! (but you would definitely die if you do that..so DON’T) 😀  It is very romantic place for couples– a perfect venue for engagement proposals ❤ (Ok, gentlemen?); It is a place of friendship bonding and recollection; It is also a serene space for a solo traveler. In short, it is a place for everyone who can make it to the Summit. The sunrise peak experience is beyond description. More importantly, it showcases God’s indescribable creation.

How to get there?

A bus ride from Manila to Baguio City usually takes 5-6 hours so if you want to make the most out of your trip, better leave the city as early as 12 midnight. Once in Baguio, you will have to ride a taxi (or jeepney) that will take you to Kabayan Van Terminal and jump-off points on the way to Mt.Pulag.

Mount Pulag Map

Step 1: Courtesy Call.
You have to inform the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) Office in Ambangeg of your intention to climb Mt. Pulag. Let them know when you are traveling and the number of participants in your group. Exponentially, Mt. Pulag has gained extreme popularity among hikers and sometimes it is too much for the mountain to handle. For this reason, DENR limits the number of climbers per day and also why you need to inform them ahead of your schedule.

Step 2: Ride an Overnight Bus (From Manila)

Travel to Baguio city via bus or private vehicles. Victory Liner and Genesis are among the popular bus companies servicing the route from Manila to Baguio. Terminals are located in Cubao and Pasay. The travel time for first-class buses is between 5 to 6 hours and will set you back ₱750 while regular buses will take 6 to 7 hours and cost ₱500. Book a bus ride with a departure time of around 11:00PM or midnight so that you reach Baguio early morning of the following day.

Quick Link: For Bus Reservations

Step 3: Catch the earliest van to Ambangeg22

Once you reached the bus terminal in Baguio, flag a taxi to bring you to the Old Slaughterhouse. Tell the taxi driver to drop you off at the van terminal bound to Kabayan. Catch the first trip out to Kabayan which leaves around 7:00 AM.

The van to Kabayan will pass by Ambangeg. Get yourself dropped off at the junction in Ambangeg near the DENR Station. Travel time from Baguio to Ambangeg is 2 hours and will cost around ₱120-150.

Step 4: Register at the DENR Station

From the junction in Ambangeg, walk a few meters to the DENR Station. You will be asked to attend a short orientation wherein you will watch a short video presentation that summarizes the do’s and don’ts during the climb. This will also include some trivia and other helpful information that may come in handy throughout your hike.

You will have to pay an entrance fee of ₱100/person and a camping fee of ₱50/person. You can start your climb immediately after this.

Step 5: Walk or Ride a Motorcycle to the Hike Starting Point

You have the options of walking or riding a motorcycle on your way to the hike starting point. Outside the DENR Station, there will be motorcycles for hire which can bring you to Babadac Ranger Station — the hike’s starting point. Fare costs ₱250 per person per way. ( I walked!! because I didn’t want to pay that much for the distance) 🙂

Step 6: Save Your Energy or Save Your Money?

Porters and guides are readily available on the area. They traverse the mountain trails back and forth all day for people who need help in carrying heavy luggage. You can request for one at the Babadac Ranger Station. The guide fee is ₱500 per group while the porter fee is at ₱500 with a limit of 15 kilos per porter. During our travel, the guide was a-must while the porter was just an option.

Step 7: Let the Happy Trails Begin

There are three camps in the area. Camp 1, Camp 2 and the Saddle Camp.
Camp 1 is an easy 30-minute trek from Babadac Ranger Station.

Then it takes another hour to reach Camp 2. If you wish to traverse Mt. Pulag on the same day you arrived from Baguio, you’ll be surprised to know that from Camp 2, the summit is just an easy 1.5-hour trek! (But that was still far haha)

Saddle Camp is located 20 minutes below the peak so camping here is your best option, especially since you’ll probably be climbing back to the summit the next morning to welcome the sunrise and the breathtaking sea of clouds!

Click here for more: Mt.Pulag Adventure (Part 2): What To Bring?

Step 8: Take an Obligatory Photo and share it with us! ^_^


Friendly Reminder: Bring all Your Trash Back Home.

~HISTORYMAKER

South Korea: Education System

Education is seen as driving force behind Korea’s rags-to-riches story. Being an EFL Teacher in the past, I have seen how Korean students exhibit high regard on education (although, some are still lazy to do homework, though). But generally speaking, the amount of time spent they spent in schools and hagwons is legendary. After studying tediously, they roll up their sleeves, build a lot of factories, get their job done, look to the outside world, and outwork almost everyone around them.

The picture below is a typical style of kindergarten in Korea. How lovely, isn’t it? They are all in uniforms. No discrimination. Of course, sending children school is a huge investment for both parents and the government. But surely, it pays off.

Education is seen as driving force behind Korea's rags-to-riches story.

Education is seen as driving force behind Korea’s rags-to-riches story.

The challenge: Korea has transformed itself from war-torn mess to one of the richest countries in Asia.
Aking pangarap at panalangin, Pilipinas, sana next ka na! 🙂
I hope the reform in the education system in the Philippines, K-12 would really make a huge impact in the lives of the Filipinos soon.

The Lesson: “Education is an investment. Pursue your dreams, live out your passion.”

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