Thursday, July 17, 2014
THERE WAS A DRIZZLE when I start a prayer for our journey to the outreach area in Kahugan, Sapangdaku, Cebu City today, December 15, 2013. We will bring Christmas gifts and food for the children of the city highlands which this CHRISTMAS UNITED II is really all about. The place is the Roble homestead, a favorite resting place of hikers and climbers going to Babag Ridge and, we know, the children, along with their parents, are expecting us.
All the items are evenly distributed inside the bags of every would-be Santa Claus and the spirit of charity and love are guiding us as we embark on another quest to lighten up the faces of children and adults alike. I know that it will be a warm day later and this drizzle is nothing but showers of grace released from the heavens. It is a promising day indeed and the train of committed volunteers behind me are eager to make this day into something worthwhile.
When we reach Napo at almost 9:00 AM, all the volunteers take the trail. Christmas United II is an undertaking of all outdoors club and single individuals who come together on their own accord to bring Christmas to children who lived in and among the most inaccessible places in Cebu City. This is the second year that it is organized under the name of Christmas United but actually is the sixth year that this blogger had undertaken which was really the idea behind Christmas U.
When we reach the Lower Kahugan Spring, another group had just concluded their outreach activity there. All the children present here would eventually go with us to higher ground. We proceed, nevertheless, to our destination on the designated three routes after a welcome drink at the natural spring. I top off my bottle after going on empty from Guadalupe to add another kilo to my 15 kilos of load and lead half of the volunteers via Kahugan Trail.
Going with us is a 5-year old volunteer, Jacob Neo. He accompanies his parents, Jhurds and Suzette Neo. His father is a member of the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild which is an unyielding supporter of Christmas U. Another 9-year old volunteer went with his parents on the other half of our party on another route which all would converge at the Roble homestead where all the children are waiting.
It is a warm day since it is late and I carry my heavy load upwards a long route. My disposition is light and I shrug off the heat and the difficulties by concentrating on my breathing and the rhythmic pattern of my pace. I lead my party to the branch of the trail where we break off from the main one. This time, it is shady but parts of it are treacherous. All mountain trails are treacherous if you do not pay attention.
I reach the place at last and I am sweating. The others that took the other route had already arrived and they are on the shadiest part which is under the mango tree. The children and the parents are occupying the benches and on the shed. I look for a spot for myself that would not compete space with anyone and I found one under the scant shade of a Jimson weed shrub (Local name: katyubong) with a short log as a seat.
I sit for a while and douse my thirst before retrieving the ingredients for the spaghetti which are four packs of the pasta, two big packs of tomato sauce and a can of meat sauce. Also gathered from the deep void of my bag are a box of orange juices, a kilo of rice and a cheap air pump for a basketball. Glad to have shed all those weights but I need to wait for the rest before proceeding with another task: preparing coffee.
Bunzy Gicale opened Christmas United II and welcomed all the children and their parents whereupon the program immediately started. A boy receive a special gift when it was revealed that it is his birthday today. A special dance number is performed by a group of young girls, probably classmates at the Napo Elementary School. A male volunteer danced with the kids to liven up the number. There were solo song numbers performed by four girls too.
Parlor games begins to claim the rest of the morning directed well by Bunzy with able support from her group of Tribu Wafu Wafa. I see a ball going round a great circle of hands aided by danceable music. The circle gets tight as the minutes go by until one child is left to claim the prize. Same with the “trip to Jerusalem”. For lack of chairs, the volunteers stand as “trunks” to be embraced by a child.
Last of these games is the Santa Claus piñata. It sends a flurry of little hands grabbing a stash of candies streaming to the ground when it got burst open by a wallop of a big stick! After the excitement of the games, the children settled down when they had a plate of spaghetti, a couple of hotdogs, a few pieces of sliced bread and some marshmallows. It is a joy to watch the children, along with their parents, eating the meals distributed to them by the active volunteers.
It is a simple Christmas party which does not come often to the mountains but, through our own collective effort and our own free will, we have brought the spirit of Christmas here. When the meals had been finished, different toys are distributed to the very eager children. Clothes too, slightly used and new, are passed on to the children and the adults. There are smiles on everyone’s faces and I begin to feel tears of joy welling in my eyes.
I do not mind doing this every year and I do not mind concentrating it here in the Babag Mountain Range. If you can replicate this in other places, the more the better. There is no jealousy, there is no competition. There is only a beautiful harmony of the soul with his Creator. Christmas is for the children and for the children in us. Our spiritual maturity can only be grasped if we do good deeds through great sacrifice and self-denial.
Christmas United II is organized under the umbrella of the Free and United Outdoorsmen and participation is purely on voluntary basis only. The pillars of this forum are the Enthusiasts of Cebu Outdoors, Tribu Wafu Wafa, Ewiters, Trans Montis Mountaineers, Mountain Climbers Alliance of the Philippines-Cebu Chapter, Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild, Redtrekkers and the Southside Project Adventure.
Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer