May 2014. I have never met someone so dedicated to their community in the mountains as this person. She is a barangay health worker (BHW) and a parent volunteer for an early childhood care and development (ECCD) project I used to be part of. With her is the midwife’s daughter, a Christian, who accompanied us. At their right side were beautifully-arranged ornamental plants, and at the background (covered by a bamboo fence), was a vegetable garden owned and tended by another active parent volunteer.

On the way to the area though, one sees that the vast banana plantation of a large corporation have already occupied what used to be the habitat of various flora and fauna. The town is classified as a first class municipality yet poverty and malnutrition remain. This is what our governments allow for many decades to happen. The government says our economy has improved, yet why are the poor getting poorer, and the rich getting richer?

In Mindanao, some lumads who oppose mining and export-oriented crop plantations and the non-lumads who support and help them reclaim their lands are harassed or killed by private armed groups or mercenaries, as well as paramilitary, and military forces.

The lumads, just like you and me, dream of peace and a brighter future for their children and grandchildren.

I remembered she looked interested in my pink hexaplus pen, which I brought for writing notes. “Favorite color ko kasi pink Ma’am.”

At the end of our visit, the pen had found a new owner. I saw her break into a smile and her brown eyes lit with joy at receiving such a small thing. While a lot of us are wishing for a new smartphone or tablet, or buying things we don’t really need, see how a very simple object could bring that amount of happiness to a person. We are so engrossed in our own little worlds and projecting a public image that we fail to see the beauty of a simple life, and we fail to see the struggles of our kababayans in the rural areas and geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas (GIDAs). If you like travelling, travel not only to seek adventure or relaxation, but travel to learn. See the country at various perspectives. You will be surprised the local people have a lot of stories and experiences to share.

If you are furious with what is happening in Syria, then you should definitely be outraged by what is happening in our own backyard


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