A Few Hours at Boys Town CDO

Sunday, November 23, 2014.

It’s my first visit in Cagayan De Oro City. For some, when they hear about Cagayan De Oro City, first thing that will come to mind are whitewater rafting, the long zipline, Camiguin Island tour and other adrenaline-filled activities one can do while at CDO. I didn’t do any of that. Instead, Rhaine, the head of Child Protection Brigade Volunteers and one of hosts for my sudden visit, invited me to join him and his friends for a few hours of visit to the Boys Town in Brgy. Lumbia, Cagayan De Oro City.

I’m a public school teacher so I’m very much exposed to stories of kids living in high need areas and them being underprivileged. I am also part of the advocacy of equality of education for every Filipino child. I thought I’ve seen it all. I was thinking visiting these kids will not be different from my daily tasks. I’ll just teach them a song and then help distribute some hygiene kits we had come up with, share some merienda, then take photos and the day will be over, I will have another story of adventure and sharing when I get back in Manila later that afternoon.

A few hours of interaction but the memories and realizations about my visit will never fade away. It is etched in my heart.

As soon as we start walking into alley towards their session hall, everything felt different. I saw teenager boys playing basketball at the nearby court. They then stopped playing and rushed to their rooms to get dressed. I met their social worker, Ate Marish, who then helped us set up and prepared the kids that day.

It took a little while for everyone to be gathered so I got the time to chat with the younger kids who were too excited about our arrival and were very much ready to welcome us. These are kids, I told myself, I can handle them. So, I asked for their names and ages and then Joseph, 12, one of the boys told me, “Nung isang Sabado lang ako dumating dito.” Then, it strucked me, these are not ordinary kids, I may be working with kids in high need areas, but most of them still have their families. These kids are mostly orphaned, disowned, abused or whatever might suffered from cruelty from whoever.

The conversation continued…
“San ka galing?”

I actually don’t remember what place he answered for that question. I think he said he is originally from Butuan.

Iniwan ako ng nanay ko sa palengke ng 2 years old pa lang ako.
Eh bakit isang linggo ka pa lang dito
Namatay na kasi yung umampon sakin.”
Tapos nagpagala-gala na ko. Nakita lang ako ng pulis at dinala ako dito.”
Kumusta ka naman? Mas ok naman dito diba?”

Then he smiled.

Then the program started. Rhaine introduced each of us -- Me, Lala, John and Imee. We all went into a circle and introduced ourselves. I’ve met 21 boys ranging from ages 4-20 years old. A great number are teenagers and are studying under Alternative Learning System or ALS. They were all smiling when they introduced themselves. A bit shy but still smiling.

Thoughts were already running through my head. I am not in a classroom. I am somewhere else where kids have been through a lot and they probably are undergoing healing, getting support from each other and trying their best to live a normal life. I was thinking of teaching them our Community Song in school as a reiteration that they live in a community and that they have to work and help each other.

I tried my best to look composed, I introduced myself again.

Hi, ako si Teacher Kat. Grade 3 teacher ako sa isang public school sa Quezon City. Katulad lang din ng school nyo yung nandyan malapit sa labas.”

We played Simon Says, a bring-me game which I wasn’t really prepared for. So I tried to be fun as much as I can. I asked for a Gray Hair, Toothbrush, a Flower and a School ID. All of which they enthusiastically brought to me. The kuyas were so competitive that they ran outside and into their rooms to get the items.

Then, it’s time to teach the song. I started to sing. They were all silent. I tried teaching them the actions of the song, but I seem to have been lost.

I apologized.
“Pasensya na kayo, kinakabahan kasi ako.”

Then one of the older guys shouted.
“Wag kang kabahan, ituring mo kaming parang nakakabatang kapatid mo lang.”

I felt relieved and tried my best to be composed and excited about the song. The big boys look so cute while dancing and the younger ones where trying their best to sing the song as well.

Still, I was rattled. But then, the day went well and Rhaine took over the next part of the hour and did some more games until it’s time for some meryenda. Everyone gladly took their share. We shared two trays of banana bread and a big jar of juice. It was a very humble meal and, everyone gladly fall in line and took their share.

Then it’s time to distribute the hygiene kits Rhaine prepared for them. Inside it are two sachets of shampoo, a toothbrush and a small bar of bath soap. He asked me to give it to them one by one, I was a bit hesitant because I was just there as an invite and that it was really him who made this visit possible for all of us. So, as a starter, I asked what the importance of clean body is and how to keep ourselves tidy. They all jovially answered. Then I reminded them, that it’s important that they keep themselves healthy and clean because they have to finish their studies and later on, be the ones helping other people. I even kidded that they are not yet allowed to have girlfriends, that they have to finish their studies first. Then, every time get hold of their loot bag, they say, “Thank you.”

As a thank you gift, the Swagger Group, a group of dancers they have in there, prepared a hiphop-techno dance for us. The two youngest boys also joined they really captivated the audience with their own groove. They also know the steps, and they look for adorable trying to dance the steps just like their Kuyas.

While everyone was trying to have some good time, I asked Ate Marish about the other things these boys would need. She said that they have so many clothes. I asked if they have a library, she said, they currently don’t have. Also, I noticed that their utensils are not that much, so I guess, kitchen and dining pieces are also needed.

It’s time to end the program. So Rhaine, said our goodbyes and the boys started to go on their own ways. Back to their usual Sunday stuff I guess, the young ones were still in the room hanging out with us. All smiles. I know they wanted to say more but I personally have a hard time understanding their dialect.

I was trying to check out the property, asking Rhaine about the orphanage when Ate Marish came and we said our exchange of thank you and goodbyes. Then, I saw Joseph again.

“Magpapakabait ka dito, ha. Bibisitahin kita ulit.”
“Makikita kita sa TV!” was the last words he said and then left.

I actually don’t know why he said that. But, it felt good that somebody had thought that I am a celebrity. Haha

Our program ended early because it was really an impromptu one so we still got the time to visit one of Lala’s friend within the vicinity for some refreshment until we are ready to go back to the city as I have a plane to catch later that afternoon.

The visit lasted only for a few hours. I was leaving the place with a heavy heart. Not because I pity those kids but because I wasn’t prepared for it. Would they even remember I visited them? For sure, a lot of other people and organization had been reaching out to them. Will they even remember the song? Will they even realize the meaning of the song? I don’t know. I haven’t really taught them anything that they don’t know. But they did teach me something.

Their smiles. That’s one of the best smiles I’ve seen. These kids had been through a lot and still they had manage to smile. They share their life openly not because they want other to pity them, but it’s a sign that they had accepted their situation and that they are trying their best to life their life just like any other child.

They are family. They may have lost a family in the past, but they had found a new one and a new home. I am so happy that they had seen me as an “Ate” even though I just met them for a few hours. It meant so much, to be respected and to be trusted by their healing souls.

They sing and dance to tune of the music. I really didn’t do well teaching them the song, my hands were all over, my voice was a bit tense but still they got me going. They made the song lively and they danced happily to it. They can find the happiness in every little thing.

They say “Thank you.” With a smile. What we gave them would seem very small yet their thankful. Endlessly thankful. I’ve heard the word so many times that day, uttered smilingly. It felt great. We’ve only given them a few but their grateful, I wonder what more if we can them something big and something that won’t fade.

The bristles of the toothbrush will grow old and would need to be replaced, I am sure though that their smiles will always be there.

The shampoo and bath soap may ran out, I am sure though that their souls will stay clean and free from hate from whatever dark past they had.

A few hours of interaction that had left a mark in my soul. They taught me many things. I had always loved my parents but visiting these kids, made me love my parents more. I am such a blessed soul. I can say that I am positive person but there will really be days that I feel that the whole world is against me but these kids reminded me to keep my positivity ALWAYS. I may not know all their name, their stories, but I know that they have been through a lot, far more than I can imagine, yet they manage to smile and get through the day and accept what life had to offer them.

I promised to come back. As to when, hopefully, as soon as the school year ends. This time, I want to share to them something that doesn’t fade nor ran out. I want to share to them my love for reading, I want to share that wonderful experience of being lost in the pages of imagination and opportunity. 

Just like any other kid living with their families, they deserve to know. They deserve equal opportunity in education that will open more doors and windows for brighter future. When, how and what would it take for me to get this done, I still have to figure out. I know I am not alone. I have Lala, Rhaine, Imee and John to back me up. See you again CDO. See you soon, Boys Town. 

On Leaning In.

My mentor suggested that I read this book: LEAN IN by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook.

The author discusses about being a woman in the corporate jungle---how Sandberg survived and thrived in a career path where men are considered powerful. 

Allow me to share a few things that really made an impression on me. The entire book did, I had a bit of difficulty choosing which one to prioritize, but I know I had to choose.

1.       If you do please everyone, you aren’t making enough progress.
This is absolutely a struggle for and the organization I work with. I personally have internal debates as to when is the right time to rock the boat. I guess, there is really no perfect time, the right time is now. My co-fellows and I can only hope that we really are making a progress. We all have this desire to be liked by everyone, even though we all know that it can never be possible, we can only be liked by a majority but not by everyone. As I attempt to be liked by everyone, I should always remember my main goal of being in the community.

2.       Taking risks, choosing growth, challenging ourselves and asking for promotions (with smiles on our faces, of course).
I really like how she compared corporate world into a jungle gym and not a ladder. Jumping into the next opportunity for growth doesn’t necessarily have to be on the same field where one had started. It actually calmed my soul a bit. At least, I am not the only one having that concern. Swinging from one rope to another can also have its advantages of skills being brought it and the great challenge of learning something new at a very short span of time.

3.       It’s better to focus on specific problems with real solutions.

I want to work in the finance industry because that’s where I had spent most of my working years before I got into teaching. Do you have any suggestions for readings? Websites and companies I can check?

4.       Feedback is an opinion, grounded on observations and experiences which allows us to know what impressions we make of others.
 I wonder what impression I had made on others?

5.       Date them all: bad boys, the cool boys, the commitment-phobic boys, the crazy boys. But do not marry them.
I guess I have been taking this advice eversince. It really is just hard to find a good match.

6.       Done is better than perfect.
Working in an environment which has very high standards in some way made me hesitant to try new things. I became afraid that I might not be able to do it and just make an embarrassment out of myself. I should try embracing this mantra and not let the dreams of perfection stop me.

7.       Every job will demand some sacrifice. The key is to be able to avoid unnecessary sacrifice.
As for unnecessary sacrifice, I really can’t think of anything. So far, with all the decisions I’ve made, I had learned not to regret anything.

My final takeaway in this book:

Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence.

I am broke so I spent a weekend in CDO!

Why I chose CDO? I really don't know. Then, while I was there, I knew all of a sudden.

As soon as I clicked the send button with the email that I had chosen CDO, I really never thought it will ever happen. After a few more days, I received an email with the instruction on how I can get to Cagayan de Oro for free!

Still, I had another problem, what will I do in CDO? Relatives from my grandmother's side had all moved to the US so, contacting them about my sudden trip will not be advisable. I decided to contact Lala, of Telelalahbells, to ask how I could go around the city for a day and what are some advisable things to do while visiting the city. Just the city. I had no plans of going whitewater rafting, or that great zipline because, I have no funds. Remember my previous post? It's all about me being broke at the moment.

Lala, as we all know her, responded enthusiastically and all of a sudden had made an outline of a tour where I could go to while in the city. I said that I was just planning to stay for a day because I have no place to stay. Her friend whom I have never met before was kind enough to offer their house where I can stay overnight.

All set. Booked and I can't really say I was ready. I was a bit of scared. Though I had done lone trip before, it was not like this. I had everything settled, a hotel booking, a map and a list of places where I plan to go. But this one is way, way different. I am putting my trust on a friend I had met though blogging. I am nervous but I am confident that everything will be fine.

Friday had been a long day. Teaching hours in the morning. Seminar workshop for bully kids in the afternoon. A restaurant review in the evening. Laundry. Packing up. Cleaning and checking and re-checking of myself if I really want to do this.

I tried to get an hour of sleep. Since it was the first flight, I had to leave the house an hour past midnight just to make it there two hours before the departure. A few more hours, I am stepping out of the plane, breathing that cold fresh air of Mindanao. Hello Cagayan De Oro of Misamis Oriental Province!

While I wanted to tell you a lot about how my 2-day and 1-night stay had gone, I am more eager to share my realizations about this adventure.


                                                        1. It's good to have friends from everywhere! 
               One of the reasons why I pushed through with the CDO trip was because of Lala. She had responded to my queries very happily and that got me excited.

2.  It's good to have the feeling of fear, but the feeling of overcoming that fear should be stronger. 
              It's my first time to go on a trip without a big budget and first time I will meet these people personally.

3. No matter how cruel this world is, we get to meet wonderful people along the way. 
            I had stayed at Kuya Pep's house. There live with him are his younger sister and his mother. Their place had been one of the badly affected areas by Sendong. I can see that they are trying their best to get things back to normal but I can also feel that it's really sometimes hard to get back on track. A bit frustrating as well sometimes. I had also come to know that Kuya Pep is connected with an international humanitarian organization with whom one of my close friends work for! He was suppose to be deployed in Albay however, some things had change and he decided to stay in CDO for awhile until he gets to figure out how to pick up himself from some personal battles he is going through. He was the reason why we were able to spend time with the kids at Boys Town CDO. If he was in Albay, I would never get to meet him.

4. Adventure can only happen if you are blending in with the right people. 
             My stay in CDO had been memorable because people I had been with made me feel very welcome. They were so fun to be with and it's good to see how bonded they are. I am thankful that they let me in the circle even just for a few days. Imee had been the one who took my pictures! This is the first time that I have lots of pictures on a trip! It usually is me who takes the photos! John also brought me a lot of White Rabbit candies! I had never seen White Rabbit candies for a while and imagine my surprise when he he gave me one and did bring more the following day.  Their company had made my CDO stay a memorable one.

5. Kids say the most hilarious things!
             I met Joseph, 12 years old, it's his first week of stay during our visit at Boys Town CDO. His parting words was, "Makikita kita sa TV mamaya!" I dont know what to reply. Hahahaha.
The Boys of CDO Boys Town

6. I am going back to CDO!
             My stay had been very pleasant but I know that there are still things left undone. Apart from the tourist spots that I ought to visit, I really want to come back because I think I need to go back to Boys Town and visit those kids again. Specially Joseph. He was one tough, positive boy. He was the first one I spoke with and the last one who bid me goodbye.
Til we see each other again dear friends!

My CDO trip is a story that is one for the books. My books. My story. My blog.

Another story of gratefulness worth-sharing and worth-looking back when I grow older.

Yeah, I am broke so I spent a weekend in CDO and I am grateful!

Broke and Positive About It

I'm broke.

Believe me, that is something very hard to admit for a 28-year old girl like me. It had been years since I graduated with a degree and had gotten license for it, worked hard, became a BPO and corporate slave and yet, 8 years after, I am broke. I am financially incapable of doing a lot of things a lot of people at my age do, like travel, buy books, spend on coffee, shopping, give to parents and not worry about emergency expenses. For some, they even had started paying for their own places.

But I would never trade this two years I gave it up for.

Two years ago, I was living a normal life, not that I am living an extraordinary life after that, I could say that two years after, I started living a far more grateful kind of life.

I may have stopped acquiring a lot of material things, or even giving so many things money can buy, in return, I learned a lot, much of it money can't buy at a nearby mall or signature shop.


That is the word I could come up with fitting to describe how my two years have been. That GRATEFULNESS can be branched out to a lot of many other descriptions--- Family, Friends, Surprises, Faith and of course, Love.

I am so blessed to have the kind of family I have right now. We may be living in a dilapidated house, but inside it I find my treasure. I used to ask why my father never really worked on building a more sturdy house for us, but now, I understand. My parents had invested on us-- their kids. It's now time to return that investment.

I am so lucky to have found wonderful friends from all over! Some of them, I just have to meet up and talk to without the fear of being judged. Some, I don't even have to talk to but reading their thoughts makes me feel connected to them. Others, I may have not talked for awhile but when I get caught up with them and reminisce, it's like we were talking about things that had just happened yesterday.

I had received a lot of wonderful surprises for the past two years! I received a huggable bear which now lays beside me in my bed, a cute bag I bring anywhere as I go forth and catch my dreams, gifts, so many wonderful gifts I didn't ask for but just came and I am so glad to have been the receiver.

In times when I feel so down, prayer kept me going and still keeps me going. God is so wise to give me the opportunity to meet wonderful people. experiences and realizations. I would probably not have it any other way.

I am surrounded with so much love. From family, friends, and the school community I am placed in. And I am not giving up on the chance of finding The One. It's just taking a little bit longer than usual but in God's perfect time and after His own heart, He will let me know.

For now, yes, I am broke and I am grateful.

I just can't wait for the next four months to unfold and complete my 2-year journey.

Strumming My Pain.

Today is Friday. 
This is how I spend the Friday after I lost my phone.
Nagwala ako. Hahaha.

It's been awhile that I had played my guitar Fernando. 
Since I am a Taylor Swift fan and she had released a new album, I had chosen my favorite song on the playlist and this is it pansit!

Maraming mali sa aking strumming dahil kanina na lang ulit ako kumarir ng pagigitara at kumanta na wala din sa tono. >_<

This is one of my maladaptive schemes to cope with a stressful day. I have sooooooo many school-related things to do-- grades that are due on Monday since the card-giving is scheduled on Nov. 13, lesson plans, papers to check, yet, I chose to learn to play this song instead which I wasn't able to perfectly play pa din. Still, this is my favorite! Hahahaha

Please play it at your own risk!!!!!!
Forgive me, I don't know what else to do.

Day-op si Inday :P :P