Category Archives: Helping Hands
Sometimes, all it takes is an invitation to be able to experience something communal and yet so uniquely your own in appreciating life’s little wonders.The Student Development Center (SDC) is one venue that provides opportunities in seeing the world in a new light. As one of the representatives of SDC, I am a witness to that.
It was with the invite from COPERS (Center of Psychological Extension and Research Services) for a debriefing of soldiers formerly assigned in Basilan, that I reached another set of “first moments/milestones” in my life. 1. Visit Butuan City. 2. Travel overnight for volunteer activities. 3. Debrief soldiers in the likelihood of the “torya-torya” module of Dr. Gail Tan Ilagan, Ph.D. (author of the book War Wounded).
The travel was last Sunday (June 23, 2013) was quite uneventful (mainly because I slept all throughout the trip – from 12:00MN to 6:00AM approximately – with a few waking moments in between) since it was the ever-famous “Nonoy Legend” who was our designated driver on the trip, making sure we were all safe and sound in the van. We arrived in Butuan City roughly around 6AM. Had our breakfast in Dottie’s , took a couple of snapshots, and went on our way to our destination.
Arriving at the camp, we were warmly greeted by the officers and had our short introductions. While we were taking a couple of minutes rest in our transient facility’s room, my roommates and I were able to discuss how to get on with the “torya-torya” (as some of them were new volunteers) and my ever-ready GLH engaged in practicing activities that may help in the debriefing.
True enough… her skills were called for during the lull periods in between (as evidenced below):
Anyway, since there were only 20 volunteers accounted for and an estimated 360 soldiers to get to know better, the numbers became a bit overwhelming. However, the actual number lessened so 15 of us were assigned to one team composed of 7 soldiers to talk to.
At first, I was having doubts on my capabilities… worrying that they might not want to talk to me about their life and if I would be of any help at all. Or worse, would be at such a loss that I’d have to raise my own white flag in surrender! Facilitating teambuilding I could handle, but this might be more than what I bargained for. Thankfully, the soldiers were very gallant and were easy to talk with that it felt like being able to see how they live their lives whenever they have operations.
Here are a couple of photos of the encounter.
Under the proverbial mango tree (not really a mango tree though).
After all teams were gathered and closing remarks were said, time for some photo ops!
A surprise token of appreciation for volunteers.
Authentic Boodle fights.
A surprise token of appreciation.
Volunteers were also debriefed.
Sharing This One: Making use of what you have
Most times you always come prepared. Other times… not. Sometimes, starting and progressing in an activity are easily prepared. It’s the wrapping up part that blocks you. Like how you would be able to capture each person’s insight in one statement. Words make you clumsy. Nearing the end of my personal “torya-torya” with my team, panic started to creep into my psyche as to how I should make a fitting closure for our group. Thankfully I had a pack of Mentos with me.
My story of the Mentos.
Imagine that you are a Mentos candy. It has a hard outer shell. Much like every person. How we were raised, how we were trained, and what we’ve experienced make us strong, tough, and – sometimes – hardened. But no matter how hard and unyielding the exterior may seem, on the inside of a Mentos candy is a soft and malleable core that can easily adapt and mold in any way. So regardless how hardened we may be of whatever life throws us, in the core of our being, we can adapt well with the changes that may come. It changes us and we become refreshed and come out renewed. Be like a Mentos.
It has been a humbling experience in being able to meet the frontliners in the country’s defense. To be witnesses of what each individual goes through for the service of others. I truly admire their quiet reserve, candid openness, and their ability to rise up against the experiences that some people might see as dark and hopeless. Sometimes it’s not the war that they fear. But how civilians shun away from their presence… from fear perhaps? Stereotypes? May be.
So the next time you see a soldier, take time to say “Hi” to them. Your smile and warm greeting will definitely go a long, long way.
My hometown is well-known for its “typhoon-free” slogans and promotions. In all my years of living here, I can honestly attest to that. I’ve only experienced storms and typhoons in Cebu (during my vacation when I was around 8 years old), in Manila (it was Milenyo or International name Xangsane that hit the Philippines while I was still working there – which I just thought was strong winds and harsh rains since I wasn’t used to storms), and in Bohol (I think it was Ofel – international name Son-Tinh that had me and my travel partner stranded in going to Bohol).
So when the alert was raised that Pablo (international name BOPHA) was entering our region’s area of responsibility, a sense of foreboding came over me. I was reminded of a conversation I had with my dad before that storms are slowly changing their paths and it won’t be soon before long that the Davao region would be greatly affected.
Well my dad was no Nostradamus of his time, but his words rang truth as seen by the wake of Pablo. I think it was the first time that schools declared “No classes” due to a storm. And for my hometown, it was signal #2. A couple of my officemates missed their flight to Manila for a seminar because all flights were cancelled as well. All school activities were suspended or cancelled to keep people safe during such a time.
Although Davao wasn’t too affected, our neighboring provinces weren’t spared. News of the devastation of the storm were plastered in news. Families were greatly affected, livelihood such as banana and coconut farming were washed over, even fishermen weren’t spared since a lot of people didn’t want to buy their goods for fear that their captured fishes were able to eat human flesh. (morbid actually.)
It was around December 3-5, 2012 that the typhoon made its presence known to the Davao Region. A first as most locals can remember thus people weren’t totally prepared on what would happen. December 5, an invitation to extend our help to the affected areas were given to our office and I for one willingly confirmed my desire. However, instead of a 2-day outreach, a change in schedule landed me on a 1 day outreach (for Psychosocial Debriefing) to one of the provinces that were hit – Caraga.
To explain better, here are some photos for you to see:
We left around 6am to start our 5-hour travel to Caraga. I wasn’t able to take photos of the banana and coconut fields but along the road, you could clearly see how strong the winds were manifested by the bowing of the trees towards the direction we were heading. The mountains that were once full of proud lines of trees, were now barren as if a greater being was playing pick-up sticks using the coconut trees for sticks.
When we reached Caraga’s Poblacion, the site that greeted us was very disarming. Houses with no roofs, muddied roads, logs and debris around every corner.
According to our leader, Caraga was the fastest in responding to all the alerts and were even able to evacuate the local residents (especially those along the shoreline) and house them in their designated evacuation center. Aside from that, they were proactively thinking of other designated evacuation centers should the first one collapse.
Residents could still remember how the events unfolded during those days that Pablo enraged the province. Thankfully, they are still able to move past what has transpired and are currently moving forward in reclaiming their lives and livelihood.
After our sojourn at the Poblacion, we went to the broken bridge that highly affected the transportation of relief goods to more affected areas such as Baganga, Cateel, and Boston Davao Oriental.
This DPWH worker has been working for 24 hours in pulling across the line for travelling the river via man-made raft. Some of our companions helped him in pulling while we were there.
Until now, relief operations are still ongoing all over the city (and perhaps even the country) to continuously aid the Pablo survivors. Hopefully I can still come along to assist in another session of debriefing in the areas that experienced tropical storm Bopha.
Let us extend a helping hand to the survivors and make this Christmas season more meaningful.
Remember my post more than a month ago on our trip to Brgy. Fatima in conducting a psychosocial debriefing? (Refer here) Well earlier this week (Tuesday to be exact), I had the opportunity again in returning.
Since it was a school day, no college students came along and some of their teachers had other things planned already. So after having our meeting last Monday, we were all set to leave the next day. Since this was the termination phase of our debriefing with them, it seemed apt to end it on a positive note. With that in mind, the idea of having a program prepared – with games and magic show on the side – was just perfect.
I am proud to say that my ever-energetic GLH easily ironed out the rough parts in the preparation for the program along with our military friends. Thus making the meeting short but productive (having enough time to tour our gallant friends around the campus).
Anyway, words cannot express the experience of returning to visit our volunteer site. I’d just be very clumsy with my words if I try. Since a picture paints a thousand words, I’m sharing here some photos instead.
Along with my companions, I too wish that I could return and visit Paquibato once again. Not just for debriefing but to share our my presence to them. Hopefully we could go back soon.
For now, focus on what can be done in the present and always remember closer encounters to reality.