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FTF / Gabaldon immersion part 1

12:00:00 AM

On the last semester of my senior year in college, I went to Gabaldon, Nueva Ecija for my Theology 131 immersion in the Ateneo-Gawad Kalinga (GK) Village. We stayed in the village for two nights, hosted by the families who lived there. I'm deeply ashamed to admit that I cannot remember the names my hosts (except for their only daughter, Andrea) - I couldn't find the journal where I wrote about the experience. I remember just calling the parents Nanay (mother) and Tatay (father).

The village
(photo from the internet)
Nanay, Tatay and Andrea were among the warmest, kindest and most sincere people I have ever met. They welcomed me into their home and into their lives without the slightest hesitation or apprehension. I got the five-star treatment - they insisted that I slept on their only bed (a papag, which is made out of bamboo) while they all slept on the floor. For our first lunch together, it took a lot to convince Nanay to let me help her cook our meal and wash the dishes after eating. And before I left, they gave me packed snacks for the road. For a few days, I became part of their family.

Financially/materially, they were very poor. My weekly allowance was even bigger than what they had to live on for a month. Their house was impossibly small; a curtain and two plastic drawer chests separated the bedroom from the rest of the house. The living room, which was also the sari-sari store, had one big plastic bench and a television mounted on a short tabled made from scrap pieces of wood. In the kitchen they had a compact dining set with three chairs, situated literally less than three feet from the stove and the sink. The bathroom is smaller than a broom closet.

It's incredible how, despite having so little, the family was still capable of giving so much. One afternoon, I took a break from the build and went to their home to rest. I bought snacks from their store, but when I was paying, Nanay refused to accept my money! So I had to insert my payment in the letter I wrote them, which I handed to Nanay before I left the village. I had to be sneaky, because otherwise, she would not have just written my debt off, and that's not good for business.

What's even more amazing is how grateful they were for what they had. Nanay shared how happy they were for finally realizing their dream of having their own home. Tatay shared that although the work was hard, he was still luckier than most because he had a job. The couple was thankful that they were able to put up the sari-sari store, since what they earn from it compensates for Tatay's meager earnings as a farmer.

They were among the happiest people I have ever met. And I think the secrets to their happiness are giving and gratefulness. They gave what they could, not just to me, but to their neighbors, as well. They look at what they have, they don't dwell on what they don't possess, and they never take anything for granted. Perhaps we could all take a page from Nanay and Tatay's book. Happiness is something within everyone's reach, if we could all just take a moment from our daily lives to stop and think about what we have. If they can do it with the little they have, then so can we.

Note: This post is about my experience with the people in the Ateneo-GK Village in Gabaldon, about how we can learn a thing or two from them. This is NOT a call for volunteers. I have my reservations about Gawad Kalinga as an organization. For starters, I am extremely biased for NGOs that push for education. And from my perspective, the program seems short-sighted so I'm concerned about its sustainability. If you have time and resources, I urge you to devote them to other causes like public education improvement and/or long-term poverty alleviation solutions.

isawisay

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