FTF / Gabaldon immersion part 2

12:00:00 AM

The Ateneo-GK Village in Gabaldon, Nueva Ecija is one of my favorite communities amongst all the GK villages I've had the chance to visit. Located at least an hour from the town proper, the place is the very definition of rural. They were deprived of the daily conveniences we are accustomed to.

Houses that heroes built
(photo from the internet)
Running water was a luxury they could not afford, so everyone relied on the stream right beside the village for their water supply. The stream was the community's lifeline - it was the source of their drinking water. It's also where the people bathed and did their laundry. Everybody did their part in keeping the stream clean; used water was disposed of properly.

As for their electricity, there were no individual meters for the houses, so the bill was shared by everyone. All residents declared their appliances such as television sets and radios, as well as the number of light bulbs they had in their respective houses, and they split the tab accordingly. The people didn't mind the setup, because it allowed them to split the miscellaneous costs included in the total bill.

Their lives were simple. They had no internet or cable television. Only a few had mobile phones. Kids played in the dirt since there were no computer games in their homes. Neighbors flocked to the few homes that had television sets, and together they watched shows on whatever channel that the makeshift antenna could receive. But they were all contented, and they were happy. Doors were opened all day long, not just for ventilation, but also because people trusted one another. No one feared for their possessions, not because they didn't have much to begin with, but because everyone knew everyone in the village and they really took care of one another.

We were a batch of about 30 volunteers - all graduating students from Ateneo, and together with the residents, we helped build houses, and we also helped make a septic tank for the village. The tasks were divided evenly - some mixed cement, others dug the pit, some painted walls, while others transported hollow blocks and gravel from point A to B. Everyone pitched in.

For me, the community was one of the best examples of a group of people living together harmoniously. They didn't gossip. They were genuinely happy for neighbors whose children are doing well in school, for the other people who are able to invest in new furniture or appliances. A part of me wished that I could live their lives of utter simplicity and happiness.

Leaving was more difficult than I expected. On my last day, I was surprised that I cried like a baby as I hugged Nanay and Tatay. It was Andrea who saw me off to the van that would take me home. I will never forget the warm kiss she planted on my cheek before I got in the vehicle, and the image of her waving at us as the van exited the village is seared in my memory forever.

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.


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