This is a post by THH Jon.
If someone asks me how I got into hiking and travelling, I would say that it all began with an outreach program 3 years ago at a community located in the mountains of Sierra Madre. Sierra Madre is the longest mountain range in the Philippines and it is known as the “backbone” of the northern island of Luzon.
I wanted to do volunteer work as I wanted a radical change in my life (a regular night for me before was a ton of alcohol and passing out in the toilet). Coincidentally, one of the missionaries in the church that I attend to invited THH Louie and I and some other people to do an outreach program in one of the Dumagat communities in the said mountain. The Dumagats are peace loving and resilient people. They would rather live in remote places and live off the land than beg in urban areas.
Our primary goal for this outreach program is to preach the gospel to the locals. We believe that the spiritual need of a person is more important than the physical ones. Everything in our world is temporary. Even life is temporary. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. Our secondary goals were to distribute school supplies to the children, give counselling to the adults and feed the community.
Everyone agreed to meet up in front of our church where the jeepney that we hired is waiting for us. After a prayer, we headed towards Rodriguez, Rizal. It took us approximately an hour and half to get to the jump off point where Pastor Cris (head of the Faith In Christ Alone Church and Trigo Para sa Tribu Minestry) was waiting for us. Pastor Cris’s passion is to share the gospel and serve the indigenous tribes in the Philippines. He actually climbs regularly to reach the communities (mind you it’s not an easy climb as some communities are several hours away from the jump off).
After a quick orientation, we started our ascent. The first leg of the hike was flat and surrounded by lush plants and trees and tall grasses. We also had to cross several streams that can reach up to your knees.
Life is very simple (and poor at the same time) in these areas as electricity is not available. It’s normal to see mothers doing their laundry by the river and children having a dip to cool off. The main source of living here is charcoal making. Sadly, you will see little children carrying huge sacks of charcoals on their backs to earn some money. Charcoal making destroys the forest but what can they do? Nowadays, some of them are taught how to cultivate the land but still many of them choose to make charcoals. Pastor Cris even told us that some families only eat salt and rice for their meals.
After 2 hours of hiking, we finally reached Barangay Puray. People from all ages welcomed us with curiosity and a few smiles. Not a lot of people go to Sierra Madre as it is known as a hide out of NPAs. The community were consist of a few huts, a small toilet and a cemented area where we did our program.
To break the ice, we started our program with children’s games. The doubtful faces of the children were suddenly filled with big smiles. We then told the kids some stories from the bible. We told them the story of David and Goliath — of how David, through faith and prayer defeated Goliath. The volunteers soon became stage actors!
After the games and story telling, we started the feeding program. Tinolang Manok was on the menu that day. People in those areas rarely get the chance to eat meat as they choose to eat cheaper food like vegetables and other plants (that or they just simply can’t afford meat). Before we started eating, we prayed over the food and THH Louie and Honeylyn whose birthday was just around the corner. The look on the children’s happy faces were just a joy to look at. Some of the children even saved parts of their meal to take home to their parents and siblings. This was a big eye opener for us. It shows that those who have less are the ones who are more generous in giving.
While the children are eating, some of us spoke to the adults to give them counselling or words of encouragement. They were quite shy at first but as time went by, they started opening up. Afterwards, we gave school supplies and toiletries to the children. We taught them how to properly wash their hands and brush their teeth. Their pearly whites will surely melt your heart☺.
We ended our program with a prayer and started our descent. Pastor Cris wanted us to refresh after the long day so he asked us if we wanted to have a little swim at Puray falls. As expected, everyone said yes! The water was cold but refreshing. Some of the children came with us and they were quite fearless as they were cliff diving one after the other.
We stayed there for about an hour or so and then headed back to the jump off point where our jeepney was waiting. Pastor Cris offered us bread and coffee which was gone in no time. Soon after that we said our goodbyes and headed home.
I am so grateful to have experienced such a wonderful thing and meeting extra ordinary people such as Pastor Cris and the people of Barangay Puray. I went back to that place soon after my first outreach program and even joined Pastor Cris at Sitio Inuman which takes about half a day to reach. It made me realize that for us to be truly happy, we need to be satisfied with what we have and realize that we are far more blessed than others. Happiness is most powerful when shared.
Photo credits: Tristan Camacho, Sasha Belmonte
*** A message from Pastor Cris***
Shalom!, This is Pastor Crisanto B. Obelidor of Trigo Para Sa Tribu Organization Inc.
First of all I would like to thank for having a family like you and Our Jehovah- Jireh blessed you so much to be a channel of blessing to others most especially among the poor community. Secondly, we are happy to inform you that we will be launching our “Trees For a Child” program whose primary goal is to send to school as many less fortunate children living in remote areas in Rodriguez/Montalban Rizal and at the same time rehabilitate the Sierra Madre Mountain by way of tree planting.
Trigo is a Civil Society Organization with a license, registration and permit from the DSWD. Trigo is also the humanitarian Arm of Faith In Christ Alone Church based in Rodriguez, Rizal. Our vision is to see Transformed lives and Empowered Communities and our mission is to share the love of Jesus Christ through tangible forms in less privilege communities and indigenous people in Rizal and beyond. Trigo started in 1998, serving the poor communities in Rizal particularly in Puray.
Our services include educational support, livelihood, medical/dental services, disaster and relief operations and forest rehabilitation. For further details we would like to send you the program of the ministry ; an update of what God is doing in His field and a Letter of Appeal for our project implementation. Pray to God that He will give you passion to be part of this God given ministry.
Please send your name, address, email address and contact number to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com if God is speaking to your heart.
Office address: 167 M.H. Del Pilar St., San Rafael, Rodriguez, Rizal.
Our contact numbers:650-3145, 0923-474-9885, 0933-249-4777, 0917-246-2661
For your Donations: SAVINGS ACCOUNT NO. 233-11200015-0 PSBank Rizal-Montalban Branch.
Thank you and God Bless you!
To know more about the “Trees For a Child” program, please click the link below.