Preparing for the WYA Team that was going to join the Gawad Kalinga (GK) Bayani Challenge was a challenge in itself for me. I was intimidated by the responsibility that was on my shoulders, and as always, I did not believe in myself enough. Nevertheless, I took on the challenge. I found myself on a bumpy and windy bus ride to a place far away from home, with a lot of faces I have never seen, and I knew this was going to be challenging for me in more ways then one.
I never really had the time to psyche myself up for the GK Bayani Challenge – I was more excited by the fact that I was going on my first camping trip, experiencing my much-awaited-first-GK-Build and seeing the outcome of my first project for the World Youth Alliance. Indeed, with all the preparations I thought I had done, I was still un-prepared. I was not prepared for the lack of clean water, the lack of sleep, the lack of food, and the excess of toil. In my limited and narrow knowledge of GK and camping life, that was not how imagined it would be.
My concerns were the simplest things: how was I going to brush my teeth, eat with dirty hands, sleep on uncomfortable grounds, take a bath, pee, and poop? What was I going to wear?!? During our first night, all I wanted to do was take a bath, put on my derma creams, change into my pajamas and sleep in my lovely bed. Yet, despite all my worries, I was able to survive each day, never muttering complaints (well, maybe once), smile and laugh inspite of all the painful joints and muscles and shrug off any discomfort.
I was slowly letting go of my apprehensions as each day passed. I learned how to enjoy anything that came my way and forget for one week the world I had left behind. I learned how to relate with people who were different from me. I realized they were not as different as I thought they were; it was just that I did not have the courage to know them.
Relationships were just like houses waiting to be built; because when I slowly allowed myself to open up to my fellow Bayani Challenge participants and the locals of Bukidnon, friendship with them naturally followed suit.
It was hard saying goodbye to Bukidnon and to the friendships made with the people I met. I knew from the moment I rode the bus back to Manila, that when I start feeling the wind and the bumps again, I will be leaving Bukidnon forever.
I was going back to a life so detached and indifferent to the one I found in there. The Challenge gave me the opportunity to try many things that I thought I was too busy and too weak to do. But yes, I realized I was up to the challenge. Through times of hardship and challenging situations, Team WYA still had all the reasons to enjoy and savor the unique experience offered. This is most especially true during the last night we spent in Bukidnon.
Even though it has been a very tiring week and all we wanted to do was to sit down and watch the concert, we still welcomed the rain when it came. Instead of running for cover, Yup yup yup, we danced in the rain! That is one of the many memories I will forever treasure. Masaya kahit pagod, that’s what we all used to say. Indeed, what we did was very fulfilling. Even though it may be many years before I clearly see the effect of what we have done, I am happy knowing that I have been part of something like this and that I have touched the lives of people I never knew existed before. They have touched my life as well and now that I am back in Manila, I hope to continue “walking the talk” for them and for this country.
I find our adventure during the Bayani Challenge very inspiring and moving. People really went out of their way, left their busy and comfortable lives, in order to show their fellow Filipino that love for this country is something very real and concrete. For me, that is just so awe-inspiring. Filipinos from all over the country came together and just showed the world that we may be poor or divided but that does not mean that we, Filipinos, cannot do anything about it. I think that how Filipinos reacted with Gawad Kalinga’s effort and method towards peace and development says a lot about how we are exasperated with what is going on in our country and how we are willing to work towards a better one.
Truly, as Mark Lawrence said, we have to walk the talk. This country has had enough of apathy and inaction from its incapable leaders. Its citizens are now mobilizing to show everyone that the system may be flawed and incapable, but the Filipino is not one to not do anything about it.
So fellow WYA members, do i see you in Sulu next year for another round of Bayani Challenge?