“Are we nearly there yet, Teacher Brenda?“, I limped.
“No, not even halfway through it“, she grinned.
Doused in sweat, a damp towel round my neck, I traipsed forward munching on a mixed bag of cheap nuts, jelly, and chocolate candies. My face now bore a blend of astonishment and fatigue; I never expected the trek to be that tough.
Every Sunday of the school year, Teacher Brenda hikes the same trail from Mayoyao, the town proper, to Sitio Patyay, a remote highland village at the foot of Mt. Amuyao in the province of Ifugao. She goes another round back to town every Friday to spend quality time with her family over the weekend. She’s been doing the routine for nearly six years that she’s adapted to the ups and downs of the trail.
Teacher Brenda, the only primary school teacher at Sitio Patyay, is the catalyst of Project Rain Boots.
One cause, one team
My group’s initial plans were as vivid as the rice paddies of Ifugao. Our vision was clear and our goal was on point: we wanted to give the local farmers of Sitio Patyay and their kids, through the help of Teacher Brenda, what they deemed helpful to them—rain boots. But the ultimate question for us back then was, how would we accumulate the needed funds? The target quantity of boots might not be met if the assistance would only come from our group, which is only a small cluster within the company I work for. Then we thought, what if we widen our reach and knock at the hearts of our office colleagues? Thus, the conception of Project Rain Boots.
When we rolled out the mail to fellow employees, we couldn’t believe the tremendous outpouring of donations and pledges that we received. The support from various departments of our company was overwhelming; their compassion for the beneficiary was beyond our expectations. It just proved that there’s always someone who’s willing to help, no matter how big or small the cause is, and that the employees live by the organization’s core value—one team.
Road to bliss
More than a hundred pairs of boots were transported to the mountains from Manila after a nine-hour bus travel, a four-hour upslope jeepney ride, and a five-hour strenuous hike. It might seem like a leisure adventure, but truth is there’s more to it than meets the eye: the community of Sitio Patyay is too isolated we had to cross narrow bridges over gushing streams, hold on to a fallen tree by an eroded ledge, balance ourselves on unstable terrace dikes, and enthuse one other to surmount the steepest ascent at the final portion of the climb. Physically, it wasn’t easy.
But the struggle was short-lived for we went there for a life-changing cause. This positive mindset fueled us to finish the long hike. The sight of local porters effortlessly shouldering the sacks of boots for their community was remedy to our worn out soles: those men, the fathers who endured the grueling hike with us, still managed to display an expression of joy despite the difficult course we all took.
Effects of the Cause
We arrived at Sitio Patyay minutes before sundown. The kids and their parents had already gathered outside the village’s lone school perched atop a hill. Hearty giggles greeted us as we trudged toward the wooden classroom painted with the words “Welcome Patyay Primary School“.
A short program happened at nightfall. Teacher Brenda initiated the event and had her pupils perform special numbers for us. After the presentations, she called all the people on her master list, and we went on with the distribution of rain boots to the local farmers, their wives and kids. For every pair of boots that we gave, a broad smile we received.
The activity did not end at the distribution of rain boots. Shortly after dinner, the elders of the village performed Kanyaw, a ritual dance of the indigenous peoples of the Cordillera. When the sacred ceremony was over, the tribesmen let the volunteers join their traditional dance around a campfire.
As the night came to a close, us volunteers returned to our temporary shelter to ready for a good night’s sleep. It had been a long day, and we were extremely glad that our company as a whole made the residents of Sitio Patyay very happy. Our collaborative effort to ease the way of life and uplift the spirits of the people living in the mountains indeed paid off.
Soon enough, the boots will be used when the rainy season comes in. Even when the roads get too muddy and slippery during rainy days, the kids won’t skip school anymore and their parents won’t have a hard time tending their crops like it was in the past.
With all these positive thoughts in my head, my vision faded out and I cocooned in my sleeping bag—at a place where cricket chirps are music, stars are a source of light, and mountains are the so-called ‘high-rise’.