Sunday, October 20, 2013

Kalinga | A Day Spent At Lubo Part I

KALINGA | A Day Spent At Lubo Part I
A Sykes Outdoor Tsinelas Ni Juan Outreach

Overlooking a valley with a pristine river running in between. Lubo village is that cluster of houses in the rice terraces.

It was easily the longest weekend of my life, well one if those anyway considering the number of hours spent traveling to reach this place, not only that, what we went through can be spelled in epic proportions that a simple blog post may not be enough.

These community children were the one's who greeted us on our arrival with their curiosity and shy smiles.

These boys were the one's who accompanied us from the jump off point of our 1 hour trek to the village. They volunteered to carry some of the boxes that had our provisions.

My time spent visiting the Province of Kalinga in the Cordillera Autonomous Region (CAR) was just over 24 hours. It was one of most memorable travel experience as such because of the hardships that I had gone through in order to reach the secluded community in Lubo, Tanudan. It was my first time in this province, though I’ve been to other provinces within the Region of Cordillera’s. With the knowledge of how scenic is the landscape of the Cordillera’s, I made this trip bound with palpable anticipation and excitement. Without the Tsinelas ni Juan Sykes Outdoor, Outreach project, I wouldn’t have set my sights to Kalinga, at least for this year. This experience may have been brief but it gave me the opportunity to immerse myself in Kalinga’s culture and traditions, and of course a chance to photograph at least in part the Cordillera’s rich highland landscape.

We Travel While We Share
Sykes Outdoor is one of the few very active groups for Sykes Asia, an International BPO Company. This non-profit group specializes in anything outdoor, and in the years that had shaped its short history, certain causes and outreach programs had drawn much more meaning to our wanderings. We were all of kindred spirits, with love and passion for the outdoors, it had in part had visited places and communities that eventually became beneficiary to our outreach. Being Non-Profit with only the support of our mother company Sykes Asia Inc. engaging in gift giving and outreach actually means shelling out funds from each participating member. We open it up for donations, from each of our respective positions, and also as included in each overhead expense. The more participant members mean bigger pool of funds that we use to buy provisions for the gift giving. The group never gives money as a rule, it should always come as heartfelt gifts, and the target beneficiaries are always the children of the communities that we visit.

We travel, we share in the community, we immerse in the outdoor and go home with the feeling of elation, having shared our own personal time with the chance to get away even for a short time from our corporate lives in the metro. Tsinelas ni Juan was the name of the project, ever wonder if we took it after a program from a certain noontime show? No we didn’t, the group has done this far longer than the TV show did. It is so called Tsinelas (slippers) ni Juan because we usually share slippers as a gift to kids, especially those coming from far flung poor communities that consider slippers as a commodity or secluded communities that has difficult access on farm to market roads such as the Community of Lubo. It doesn’t end with slippers though, knowing that Kalinga is a highland province with a lot of rains than any other places, our little eco bags also contain rain coats, notebooks, pencils and pens, and a little extra of candies that our thoroughly loved by children from the cities. To be able to share with children, we tie up with the local elementary schools, so more often we have local teachers involved in the outreach as well. It’s curious how these is accomplished before hand, hard work planning and making use of contacts is involved, politics must be avoided at all times, so the trip is usually unannounced in the entire communities that we visit, also one of the reasons why the trip to Kalinga was delayed until the middle of the rainy season is to avoid coming in the middle of election campaign period last summer.

We come, not expecting banners and tarpaulins or welcoming handshakes of politicians, we would rather greet children with worn slippers or at times with no slippers at all, share the needed protection of their little feet's and a little support for their education with some school materials.

It was in the culture or upbringing of these people in Lubo not to accept gifts without giving something in return. Although we never ask them to share, it would be an insult to decline their gifts. As the children of the community starts lining up, it can’t be helped that they carry rice bags of some of the most exotic rice’s, you see red rice, negro (black) rice and the malagkit, some coffee beans were also given. A lot of children were not wearing any slippers, some have holes in their soles and they are one’s that are too big for their small feet that they have crudely sliced off the edges. The slippers are just some of the things that they most need, we were informed beforehand that we will insult these people by giving them money, what the community needed most is medicine, and for the children are school supplies. Farm to market road is a far off dream; the truck that brought us here can only go as far as the edge of the valley overlooking the village of Lubo from a high vantage point.

These are but some of the slippers that we distributed to the children.

The children came curious checking on us, carrying bags of rice as gifts.

The time for us to distribute the gifts came, and we personally accompanied the each kid in choosing the right slippers, hands and knees on the ground, we also had to sort the rain coats depending on what would fit them better.

Some of mothers were there as well to watch over their youngsters. A few of the children are still too young that they fiercely cling to their mothers. Most likely the first time for some to meet strangers like us.

A few of us also sat with them for a little bit of interaction.

Distributing gifts from the youngers to the oldest of the bunch. Here are some of the older children, patiently waiting for their turn.

Francis Balgos is a Call Center Agent, Weekend Travel Warrior, Amateur Spelunker, Sometime Surfer, Newbie Mountain Climber, Photography Enthusiast, Certified Beach Bum, A first born son, Faithful lover, True Explorer...

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  1. It's really nice to travel and its extra fulfilling to help these kids and your one day with them can really help a lot in uplifting their morale.

  2. That's a breathtaking pic you took of Kalinga and kudos to your group for taking part in helping impoverished communities. :)

  3. Wow!!! This is fulfilling. Travelling plus helping the people. I can't imagine how happy are they to receive your gifts. :)

  4. wow.. just wow.. I like the idea behind this.. you help people and you still have fun.. kudos to you and team behind this.. :)

  5. Aside from the exceptional photography, you have a way with words. I hope more people learn more about that community through your blog.

  6. Kudos to Sykes people and to you Francis who made this outreach. I would love to have this kind of program in our company too. You can see the happiness on the eyes of these kids.


  7. Oh wow! SYKES is doing a great job on their outreach programs. And seeing those smiles on the children who received a simple gift means so much to them already. Good job to your team and SYKES! :)

  8. outreach program such as this is inspiring. a very heart-warming read ;)


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