Relief operations in Benguet

Our short trip to Benguet was meaningful and spontaneous. We had a little time to plan. I was amazed at how well the team was formed, ideas gathered and executed – all in just 11 days! This I think is a great example of the efficiency of Kaisa Para Sa Kaunlaran. After all, in conducting relief operations, speed is of the essence.
It started when Tessy Ang See sent a message to our group chat that Jenifer Josef (JJ), a professor of Sociology at the University of the Philippines-Baguio, who was also an old friend, sent word that a number of students and families affected by the recent Typhoon Ompong (Mangkhut) are in need of relief goods. She asked if we could take on the outreach project. The planning was quickly put into motion.
A list of requirements was received, pledges were given and collected. A few days later, a team meeting was called, and volunteers offered work on different assignments leading to the day of deployment.
This Round 2 team was further split into two – teams A and B. I was in Team A, the advance party. We arrived during the wee hours of Friday (Oct. 19).

After a quick rest at the dormitory, we made our way to the UP campus where we were introduced to Prof. JJ, along with a few members from various Tsinoy associations who had donated to the Filipino-Chinese Calamity Relief Fund.
All the goods had already been packed by UP student volunteers and these were loaded onto the trucks. We then distributed the packs to about a hundred students at the UP Campus and Red Cross Center before heading back to Manila in the evening. The whole trip took about 24 hours.
Team B picked up where we left off. They arrived in Baguio in the wee hours of Saturday, then made their way up the dusty roads of Sinacbat and Poblacion, which took a further seven hours.
The outreach was a fulfilling one. To see everyone together: members of the Filipino-Chinese Calamity Relief Fund, Kaisa volunteers, Prof. JJ, the UP staff/helpers, all the hardworking local volunteers, students and families smiling felt like a warm welcome that I’ll always remember.
One of the few things I’m thankful for in doing this trip is realizing what many private school students take for granted: having a comfortable place to live in and the privilege of studying in good private schools.

Many of the UP Baguio students are scholars from neighboring provinces whose sole means of livelihood is farming. The aftermath of Ompong left many families devastated, and they were unable to send money or provisions to their children in the university.
Another thing I’m thankful for is the commitment of every person in ensuring the success of this outreach program. The help many supporters provided, both directly and indirectly, was truly a humbling experience.
There was a supplier who donated little children’s backpacks for the kids, a supporter who brought some vegetables and fruits from their farm during our one and only planning session for the outreach, and another who made fresh-baked chicken pie which was delivered just in time to make it for the trip. Not to mention the number of Kaisa supporters cheering us along the way.
Lastly, even if our Baguio journey was a long, tiring ride, we were able to bring home something valuable: our stories.

Being on the field with the senior members of Kaisa Para Sa Kaunlaran and Filipino-Chinese Association, together with UP Baguio professors and staff, their rich experience and stories help reflect that the world can be a better place.
A place where people are willing to lend a hand to others in times of need. One of selfless compassion for others, and the drive to change for the better. A better future by supporting the youth perhaps, or even, a renewed view of our society.