Photo

Today is an extremely important day because it marks the end of my second trip alone. Almost one year after I joined Flow - Baler aka the day I took a long hard look at my life and decided there was some serious changing that needed to happen.

When I look at my life now, and really try to figure out why I’ve been so… different, I realize it’s because I’ve made a lot of darn good decisions this past year. And the first and most important decision I made was joining Flow. Coincidentally, Flow is composed of three main activities, and is organized by three inspiring women, so it only seems right that i talk about the three awesome things I learned since having joined Flow in Baler.

1. Don’t be afraid of being alone. Being alone doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be lonely.

It was the first time I did anything completely alone. Coming from an all girls school, I’ve just been so used to having people around me. Gross as it may sound, prior to this, I don’t think I’ve ever gone to a public bathroom without saying “hey! I need to pee.” while fully expecting someone to say “okay! I’ll go with you!”. Being alone in a place 5-6 hours away with people I had just met was liberating. It was great to be around people who you could relate to on nothing except pure passion for a whole variety of things: travel, yoga, samba, surfing, furniture, blogging, marketing. Whatever it was, I just knew that I was surrounded by people who were moving towards something they were truly passionate about. And when I talked about the things I loved, they listened too. You will never be lonely unless you choose to be.

2. Don’t be afraid to open yourself up to firsts.

The Flow weekend was the first time I tried surfing, and from going to the beach just once a year, I found myself with a tan in December, and surfing (or at least trying to. Still not so good at it. Haha.) at least once a month. I’m not aspiring to get all competitive with the surfing, but I just love the feeling of being in the water and DOING something.

It was also the first time I visited Baler, a place that I have grown to love no matter how seemingly dangerous it is to get there. I could talk about it in length, but basically Baler always feels like home.

Shortly after Flow, I came up with a list of 25 firsts before I turn 25, which will probably explain why my Facebook timeline shows evidence of me doing extremely random things like sleeping on a hammock, wakeboarding or cooking.
My boss says that novelty sustains people like me who have adult ADHD. For me though, experiencing things for the first time is the only way I can decide if I want to do something or not. I have made a pact with myself to never say no to anything I haven’t tried at least once. Except maybe cliff diving. But I can definitely be swayed.

3. Don’t be afraid. PERIOD.

So now, a year after, I am blogging from a random coffee shop in Bali, wrapping up my first solo trip out of the country. When I think very carefully about my whole trip I realize that it was a little scary. I got freaked out getting stuck in the impact zone at Padang Padang, was attacked by a monkey, and literally ran out of money for airport tax (a miracle happened, so don’t worry about it. Haha.). But I also met lots of wonderful people, took a boat out and surfed right in the middle of the freaking ocean, caught a wave on my own and rode it till forever while watching planes take off around me, and explored Ubud on foot for a day.

That being said, my wish for you is that you lose the fear, go out into the world and conquer it.

Text

2012 was an adventure-filled year for me. I was on a road trip or plane ride somewhere every single month with no real purpose except to get away from the city. So I figured that my first major trip of 2013 shouldn’t just be about me and my random quest for adventure, and that’s what Cateel was for me - isang makabuluhang paglalakbay.

Before getting to what our trip was like, you should know that I am currently blogging from the Davao International Airport, which is actually really nice and comfy. I am writing all this RIGHT NOW because I lost the journal I brought along with me somewhere between the check-in counter and the boarding gate. :( (Spot the nicely labeled charger!)

Cateel is located around 6 or 7 hours away from Davao City. I traveled by plane to Davao and spent the night in this nice little inn along Quimpo Road called Frances Inn. At around 8 am the next day, we took a van to Cateel via the Mati route (More on Mati later!) which was just rehabilitated recently. We were on a nicely paved highway the entire time, but you pass some zigzag roads and bridges that are still being fixed after being wrecked by Typhoon Pablo. We even got to make a few pitstops at the “The Sleeping Dinosaur Island” and the church of CARAGA, which claims to be the oldest church in the Philippines.

It was a nice smooth sailing road trip most of the way, but when I woke up during the last hour of the trip, I found myself surrounded by what can only be described as pure destruction.

Those matchstick looking things are coconut trees. One of the main sources of livelihood of the people from Davao Oriental. Each tree takes 7 years to reach maturity after being planted. Typhoon Pablo passed right through their fields and mountains and uprooted what seemed to be thousands of trees. What’s more is that the ones left standing are also pretty much “dead” and will no longer bear fruit. So if all those trees didn’t have a single chance against Pablo, it kinda makes you wonder how people and their houses survived.

We had to go through about another hour looking out our windows silently, and then we reached Cateel.

The reason we were visiting Cateel (a municipality composed of 16 barangays) in the first place is that when Typhoon Pablo struck, it took with it 98% of every structure you can imagine - houses, schools, and even the town church. The 2% left consists of a pretty sturdy structure of Jose Rizal and the municipal hall, which suffered a lot of damage as well.

Prior to leaving for our trip, 11 of us volunteers (occupational therapists, speech therapists and SPED teachers) underwent a training for psychosocial debriefing. Psychosocial help is such a great need for affected areas 3 or 4 months post-disaster. At this time, survivors realize the weight of what they went through and they need people to listen to their stories and help them recover from the trauma they experienced, maybe even more than food or other material donations.

It was straight to work for us upon arriving to Cateel. We were able to meet a group of around 30 teachers from different barangays and we gave them an idea of what we were here for and what they could expect from us. The goal was to debrief them then teach them how to debrief the people in their communities, most especially the children.

Eventually, it began to get dark and we realized that the school was still without electricity, so we continued the session the following day. With the help of our friends from teachers of Holy Child College of Davao and psychologists from Ateneo de Davao, we were able to guide our participants in sharing their stories by asking them what they felt, how they made sense of what happened,what steps they’ve taken to recovery and what their routines are like at present.

Each person had a different story, but what I picked up in essence is that most of them are still scared of what the future holds, but more than anything they are hopeful that “Ginoo” (God in Bisaya) has a better future laid out for them. One thing this showed me is that if you were allowed to be anything in the midst of disaster, you should definitely choose to be a FILIPINO. Our race is made up of seriously tough stuff. :)


I also got some work done as an OT-slash-kids yoga teacher, while my fellow OTs got to hang out and advocate the value of play as an occupation with the wonderful kids of Cateel. Taught 2 groups of around 40 kids each. It was a riot but you’d be surprised how well yoga gets kids to listen up and pay attention!

What made this trip awesome is that it provided us volunteers to get some real, genuine insight on what it’s like to be one with a community that has just experienced difficult times. It also allowed us to impact other people’s lives by just listening to their stories and spending time with them. As a Filipino occupational therapist we most certainly have no excuse not to fulfill our role in ensuring the health and well being of our nation, most especially in areas that have experienced disasters.

Along with the people of Cateel, I am hopeful that in the next few years things will get better. Proof? On our second day in Cateel, while setting up on the third floor of our venue, I saw my first FULL rainbow rising right above all the wreckage. If that doesn’t spell out HOPE for you, I don’t know what will. :)

Some questions you might have about helping Cateel:

1. Want to volunteer, donate or advocate? 

You may contact the Occupational Therapy Association of the Philippines by emailing us at otap_inc@yahoo.com to express your interest in helping out so that we can send you regular updates on when our monthly trips are scheduled.

2. I thought OTs only deal with those who are disabled?

Losing your home and livelihood is disabling in its own way, and being in an unprotected area (all the trees holding back lighter winds and rain are gone) has placed this community at greater risk for future physical and psychosocial disability.

3. So you mean they don’t need our donations in kind anymore?

Sure they do! In fact, we visited a school in Cateel that is still in need of school supplies and teaching materials. However, these, along with clothes and food, are immediate needs more commonly brought in by other NGOs, while people who are trained to provide psychosocial help aren’t always around to address the long term effects of disasters.

4. If all houses were destroyed, where will I be staying if I want to volunteer?

Some homes still have their walls intact and have started roof reconstruction. The locals in Cateel have been more than willing to welcome us into their homes. It would also help to come ready for anything, so have your sleeping bags, tents and ponchos ready!

5. Is it all work during the trip?

Yes, but Davao is beautiful! And if time and weather permit, maybe you can make a pitstop like we did for some surf or skim at Mati! Also, Davao is the perfect place for a FRUIT TRIP, so you’ll make a stop for some durian and pomelo for sure. :)

Video

One. There’ll be days like this my momma said.

No, really, my mom DID say I had it coming. I won’t waste time writing about the details of these past few months, because no amount of words will do it justice. But I WILL talk about what I learned. So that in the future, I can just hand my future heartbroken daughter a LINK to this blog instead of creating a whole poem just for her. Poetry is not one of my strengths and time is not on my side. 

Two. But getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs how much they like the taste of air.

It’s funny how we just block out every single flashing, BLARING warning sign when we’re following our hearts, and I don’t just mean where relationships are concerned. I’m talking about any situation that requires a certain degree of passion and commitment. Then you hit a dead end, or worse, you end up in a terrible trainwreck of a situation, and you realize that you never really had ANYTHING figured out. A good friend once told me that in the crappiest of situations you can be sad, but you can’t STAY sad (de Rivera, 2011). He may have picked out a random cliche just to put an end to my constant bawling, but I’ve always believed that cliches are over-used for a reason. And cliches tend to stick.

And so I came up with a plan to “remind myself how much I like the taste of LIFE”:

1. Talk about the crappy situation everyday for a week or two to your closest friends, then after two weeks just STOP. Completely. Thinking about things leads you to talking about things. Talking to people makes them feed you words, which leads to new thoughts and, therefore, more talking. At some point, you just need to stop.

2. Approach someone you’ve never talked to and ask them about random things, no matter how superficial or irrelevant (e.g. What’s your favorite boyband?). When they respond, REALLY listen to what they’re saying, you’ll pick up something interesting AND possibly gain a new friend. 

3. When you look at your immediate surroundings, surely every single thing will remind you of that crappy thing that happened to you. So throw aside your “memory goggles” and look at the place you’re in as it is NOW. Observe and you will realize that EVERYTHING is so amazingly different.

4. Plan out your week. Structure is always a good thing, but leave out an hour or two for something new and spontaneous. Today, I took a different route on the way home. It was completely useless and time-consuming, but also completely THRILLING. 

Three. Don’t you ever apologize for the way your eyes refuse to stop shining.

I was once told that I apologize too much. At this point in my life, I will apologize for my actions. I will apologize even for things I did not do. But I will not apologize for being who I am, and for loving and believing almost to a fault. 

The book I’m reading now says that every person has a WORD. A word that encompasses who you are. And after thinking about it the entire day (that’s an exaggeration, it was probably just during that MRT ride from Quezon Ave to Magallanes), I realized that all I’ve really done this entire time is BELIEVE. Because at the end of the day, even the smallest shred of belief in ANYTHING - in yourself, in people, in the universe, in love - should be enough to keep you going. 

P.S. Thank you Mia Macapagal for sharing this awesome video with me. :)

Text

One. For the past month, I’ve been working 7 days a week. I know most people would say that’s insane, but on some days I just work one or two hours. So actually, I’m more efficient because I never lose momentum, and I STILL get a lot of rest although at pretty odd hours. Today, I worked in Alabang for an hour, and spent the entire rainy afternoon in bed. I swear, if I could, I’d stay in bed forever.

Two. I blame my parents for my addiction when it comes to surprises. I LOVE being surprised. Today, when I was about to enter my room, I could see that the lights were off when I distinctly remember leaving them on. When I entered, I saw that my dad got me a new reading lamp! I recently told him that I have a hard time sleeping, because I usually read before dozing off. Since I need to stand up to turn off the lights when I’m feeling sleepy, the act of GETTING UP and WALKING wakes me up again! So I need to read AGAIN and it’s just been a nasty, not to mention SILLY, vicious cycle. So thanks, dad!

Three. The OT Evaluation Paper is my WORST enemy. I would usually have an average of 8-10 papers to finish. Every time I’d finish one or two, I’d realize I have three new ones! HOWEVER, by mid-next week I will officially have NO PAPERS left to write for the first time since I started working. I developed this terrible habit of letting my work pile up on me. So it just feels great to finally be free of all those papers.

Over-all, I’m really looking forward to this week! Glad to be back on track!

Text

One. My sister and I just finished our 1000 piece puzzle! Yet another proof of our fantastic visual perceptual and fine motor skills, thankyouverymuch!

Before


After


Two. Friends are just awesome. ‘Nuff said.

Three. Thai Food + Bonding with the Family + Scrabble… How can you go wrong with that?

P.S. I should REALLY get started on those photography lessons before I leave for Chiang Mai in November. Yay for hobbies! :)