I asked Chad to write about our trip to Kinatarcan, knowing it was a crazy trip. I just told him to write with sincerity and honesty. But he was way too honest! But I actually loved it and laughed so hard while reading.
So here is his recounting of our trip to Kinatarcan:
At the end of December, Jona and I had visited one of the small islands in Cebu where Yolanda had destroyed the homes and dismantled the lives of the inhabitants. We brought some donations and modest gifts to try to help the rebuilding process. It was encouraging to see that one thing Yolanda could not damage was the smiles and friendliness of the people there. The bright eyes and laughter of the kids were especially heartwarming. Even though the gifts we brought were simple sandals and underwear, the kids and their parents were eager to receive them. Jona and her coworkers had thoughtfully wrapped all the gifts to make it more special for the children.
But the spirit of the people was the good news. Our travels to and from the island put a bit of a damper on the visit, literally. On our way, the waves were very choppy, and our skillful boatman had to take twice as long as he normally would to get us there. At first, I found it to be fun adventure sitting in the front of the small motorboat and riding the waves. The thrill of the waves only lasted an hour though. For the last 45 minutes, the adventure became more of an endurance test as the distant island gradually crept closer and closer.
When we arrived, a harsh blow was delivered when we discovered that the plastic bag containing most of our luggage and Jona’s laptop had popped a hole and was filled with water. Jona, after taking out a bit of her frustration on me, was able to shrug off the loss of all her work for the past 5 years and still cheerfully go about the gift distribution. She entertained the throng of islanders who flocked with us by teasing the recipients and offering clever bits of advice. Most commonly, she lightheartedly chastised the young women who already several children and occasionally an older woman who had a very young child. She offered suggestions regarding birth control in a comical manner that our followers enjoyed.
I stayed in the background as much as the only white guy on the island possibly could. I served the role of a bellboy, carrying the bag of gifts from place to place and also playing around with the kids a little bit. The little kids would sneak up behind me and try to poke me, and I would try to catch their fingers. I taught one of the girls how to spell my name and later saw her writing in the dirt with a stick.
After we had distributed everything, we had lunch at one of the houses near the shore, and the crowd came with us. They gathered around outside and looked in through the door and windows as we ate our rice, fish, and soup. They seemed sad to see the excitement of the day leave. They advised us to stay the night because a storm was coming. Alone, Jona would have gladly accepted the invitation, but she knew I was anxious to get back to the city.
The trip back to the mainland did indeed turn out to be somewhat ill-advised. Jona stubbornly refused my offer to share a plastic covering as the rains came down, and we shivered our way across the fog-enveloped sea. She was mad at me for “insisting” we go back rather than spend the night on the island. Meanwhile, I entertained thoughts of us getting off course and becoming the “Life of Pi” sequel. Jona, of course, would play the role of Richard Parker. And I would try to sneak around hoping not to incur her wrath. Soon after our drenched but safe arrival, however, we made amends and were able to laugh about our crazy, one-of-a-kind adventure.
It has been awhile since we had an update on our humble Project Rebuild. It has been almost a month already since we visited Kinatarcan Island, one of the islands comprising Bantayan group of islands.
On top of handing out cash gifts and little gifts to the kid, the trip was a rough course on birth control, climate change, alcohol drinking, and responsible parenthood. I entertained the idea of coming back and “chastising” them some more.
Chad actually helped in wrapping the undies for the kids while I was catching some winks after I finished wrapping the cash gifts. We found a cheap room at San Remegio, a town away from Kawit, Medellin where we could get a ride to Kinatarcan.Despite the choppy sea, half of the ride was sunny. This is our only picture at Kinatarcan. And a selfie at that!
The following are the photos of the households who received the cash gifts. Most of them relied on farming and fishing they locally called “mangabyon” or angling. We selected 36 households—the poorest of the poor. Each family received P2000. 00.
The photos were supposed to be chronological to match the names listed on my travel diary, but the photos got jumbled after the upload. My apology for that.
But I hope you feel the gratefulness of the people that you have helped here. Salamat, Paideia School. Salamat, Georgia, USA! Two more places to be posted here! And watch out for the video that we are preparing for you, guys!
1. Hairo Batersal, 64 17. Merlie Mendoza, 45 32. Glen Caraballe, 33
2. Lucio Higante, 60 18. Marivic Hidukos, 36 33. Jessica Mondejar, 38
3. Roxan Opiasa, 31 19. Lolita Abing, 40 34. Dilia Batiansila
4. Tessie Desabilla, 42 20. Lorita Hidukos, 49 35. Angela Montamar
5. Naomi Bangalisan, 50 21. Neston Rayko, 64 36. Viola Corabio
6. Runa Labalos, 34 22. Joseph Ahitong, 48
7. Lionesa Opiasa, 70 23. Paquito Abilod, 83
8. Nellie Opiasa, 58 24. Gidelyn Sinatan, 25
9. Mellianita Batirsal, 80 25. Adele Beloria, 54
10. Maribel Eskalikas, 42 26. Manilyn Beloria, 22
12. Marinel Elustrisimo, 33 27. Nenita Carabio, 40
13. Lilian Basulgan, 37 28. Hazel Hidukos, 22
14. Godofredo Mintalo, 29 29. Jinkee Chavez, 28
15. Lyn Homola, 41 30. Jose Ariel Lanias, 42
16. Risalino Batirsal, 69 31. Alex Godin, 37
They actually gave us a list of names whose houses or boats got damaged by the typhoon. We told them that we could not promise anything. They understood that the donations we handed out to the poorest of the poor came from the teachers, students, kindhearted individuals miles, miles away.
Again, daghang salamat!
Grateful and optimistic,