Fifty-seven thousand, six- hundred minutes ago, I was on a mission. I gamely walked into real action figures that would surely put Hollywood stars to shame. Even the absence of media fan fare could not dim the stellar brightness of every cast in this unheard episode about ordinary people.
But before I go any further, let me be clear on this: I write from memory and like any good mem’ries, the real deal is always better. Imagine…Scene one: Twenty-two people with twenty-three packs, six sacks of rice, three sacks of salt, five boxes of different goods, a sack of used clothing plus two extra bags filled to the brim, three plastic bags of mixed veggies crammed into a Hilux pickup. I remembered looking at Bumblebee [the Hilux] for brevity, at us, our belongings and back to Bumblebee again. I knew from the size of our entourage it’ll take two trips to reach our destination. But I was wrong! In the deepening dusk, in a display of muscle action–the men began stacking our valuables one on top of the other; covered it with tarp stopping only when it resembled a semi-giant ant hill on Bumblebee’s rear end. With twelve people crowding the truck’s bed, three on its roof, two on the passenger’s seat, the driver, one person on Bumblebee’s right front hood, and three persons took to riding a motorcyle, we left Valencia to our jump off which was in Barangay Buko, Quezon Bukidnon.
Halfway through, we made a stopover at ate Eleonor Lucedra’s home. I did not know her personally. I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting her too, even in any existing social networks. It was first meeting for both of us and the rest. With the exception of this one person who was the instigator of the unfolded scene right before you. I was told their paths crossed here in fb. Ate Eleonor answered his savvy move when he posted on their group’s wall, “Looking for donors, will u help?”, or something to that effect. She responded in action with cooked biko in this huge frying pan which we dug with relished, while the sack of salt, boxes of dried Miki, 1/2 kilo cooking oil joined Bumblebee’s growing ant hill. As quickly we came just as quickly we left. With a brief exchange of goodbyes and prayer, we sped to the swelling night.
When I said sped, we were going as fast as Bumblebee can go under the circumstances. Straining him would not be ideal. The simple concept was explained to me by no less than its owner/mechanic/driver. The explanation was impressive. I nodded my head in all the right pauses in our conversation, giving the unmistakable impression that it made sense to me. It sounded gibberish, though. I made a mental note to Google it! Mass of truck plus load, how will that affect its normal speed? Physics!? Daan ko pa, mobalik ug mobalik jud sa NLOM (a.k.a. Newton’s laws of motion).
Good thing, when our capable driver changed gears, it signaled the end of our little chit chat. I left him to his driving (which thanks to him is physics in disguised by the way!) and he left me to my thoughts. With eyes shut, I mentally went over the names of random men and women whose principal involvement directly contributed to the goods strapped securely behind Bumblebee. You see, they were the ones who reached out of their own pocket and said,” Here’s something I wanted to share. It’s not much, but I hoped it’ll help.” Mother Theresa did say and I quote, “It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” For every peso they gave, was an act of love; so cheers to the following people who were our “producers” in crime–but in a good way: Ms. Karen Lee Macaso & Jing2 Galendez, Mr. Bong Labadan, Jr Villanueva, Mivi Myvi, Earl Ryan Janubski, Marissa Jadap, Mr. Dennis Patalinghug, Mr. & Mrs. Loyne Pueblos, Analyn Timbal, the Lucedra family, and our Anonymous donors.
I was jolted wide awake when we had to cross over a river [that was so much fun!] and had to maneuver over a steep slope or grade. However amazing our driver was, we were not able to get pass it. By this time, some rock hit and broke Bumblebee’s radiator. “If anything can go wrong, it will,” Murphy’s law. Ug si Bumblebee pa ang na sampolan ani! I felt bad. The truck was with us since day one. It was on our first trip to Kapihan, Quezon Bukidnon, earlier this year. His a familiar face [yes, I know the truck’s an inanimate object but when he spent mileage with you like he did to us, you’ll think twice calling Bumblebee, an It]. We descended from the truck and the men pushed Bumblebee to a more even, less sloping ground. We took our belongings, the ant hill was taken down and the repacking began.
I took my pack, put on my headlamp and searched for bread. Somebody passed the bread to me (bless him) which I also passed along to the Sulad students who were there to help out by transporting the goods to their school. In the midst of the controlled chaos and adrenaline rush, everything just fell into place. I saw three groups working side by side. I saw three groups whose path intertwined for that moment to take place. I attributed the whole “moment taking place” idea was God’s. Not that He wanted the Sulad students to suffer with the lack of food so that’ll He could play the superhero. Far from it! If He chose to end the food shortage at the Sulad Comprehensive School with one word, He can and will. But in His infinite wisdom He chose finite humans with flaws to be His hands and feet. If I was asked a year ago, “Do you see yourself climbing for miles end in the middle of the night to bring food to hungry kids?” NO. Never. “Do you see yourself asking money for people you do not know?” Hmmm…Maybe. I don’t know. It depends upon the situation? “Will you be willing to give your time, money, and effort for kids you hardly know and can never repay you?” I think I can but how much am I willing to sacrifice, that I do not know.
But then, there I was in the dead of the night, rubbing elbows with ordinary people who broke free from their comfort zones, and would have thought differently had it not been for God’s invitation. They learned to speak, to ask, to sacrifice not for themselves but for others. And by so doing, even for a short while in some small measure became better persons.
What was true to ROTA was also true to the other group, D’ Hangz. They’ve been exposed to outreach activities for the longest time and intimately knew how it was to step out of their comfort zones. They pressed on not in the least bit hindered by the weight of the supplies they bore on their backs. I dubbed them the “walking pantries”. They took to the habit of carrying our food supplies, in whatever quantity and in any weight. And like Bumblebee, they delivered. On the surface it seemed like male bravado and “garbo”, but up close it’s an overdrive of mental attitude. They knew that for every climb, the will must be stronger than the dragging weight on their backs. This time was no different.
Then I looked at the eager hands and excited faces of our younger companions. They had been waiting for hours. The long wait and hunger did nothing to dampen their spirit. They were told to go down and wait. And that we were coming. An hour stretched to two, then three. Then it rolled into four. Not until approximately seven hours slipped by, did we show up. Were they able to pass the Marshmallow test of faith? With flying colors! Those kids stuck it out. Hang on, unwavering. That’s faith, what else? “It is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things unseen.” It may not be dramatic as the parting of the Red Sea but nonetheless the lesson to me was just as powerful. To believe we were coming while the situation proved unlikely by the minute, and doggedly persist; that is faith in a nutshell.
As I stood waiting for us to go on our way, I smiled in the quite knowledge that I was in the presence of real action figures.
Note: Outreach was done November 12, 2011 with D’Hangz and New Rota members.